[HBOs Succession peeled back the layers of the all-powerful Roy
family, a Murdoch-like media empire built by despicable, ruthless
people, and what it showed us was more putrid and awful than we ever
could have imagined.] [https://portside.org/] 




 Rebecca Nicholson 
 August 12, 2019
The Guardian

	* [https://portside.org/node/20768/printable/print]

 _ HBO's Succession peeled back the layers of the all-powerful Roy
family, a Murdoch-like media empire built by despicable, ruthless
people, and what it showed us was more putrid and awful than we ever
could have imagined. _ 

 Half the fun is waiting to see what the vile characters will sneer
about next ... Succession., Photograph: HBO 


In an era when every decision of vital importance appears to have been
taken somewhere hidden from the public, Succession (Sky Atlantic)
promised a peek behind the curtain. It peeled back the layers of the
all-powerful Roy family, a Murdoch-like media empire built by
despicable, ruthless people, and what it showed us was more putrid and
awful than we ever could have imagined. It was clever and vicious, a
black comedy dressed up as a serious drama; watching these people tear
each other apart was a fine spectator sport. It spent its first season
building to a gruesome climax, as the favourite son, Kendall, plotted
the takeover of Waystar Royco to get revenge on his father, Logan (a
chillingly good Brian Cox
only for his father to turn around and pummel him right back into the

The corporate world moves quickly: the series returns just 48 hours
after a wedding so horrifying it made EastEnders Christmas specials
look cuddly. Shiv, the smartest of the siblings, married Tom, an
ambitious but paper-thin social climber with all the backbone of a
jellyfish, in an extravagant Scottish affair. Matthew M
who usually plays the hunk, is perfectly watery-eyed as the new
son-in-law who thinks he knows what he has married into, but in truth
has no idea of the depths. Soon, the pair are trying to convince one
another that they would rather be on their honeymoon than in the
middle of the snake pit. It doesn’t hold.

Kendall, still shellshocked from his failed part in the takeover –
and from accidentally killing a young waiter – has been sent where
every ultra-rich sinner goes to repent: on a spa break. But he is soon
called back into the fray by his father, who uses the knowledge of his
son’s crime to pull his strings and make him dance.

Even without Kendall, Logan’s rivals Stewy and Sandy have decided to
proceed with the “bear hug” and attempt to buy him out. The
siblings, shocked by what Kendall has done, but only in so far as they
didn’t think he had it in him, are forced to help Logan decide what
to do. Waystar Royco is a legacy media company that will probably be
eaten by the tech world; the best advice suggests that only one or two
such corporations can survive for the next few years. The price being
offered is good. Should they cash in while they can?

Logan’s decision will come as no surprise, unless the expectation
was that Succession
[https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/succession] would turn into
a kind of “Rich Kids of New York” reality show. It sets up several
potentially monstrous battles that should sustain season two nicely.
Logan needs to name a successor and he makes a pitch for his preferred
choice. Although it is the obvious pick, one of the joys of this show
is that absolutely nobody can be taken at their word. It is there in
the writing, when characters have one conversation while clearly
talking (or swearing) about something else entirely.

The writing is so creatively foul that it fills the gap left by its
sibling in crudeness, Veep
[https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/may/13/veep-series-finale-julia-louis-dreyfus] (one
episode of which was written by Jesse Armstrong, who created
Succession and penned this episode); half the fun is waiting to see
what the interminably vile Roman will sneer about next. Never above
bold imagery, a family summit at the Roys’ Hamptons mansion is
punctured by the odour of a rotting animal, pervading every room.
“It smells like the cheesemonger died and left his dick in the
brie,” roars Logan, whose thirst for revenge extends even to his

Succession is skilled at steadily and surely raising its characters up
to multidimensional horrors: allowing Shiv to show her true colours,
turning from the principled, independent one into an operator more
ruthless than any of her brothers; allowing the hollow, dim Connor to
recognise that the highest office in the land would be a reasonable
culmination of his innate sense of entitlement to whatever he desires.

This opening episode does everything Succession does best, giving us
wicked sibling summits, the blackest of black humour, those delicate
little manoeuvres of power that seem harmless until they emerge at the
centre of absolutely everything. Its boldest move is to refuse to give
these monsters any sort of comeuppance, but that unrelenting bleakness
works in its favour and makes it all the more convincing. My only
complaint about an otherwise flawless episode is that Greg, who plays
dumb but learns quickly, was not as present as he should have been.
Nevertheless, I suspect that the future of Waystar Royco will somehow
involve his baby-steps double-dealings.

A civil conversation…

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