I’m going to start this off strong by saying this: HBO’s “Succession” is one of the best shows on television. It is by far the best on HBO’s current slate and has quickly grown a rabid and intense fanbase online, especially on Twitter.
The pitch for the show does not do it justice. This dramedy series, produced by Will Farrell and Adam McKay, exists as one of the duo’s final collaborations. It follows the Roy family, specifically the children, Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Connor (Alan Ruck), as they vie for power in their family company from their father, Logan (Brian Cox).
The company, Waystar Royco, is an entertainment conglomerate operating in news, theme parks and cruises, as well as a diverse array of other fields. The first season mostly followed Kendall as he prepared to assume his father’s position as CEO of the company, only to have it stripped away from him by his father deciding to stay at the helm. The second picks up right where the first left off as Waystar Royco attempts to deal with a litany of controversies headed its way.
Avoiding spoilers, the show’s plot has many twists and turns, some of which are obvious and others of which are wildly unexpected and clever. This trend persists into the show’s second season. Picking up immediately after the plot of the first season, the second chronicles a merger attempted by Waystar Royco and the fallout of a scandal that was unfolding during the first season. It’s hard to discuss this show without it coming across as a regurgitation of the plot. This is in part because the plot is what the show centers upon, but luckily that’s a good thing.
In this regard, season two manages to surpass the heights of its predecessor. The performances are top notch from the entire cast. Part of what makes “Succession” so compelling is how successfully it rides the line between tension and comedy, and how it weaves them together to improve both. This wouldn’t be possible without the excellent dramatic acting and comedic timing of the cast, as well as the witty and compelling script. Almost every character has their moment to shine in this season and they all take advantage of the spotlight.
The only character that I find myself generally not interested in is Connor, but I think that’s somewhat intentional as his problems are unrelated to the majority of the conflict the other characters are enduring. The dynamic between Tom Wambsgams (Matthew Macfadyen), Shiv’s husband, and Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) is again some of the standout comedy in the season. Between Tom’s unnerving switches between verbal abuse and Greg’s meek demeanor in attempting to blackmail him, it became one of the most compelling narrative threads this season. Not to be outdone, Kendall also had his moment this season (which he largely spent in a dissociative, numb episode) when he attempted a rap for his dad that was extremely uncomfortable and hilarious.
The key ingredient to what makes “Succession” so compelling is the writing. Though the show features a wide variety of writers, Jesse Armstrong, who wrote the first and final two episodes of each season, has an influence that can be felt. Armstong is best known for his work on the film “In The Loop,” which is a biting satirical comedy from the mind of Armando Iannucci (“Veep,” “The Death of Stalin”), and that tone is definitely what “Succession” goes for. The writing in this season was interesting and intense when it needed to be and efficiently developed nuanced character dynamics and chemistries that are what make the show so special.
Visually, the show is usually quite pretty. The sets are often extravagant mansions, restaurants- or private jets as the characters travel the world to conduct business and create backdoor dealings to screw one another over. The show has a toned-down color palette and sleek aesthetic but occasionally indulges itself to show off the extravagant lifestyles of the sickeningly wealthy that make up the main cast.
Though this show does occasionally give in to this “wealth porn” that is evident in movies like “Crazy Rich Asians,” at its core it knows that all of its characters are bad people but they are still people. Though they have selfish intentions and have done a variety of heinous things, there is something utterly human about them that you find yourself occasionally rooting for them. If not, you can always just watch the chaos unfold and watch them repeatedly get taken down a peg.
I can’t recommend this show enough. Watching it has brought me back to the days before streaming services where I would talk with friends about each episode every week and we would discuss our favorite moments and theories of who was going to get screwed next. I can’t wait for the third season and recommend catching up before then. If for nothing else than to just listen to the fantastic theme song and score composed by Nicholas Britell, which I can never seem to get out of my head.