Succession premieres June 3rd, 10pm on HBO.
By Chris Flanagan
Succession follows media conglomerate Logan Roy, and his family of four children, Connor, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv. Logan begins the process of stepping down from his company and letting Kendall, his second born, take charge. However, just before he finalizes the deal he has a change of heart that leaves the family passively aggressively attempting to out-do one another in order to come out on top in the end. While this typically would be a fun process to enjoy watching, I found it completely flat and uninteresting due to the lack of character development and plodding storylines that after several episodes were barely moving to any substantial footing.
And yet, when I wasn’t watching Succession, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The frustrating sentiment behind this statement is because I cannot even begin to explain why. The members of the Roy family, while occasionally able to show flashes of intrigue, mostly operate as greedy one-note characters that offer little beyond the lines they are given. Their motivations are clear and their jockeying for pole position amongst the other members of the family leads to some truly strange and unbelievable moments that seem too far-fetched at times.
Then again, families do some crazy things. The best example of this was through Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin), who for most of the first episode seemed to be the best character whenever onscreen. His gravitas made it seem possible that there was a small form of redemption left within the family and if he were just given a chance to shine all would be made right. That feeling disintegrated close to the end of the episode during a softball game where he offered a kid one million dollars if he hit a home run only for the kid to not get tagged out and proceed to have Roman rip up the check in front of him. All hope for that character was lost in that moment.
That type of feeling was not exclusive to just Roman – every family member underwent their own loss of redemption throughout the show helping me to quickly realize that no one in the show is on a path to change and while that is sometimes okay in this case it caused me to refuse to become emotionally invested in anyone and ultimately disengage with the entire story.
And just as I did this, Succession would provide just a small moment that would keep me watching another episode. The show has a very interesting way of shooting scenes that make it feel as if the viewer is someone actually in the room witnessing all of this firsthand. This same feeling is manifested and voiced by cousin Greg who quite literally wandered into the family off the street, and finds himself right in the middle of the drama.
The cinematography is spectacular in moments showing off the beauty of New York City while being able to capture the intricacies of everyday corporate life which ended up being one of my favorite aspects of the show. Families are strange and difficult, but Succession seems to accurately capture what that feels like with the backdrop being a multi-billion dollar company at stake.
The cast is another standout aspect, with solid performances from Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, and Sarah Snook. But the two cast members that made the show watchable was that of cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), Shiv’s fiancé. They are both equally awkward and bumbling dotes that aimlessly wander around the show from scene to scene with no hope of truly making any progress but are still somehow funny to watch as they attempt to “play” like they are members of the Roy family.
Even as I attempt to write this vague review I am struggling to confidently land on how I feel about Succession. For the most part, it was not a great show and offered very little to warrant a weekly place on my TV calendar, however, I continually found myself wanting to return to the show in hopes of seeing the characters change (they don’t) or the story become more interesting (it doesn’t). Succession almost succeeds at allowing you to feel as if you are getting to peer behind the curtain into the truth behind the families that run major corporations but after that feeling wears off you are left with little outside of clever camerawork and a couple of odd characters that provide a comedic breath in a drama that feels empty and spinning its narrative wheels.
I give Succession a C-.