I’ve never understood the opinion that unlikable characters in books, movies, and on TV shows are a bad thing. Every six months or so, a debate will pop up about a show and whether or not a character is likable, redeemable, or can “teach” the audience anything. I hate it. (Sarah: Me too!)
Succession is full of awful people being awful to one another and they will never change. Logan is not going to be visited by three ghosts who show him the meaning of Christmas. Part of the joy of this show is that these characters move through the world as their petty, awful selves and we (the audience) get to watch them torture one another.
The Roys entered the zeitgeist at an interesting moment in time because there are too many billionaires (and there’s a strong argument to be made that there should be no billionaires, period). Every day we are inundated with pet projects (always space, never climate change or world hunger), ballooning net worth and family drama, while at the same time we read about workers having to pee in bottles and work themselves to collapse for minimum wage. But that isn’t the only storyline they get. Superhero movies position billionaires as Batman or Iron Man when in real life they are cosplaying Armageddon. There’s also a small group of die-hards who truly believe some of these men, like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, are good for society.
The Roys made their fortune in a more old-fashioned way: media (news, papers, movie studios), cruises, and theme parks. While someone like Logan Roy erodes society through ATN (which appeals to the worst kind of people using coded racist language and conspiracy theories), his impact is dwindling, and he does not have the reach or wealth of someone like a Zuckerberg.
That’s where we find the Roys, an old-school family in a new world. As Shiv said, they are dinosaurs. They are widely despised, somewhere between the Sacklers and the Murdochs. And while Logan battles extinction in his business life and as a patriarch, it mirrors his value in society. Men like Logan Roy (and Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone) believe themselves to be captains of industry. At one time they were, but to paraphrase Rhea Jerrell, the businesses those men built their fortune on are going to be gobbled up by Facebook and sh-t out as an app.
There’s also the #metoo aspect of it. The movement has changed the world on the surface, but there’s a valid question about what has changed underneath. On the surface, Logan is being pressured but that’s noise, an irritant to him and the board. Logan can’t be cancelled because he’s too rich. As it has been presented, Logan isn’t the Harvey Weinstein, but he is the guy who covered up for Harvey Weinstein. Twenty years ago, he would have absolutely had a pass (particularly as he controls a chunk of the media). What would accountability for a man like that even look like today? If that is a storyline, the writers will have to really use their imagination because it’s never happened in real life.
These people are unlikable. Even Cousin Greg, who could get out with $5 million in a trust from his grandfather, chooses to participate. So it’s not Ted Lasso, an equally popular show that sets its audience up to cheer for everyone, almost to a fault. Well, with one major exception.
SPOILERS FOR TED LASSO COMING UP…. SERIOUSLY!!!!! STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW.
What could these two shows possibly have in common? Ted Lasso is about fathers and sons and more widely, teachers and students. Mentors and mentees. We see it with Rebecca and Keeley, with Roy and Jamie, and with Ted and Nate. Ted tries to lead his team with positivity and Logan leads his team with fear which is why both betrayals were so shocking.
We watched Nate’s envy, rooted in his feelings of inadequacy (fuelled by his relationship with his father) bloom in sneaky glances and undermining behaviour. We watched Kendall submit to his father’s bullying and manipulation privately (fuelled by the secret Logan holds about Kendall’s car accident) only to cut himself free at the last second. Ken did it because he says he believes his father is evil, but he’s also sick of playing second fiddle. Nate did it because he knows that Ted is genuine, and he’s sick of playing second fiddle. They put their suit on and it’s knives out.
Did I stretch this comparison to its limit? You bet. Lainey and Sarah are probably eye-rolling me hard over this (Sarah: I’m not!). Thank you for indulging me. For the upcoming season, I will be doing a weekly power ranking for Succession, from number one boy to boar on the floor. The Roys are back on Sunday!