Last week’s Golden Globe Awards played largely according to script. No, I’m not talking about Ricky Gervais going after everything and everyone in one of the most brutal onslaughts from behind the host’s microphone. But the winners didn’t throw up any major surprises.
1917 and Sam Mendes won. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Tarantino won. Joaquin Phoenix won. Fleabag and Phoebe won. And Succession won the Best Drama on television! So did Brian Cox, for the Best Actor in a TV Drama.
The beginning part of last year was much about Game of Thrones‘ final season before the Fleabag frenzy took over, punctuated by the hype around last seasons of Veep, Orange Is The New Black and Bojack Horseman. Somehow Succession‘s second season never quite became the CEO of television shows that it rightly deserved to be. Like Kendall Roy.
In case, that reference didn’t ring a bell, well, Succession is about a super-rich father who runs a media conglomerate and who refuses to step aside even as three of his four children are ready to be the top boss. Yes, Papa Roy is loosely modelled on Rupert Murdoch, with the show’s writer Jesse Armstrong having previously written the yet-to-be-produced Black List-selected screenplay Murdoch.
But when the Succession script was first circulating in the industry, the actors were told that it is more King Lear set in a corporate world. Now, having watched the 16 odd hours of the two seasons of the show, I feel that while the basic premise may have traces of Lear, especially the pilot with all kids trying to impress Logan Roy, it’s also The Godfather and in a curious way Jiro Dreams of Sushi. So much of the show is about that one line of validation for the children from their father. “Did you ever think, even for a moment, that I had it in me?” asks Kendall to which Logan replies: “No, you’re not a killer.”
That’s a telling line because – spoilers ahead – Kendall did kill someone in the first season which completely turned the show on its head. The son, who was constantly gunning for the throne by overthrowing his father, switched his loyalties in a flash to save his skin. This constant shift of allegiance amongst the main characters is the secret to the riveting streak of Succession.
Besides Kendall, who’s been wrong and been wronged at different junctures, there are two other candidates for the hot seat. The daughter Siobhan aka Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) who’s never really a contender till Logan wants to wean – and win – her away from the team of the presidential candidate whom he or his media channels do not support.
And then there’s Roman, who’s as unpredictable as the London weather. He has no understanding of the business of any kind but what he lacks in work experience, he makes up for it with tact and tongue. Kieran Culkin plays him like a cannon so loose, you’re always on tenterhooks when Roman’s around. Who does Logan confide in or who does he privately pick as his successor depends entirely on the day or rather the episode.
Brian Cox who beat the likes of Rami Malek and Billy Porter on the Golden Globes evening, plays Logan as a time bomb waiting to explode. An actor not alien to Shakespeare, he brings an old-world majesty to the modern mechanics of manipulation. And thanks to his disdainful cussing, Succession joins the ranks of The Big Lebowski and The Wolf of Wall Street in the free flow of the f-word.
And if you’re as obsessed with Succession as I am, Nicholas Britell’s Emmy Award-winning theme music is going to enter your system for good. With the melody line played on the piano, the score captures every bit of the mayhem that the Roy family always manages to orchestrate… at home, in office, at weddings, in parties.
From a distance, a cursory glance at the logline from the poster might suggest that Succession is a jargon-heavy corporate show. It’s not. It’s about an obnoxiously affluent family finding new ways to tear each other apart. It’s the funniest drama that’s streaming out there. Not convinced? As Logan would say, ‘fuck off!’