In the new season of HBO’s Succession, there’s no more room at the inn, but plenty of space at the grown-ups table… if you know how to take a hit and stab a back. We review 2020’s best drama with its new storyline, award-winning leads, and its serving of some screen favourites in the form of Sanaa Lathan, Adrien Brody, and Alexander Skarsgård.
Relentless betrayals and intimidation of biblical proportions in every episode – all neatly wrapped in a Judas kiss, a birthday card, or a box of doughnuts.
Season 2’s finale left us gasping for air and applauding when Kendall (Jeremy Strong), once primed to take over the Waystar Royco empire, nearly buckled under his father’s manipulation to take the fall for the company’s unethical practices and labour rights violations in a sketchy division that no one really wants in the first place.
But, he doesn’t, and his refusal to do so, is public. Showing his father, Logan (Brian Cox), that he too can feed a member of the family, even the patriarch, to the sharks; and be a killer, independently and quite impressively.
And so the brand-new nine-episode season opens and immediately takes us to the days after that decisive and humiliating rebellion to his family. Kendall is waging a war, and Logan is scrambling as he pulls all his financial, political and emotional might to work to tighten the screws, affirm authority, and demand loyalty. With each episode, we see the waters becoming bloodier as the sharks circle in closer; heads rolling (and being reattached, precariously); and the roar of lions influencing and betraying in the comfort of their meadows…
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It’s a bad time for everyone, and if you ever thought that wealth, power, and authority don’t come at a price, they do; and it gets steeper and steeper with each episode, and the cast delivers that realisation almost flawlessly. There was a point where I sat, watching episode 5, thinking: I’m not sure about my SBWL to sail the Aegean Sea with these types of people…
This seasons’ screeners of the first few episodes stress how entrenched Logan’s role really is in everyone’s lives. He is the centre. Does it hold, does it not, and the extent of the ripple effect of his position.
The dynamics of his children’s relationships, especially with each other, all revolve around his moods, his decisions, his meltdowns. And while it can be argued that this has always been the case, this time, the writers have also emphasised the relationships between the Roy siblings outside of their father – and it is both beautiful and terrifying to see.
A sublime, nuanced, and multi-faceted story is told – revealing uncomfortable truths and some soothing realities about the Roy children. Even Connor (Alan Ruck), the bumbling and lovable eldest brother, claims his stake at the grown-ups table with surprising composure for something so out of character for him.
This season continues to peel away the personas and the games to introduce us to more multi-layered and meaningful characters who are revealed during their highs, their lows, and when they are alone by themselves. Also, don’t fret about details on whether you’ll possibly like Roman (Kieran Culkin) now – you won’t. For as much as we see new sides to the characters, in others, we see affirmations of what we always believed they are from Season 1.
Personally, I think there is more to the story this season, than just a family at war within because they are now, without. There is a scene, a 10-12 minute moment between Logan and one of his children, which held me captivated and endeared the patriarch to me.
And then it ended as quickly as it began, as it was expected. Making me understand that where billions and legacy are concerned, there is no room for loyalty and sentiment – only who can be used and when; and who provides a strategic advantage, or collateral damage. Roles in this family fluctuate and at any given point, you can be the hunted or the hunter – unprovoked.
Be ready for binge-watching on Showmax.
Locations for the new season included Rome, Florence, and Tuscany – beautiful backdrops that contrasts the viciousness on-screen.
I’ve watched the screener episodes from a more analytical eye than I expected to the first time. Having been so keen on the show as an everything-HBO superfan, I had hoped to be as entertained and caught up in the grip of the Roys and their escapades, as I was in Season 1 and 2. However, in some instances the plot drags a bit, and the momentum is slower than I would have liked.
But, that is not to say the show has rested on its laurels or that the writing is lazy – the slower pace also means that there is time to invest in the guest stars and supporting cast – all paramount, and all gems to watch on screen. Adrien Brody, Sanaa Lathan, Hiam Abbass, and even Alexander Skarsgård command their scenes – showcasing their talent and confirming the actual reality that in this war, succession isn’t just up to Logan and his children.
The direction and cinematography are wonderful, and the setting throughout the episodes echoes feeling, yearning, personality and the relationships of the characters. It’s also still a very rich and luxurious season with wealth and power still very much on display, but this time round, it’s not for comfort and convenience as seen in the previous seasons, but tools to get ahead – it just depends on who’s more shameless and ruthless about it.
Overall, Succession S3 gets 4.8 out of 5 stars. It is worth the wait and the talkability, and the Emmy and awards buzz that already surrounds it. The story and the power plays, much like the characters and the writing, are unyielding and will stay with you.
There is ruthlessness from the Roy children. In watching Logan get that knife out of his back, something I’d forgotten unnervingly made its way onto my screen: Logan is a streetfighter, having made his billions from the ground up – not just a suit. Whereas his children are not… and that’s why Succession is not one to miss.
Catch Season 3’s first episode now on Showmax, and new episodes express from the US weekly on Mondays.
Follow the weekly S3 companion podcast.
Watch the trailer below.