Reviews

August 12, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Succession”

 

SUCCESSION:  Sunday 9PM on HBO

Sometimes HBO’s loyalty to its series creators results in the last season of Game of Thrones, but it can also lead to the first season of SUCCESSION (and, to be fair, the earlier seasons of Thrones), where vision and skill patiently nurtured result in the very best TV has to offer.  Once Jesse Armstrong hit his stride, about halfway through Succession‘s initial run, he and the show never looked back, and now the series has returned in all its poisonous glory, emotional chaos etched with diamond-sharp precision.

The action of the Season 2 premiere, written by Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod, began just 48 hours after the Series 1 finale, as the remnants of Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), once the most dangerous challenger to his billionaire father Logan’s (Brian Cox) throne until his role in an accidental death, were yanked from rehab to do his pathetic best at beating back the corporate takeover he had himself helped to engineer.  As is always the case on Succession, this led to a family gathering, held at what the children called the Summer Palace in the Hamptons, a location tainted by the not-symbolic-at-all stench of raccoons who were stuck in a chimney and left to die, possibly by a disgruntled contractor.  Kendall, his brothers Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck), and their sister Shiv (Sarah Snook) waited to see whether Logan would decide to sell off the family’s media empire for a round $10 billion, or do battle, and if the latter, whether he’d name any of them as his successor.

The brilliantly tyrannical Logan, now seemingly back at full force after last season’s stroke, of course directed most of his attention to playing mind games with his children.  He seemingly told Shiv that she was secretly the heiress apparent, but did he mean it?  Was Kendall’s inclusion with Roman as a co-CEO a sign that Kendall had been forgiven, or that Roman’s utter incompetence had been recognized?  Would Connor succeed in his bid for various Napoleonic artifacts that include letters and, oh yes, the Emperor’s dried penis?

Human frailty and ruthlessness have rarely been displayed with the hilarity and insight of Armstrong’s dialogue, and the cast continues to be perfect.  Somewhere behind the evil wit, Armstrong even feels badly for these terrible people, victims of a dreadful father, and Strong, Culkin and Snook are expert at conveying the longing and hurt that underlies their vicious jokes and schemes as they jockey for even a milisecond of their father’s approval.  (Some may have been disappointed by the comparatively little screen time given in the premiere to fan favorite Nicholas Braun’s Cousin Greg, who only got to buy Kendall some low-threadcount coke.)  Mylod, who directed 4 episodes in Season 1, maintains the elegance of the settings where these animals prowl.

Succession is a show that knows exactly what it’s doing, and although in some ways it’s as dystopian as The Handmaid’s Tale or Years and Years, it provides a luxury-box overview of its carnage that makes it far more entertaining to watch.  The Roys are a wonderful horrible group to observe.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on screened.com and the-burg.com. In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."




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