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Succession shows the problem with a world run by old people

  • "Should so much depend on one person’s excretory system?" says Spencer Kornhaber. "More than ever, Succession is about the gravitational heft that America gives particular men, and the chaos that ensues when mortality wobbles them. The latest episode, 'Retired Janitors of Idaho,' depicts the long-awaited Waystar Royco shareholder meeting, at which the rank-and-file investors theoretically get to give their input about the company’s direction. But the event’s outcome is ultimately decided by the machinations of powerful guys whose ruthlessness seems inversely proportional to their health. Men like Logan have created a world that seems as though it cannot exist without them—yet when their faculties fade, the problems of hoarding power become clear. One of those problems is that master-of-the-universe types tend to rule not by principle but by force of personality. During the episode, Waystar’s top deputies are negotiating with a hostile conglomerate attempting a takeover, hoping for a settlement that would keep the Roys in control of the company. When Logan’s loss of mental faculties becomes indisputable, Waystar’s top executives are left to puzzle over his last semi-coherent order: a highly typical 'F*ck ’em!' His son Roman—whose irreverent manner belies his total worship of his father—says they should take a strict interpretation of fuck ’em and walk away from negotiations. But Logan’s daughter, Shiv, thinks he’d want them to keep pushing for a deal. Neither sibling really has much evidence to base their case on."


    • Pay attention to who says “uh-huh” on Succession -- those are the weightiest two syllables in the entire show: "That might sound a bit silly, but 'uh-huh' functions as a kind of stealth reflection of Succession’s power dynamics," says Emily VanDerWerff. "Logan Roy (Brian Cox) says those two syllables all the time as a way to fill space in conversations where literally anything more loquacious might go, and Cox’s very specific cadence in how he says 'uh-huh' ripples throughout the rest of the cast. The more loyal a character is to Logan Roy, the more likely they are to say 'uh-huh' in that specific cadence as a conversation stopgap. Succession’s third season has been particularly illustrative in terms of how the show deploys 'uh-huh.' The more Kendall (Jeremy Strong) has fallen out of his father’s orbit, the less he’s said 'uh-huh.' And the more Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) vie for Logan’s attention, the more they say “uh-huh.” The more someone has Logan on their mind, the more they speak like him. 'Uh-huh' is also notable as a way to give a response without actually saying anything. Taken as a unit, 'uh-huh' can mean 'sure' or 'okay' or 'yes,' but it doesn’t carry much weight beyond that. It allows someone to speak without speaking, to smooth over what might be difficult but necessary to say. The more the Roy family doesn’t talk about its demons — many of them propagated by Logan — the more it falls back on 'uh-huh.' Logan Roy exerts a gravitational pull on all of the characters in Succession. I’ve argued in the past that this pull is rooted in the show’s portrayal of abusive family dynamics, with Logan as the baddest dad of them all. And in season three, the show is finding new, more potent territory to explore within those abusive dynamics. The result can be as simple as a character saying 'uh-huh,' or it can be as fascinating and as savvy as the way 'Retired Janitors of Idaho,' the fifth episode of season three, portrays extremely common responses to abuse."
    • Siobhan Roy offers the most intriguing path forward, both for the Roys and for Succession itself: "This isn’t because Shiv is an especially good person," says Lacy Baugher Milas. "She’s still as nasty as any of her siblings: Selfish and manipulative, she’s done her fair share of betraying others. But she’s also one of the only figures on Succession who still feels capable of real growth—despite her obvious flaws—and whose Season 3 journey appears to be setting her on a path toward something other than destruction. Succession Season 3 has largely been framed as a battle between Logan (Brian Cox) and Kendall for the future of Waystar Royco, as the younger Roy attempts to force his father to step down via a Department of Justice investigation. And while this all provides some seriously entertaining intra-family drama—especially anything involving Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) or Greg (Nicholas Braun)—the heart of this season is firmly rooted in the slow evolution of Shiv, who seems poised to finally come into her own as a Roy and confront her own recent moral collapse in the process."
    • Brian Cox says Logan Roy always has to be unpredictable: "The great strength of the show is its unpredictable nature," Cox tells Indiewire. "In a way, you have to adhere to the unpredictable nature. Therefore, you have to be unpredictable, and you have to allow unpredictable things to happen to you. In that sense, it’s quite a journey, it’s quite a ride. We’ve seen Shiv screw up, we’ve seen Kendall endlessly screw up, and now he’s — on his father’s advice — gone out and tried to kill his father, which I always think is funny. (Logan) just says in the scene before, 'Oh, you’re not a killer,' and the next thing is his father’s killing. His father was very amused by that, but not only amused, he’s rather proud and he loves him and he also thinks it's foolish, so the smile means so many things. In a way, it’s very unpredictable what (Logan) is thinking, and it has to be. It’s like somebody giving you a set of skis and saying, 'Go down this slalom here and there’s a nice hotel at the bottom.' But do you know how to ski?” That’s what you have to take on board."
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    TOPICS: Succession, HBO, Brian Cox

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