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Succession HBO Review – The Characters on ‘Succession’ Are Not Terrible People
The cast of Succession: Brian Cox, Alan Ruck, and Hiam Abbass
Meet the Roys: the family with a controlling stake in an international media empire (or, at least, the actors who play them). On HBO’s new series Succession, they’ll spend the summer jockeying for control of the business with all the ruthless cunning you’d expect from a clan fueled by trust funds and daddy issues.
According to an ancient Chinese proverb, wealth never survives three generations. Whether the billion-dollar fortune at the heart of Succession will make it that far is an open question.
Our first glimpse of the self-made market mover and political kingmaker Logan Roy (Brian Cox) finds him pissing on the carpet in confusion. In a few hours, Logan’s four adult children will gather at their father’s mansion of an apartment for a “surprise” eightieth-birthday party, after which he is set to anoint his number-two son, Kendall (Jeremy Strong)—recently dubbed “the heir with the flair” by Forbes—as the next CEO of Waystar Royco, the fifth-largest media conglomerate in the world.
Kendall’s older brother, Connor (Alan Ruck); younger brother, Roman (Kieran Culkin); and sister, “Shiv” (Sarah Snook), have all congratulated him ahead of the announcement. That was the plan, anyway. Logan declares that he’ll be “staying on” after all. How long? a stunned Kendall asks. Five years, Logan says. Maybe ten. Kendall tries to forge an alliance with Roman and Shiv, but they’re busy cutting deals of their own with Logan, who needs their sign-off to get his third wife, Marcia (Hiam Abbass), a seat on the board. In this household, love is just another form of leverage.
The cast of Succession: Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, and Jeremy Strong
Creator Jesse Armstrong wrote a screenplay about Rupert Murdoch that turned up on the 2010 Black List before being relegated to “bottom-drawer territory.” At some point, Armstrong realized that Murdoch, who once said he planned to run News Corp “forever,” was not a singular figure but a type. “I have no intention of ever retiring, or of dying,” Sumner Redstone, the majority owner of CBS and Viacom, told Larry King in 2009. “Their feelings about mortality are wrapped up in their business legacy,” Armstrong says. Redstone is now ninety-five and still the controlling shareholder, so Succession could plausibly run for another fifteen seasons.
Money comes easy for the Roys. It’s power that must be earned. Like The Godfather, I, Claudius, or The Crown, Succession is about rivalrous siblings fighting for their place in the family business. Adam McKay, a producer on the series, says HBO voiced concerns about the characters’ likability. This from the network behind Game of Thrones and Westworld. “[The Roys] are actually not terrible people,” McKay says. “They’re just abused. Each of them has this vulnerable, kind of sad side to them.”
The cast met for the first read-through of the pilot on Election Day in 2016. “I don’t think I was thinking about them at all when we were conceiving the show,” Armstrong says of the First Family. “But it’s certainly starting to feel like, wow, he’s another one of those figures—the castrating father.”