TV

Here’s Why Everybody Is Talking About ‘Succession’, The TV Show About Awful Rich People

The hype is real!

Succession HBO review

The first season of Succession got to Australia late — welcome to the club.

The HBO series, created by Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show), didn’t get rushed to Foxtel like Game of Thrones. The delay had nothing to do with the fact the show centres on the wealthy Roy family, led by patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox), who owns the media conglomerate Waystar Royco.

The delay had nothing to do with the fact Waystar Royco is made up of theme parks, pay television services, film studios and a Fox News style network called ATN.

The delay absolutely had nothing to do with Rupert Murdoch and his family, a possible but totally unrelated inspiration for the show.

A slow start in Australian meant Succession kept a low profile. In America it had passionate advocates, but it wasn’t a breakout hit. Succession debuted during a time when each new HBO series was expected to replace the show about dragons. The word on Succession was strong enough to hold over until the arrival of season two, and the gap between seasons provided the perfect amount of time for stragglers to catch up.

Succession returned for its second season in force. The series avoided the sophomore slump and an army of new fans amplified each astounding moment of the Roy’s infighting. Succession has become one of HBO’s biggest hits with many claiming it’s the best show on TV right now.

There have been lazy comparisons to Game of Thrones (everyone desperately wants a replacement) but Succession is way more dramatic and satirical; an incredible balancing act. But like with lots of TV shows it can feel like the hype unjustified or it’s going to be impossible to board a show two seasons deep.

The good news for you is that the hype is real, and now is the best time to get on board with Succession.

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Meet The Roy Family

The series begins with Logan Roy in poor health and the question: who will replace him as the boss of Waystar Royco?

Enter his children: the eldest yet aloof Connor (Alan Ruck), the ambitious Kendall (Jeremy Strong), the immature Roman (Kieran Culkin), and politically savvy Siobhan (Sarah Snook). The Roy children are all trust-fund kids with different levels of interest in the family business.

Kendall and Roman work for their dad on the day-to-day running of the business. Siobhan works in politics as a form of rich-kid defiance of her dad, and Conner does nothing but live off the family fortune while pursuing bizarre passion projects.

The Roy siblings love their privileged life and are desperate for the approval of their father. And by ‘approval’, I mean the top job. In turn, Logan Roy is always testing his children’s loyalty and their ability to survive in a brutal business. Tough love is the name of the game. Think of it as the most intense job interview ever and the employer happens to be your dad who loves to tell people to ‘fuck off’ more than hugging you.

The Roy family extends to their inner circle of business advisors, their awkward Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), and Siobhan’s fiancée/Waystar executive wannabe Tom Wambsgan (Matthew Macfadyen).

Mind Games

Each episode of Succession features petty power plays where the Roys indulge in being part of the 1 per cent.

The show effortlessly shifts between a serious family drama to a farcical exploration of power and wealth. The future of Waystar Royco is always on shaky ground despite the family’s billionaire status. It’s stressful to think that if the Roy family can’t make it work, who can?!?

The battle is split across two fronts: the family infighting and the outside pressures on the business to survive. The craziest part is that you’ll find yourself cheering for the Roy family at their absolute worst.

Make no mistake: these people are terrible. Yet, when you consider how many media companies are merging to create a monopoly, the Roys are the perfect family to interrogate the landscape of capitalism in 2019.

The humour comes from seeing these characters squirm and grovel, and their participation in the rituals of the mega rich are insane; you’ll never be the same after witnessing a hunting game called ‘boar on the floor’.

The dialogue is sharp and seems like it’s written by pens dipped in poison. The cast is exceptional, and they balance a long roster of characters so well you never feel the need to Google who’s who.

Get Ready for Succession Season 3

The best way to go in is to treat season one as a meet and greet, and then prepare for war in season two. The season two finale contains an incredible reveal that puts it up there with the great season closers.

Succession season three is set to be one of the biggest TV shows of 2020 so the sooner you can catch up, the better.

For all the wildly entertaining squabbling of Succession it’s a show about the tragedy of a family who work brilliantly together but are torn apart by the measures of success people aspire to when money isn’t an issue. If a person can afford a boat that’s like Buckingham Place on water, what gives them a sense of love and satisfaction?

Maybe no member of the Roy family will ever be happy? If so, we’ll continue to indulge in the downside of the sweet life in Succession.

Succession season 1 and 2 are on Foxtel Now.


Cameron Williams is a writer and film critic based in Melbourne who occasionally blabs about movies on ABC radio. He has a slight Twitter addiction: @MrCamW.