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Have you heard of the It Gets Good phenomenon that we’re faced with in this era of SVOD giving us too many choices? Coined by critic Alan Sepinwall, it’s what we say to our friends about one show after another – “Stick with it, it gets good, I promise!”. Sound familiar?
Some series, he says, arrived fully formed – like The Sopranos. But others, like The Wire, Cougar Town and Bosch, evolved and came into their own after a few episodes or seasons, taking them from “decent” or “watchable” to iconic, brilliant, acclaimed.
Succession is one of these. The problem with shows that take awhile to get into, says Sepinwall, is that it gets harder and harder to make people care about shows that aren’t perfect from the outset – because there are so many these days that are.
But we’re here to try, because, trust us, if there’s one It Gets Good show you need to get invested in, it’s this one. Here are a few reasons to continue – it doesn’t just get good. It gets incredible.
Totally and absolutely blown away by the first season of @jessearmstrong1 #Succession. A Shakespearian tragedy, peppered with dark humour, controversy and satire. Standing on the outside of the uber-rich, looking in through spectacles that don’t make anything clearer. 1/2 https://t.co/5oPpqK8sY9
1. It’s more comedy than drama
Showrunner Jesse Armstrong also brought us the British comedy Peep Show, and producer Adam McKay wrote for the British political satire The Thick of It – so it’s no surprise that Succession is itself a “vicious satire”.
The humorous undercurrent of the series is best felt in scenes where the ridiculously wealthy and blithely un-self-aware members of the Roy family behave like deplorable, deranged royalty doing ridiculous, disgusting things. Such as in episode 6, where Tom Wamsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), Royco exec and fiance of Shiv Roy, hides his face under a napkin while he eats a deep-fried songbird in one bite.
2. Every character symbolises the “emptiness of chasing dollar signs”
Roman Roy on HBO’s ‘Succession’ is the best dirtbag on TV https://t.co/nr8hhRZeGw
If you’re like us, you’ve had enough of shows that rely on unlikeable characters. Yes, it’s way more interesting to watch people break the rules and be loathsome than it is to watch people being perfect and doing everything right, but we’ve seen one too many series whose whole premise is “here are a bunch of horrible people, let’s watch them being horrible”.
After episode 1 of Succession, you’ll realise that the entire Roy clan, from despotic patriarch Logan (Brian Cox) to his ambitious son Kendall (Jeremy Strong), his odd eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), his smart-mouthed daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) and his ne’er-do-well youngest Roman (Kieran Culkin), are deeply flawed, often quite awful people.
But – and it’s a big but – they are also impossible not to get attached to. In their own strange ways, they are relatable – we empathise with Kendall, whose father cuts him out (episode 6); we root for Shiv, who’s making a big move in her own career that might destroy her father (episode 7); we even cheer Roman on when he finally, finally decides to actually do some work in his new position of COO – by hosting his future brother-in-law Tom’s bachelor party at a debauched underground club (episode 8), but still.
And maybe this is because each Roy symbolises all that is wrong with extreme wealth. As Jason Concepcion points out, their money and their influence has made them pretty unhappy with themselves (Kendall “desperately wants his father’s approval and the street cred of an independent businessman, sentencing him to neither” and Roman wants to be in a position of power but doesn’t want to work for it) and with each other – we don’t think we’ve ever seen a father on TV who’s more contemptuous of his own children.
And this, in a sentence, is what makes Succession worth sticking with: “It’s the first show or movie about money that successfully makes villains of its heroes.”
yeah, this show, has really the most despicable people i’ve seen on television; just horrible in the personal and professional relations: Willa Paskin comments: I admit that I didn’t get HBO’s Succession at first. Turns out it’s amazing: https://t.co/00s874nDw4 via @slate
3. It’s about love – or the lack of it
But it’s not all boardrooms and family dinner tables. A big chunk of Succession plays out in bedrooms. The central “romantic” relationship is between Tom and Shiv, who, it slowly becomes apparent, to us and to themselves, are not exactly a great match.
And yet they continue to walk the road to marriage, and, in episode 10, proceed to walk down the aisle, despite the fact that Shiv’s infidelity is an open secret, and her admission, after the wedding, that she might not be cut out for monogamy (she wants her cake, and to eat it too, of course – she’s a Roy).
I am not fit for a monogamous marriage… ” Shiv the night of her wedding to her husband Tom in @HBO #Succession finale #Season1. It is easily one of 2018 best TV Show. From superb cast to directing and amazingly well-written, ballsy & cynical dialogues https://t.co/4zJAT4gwCB
Another doomed “relationship” is between Connor and the call girl Willa. He calls her his “girlfriend” and asks her to move in with him on his ranch in New Mexico. She’s in it for the money, he’s in it because – well, who else would put up with him?
He’s so blinkered that he doesn’t realise she can’t stand him, and she realises that the more time she spends with him, the more trapped she becomes. And in the finale, when he tells her his next mission is to become President – of the United States, mind you – she can barely suppress her laughter.
But then there’s something like real love, between Logan and his third wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass). She is his pillar of strength, the only one who’s there for him, immovable and supportive and quietly stubborn. It seems like she really has his best interests at heart – though we may be proven wrong in Season 2.
4. Greg the Egg
Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) is a towering mess of fumbling nerves. He arrives in New York from Canada to ask his great-uncle Logan for a job just when things start to get interesting. Tom takes him under his wing – in other words, bullies and emotionally abuses him – but no one has any idea what Greg is capable of. Keep your eye on him – by episode 5, it becomes clear that Greg is in it to win it, and he might just beat the Roys at their own game.
Tom Wamsgans and Cousin Greg of #Succession might be my favorite TV pairing since Dwight and Michael Scott. #SuccessionHBO https://t.co/n97ZgULOE4
The New Yorker went so far as to call him “the secret weapon of Succession”, and in an interview with Forbes, Braun said, “I think Greg watches things really closely. And I think he learns by watching others do … So he’s still learning, but I think that he understands that his relationship and his allegiance to Tom is not as valuable as it might be to a Gerri or to a Logan or to a Kendall.”
Like we said – watch out for him.
5. The finale
Succession’s season finale confirmed it as the cult hit of the year https://t.co/EFCgLzqQwh https://t.co/AiqkVmtleo
Perhaps the frontrunner for the best reason to watch past episode 1 of Succession is to get to episode 10, titled Nobody Is Ever Missing (presumably named after this poem). The critics say it better than we can:
- “Electric” – Ringer
- “Masterful” – The Atlantic
- “Lands like a bomb, fundamentally shifting the dynamics of the show.” – Vox
- “For all of the great moments that Succession gave us throughout its first dark season, nothing compared to the emotional wringer of its finale.” – Collider
- “The Succession finale introduced us to a new kind of American son … the number-one boy.” – Esquire
Succession is exclusive to Showmax. Start watching now »
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