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It's becoming increasing clear Succession isn't actually about who is going to win

  • "Fans and reviewers of HBO’s Succession have said that this season, the show is simply spinning its wheels," says Gita Jackson. "Both the Los Angeles Times and The Atlantic say that the show is stuck, treading water. These comments mirror what fans are saying on social media: The show is repeating the same non-events, and people are bored. This is only true, though, by the standards established by recently ubiquitous comic book movies and other popular genre work, in which audiences are used to seeing traditionally heroic characters on their journeys to save the world or catch a serial killer. In the broader context of fiction—and specifically compared to King Lear, which Succession is so clearly inspired by—this season has been action-packed. It’s just a matter of what people are expecting out of stories at this moment. Succession, created by showrunner Jesse Armstrong, is about the foibles of the absurdly wealthy, Murdoch-like Roy family, who run the media company WaystarRoyco. In the show's inaugural episode, patriarch Logan Roy has a stroke, and the family must finally consider who will take over for him when he dies. Except, well, he doesn’t actually die, and he doesn’t want to give up the top throne either. Now on its third season, Succession premiered shortly after the finale of Game of Thrones, another show about powerful people vying for control. In that show, the question of who would end up on the throne led all the action, which came to define the series with bloody, glorious events like the Red Wedding and the Battle of the Bastards. As Succession goes on, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the show isn’t actually about who is going to win after all, and that the backstabbing is not going to involve actual knives."


    • Succession fans are freaking out about what the answer in the final shot in “Chiantishire” is, instead of what the meaning of the shot is: “'Physically alive but spiritually dead' also describes an HBO character in a famously ambiguous final shot that may or may not depict the moment of that character’s death: Tony Soprano in The Sopranos’ series finale," says Emily VanDerWerff. "The point of that show was always that Tony and his families (professional and personal) were forever bound by their self-centered, narcissistic choices and the psychological baggage they refused to unpack. We watched the entire show waiting for Tony to realize any of the ways he had screwed himself up, even a little bit, and the series finale was a long explanation of why he couldn’t change and never would. It doesn’t matter if he dies in the series’ final shot because he’s incapable of change and therefore already spiritually dead."
    • Does Succession need Kendall Roy?: "Succession is an ensemble drama, but I feel like Kendall is, if not its main character, at least the central one, the person whose actions the entire plot revolves around," says Sam Adams. "Memorable as the death of Ned Stark was (on Game of Thrones), in retrospect that was less a case of a show killing off its protagonist than revealing that we were wrong about who its protagonist was. And as much as I like to refer to Succession as 'that show about Tom Wambsgans and his friends,' it’s Kendall’s angst that gives the show its tragic heft, and makes it more—or at least other—than a bleak farce about rich a-holes scrambling for power (which is not to say that couldn’t be a fine thing on its own terms). Before we get to what we think happened at the end of 'Chiantishire,' is there Succession without Kendall? Can it survive without him?"
    • There's a lot of meaning behind Roman Roy's cringey moment on this week's episode: "The fact that Roman is distracted by his dad’s text message while attempting to digitally expose himself to Gerri is very much in keeping with his fixation on being the favored Roy child, as well as his unusual relationship with sex," says Jen Chaney. "The fact that Roman is distracted by his dad’s text message while attempting to digitally expose himself to Gerri is very much in keeping with his fixation on being the favored Roy child, as well as his unusual relationship with sex. Since season one, Succession has made it clear that Roman’s sexuality, which does not involve actually having sex, coincides with his desire for approval and control. The things that he gets off on seem to involve some combination of masturbation; relishing his pseudo-power (remember when he jerked off against the glass windows of his office and also when he maybe hooked up with his trainer?); being acknowledged by those in positions of authority, positively or negatively ... and flirting with Gerri without acting upon it... In fact, what makes Roman so persistent in his flirtation with Gerri is his belief that nothing will ever come of his immature, inappropriate advances."
    • What's behind the thirst for Roman Roy?: "Can you feel that?" asks Marianne Eloise. "The shift in the air? Not the changing of seasons but the ushering in of a new era; we have skipped right over 'short king' season and into a new chapter of a demented fairy tale, that of the 'chaos goblin.' A chaos goblin, for the uninitiated, is a short man with undeniable charisma and an unpredictable energy. They are usually below five-foot-eight with a confidence that seems unearned and an aura that teeters on disturbing but is never unsafe. This era is heralded by a widespread thirst for Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy in HBO dynastic dramedy Succession but also as himself. While Succession has been on since 2019, a horn for (Kieran) Culkin seemed to really kick off when the teaser posters for season three dropped. In one, he sits with his 'mommy girlfriend' Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) standing over him, her hand inching toward his throat. The nod to his season two 'Will they, won’t they?' Oedipal tease seemed to set something off in people who either already had a yen for him or were on the fence."
    • There's a vicious sadness to and Roman and Logan's toxic relationship: "I think it comes to the fact that Roman and Logan actually love each other, which is an outrageously rare sentiment on Succession. And because they love each other, they can hurt each other," says Shane Ryan. "I’m not entirely sure this works both ways with any other dual dynamic in their universe. Kendall loves and hates his father, and Logan has the ability to hurt him, but Kendall has always been a little too pathetic, a little too needy, to earn the love of someone as cutthroat as Logan. Ditto for Shiv—every little bit of dialogue Logan had in the last episode alone shows that he’s a raging misogynist, and he’s not the kind of man who could ever love a daughter like he loves a son. You see it elsewhere, too; Shiv doesn’t love Tom, not the same way he loves her, which is why he walks around like a beaten dog. Among the siblings, whatever slight affection existed at the start of the series has been thoroughly blown to pieces by the competition for the top seat, to the point that Shiv has made it her mission to make Roman pay a massive price for his indiscretion. But Roman and Logan are something else. It’s complicated, of course, but even in the really dark father-son moments—Logan slapping a tooth out of his mouth—there’s the sense that only Roman can inspire that kind of rage in his father, and that (this is toxic, I know) the rage comes from love."
    • Kieran Culkin says Succession has made him more profane in real life: "I would say the F-word just slides out of me," he tells Fresh Air. "I mean, I think in general, that's always been a sort of natural word for me. But since doing the show, it's every sentence, more or less. I'm trying to be careful now because my two-year-old daughter actually has become a mimic. So that one's been tough. She hasn't said it yet."
    • Why is the food on Succession so gross?: "Of all the Roys’ woes (impotence, mean dad, no personal jets), a lack of decent food is by far the most consistent," says Danielle Cohen. "There are far more scenes in Succession that hint at food than there are with food actually being consumed: tables fully set for Thanksgiving with nary a crumb of stuffing in sight; temporary CEOs being floated over untouched pies of pizza. There are many, many corporate spreads growing staler by the minute, the granola bars and Saran-wrapped sandwiches bearing witness to the sins of Waystar-Royco. Also: meats. So many meats! All of them gross in a slightly different way. If you think about it, it makes sense that Succession’s meals are objectively unappetizing. Good food is so often tied to family, love, warmth, or comfort, of which there’s very little to be found in the Roy clan. Their meals are not filled with laughter and chatter and other signifiers of human connection. They are stressful power competitions, tests of fealty to Logan, or tense preludes to business deals. Why should the food be good?"
    • Scott Nicholson on what Colin says with his silences: "He’s always there; he’s always watching," he says. "I don’t want to say he’s 'lurking' in the background, but he has a support group of people he can glean information from to report back to Logan at any given moment. I think Colin has to be omnipresent. He’s an interesting character because he doesn’t need to speak all the time. He carries the weight of Logan."
    • Ranking the sweaters of Succession

    TOPICS: Succession, HBO, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Scott Nicholson, Food and TV