HBO’s Succession is hands down my most anticipated show returning this year–It has been for the last few. No other show has the ability to completely absorb me from the start of its season until that last sad Sunday when the season ends. And now we’ve just learned that this season will be the series’ last.
I’m not alone in my feelings for Succession. The show is beloved, but it’s the kind of show that’s so much better than it sounds on paper. I often find myself not recommending it to friends despite it being one of my favorite shows in the last ten years. It’s elevator pitch doesn’t make you want to drop everything to watch it: “A Shakespearean power grab for the control of a right-wing media conglomerate concerning a solipsistic family of deeply flawed back-stabbing monsters.” Not necessarily a fun sounding experience to sink 30 hours into, but I’m here to tell you why it’s absolutely worth your time.
Table of Contents
The Amazing Face Acting
When I think of Succession, the first thing that comes to mind are the faces: Cousin Greg’s (Nicholas Braun) slack-jawed expression of anxious confusion. Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) side-eyed glance that slowly peels into a duplicitous grin. Tom’s (Matthew Macfadyen) eyes agog with a full-toothed smile as he shifts into playfulness following a spout of cruelty towards Greg. Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) reoccurring expression of dead-eyed despair after his latest career-ending screw-up. And Logan (Brian Cox) sneering at everyone like they’re disappointing idiots.
Even if the writing wasn’t fantastic–which we’ll get to later–you could watch Succession with the sound off and simply enjoy all the amazing acting everyone is doing with their body language and the conversations their faces are having with each other. Beyond the cutting wit exchanged between actors, a simultaneous dialogue takes places with their eyes and facial expressions.
Damn Fantastic Music
Showrunners, during this golden age of television, prioritize great original music. Would The Mandalorian, Stranger Things, or Game of Thrones be quite the same shows without their iconic scores? Succession, with it’s unique mixture of hip hop beats and piano, is right up there with the best at utilizing its essential soundtrack to set the perfect mood. Sweeping strings, looped beats, thumping subwoofer bass, and a reoccurring piano riff that weaves in and out throughout each episode are as important to what makes this show great as anything else.
The Catharsis of Impending Doom
If you’re new to Succession the first thing that might surprise you is finding yourself actually like these these awful people. You might not root for them, but still enjoy every second watching them stylishly squirm their way out of constant public peril. There’s a constant foreboding mood of impending doom that somehow feels good to watch.
In the same way viewers might enjoy hospital shows as a way to face the worse case scenarios of their medical fears, the struggles of The Roy family and Waystar Royco provide catharsis for fears of public shaming, financial ruin, or career suicide. Watching unpleasant people struggle one step away from complete obliteration, might make your day seem a whole lot easier to manage.
Well, Yeah. The Amazing Dialogue.
I put this section last, because this will most likely be the first thing you’ll hear about the series. The writing is fantastic. Creator, Jesse Armstrong previously wrote Peep Show (2003), In The Loop (2009), and Four Lions (2010). These three projects illustrate perfectly the tone and style of Succession. It has the razor-sharp, overlapping dialogue of In The Loop, the pitch-black dark comedy of Four Lions, and the sardonic, irreverent comedy of Peep Show.
I’m actually just realizing that Armstrong wrote these three projects as I write this. I discovered them all separately over the years, loved them, and never knew they were all connected until now. I guess I’ve been destined to love this show for almost 20 years now. Go figure.
Succession with return Sunday, March 26, at 9 p.m. PT/ET on HBO and streaming on HBO Max.