When it was originally on: 2018-present
Original Network: HBO
Where You Can Stream It Now: HBO, or Hulu/Amazon if you have the HBO add-on.
Had I seen it before: Nope!
What IMDb says: Succession follows a dysfunctional American global-media family.
Why I picked it: I love including some hot new shows on the block when I do these projects, and Succession certainly fits that bill. In a post Game-of-Thrones world, Succession is perhaps HBO’s buzziest drama, and HBO is perhaps one of the buzziest of TV distributors. It seemed like a fairly obvious choice for The List.
What I liked: This pilot gets enough things right that one episode is enough to make me say “Okay. I see what all the fuss is about.” One of the first things it does, with practically no dialog, is establish that this family’s patriarch, Logan Roy, could die at any moment. The rest of the pilot is spent developing different characters fighting for power within his media empire. There’s his four children, but also a great nephew Greg. I’m still not entirely sure how Greg fits in, but he certainly makes for an intriguing curveball. We learn about everyone’s different personalities. We learn about how everyone relates to Logan in different ways.
When I think about what this pilot does right, one word comes to mind: Tension. Tension is something that every good pilot has, and Succession nails it. I know that Logan could die at any moment, and I can clearly envision how shit will hit the fan and splatter the walls when it does. I spent most of my watch time wondering if they would kill him in the pilot, or save this moment for later. The pilot ends with Logan hospitalized after a brain hemorrhage, but leaves us in the dark about whether or not he’ll survive.
I also want to take a moment to commend the writing of Kendall Roy, and the performance of Jeremy Strong in this role. Within seconds, I knew I was supposed to dislike this character. I was able to paint him as the snotty spoiled rich kid he is based on his crappy rapping in the back of a car. Of all of Logan’s children, Kendall is taking the most active role in running his company, and is the presumed Heir to the Throne, so to speak. Kendall spends most of the episode trying to buyout a media company. We’ll talk more about that later.
We simultaneously get the feeling that Kendall is genuinely trying his best to do what he thinks is right for the company, while also getting the feeling that he’s wildly incompetent and would never have ascended to this role if he hadn’t been the boss’s son. Kendall is primarily motivated by his ego and his desire to prove himself to his father, and I can already see how that’s going to inhibit his ability to make good business decisions. That struggle between reckless pursuit of ego and what’s best for the group is hella interesting to me, and seems like it’s going to be a core theme of Succession. It’s already a compelling part of Kendall’s character, and I can’t wait to see how it manifests in some of the other characters.
We’re left on a note of uncertainty. Kendall’s aforementioned deal with the media company has gone through, but he’s given the CEO of that company a seat on the board. Now that Logan Roy’s health and very life hangs in the balance, this newcomer seems to have an upper hand that Kendall never meant to relinquish. Up until now, we’ve gotten such a strong sense of Logan’s tight grip on the company. We know that he doesn’t trust Kendall to run things without him. All of this left me on the edge of my seat to see how this company and its various players will function without Logan.
What I didn’t like: While the Succession pilot was ultimately a success, I couldn’t help but think that it was perhaps a little too long for its own good. The beginning gripped me. The end left me craving more. The middle…. well. What he hell even happened in the middle? There were parts that seemed to drag a bit and left me wondering where we were going or why I should care about what was currently happening.
I’m talking about shit like Roman Roy dragging some kid into the family baseball game, saying he’ll give the kid a million dollars if only he hits a home run, and then acts like a prick when the kid is tagged out. If there’s one thing this pilot didn’t need to try hard to do, it’s make this family look like a bunch of rich pricks. We were already there long before we get to this scene. I would’ve loved to learn more about Curveball Cousin Greg, and what kind of agenda he’s brought to New York. I would’ve loved to hear about what exactly Shiv has been up to, all we’re really told is that she’s “in politics” whatever that means. So when we get to parts that don’t seem particularly relevant or interesting, that was mildly annoying, but nothing that was a total dealbreaker.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: A Indeed! I probably would have let Episode 2 play immediately if not for the Only-The-Pilot Rule.