Succession was The Last Television Show, and now it is over. And I am sad.
4. Season 3 – TOM!
When you read my write-ups of Season 1 & 2, you’re going to think I am beyond confident that this show is genuinely great. Unfortunately, Season 3 was when I realized that we are all going to need some more time and perspective to determine if this show is as good as we want it to be. It is not to say the show was not still a great deal of fun, but there is an undeniably sense that the show is writing way too much to the present to be welcomed into the pantheon of legitimate art television dramas. What we may have instead is merely a great exercise in soap opera – this is not so much a criticism but definitely a comedown from where we thought it mind end up. The moment captured above was when something broke for me. I am not sure if I ever seen such a line written that seemed more blatantly designed to be screenshot in the hopes of going viral. Something really went cold for me then. Regardless though, the soap opera and palace intrigue elements of this show are still mostly just expertly executed.
The most important moment of this show that captures a key aspect of its brilliance came at the end of the season’s second episode. Kendall has spent the episode making his big pitch to his siblings to convince them to unite against their father. Kendall is riding an unbelievable high coming into this episode. He believes in himself fully. He has no concept of his limits. He makes this big emotional plea to his sister and brothers. He is convinced it is going to work. How can it not work? He is the hero of this story. And then Connor says no thank you in the most polite way possible. And then in a continuation of the most essentially common characterization trait of the whole show, Kendall just absolutely flipped out on Connor in the most petty way possible. These people are so destroyed and ruined by the lives they lead that they can only see all relationships as transactionary. It is all so incredibly sad.
3. Season 1 – “Rise” and Fall of Kendall
Okay, just imagine that Michael Corleone repeatedly tries to unseat Vito Corleone only he falls flat on his face multiple times, and the entire journey leaned into the absurdity of the stupidity that this wealth causes on the people born into and the destruction it leads to for the rest of the world. The margin of error this show set for itself was remarkable, but they managed to thread the needle in telling a story about some truly awful human beings, make them feel like human beings, but never making them genuinely empathetic. It was an absolutely tremendous introduction to this world which feels like a tragically accurate reflection of the actual world we all live in.
As I re-watch the show more and more, one of the most important aspects of this season that sticks out is the very subtle development of one Roman Roy. Upon first watch, Roman is annoying and kind of a chore. There is a deep sadness to Roman though. There is a neediness. There is a fragility. He really captures the major themes of the show because this system is so fucked up and poisonous, and it is completely unnatural for humans to force themselves into this soul destroying way of operating.
“Babe. Do you think this is the way to get someone to stay?”
2. Season 2 – King Roy makes his move.
The beauty of this season is how they managed to move all the characters forward in completely logical, believable, and enthralling directions while never having any of them deviate from their true depressingly awful selves. This made everyone’s development feel totally organic and true to human nature while also never feeling stale or repetitive. When you put all of that together with the show’s trademarked humanity and cynicism you have yourself a rare legitimate great television show feel like it is at the top of its game and potentially only getting better.
The aspect of this season that feels like the most important to understanding themes of the show is by taking a close look at Logan’s attempt to buy the media empire from the Pierce family. Cherry Jones and her family like to think of themselves as progressive. They see their news channel (some equivalent of MSNBC) as some beacon of good and light in the world. They think themselves as white knights compared to the evil Roy family. But here is where you see more explicitly than anywhere before that this show understands a fundamental truth that is hidden to far too many. There is but one party. And none of us are invited.
1. Season 4: I need a pain sponge
Shortly before the start of season four, it was announced that this would be the final season of the show. While surprising in some ways, it did allow the show the opportunity to go out on top and not risk dragging on and on.
Then in episode 3, it became even more clear why the show was ending: Logan Roy died and the succession endgame could finally start. The show then made the bold decision to have the rest of the season play out in a few weeks of real time. Kendall, Shiv, and. Roman had to navigate the lost of their father while the scheduled sale of Waystar needed to go through and the presidential election happened.
The combination of having navigate all those issues and the lack of time and ability to properly grieve for the loss of their father immediately led to all three becoming the very worst versions of themselves. Kendall becomes so high on his own supply all the while convincing himself he is a “good guy” no matter how many destructive decisions he makes. He could not see his own failures coming. Roman begins to run entirely on his emotions and ego and letting go any sense of empathy for others he managed to sometimes have for others. He bottoms out in some ways worse than Kendall (and possibly even finds some measure of peace in the process). Shiv falls into her classic “not being nearly as smart as she thinks she is” and manages to convince herself that she can scheme in a way that does not blow up in her face. She then ends up in her living nightmare: the wife of the man in charge.
Succession ended on the highest note possible. It was a tremendous exploration of grief and our society’s failure in how we fail to account for it in life. It took the Roy siblings on the journey they most deserved to go. And just fundamentally took us all on a wild emotional roller coaster. A perfect end to The Last Television Show.