‘Succession’ Nailed its Brutal Tale of a Legacy Undoing Itself
Jesse Armstrong’s prestige drama was so driven by winning that it could only ever be about loss.
NOTE: This post contains spoilers for the entirety of Succession, streaming on Max.
Good stories are designed with a simple purpose: to take readers from Point A to Point B. Maybe they impart some wisdom, inspiration, or entertainment while unfolding, but if they don’t at least pick us up and travel, they’re practically D.O.A.
It’s impressive, then, that Succession—a show that underlines our inclinations towards negative cycles and the inability to change—has taken its viewers to such a variety of places.
The titular sibling rivalry to take daddy’s place at the top of the Roy media empire was an easy vehicle to hop in. It’s the juiciest sort of reality TV fodder, even if we’ve all long been burnt out on watching delusional billionaires make terrible decisions.
This is where series creator Jesse Armstrong and his team of writers come in, with an array of emotional baggage and generational trauma that happen to be set among the austere penthouses and yachts and islands of the world. On Succession, the only things more barbed than the betrayals are the jokes — and those are mostly to laugh to keep from throwing oneself off the top of the WayStar RoyCo building.
Logan Roy (Brian Cox), if pressed, would irritably insist his kids’ lives aren’t in the least bit tragic. Charmed in all the ways a young Logan never experienced, his children — Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) — were raised as the 1% of the 1%.
The emotional math is more brutal: Wealth and influence aside, Logan also gave his kids a bounty of neglect, manipulation, abuse, and fear. It’s no wonder that when he eventually blocked their voting power in the sale of the company and yelled at them to “make [their] own pile,” they were ill-equipped and returned his tactical ugliness in kind.