“Succession” – on New York’s Olympus [Review]

Succession series


Title: “Succession” (TV series)

Release Date: 2018 – 2023

Cast: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun and others


The series “Succession” is like an invitation to an Olympic feast of modern gods. Together with the characters belonging to the elite circle of the world’s richest and most influential people, we key through the labyrinths of New York skyscrapers to look from on high at their “trivial” problems. Here we won’t find concerns about daily existence or paying the bills, instead we will watch seasoned scenes of a ruthless power struggle in which all tricks are allowed. In this game for the throne of the great consortium of the Roy family, no sentiment counts, and betrayal lurks at every corner. In turn, the progenitor of the family itself appears like the mythical Kronos, who, out of fear of being stripped of his crown, devours his own children.

“Succession” and its characters

“Succession” is an HBO series, the first season of which appeared on the streaming platform in 2018 and has since lived to see four great seasons. Along the way, it has also managed to rake in many prestigious awards, such as Golden Globes and Emmy statuettes. All of the lead actors lived up to their well-deserved accolades, from the extremely convincing Brian Cox in the role of the press magnate, to those playing his children, Jeremy Strong (as Kendall), Kieran Culkin (as Roman) and Sarah Snook (as Shiv). Also, Matthew Macfadyen, who plays Logan’s son-in-law, has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe award for his participation in the series as many times. It is worth noting the Polish accent in this production, that is, the role of Karolina, played by Dagmara Dominczyk, who has also recently appeared successfully in Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla“. However, a good cast is not the only asset of this original and nuanced series.

The script of “Succession” is based on a simple scheme, which is the struggle for power in a huge media business. However, both each of the episodes individually and the individual seasons form a precisely constructed whole, where all the elements complement and explain each other. The threads started in the first series find an ingenious closure in the last, and the leitmotifs organize the order of the serial narrative.

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The main protagonist of “Succession” is Logan Roy, probably a character modeled on great press magnates like Rupert Murdoch, who, due to his advanced age, is beginning to consider handing over the helm of the company to one of his children. However, the capricious and unpredictable businessman constantly changes his mind, alternately promising and retracting his own declarations, leading to an increasingly violent power struggle between his future heirs. On the periphery of the ongoing dispute, there are also other characters unrelated to the Roy family, who are also very eager to pinch something for themselves. The series begins with a family party, Logan’s birthday party, at which not only his children and closest associates show up, but also the magnate’s distant nephew Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) and his daughter’s partner Tom Wambsgans. It is thanks to these “new” characters that we have the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of the big corporation, get a glimpse into its nuances, as well as a look at the inner career path at Waystar Royco.

“Succession” – in the circle of modern myths

I think that the secret of the popularity of this series largely lies in the basing of the plot and the creation of the characters of “Succession” on cultural archetypes. The main character himself is the embodiment of a modern Olympian god who emerges from Chaos to bring a certain order to the earth. The stylization of Logan as a supernatural giant is very clear in the series, not only visually, but also in terms of the plot. Already at the beginning it is suggested that he is almost immortal, when he emerges unscathed from a serious stroke, which at the age of over eighty for a mere mortal would have ended in inevitable death. Logan’s mythology is also built up by the series’ lead – here he appears as an enigmatic figure who, like a deity, hides his face, while we see his broad back and strong neck. And the titanic qualities of the hero are emphasized by numerous visual hyperbole, consisting of showing his image on huge screens or posters.

Succession HBO series

I have the impression that the entire setting of the series “Succession” was conceived as a modern realization of the mythical Olympus. It is symbolized by the great New York skyscrapers, in which the action is most often set, as well as numerous panoramic shots of the American metropolis. Interestingly, the protagonist closest to “earthly” problems, Kendall, is very often portrayed precisely on the terraces of huge office buildings, when, standing alone, he looks down. This may be a sign of his longing for an ordinary earthly family, based on close, normal relationships. The final scene of the fourth “Succession,” moreover, provides a counterpoint reference to these symbolic shots of Kendall.

The dramatic focus of the series, however, rests in Logan Roy’s relationship with his children. During the screening, I couldn’t help thinking that this press magnate resembles the mythical Kronos, who devours his own offspring out of fear of losing power. But his victory cannot be eternal, because sooner or later someone will give him a vomiting agent, and then his position will be threatened. Logan constantly puts his children to the test and plays with their feelings. He is sometimes caring, only to show incredible cruelty in a moment and exploit their greatest weaknesses. It is unclear whether he can form any close relationship with anyone at all. He surrounds himself with people whom he throws out without scorn after decades of cooperation. He cheats on successive wives, laughs at his sons’ complexes, and the only chance to gain his attention is not real feelings, but to impress him with cunning.

“Succession” – suffering in luxury

However, these gods looking down on the world from the heights of their apartment buildings are also very human. And it’s not just about their numerous weaknesses, which deliberately reveal that they are no different from ordinary people. Ba, more than once we get the impression that without connections, to paraphrase the words of one of the characters, they wouldn’t even get a job in a burger shop. What I have in mind, however, is the deep psychological wounding of the characters, going back to their childhood. Logan’s adult children are people who have never experienced life in a normal family. From early childhood, trained like thoroughbred dogs for their future role, they do not understand the basic values on which love or friendship is based. They don’t know what true loyalty or sacrifice is. They are unable to rise above selfish motives.

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The picture of big business and politics, moreover, does not look optimistic in the series. It even seems to be saturated to the marrow of the bone with corruption and boredom, which is supposed to be killed by fancy entertainment. The best reflection of the mentality of the characters is their vulgar language, which is dominated by coarse sexual comparisons and metaphors. The word “fuck” is here conjugated by all possible conjugations and creates even unimaginable neologisms. Without a doubt, the linguistic level of “Succession” is a peculiar construct created for the series. It is an intrinsic component of this world and at the same time its distinguishing feature, setting the members who use it apart from other social groups.

However, the dark and rotten side of the media empire is mitigated by delicious humor. Indeed, many scenes, sometimes bordering on the absurd, can really make you laugh. Of course, we also have a whole range of elements reflecting the glitz of the wealthy socialite. Stylish interiors and costumes, yacht cruises and exotic islands, lavish parties and hunts. To top it all off, you have to throw in a great musical theme by Nicholas Britell, awarded an Emmy statuette in 2019.

And who will ultimately become the new king? In the final season we see Kendall, Roman and Shiv bathing together in the ocean. Water appears here for a reason – a symbol of purification and new birth. But will the siblings seize the chance for reconciliation and will a new beginning emerge? To find out, you have to watch “Succession” to the end, and the finale is sure to surprise everyone.