Monday, October 18, 2021

Going "Full Beast" - Succession (Season 3)

Season 2 of HBO's Succession ended two years ago with Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) - instead of accepting his appointed role as designated fall guy for the scandal in the family business - finally going public with what every viewer of the series has known from the very first episode of season one: "The truth is that my father is a malignant presence, a bully, and a liar, and he was fully personally aware of these events for many years, and made efforts to hide and cover up."

Kendall's father Logan Roy (played in fully malevolent mode by Brian Cox) is, of course, the very malignant boss (as in "crime boss") of a toxic media empire, ("Waystar Royco") a billionaire who has been forever poisoning society - and more immediately and poignantly poisoning his family, especially his four super-rich, ostentatiously entitled, morally vacuous adult children - for a generation. (Sound familiar?) They - having lived the entirety of their scandalously privileged existences in their father's shadow - are simultaneously fellow victims of his tyranny and competitors for his favor (and the succession) and also utterly bereft apart from him, so totally has he controlled and dominated them and their entire world.

Logan, meanwhile, like any number of other aging public figures, can't/won't let go of his power, refusing to retire and let one or more of his scheming and utterly unworthy heirs assume the authority and power he has wielded for so long. Yet, although the show's creator is British, this is not the stuff of Shakespearian tragedy. The characters are larger-than-life in one respect only - their excessive wealth. Nothing else about them is impressive, let alone attractive or likable. And that is what makes the show so spectacular - in addition to its immediate cultural-political salience - the sheer horribleness of it all. 

I would willingly concede that, unlike the four adult Roy children, a character like cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) can come across, in contrast, as marginally likable. I think that is largely because he is really on the margin of the family and so all his self-serving scheming seems reprehensible in perhaps more normal ways, which more normally situated people can somehow relate to. His relative marginality also serves as well as a vehicle for us to get inside the family's pathological dynamics. Meanwhile, the other marginal relative, Shiv's husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) remains simultaneously both monstrously contemptible and personally trivial. Parenthetically, it is also nice to see Kendall's ex-wife, Rava (Natalie Gold), reappear after her absence from season 2. 

Not being a reviewer with access to episodes in advance, I do not know for certain what increasing evils season 3 will explore. Already in the first episode, everyone is obviously under pressure to choose sides in this spectacular family squabble with billion-dollar implications, complicated  by the constant need (now out in the open) to keep covering up evidence of past corporate crimes. At this point, it's all about “I need to know where everyone is and what they’re doing” What is simultaneously a bitter corporate battle and a family civil war exacerbates the basic tension which has always been at the heart of the series: what happens after Logan? 

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