It’s been a very long wait but finally, finally!, Succession Sunday is upon us. As we march towards the Roy vs. Roy battle, let’s check in on where we left everyone, what they’ve been doing, and where I think they’re going.
The cast has been doing press but really, not a lot of it for a show of this calibre. This could be because they don’t need to and the HBO publicists don’t want to overexpose them (smart) and it also could be because they are saving up some press, like Jeremy Strong (Kendall Roy), for after the finale. The cast, minus Jeremy, was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for a chat. I chalk it up to exhaustion and intensity. He is reportedly very focused at work (he spoke on the record to THR about Kieran with high praise) and removes himself from the cast to keep the estranged vibes going (although he is friends with Nick Braun/Cousin Greg, which works out considering the current plotline).
Brian Cox was interviewed for Zoomer (by Shinan Govani) and it’s not currently online, Kieran Culkin covered The Hollywood Reporter (with story by Seth Abramovitch), and Matthew Macfadyen is in the Evening Standard with an interview with Kerry Potter. If you are looking for spoilers, hints, or the slightest inkling of what is to come, there’s nothing here. This cast is tight lipped and that’s not what these interviews are about. In fact, it seems like they don’t even know what is going to happen (either they are given limited scripts, or they are that good at pretending).
Part of that could be the very long wait time for the new season, the painfully slow filming process, and the operatic scope of the Roys’ lives. They are not bound to a place or a pandemic (from the preview, it doesn’t seem that will be a storyline, which I for one am glad for). One thing I did learn is that Sarah Snook is beloved by the entire cast and crew and furthest in personality from her character.
For me, the Kieran Culkin THR article really stands out as a profile that goes beyond his work as Roman because of the larger Culkin story. We know it well because of his A-list brother and the troubling behaviour of his father; while that of course is Hollywood history, what really struck me was Kieran’s love and grief for Dakota, his sister who was hit by a car and killed several years ago. Kieran says she was the funniest of all the siblings and the one who has informed a lot of his work as Roman.
Of course what we all want to know about Roman is if he’s still Gerri’s revolting little worm. Last season, Roman (kind of?) made a proposition of marriage and cannibalism, so there’s that to sort out. But beyond their sexual intimacy is the business partnership they’ve entered into. When Logan gathered everyone on the yacht looking for a skull, it was Roman who saved Gerri from being sacrificed even though, as lead counsel, it would absolutely make sense that she would be fired for her role in covering up what happened in cruises. These two are united and the most solid out of all the pairings on this show because Gerri has the cunning and brains to see what everyone’s chess moves are and Roman has the familial position to access power.
On less solid ground was Shiv and Tom as Tom found himself in an open marriage, quite against his will. Shiv, in a desperate attempt to save her marriage, begged her father to spare Tom and he did, but we know how Logan operates. Shiv showing emotion and placing a personal need above the company will not endear her to her father. No doubt he saw it as a sign of weakness. Shiv can be incredibly clear-eyed about her siblings and their relationship to her father: she has noticed that Kendall either wants to kill Logan or adores him, Roman is a foolish but likeable f-ck-up, and Connor is the “first pancake,” the one who gets to live his eccentric little life in the desert but who no one really expects anything from. But her judgement is clouded by being favourited her entire life and the smartest sibling in the room. In season two we watched as she thought she was playing her father, but he was playing her all along.
With very little effort, Logan brought her in and used her to quash the sexual assault whistleblower. This isn’t to say Shiv was unaware of how she was being used or allowed it to happen to her – she was a willing participant. And when she told the whistleblower that she was going to bring the whole thing down but needed time, you almost believe her because she believes herself. Out of all of the Roys, it is Shiv who understands there’s a “real world” and that her family is doing irreparable, measurable harm to society. But she still can’t fight the lure of her father one day placing the crown on her head.
Marcia, whom I’ve missed, makes a brief appearance in one of the teasers and I’d love to see her back because we know she’s formidable, but I want to see why. She is really the only one to show that Logan can’t f-ck with her and get away with it. Does she have voting shares? I suspect that she has seen how everything has blown up and rather than gloat, returns to help Logan as he has lost his girlfriend Rhea and his son to betrayal.
Then there’s crowd favourite Cousin Greg, the lovable goofball with receipts. He obviously has played both sides in this whole saga and continues to do so because even though he’s out of Tom’s favour, his crusty gramps will probably be really pleased about him having some principles and sticking it to Logan. (Or, out of some dated sense of loyalty like he had at the board meeting, Ewan Roy will be angry. Tough to tell with that old bird.)
As for Logan, he has said he wanted a killer and that he spoiled his children to the point of softness. Kendall has come out swinging again– but can he sustain it? We know he burns out from anxiety, poor judgement, adrenaline, and an untreated addiction. It looks like season three picks up right after the press conference as Kendall and Cousin Greg deal with the fallout of their nuclear bomb.
This will be a bloody and protracted battle. Logan loves his children in the way he knows how, which is with destruction and doubt and dependence, alternating between mentor and tormentor. Building them up and tearing them down. Logan spent his adult life preparing his kids for the worst thing in the world: him. Now that Kendall has done something to earn his respect, it’s the fight Logan has been craving. This isn’t just to test Kendall, but it’s so Logan can test himself.
We’ve watched Ken try to metaphorically bury his father before (only to retreat after literally killing a young man in a car accident). Still, even with this massive public betrayal, I suspect that these two Roys can’t stay enemies forever. For one, their fortune is tied to their name. They rise together, they fall together. (In the trailer, Kendall was trying to walk back his damage with a crisis publicist played by Sanaa Latham.) Second, they ALL need constant familial approval because everyone outside of their circle despises them. The kids want their father’s approval and Logan wants to be seen as a good father. He had to raise his replacement and he is grappling with his decline. (The only one who didn’t care about his approval was Marcia, which is what made her so unnerving.)
At the top, I wrote that I hope COVID doesn’t play a part because generally, I don’t enjoy when it’s been folded into storylines (like on Billions). But it’s hard to ignore because rich people got richer during COVID and a news outlet like ATN (the fictional, Fox News-like network that is the centre of Waystar Royco) made money on divisiveness, conspiracy theories, and basically working against the common good. How the Roys (and Succession) fit into this current moment – late capitalism, COVID, media conglomerates - and how Succession is like Ted Lasso is coming up later this week.