Succession is the most recent recipient of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstand Drama Series. The HBO dramedy/satire follows the Roy family, led by patriarch Logan Roy, CEO of international media conglomerate Waystar Royco. With Logan’s health in decline, his four children and the rest of the company grow concerned over the future of Waystar. Produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, full of scheming and betrayal with nine Emmys under its belt, it seems that Succession is well on its way to becoming Game of Throne’s bigger and better successor. The bar is low, but there’s no way HBO will repeat the same series finale catastrophe, right?
The show is so entertaining to watch because the characters all kind of suck. They’re all looking out for themselves and only themselves, they’re constantly in competition with each other, and they’re always stabbing each other in the back. They’re not just realistic because they’re inspired by the Murdochs (who own or have owned The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and 21st Century Fox), but because they’re human beings in a modern-day setting, and they’re also simply human beings who are flawed. We hear about rich families like the Roys every day, and we also know normal people who are just like them. Take the character Tom Wambsgans, for example: he’s a people-pleasing Waystar executive, always cracking questionably funny jokes. And he loves having power. He bullies poor cousin Greg on the daily, but even so, he knows his place. He’s dating Logan’s daughter, Shiv, and is frequently shown trying to remain in Logan’s good graces, whether it’s trying to find the right birthday present for him or simply not verbally attacking people in Logan’s presence. Sure, Tom’s a little amped up in the show for satirical purposes, but you definitely know someone just like him. You may be thinking that Tom sounds like a horrible person and there’s no way you know anyone like him or relate to him at all, but I can guarantee that as you watch the show, you will be so entertained. You will love watching people tear each other down for their own personal gain. You will hope for the worst and the extreme. And does that not make you just as bad as the Roys?
I can’t praise the genius of Succession without crediting the show’s writer and creator, Jesse Armstrong. He has previously written for Black Mirror and Veep, so you know he knows what he’s doing. He’s delivered two impeccable season finales. In the finale of season 1, there’s this ~thing~ that happens. And as it’s happening, you know what’s going to happen. But when it happens, it happens – Armstrong fills you with dread, has the thing happen, and doesn’t stop there. He showcases the immediate aftermath and leaves you anticipating what it means for the characters, the plot, and the show as a whole going forward. The season 2 finale is more subtle, but after the ~thing~ happens, you realize he had left clues throughout the episode. Armstrong is very clever, and he should be regarded as such. He knows what we find entertaining, and he’s created a massive ensemble of characters who aren’t necessarily lovable, but you can’t help but be invested in their stories. Succession has already won Emmys for writing, acting, and directing, and it has a very promising future. As long as Bran Stark doesn’t end up as the next CEO of Waystar.