Succession, the Shakespearean drama focusing on the Roy family and their ageing media empire, returns with a premiere full of family politics mixed with a dash of dark humour.
In the Series 1 finale, patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) was grappling with his son Kendall Roy’s (Jeremy Strong) latest attempt at a corporate coup. This time aided by rival media mogul Sandy Furness (Larry Pine). Unfortunately for Kendall a drug-induced bender resulted in the death of a caterer at his sister Siobhan (Shiv)’s wedding reception. Left with few options Kendall becomes beholden to his father in order to escape a vehicular manslaughter charge.
Newlyweds Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) and Tom Wamsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) not only celebrated their wedding but a prenuptial agreement that permits Shiv to have an open marriage.
Series 2 opens a few days after the wedding night debacle with Kendall taking refuge in a treatment facility. He is looking forward to a mud treatment but is forced to conduct an interview at Logan’s behest. Kendall is a shell of the entitled hip-hop loving so-called underdog who spent most of Series 1 trying prove himself a worthy successor to his father, and manufacturing failed coups.
The Kendall writer Jesse Armstrong presents here is a docile puppet attempting to sell Logan’s pre-approved justification for turning against the takeover. Needless to say a 40-something spouting “My father’s plan is better” does not go over well with investors and co-conspirators. Kendall’s siblings Connor (Alan Ruck), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv appear to take pleasure in his latest misfortune. At every opportunity, they continuously criticize Kendall while remaining ignorant of the circumstances that left him subservient to their father.
Embattled founder and CEO of Waystar Royco Logan Roy appears to be in full control of his faculties in the premiere, focusing on Kendall’s latest betrayal and Roman’s continued ineptitude. Logan is fighting to maintain his company through sheer force of will and a large amount of intimidation. However, this was not always true in Series 1. At times Logan was in the throes of dementia, forgetting his surrounding and urinating in office corners. Helping Logan to maintain the illusion of normalcy is his third wife Marcia Roy (Hiam Abbass).
Fallout from Kendall’s lacklustre interview leads to a meeting with the company’s primary banker; Logan is presented with two options: sell or fight.
Despite the general disdain Logan feels for children, he includes them in a summit held at the family’s $200 million dollar property which also happens to house the decaying remains of raccoons. The repugnant smell leads to Logan ordering the wait staff to discard the absurd amounts of seafood, prime rib and other delicacies for more pedestrian fare like pizza. This is rather fitting given how the Roy children and their significant others regress during the discussion about Waystar Royco’s future.
Disappointed in the direction of the family conversation, Logan takes a different tactic and meets with his children individually. Puckish Roman tries to capitalize on the semi-positive response to his press conference in which he was able to downplay a satellite explosion that occurred late in Series 1. Unfortunately for Roman, his proposal to guide the company forward receives a tepid response from Logan. Shiv’s conversation takes an unexpected turn when Logan offers her the opportunity to succeed him as head of Waystar Royco. Logan’s proposal creates a personal and professional minefield Shiv would need to navigate in order to become CEO. Tom, Shiv’s neutered husband, is desperate to escape the toxic resorts division and also covets a top executive position. Like Kendall, Shiv has aligned herself with another of Logan’s foes. She serves as a campaign advisor to presidential hopeful Gil Eavis (Eric Bogosian).
Following his conversation with Shiv, Logan announces a new mandate – Waystar Royco will become the last traditional media company standing and will take on tech companies. Rejuvenated by the new company mandate (and his secret succession plan), Logan begins exercising his newfound virility by confronting his contractor over the animal carcasses and issuing a declaration of war against Kendall’s former co-conspirators.
Writer and showrunner Jesse Armstrong has set the stage for a series full of new corporate and familial clashes while bringing new and continuing viewers up to speed. The only missing ingredient from this episode was more Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun). Though he was briefly seen scoring low-quality cocaine for Kendall, Greg and his stash of documents proving corporate cover-ups in the resort division will certainly become a wild card as the series unfolds. This viewer cannot wait to see the Roy family shenanigans and backstabbing to unfold! If you’ve heard the hype surrounding this series I urge you to seek it out, it’s proving to be the defining show of this current era of HBO.
Contributed by Maurice Walker
Succession continues Mondays at 9.00pm on Sky Atlantic and NOWTV.