Creator: Jesse Armstrong
Cast: Nicholas Braun, Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, Alan Ruck, Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong, Peter Friedman, Scott Nicholson, J Smith-Cameron
Streaming on: Disney + Hotstar
Succession season 2 had ended with Kendall Roy, once considered heir apparent to Logan Roy, a Rupert Murdochish media mogul plus King Lear like figure, outing his father in a press conference and exposing dirty secrets of their family owned conglomerate Waystar Royco. Kendall had been (unfairly) chosen as the fall guy, sent by Logan to take a hit for the team when in his moment of truth, he does something unexpected and brave. Logan is powerful and toxic. And to have someone like Kendall, who we have seen struggling to stand up to his father in the first two seasons, declare war on him was a shocking twist that made the season 2 finale so thrilling. It elevated Succession to the status of one of the great ongoing TV series, as well as one of the most hotly anticipated ones. So where does it go from here? All this makes the season 3 premiere, titled “Secession”, an incredibly important episode.
The season 3 opener hits the ground running. “It’s a war. F*ck off,” Logan responds to the situation like a wounded lion. Kendall’s war-cry is groovier. “So are you in for this f*cking revolution?,”
Things pretty much pick up from where they had left off. The family is in transit, making their way back from their abruptly ended yacht sojourn in Croatia. Decisions are being taken on the fly. Logan, who’s stepping down, and his company men Frank and Collin, along with Tom, will go to Sarajevo, one of the countries with no extradition treaties with the US. The others, that include Roman’s other children, Shiv, Roman, along with the company’s General Counsel Gerri, go a different direction.
Meanwhile in New York after that mic drop of a press con, Kendall is stealing a moment of quiet by shutting himself down in the hotel bath, deep breathing and processing the magnitude of what he has done (with Cousin Greg knocking on the door politely threatening to break it down). Season 3 episode 1 hits the ground running. “It’s a war. F*ck off,” Logan responds to the situation like a wounded lion. Kendall’s war-cry is groovier. “So are you in for this f*cking revolution?,” he asks an associate, as though a hip-hop guy in a CEO suit.
Logan and Kendall represent two opposing styles. Logan is old-school. Kendall is zeitgeisty. In a way, the show rests on their relationship and the new season opener is when the clash fully comes to the fore. Succession is also a marriage of this zeitgiesty-ness and drama worthy of Shakespeare—Nicholas Britell’s superb theme mirrors this combination of classical and contemporary.
The research by the team of writers, led by Jesse Armstrong, includes a deep dive into the history of Roman empire, and in a throwaway moment in this episode, Logan calls Roman “Romulus”, and in another, Roman references Zeus. And soon after Kendall’s whistleblowing stunt, that harks back to patricidal acts from Greek mythology, he asks Greg to keep a check on his “cultural temperature” on social media–a made-up phrase so typical of the verbal creativity of Succession. As always, it’s through sharp, witty writing and words spoken by its characters that the show expresses itself most distinctly, elevating trash-talk into high art, producing instant classics like Karl describing the crisis as “a 12 foot sub of poisonous tree frogs”.
The show revels in the nastiness of its characters, and with the throne up for grabs, there’s enough of that in this episode. Roman’s fatally cool snarks meet Shiv’s evasiveness as they both ask each other what the other is thinking. Succession has always been about who is going to replace Logan. And even though only he has the power to choose his successor, he has his way of throwing it open to his people.
In this episode, that moment both comes and it doesn’t. Like the scene in season 2 finale where everyone politely chose a person they’d like to vote out—which resembled a refined version of an elimination round in a reality show—we get a scene where he asks a group of people their candidate for the temporary CEO. Cliques are formed, politics is played and ultimately Logan arrives at his own conclusion. You’ll be surprised.