One cannot understate the success of HBO’s dramedy Succession. Rolling Stone critic Alan Sepinwall ranked the show in eleventh place out of a hundred in his compilation of the greatest television shows ever. That’s impressive given the long history of television and the fact Succession only debuted five years ago.
Alan Sepinwall isn’t alone in his lavish praise for the series about the cutthroat Roy family and their Shakespearean power grab for control of their father’s media empire. Sociologists, journalists, and media experts praised the show. The acting, dialogue, and storytelling received flawless acclaim. There’s an alluring disgust for the characters that enticed many American viewers. These unique aspects of the show will impact television’s status quo and endure long after Succession completes its fourth and final season.
This article contains spoilers for Succession.
10 There’s No Nudity
While there’s no shortage of profanity and mention of sex, fans noticed a surprising lack of nudity in Succession. This seemed rare for HBO, which made a name for itself with provocative sexual content in shows such as Game of Thrones. This isn’t to say Succession isn’t provocative around the subject of sex.
Roman Roy, the foul-mouthed brat of the family, developed a kinky relationship with his father’s advisor Gerri Kellman. This led to an embarrassing scandal for Roman. As the AV Club noted, sexual pleasure isn’t the focus for most of the characters, since they’re attracted to power. While previous HBO shows liberated portrayals around sex, Succession accomplished that without showing any skin.
9 Jeremy Strong’s Use Of Vocabulary Came Into Focus
Fans who read Jeremy Strong’s profile in The New Yorker know of his intensity, which he applied to roles such as the tortured Kendall Roy. When speaking about the jaw-dropping twist in Succession‘s third season, Strong said he found the conclusion devastating, but it made sense “dramaturgically.” Twitter users started questioning Strong’s word choice and asking if the word dramaturgically even existed.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary confirmed the word’s validity via Twitter in response to the discussion. Strong’s word choice seemed to make a cultural impact as it injected a theater term into the public consciousness. It also cemented Strong’s fierce dedication to the craft of acting, highlighting how dedicated and talented Succession‘s cast is.
8 The Power Dynamic Between Shiv And Tom Is New
The power dynamics between Shiv and Tom are unlike most relationships that play out between a heterosexual couple on TV. Throughout much of the show, it’s clear that Shiv holds the upper hand in their relationship as she constantly humiliates Tom and disregards his undying affection for her.
Tom pathetically projects his hurt from Shiv onto the family’s cousin, Greg. Shiv’s ambivalence toward her husband feels rare in a television drama. The idea of a femme fatale has always existed, but Shiv isn’t a cunning villain desperately trying to tear down a man. Instead, she sees Tom as an accessory, and up to the third season’s finale, Tom is happy to oblige.
7 The Show Deepened Television’s Anger Toward Wealthy
With economic turmoil as a hot topic for the last few years, it seems there’s a hunger to feast on the rich. Writers have noted that Succession contributed to the media’s anger toward the one percent (i.e., The Menu, The White Lotus, and Triangle of Sadness).
Fiona Sturges of the Financial Times remarked that upon Succession’s premiere, it stood alone in its ultra-negative perception of the wealthy. The show’s message may have struck a chord as the wealth-skewering film Parasite took the Oscar for Best Picture the following year after the show’s debut. For many onlookers, it’s no coincidence that many of these anti-rich messages appeared after Succession’s arrival.
6 The Show’s Depiction Of The Rich Isn’t Glamorous
Jason Concepcion of The Ringer commented, “Succession is well-shot and has firecracker dialogue and a talented cast that is easy on the eyes. But it doesn’t elevate its characters, horrible people all; it exposes them.” Succession not only made viewers angry towards the rich, but it provided them with a sense of superiority.
Fans can take solace in the fact that their lives aren’t as nearly as dysfunctional as the Roy family’s. While many parables about the follies of greed, such as The Wolf of Wall Street, made wealth seem glamorous, Succession made wealth seem pathetic and gross.
5 The Show Blended Aspects Of Drama And Situational Comedy
The terms “dramedy” or “dark comedy” aren’t new definitions describing the blend of the two genres. However, Succession found itself in a league of its own, considering how poignant the show could be one minute yet feel like a sitcom the next. Naomi Fry of The New Yorker claimed that the show felt “Seinfeldian.”
That’s because Succession, like the hit sitcoms Seinfeld, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, depict characters who are completely deplorable yet hilarious at the same time. What Seinfeld doesn’t have is a storyline where Jerry accidentally killed someone and his father covered it up in exchange for loyalty. Succession goes dark and, like the aforementioned sitcoms, its humor goes dark too.
4 Succession Reflected A Post-Trump Cynicism
Succession doesn’t paint greed in a positive light. However, much like Seinfeld, the characters never really learn anything from their transgressions. Lucy Prebble, Succession’s executive producer, asserted that the show reflected a growing cynicism in the audiences that coincided with the rising cruelty of certain politicians like Donald Trump.
Prebble mentioned that the showrunners calculated the audience’s willingness for less aspirational tales of the rich. This cynicism created a debate around Succession‘s message. Some claim it’s a satire on capitalism and others claim it’s a voyeuristic drama. While Succession‘s message may be debatable, fans can be objective observers and draw their conclusions.
Journalists noted the stark comparison to Logan Roy and conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose network Fox News recently settled a defamation suit with Dominion Voting Systems for false claims about election fraud. Brian Cox pushed back on any direct comparison between his character and Murdoch. However, the similarities are pretty uncanny.
The New Zealand publication The Spinoff pointed out the striking comparison in their video juxtaposing Logan and Kendall’s congressional hearing in the second season to Rupert and his son James’ parliamentary hearing to discuss their 2011scandal. While Murdoch’s perceived influence on the show may arise from certain contention, tech journalist Kara Swisher claimed Succession accurately displayed the current reality of business and power.
2 The Show Set A New Standard With One Continuous Shot
The third episode of the fourth season titled “Connor’s Wedding” stunned fans with the early reveal that Logan Roy passed away. Much has been discussed concerning the explosive episode, with certain critics calling it the best episode in television history. One notable high bar occurred with the use of a continuous ten-minute shot that unraveled as the Roy children received the devastating news about their father.
This long take, along with the emotional upheaval it took, challenged the actors the most according to their interviews. While Succession isn’t the first series to provide a scene with one long take, it’s very rare for a drama to do that. It’s nothing short of legendary for the actors to stay in this emotional state for so long without breaking up the scene.
1 “Connor’s Wedding” Featured A Realistic Portrayal Of Grief
Besides the ten-minute shot, critics hailed “Connor’s Wedding” for its accurate depiction of grief. Writers praised the fact that while there’s little to relate to concerning the Roy family, losing a parent is a universal experience everyone can empathize with. This experience hit home thanks to the cast’s stellar performances.
This episode’s brilliance lies in the inconvenient timing of Logan’s death. Creator Jesse Armstrong rejected killing off Logan toward the end of the series, stating that it’s “not how the shape of life is.” The shared nerve that this episode struck led GQ to label it as an instant classic. “Connor’s Wedding” and Succession will set the standard for television for years to come.
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