Succession Season 2 Solidifies the HBO Drama as the Year's Best

at .

When it first premiered, people weren't altogether sure how to take HBO's Succession.

Creator Jesse Armstrong relied heavily on his background in comedy to shape the scathing portrait of a family at the tippy top of the one-percent with more social influence than anybody should be allowed.

But once you settle in and realize that you can dislike characters when they're featured in a severely entertaining venue, everything comes into focus.

Succession Season 2 Poster

Succession Season 1 delivered laugh-out-loud levity that sliced through the anonymity of the severely messed up Roy family.

At the pinnacle of the one-percenters, Logan Roy (Brian Cox) lords over the family and his business, Waystar Royco.

GLOW Season 3 Review: The Lights Aren't as Bright for the New Season

Even when in ill health and possibly losing his mental faculties, he is such an imposing figure that he proved impossible to topple. That gave way to the series theme -- power plays and infighting as everyone in Logan's view wants to be the next in line.

With so many contenders for the position, it's easy to understand why Logan's tenacious grip on life and on the media empire he rules infuriates those waiting to step in when he steps out.

The Patriarch of the Roy Family - Succession

Succession Season 1 introduced us to the Roy family and all of their foibles. On the outside, being a one-percenter looks pretty damned easy. On the inside, they're clawing tooth and nail to remain relevant in a world that can turn on you on a dime.

By the end of the first season, former favored son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) was in a death spiral after losing the promotion to CEO upon Logan's surprising return, getting spurned by the family, and delivering a bear-hug deal with outsiders to take control of the business on the day of his sister's wedding.

His second chance at gaining access to the top command of the family business came to a crashing halt when, in a brutal and very Kennedy-esque manner, all of Kendall's dreams wound up under water.

Already engaging in warfare against their brother, his latest follies gave way for politically ambitious Shiv (Sarah Snook) to reconsider her emphatic no to being the next in line for the throne, and tossed a bone to youngest sibling Roman (Kieran Caulkin) that if he played his cards right, he might be the chosen one.

Returning to Reality - Succession

Succession Season 2 picks up with the chastened Kendall unable to drift into anonymity because he's needed at Logan's side while his father attempts to beat the bear-hug by amassing a fortune so big and a business so overbearing in the market that it would be implausible for the board even to consider the bear-hug deal.

The Boys Review: Knocks Superhero Saturation to Its Knees

While the first season went to great lengths to show its satirical roots with outright comedic moments, now that the premise has been established, there is a darker tone at play.

Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Shiv's now-husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) carried a lot of the comical weight with their blossoming bromance, including a night on the town so absurd even Cousin Greg couldn't grasp it, and he was living it.

Basking in Bromance - Succession

After spending time with the family and with more knowledge of the dark dealing of Waystar Royco than someone is his position should possess, Cousin Greg is leery of remaining in Tom's footsteps even as Tom believes the latest family machinations put him onto the fast track to the top tiers of management.

Cousin Greg remains the closest thing to an everyman, and even as he realizes that being a Roy means being a pretty despicable human being, he can't help but use what he's learned so far to pull himself up the corporate ladder.

Going by Gregory now, the realization that Cousin Greg is becoming one of the family falls with a thud in the pit of your stomach.

But he's certainly not the only character facing enormous change. The new season finds Shiv experiencing the pull between her political prospects and the idea of picking up where Kendall left off with Waystar Royco.

Shiv Has a Secret - Succession

The mere suggestion of that would be catastrophic to Tom who firmly believes his wife has plans for him to ascend the ranks and would put her at odds with Roman as it's been the two of them against the world.

Roman's biting sarcasm hasn't disappeared, but after his disastrous deal with the Japanese left Waystar cleaning up the remains of an exploding rocket, he's a bit more humble and open to suggestion.

Game of Thrones Series Finale Script Explains Why Drogon Destroyed the Iron Throne

Through an expanding friendship with Logan's trusted advisor Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), Roman plunges into Waystar Royco to learn about the business from the bottom up.

We're not supposed to like these people, but even with as nasty as some of them can be, like us, they're a product of their surroundings and growing up with everything still has its pitfalls.

Siblings in Arms - Succession

Kendall's acquiescence to fall into line under a father he both loves and despise as a result of his grave mistake is highly unpleasant to watch, but Strong's performance is riveting. He manages to pull every ounce of empathy out of Kendall with great effect.

Kendall's descent from Season 1 premiere to Season 2 is alarming, and it's mindboggling that Logan embraces the change with such warmth. But having his son (or all of his children) at his side doing his bidding is probably all Logan ever dreamed.

Even receiving his dearest wish doesn't keep Logan from pitting those closes to him against each other, though, and he uses each of them for his own purposes without ever revealing his true intentions.

Logan's ability to jockey people to his wishes is lost with eldest son, Connor (Alan Ruck). At the end of the first season, Connor set his sites on becoming president of the United States, a decision he's diving into headfirst during the second.

A Father's Touch - Succession

Without a clue about running any office, public or secular, let alone commanding the free world, his determination promises to deliver laughs. Ruck's performance gives Connor exasperating stupidity, and not an ounce of shame and it's a delight.

Armstrong clearly enjoys putting his characters through the wringer for our entertainment.

HBO's His Dark Materials Looks Dark and Awesome - Watch the Trailer

But as funny and as dark as he's written the Roy family, it's impossible not to wonder how close to reality similar families in the one percent might be whether the Murdochs, the Trumps, or even the brood in line for the crown in England.

The dialogue is still whip-smart, and the actors are at the top of their game. Without such an excellent creative team, the Roy family could be brushed off as too diabolical to enjoy. Instead, you'll find yourself reluctantly feeling for the dreadful souls of Succession.

Eyeing the Competition - Succession

With so much in flux, every character is swimming in different waters. Their emotions begin to show through the strife, and it's both fascinating and somewhat heart-wrenching to imagine a life of such affluence being so miserable.

Then again, it also offers a little jolt of pleasure knowing that having it all offers a set of problems so unique it tears at the very fabric of identity and family.

Succession Season 2 solidifies the almost indescribable drama as the best television has to offer, and even with the ever-expanding scope of programming, that's not a stretch.

Succession returns Sunday, August 11 at 9/8c on HBO, and the full first season airs Sunday beginning at 11/10c on HBO 2. 


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
  • 5.0 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

Show Comments
Tags: , ,

Succession Quotes

Tom: You told me. You told me you wanted an opening relationship on our fucking wedding night.
Shiv: This. Oh. So you've been stewing on that?
Tom: Why yes, I have been stewing on it. I'm not a hippy, Shiv. I don't want to stuff a dildo up my, I don't want to do threesomes!
Shiv: OK!
Tom: On our WEDDING NIGHT? Bang! Shanghaied into an open-borders free-fuck trade deal.
Shiv: It was just an idea.
Tom: Well, that's, that's a biggie just to throw in at the altar. You know? I do, I do, but I do maybe also demand to gobble the odd side dick.
Shiv: Gobble the odd side dick.
Tom: I don't think it was cool what you did. I just, you know, I think a lot of the time, if I think about it, I think a lot of the time, I'm really pretty unhappy.
Shiv: What are you saying?
Tom: I don't know. I love you, I do. I just, uh, I wonder if, I wonder if the sad I'd be without you would be less than the sad I get from being with you.

Gil: Right. I wonder. Do the phrases human furniture or footstooling mean anything to you?
Tom: Not that I'm conscious of, no.
Gil: Have you ever used another human being as a footstool, Mr. Wambsgams?
Tom: Uh, I, Senator, I use a variety of target-oriented incentives to enhance optimal performance. [the crowd breaks out in whispers]