Hitting the ground running, HBO’s highly anticipated series Succession made its third season debut last Sunday. Picking up from last season, Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) is on a vindictive path against his father Logan (Brian Cox). It’s an episode of pure anarchy that shrouds a lot of the characters in pure panic. There’s an edge to seeing Logan, patriarch and CEO of one of the most influential media conglomerates in the world, flail in the aftermath of Kendall’s betrayal. In true Shakespearean fashion, Succession doesn’t shy away from the gaping wound that’s the Roy family. It relentlessly unearths the nasty vitriol that is the tumor of a family eating itself from the inside out.
As Logan and Kendall stake out their future plans of attack on each other, the remaining family members react to the power vacuum left after Kendall’s press conference. Last season, we saw an overly confident Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) assert herself as the future CEO of Waystar RoyCo only to be strung along by her father. Humiliation is a powerful tool that Logan wields with impunity against his own children. This may be the final thing that breaks Shiv. Caught in the middle of her father’s complete disinterest in her, Kendall’s tauntings, and her own husband’s distrust of her, Shiv seems poised to jump off that abyss this season.
For Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin), it’s an opportunity for him to weigh his options. This comes in the form of Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron). Whether Gerri’s motivations behind enabling Roman are fraught with deceit to end up as CEO or not, there’s a magnetism to their relationship. It’s hard to look away whenever Gerri and Roman’s psychosexual dynamic floods the screen. Also, one can’t help but root for them in a Macbethian sort of way. The writers knowingly playing to the platitudes of this relationship sets the tone for the series. Playing up the taboo is one of this show’s favorite games to play. It indulges its viewers in ways they didn’t even know they wanted.
All of these strings are being slowly pulled in different directions, which is the kind of mess Succession is all about. It’s not about “loving” these characters. It’s about immersing yourself in their callous natures and jerking back when a shred of humanity shines through them. Unlike Game of Thrones, Succession doesn’t need carnage to prove just how devoid of humanity these characters are. Some of the best wounds come in the form of sharp observations and public humiliations. What’s worse than your own father publically outing you as an “idiot” or passing you over like you’re just another dirty napkin at a dinner table? Each Roy child knows that this is the price to pay for a seat at the table.
It’s the same kind of pendulum from Kendall that keeps you waiting for the other shoe to drop. Opening up the season with a grinning Kendall is merely an illusion of his own making. A fantasy on behalf of the viewers and on Kendall himself, having convinced himself that by hurting his father, he’ll overcome the looming depression that haunted him throughout the second season. Funny enough, this is a question that seems to hang over both Kendall and its viewers. Was Logan truly protecting Kendall from himself, or was Logan merely humbling his son for trying to take him down? Judging from Logan’s slight grin at the press conference from the last season, there’s a little bit of both. It’s something this season seems geared up to explore.
How far will the Roy family go to keep that power? It’s in the chilling moment Kendall gleefully says, “who says I haven’t killed someone?” that says they’ll stop at nothing. Knowing that Succession is self-aware enough never to downplay the inner apathy of these characters and the place they hold in the world is what drives this show forward. There’s nothing more entertaining than watching rich, selfish, influential people destroy one another. It’s a wonderful time for Succession fans, as the show only proves to get better with each passing season. – Mariana Delgado
Succession Season 3 episodes premiere every Sunday on HBO Max.