The Buzz: ‘Succession’ Is The Rich Man’s ‘Game Of Thrones’
Succession is a show about the twisted web of politics and backstabbing the Roy family engage in with themselves and others as they desperately vie to stay on top and retain powers. Characters are despicable, but entertaining to watch. The series is very good at building up storylines and leaving you wondering who's on what side. Almost everyone has some sort of secret agenda, and it’s impossible to know who to trust. The show presents itself as a mystery as viewers attempt to piece together where each character’s true loyalties lie. Sprinkled in is plenty of dark humor as these characters abuse their power and engage in horrible actions, mostly for no other reason than because they can. Succession is well shot, the dialogue is interesting and other than some length and soundtrack issues, it’s a well-made show.
Each character is layered and has several features that make them sympathetic, but for every sympathetic trait they have, there are two more that makes them despicable. It’s such a muddled cast, it’s hard to pick anyone to root for. Even characters you think are innocent at first are eventually revealed to have some pretty bad skeletons in their closets. At a certain point though, as evil as some characters may be, they become so pathetic you can’t help but feel some sympathy for them again. It’s an odd cycle, but it’s enough to keep the main cast of characters tolerable enough to continue watching. The characters do feel genuine though and each main character has a variety of complex relationships with one another and the supporting cast. The performances are great and the actors and actresses also go a long way into making the characters feel real. I don’t think there was a single bad performance in the whole first season.
The dialogue is also very interesting. At first, I found it a bit awkward and bad, but as the series went on, it felt like it was done this way on purpose. The characters speak in a very strange combination of vulgarity and business. It sounds smart and intelligent, but it’s just laced with the worst obscenities you could imagine. It gives the dialogue a unique feel and also grounds the characters a bit, and makes it feel as if every exchange made between characters is some sort of verbal battle. Every character is just trying to out vulgar their opponent and whoever does wins. It can be a lot to process at times with all the business talk, but overall it makes for many different interesting and often tense conversations.
The show has a very twisted sense of humor. It’s definitely not for the squeamish, but the humor is well-timed and never feels out of place. It’s not a laugh out loud kind of humor, but more of an “I can’t believe this character is doing this” kind of laugh that comes from not knowing how else to process the situations. Characters are constantly doing insanely outlandish things, but at the same time, it never gets too silly as to break my suspension of disbelief. As much as I despised Kieran Culkin’s character Roman for his complete lack of empathy, I couldn’t help but be constantly intrigued by his character. He’s charismatic in a scummy kind of way and has countless physiological issues. Every character in the series acts crazy at some point, but no one ever comes close to topping Roman. It goes to show, even the most reprehensible characters can be made watchable if you can manage to make them interesting.
I hope you enjoy the theme song because you’re going to hear it a lot. At least once or twice an episode if not sometimes more. It’s not even a badly composed melody or anything, it is just way too overplayed. I would actually go as far as to say I like it, and that if it were used more sparingly it would be much more effective. It likely won’t be as noticeable to someone who watches the show in small dosages, but anyone who binges the series may find it a bit obnoxious. The rest of the soundtrack is serviceable, but I did notice some other songs that were reused besides the main theme. Overall, it’s not a huge detractor, but it ended up bothering me enough to feel the need to bring it up, so take that as you will.
Another aspect of the series that started to grate on me was the length. Now Succession’s first season is only ten episodes which may not seem like all that much, but with each episode clocking in at just about an hour, bingeing the series may be a little overwhelming. Seeing the main characters mistreat one another might be entertaining for an hour or two, but after ten straight it gets sort of depressing. I also believe the series could have done to cut a little bit of fat, with all the long shots of brooding and people staring intently, to bring the show to a much more binge-able forty minutes per episode. Not that everyone is going to binge the series, but considering how many viewers stream their content nowadays, it’s definitely something to take into consideration.
Basically, as long as you don’t watch the whole series in one sitting, most audiences will be able to find entertainment in Succession. If watching detestable characters slowly become more awful isn’t your cup of tea though, Succession may not be the series for you. If you are able to get past these two things, there is a series here worth watching and there are plenty more aspects done right in Succession then there are done wrong. While season one is loaded with plenty of drama and does come to an end of sorts, there are still plenty of plotlines left hanging to lead into the next season. If the show sounds of interest to you, watch the pilot as it does a very good job of capturing the feel of what kind of series Succession is.