It took me a few episodes to get properly into the HBO series Succession , since the whole character gallery is so strikingly unsympathetic. But gradually this became part of the fascination itself.
Succession is admittedly no solitary swallow in that sense. In the so-called new golden age of TV drama, which largely started with HBO's The Sopranos (though Six Feet Under and Sex and Single Life from the same channel will also have their share of credit), several prominent series have almost competed to have them most unsympathetic and morally dubious main characters. Tony Soprano from The Sopranos has his appealing character traits, but can also be said to be a violent sociopath. Although Breaking Bad. 's protagonist Walter White is first portrayed as a conscientious and cancerous family father, this series develops into a portrait of a psychopath – while “charming asshole” is an apt description ofMad Men 's marketing genius and women's magnet Don Draper.
Also in terms of quality, Succession deserves to be compared with all these series. At the same time, one can draw thematic lines back to American soap operas such as Dallas , The dynasty and Falcon crest .
A vulgar royal house
Succession is about a fictional media mogul family in the United States, with all that entails of power struggles, intrigue and desire to take over the throne in the group. The question of succession becomes highly topical when the aging patriarch Logan Roy is hit by blows at the beginning of the series. However, he gets on the road to recovery fairly quickly, and with this, the potential heirs – four adult children, who to a greater or lesser extent are involved in the family business – are thrown into ever-sharpening knives and uncertainty about their own position.
The series is not a "poor little rich" story.
The series will be loosely inspired by the real-life Murdoch family, about which series creator Jesse Armstrong first wrote an unrealized feature film script. But he is also said to have looked to the media magnates William Randolph Hearst (who was the source of inspiration for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane ) and Robert Maxwell – as well as Britain's Queen Elisabeth. The latter is not as sought after as it probably sounds, as the series' Roy family in some way appears to be a kind of royal house in the Republic of the United States.
With their group Waystar RoyCo, they have enormous power and influence – not only because of the financial means the company possesses, but also through the media companies it owns. Since this is the world of America and big business, we are not talking about a refined and exalted form of royalty, but a vulgar, cynical and power-hungry financial nobility. Nevertheless, the family's control over the media image provides opportunities to influence public opinion with a force that means that not even the president – in the series preferably referred to as the “raisin” – sits safely.
The pulse of the present
The current third season on HBO picks up the thread directly from the end of last season, where the perhaps not completely lost son Kendall Roy in practice declared war on the head of the family. As a result, internal family disputes are escalating several notches, in parallel with the group being threatened by acquisitions and a lack of new investors. Central to the action is also the scandal related to the company's cruise business, which is now under investigation, and which includes both abuse of women and gross exploitation of guest workers.
The internal family disputes are being scaled up several notches, in parallel with the group being threatened by acquisitions and a lack of new investors.
This story about a bunch of very privileged people is impressively able to take the pulse of the present. Here, everything from metoo themes to depictions of depressingly uncontrolled media power, while Kendall tries to surf a wave of sympathy on social media for his public dissident status – with the great danger of being disguised as both narcissistic and hypocritical. And if anyone were to think that the helpless eldest son Connor's ambition to run for president seems overly parodic, it's just a reminder of who actually held that position until recently. Succession is undeniably satirical, but by no means science fiction – and is perceived as far more relevant than, for example, the more sensationalist Norwegian series Exit.
The richness of nuance
Succession follows, as mentioned, some reasonably inedible characters, in which we still get an emotional commitment. This is not necessarily due to our need for insight into the lives of the rich and powerful, but whether the richness of nuance and complexity these characters are portrayed with. Succession is also a story about four people who have grown up with an extremely demanding and dominant father, and how it affects them. There is a significant amount of soreness in this, without it being meant to excuse what the characters get to do.
The series is not a "poor little rich" story, but a study of the urge to be seen and recognized. It shows a life where everyone exclusively grinds their own cake, and where manipulation and trampling are natural survival strategies. And then, of course, it's big business capitalism at its most brutal.
With its occasionally hesitant, but no less elegant balance between realism and biting satire, Succession is one of the smartest and most apt descriptions of recent years of how power is very much exercised in the world's leading democracy.
New episodes of Succession Season 3 are released weekly on HBO Max (The review is
based on seven episodes).