The second-ranked show on the list of the top 50 TV shows of 2023 is Succession.
Well, it was the unexpected TV death of the year, for starters. Just as Logan Roy – the media mogul who for three seasons had refused to let go of his billion-dollar company Waystar Royco – dominated his jostling adult children, Succession had always revolved around the vulpine snarl of the man who played Logan, Brian Cox. The big man had to be killed off so Succession could actually feature a succession, but without him, wouldn’t it be Lear without the king? Surely Cox would be kept on screen as long as possible?
This is incorrect. Cox was let go from the show after only three episodes of the fourth and final season. Viewers were left without Cox’s character. However, showrunner Jesse Armstrong was aware of the impact this decision would have. He understood that while Logan, the harsh and profane leader of the wealthy 0.1% of corporate America, was a strong representation of their actions and beliefs, his most compelling characters were his adult children: Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv (Sarah Snook). Removing them from Logan’s influence allowed Armstrong and his team of writers to slowly dismantle their characters.
Logan expressed his disbelief at his family during their ultimate confrontation, which quickly became a popular meme. Despite their attempts to take over Waystar by making a deal or causing harm to the unpredictable billionaire Lukas Matsson from Scandinavia, all three siblings ended up on the losing end. Matsson, portrayed brilliantly by Alexander Skarsgård as a combination of Daniel Ek and a less dense Elon Musk, embodied a new type of wealthy elite that posed a threat to the Roy family’s power and influence.
The show has effectively portrayed the luxurious penthouses, country homes, and secluded lifestyles of the characters with precise accuracy. Interestingly, as the series came to a close, news surfaced that the Murdoch family had supposedly battled over preventing each other from communicating with the show’s writers to propose story ideas. However, beyond this drama, Succession has also taught us that high-level capitalism is essentially a competition, where successful individuals strive to make their peers uncomfortable. It’s all about asserting dominance and detecting weaknesses and deceit in order to come out on top.
The latest season of Succession showcased how it truly excels in crafting intricate and compelling drama. Each scene, no matter how brutal, highlighted the inherent flaws of Kendall, Roman, and Shiv as they struggled to overcome them. With each episode building towards a climactic confrontation, the show masterfully portrayed the downfall of the Roy siblings with numerous impressive character moments.
During Logan’s funeral, Roman’s usual arrogant behavior was shattered when he was tasked with delivering a eulogy, revealing his vulnerability as a spoiled and emotionally stunted manchild. Culkin portrayed this transformation brilliantly, shedding his tough facade and breaking down in tears like a toddler. However, Strong also delivered an impressive performance as Kendall, who stepped in for Roman and gave an impromptu speech defending their questionable father. Despite his skills as a manipulative businessman, Kendall’s entitled belief that he is the rightful heir to Logan’s empire ultimately led to him being seen as a weak and privileged nepotism hire. In the finale, he finally reached a breaking point when his lack of personal authority was exposed and his insistence on his own importance proved futile: “I am the oldest son!”
In the latest significant episode of the season, the Roy siblings engaged in a fierce battle on election night to determine Waystar’s influential news coverage. Shiv, the most stylish and refined Roy, attempted to read Matsson’s emotions in order to secure a victory, but ultimately realized she had been manipulated. She was horrified to see that her liberal beliefs were no match for Roman’s unethical, Trump-like propaganda campaign. This event added a new political aspect to Succession as Waystar ended up endorsing a terrifying proto-fascist and Shiv’s image as a compassionate capitalist crumbled. Meanwhile, Shiv’s manipulative ex-husband, Tom Wambsgans (played by Matthew Macfadyen), was appointed CEO of Matsson’s new Waystar solely based on his ability to be easily influenced. The fact that all of the Roys finished behind a typical office schemer was the ultimate humiliation.
Roman, known for his keen ability to detect deception, dealt the ultimate blow as he gazed upon himself, his siblings, and declared, “We are all a sham.” This moment of self-awareness was a rare occurrence for the Roy family, showing that Succession truly understands its characters.