As Kendall (Jeremy Strong) recovers from the incident in England, the Roy family convene at Logan’s (Brian Cox) “summer palace” to figure out what to do about the takeover bid. Various family members make power plays, while Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) looks to advance his own career plans.
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Succession is, by its nature, a negative show. This is a story where everyone is a backstabbing, overprivileged whiny, paranoid narcissist. And yet… in the careful hands of Jesse Armstrong (who has no little experience with questionable types thanks to work such as The Thick Of It, Peep Show and Four Lions), it’s still compelling. It’ll certainly try the patience of some as the new season’s first episode maintains the show’s commitment to people standing around in shiny offices or the gaudy mansion that gives initial episode The Summer Palace its name trading insults, and the business-speak doesn’t exactly fuel high drama, but there’s plenty of entertainment value from a committed cast spitting out an acid script.
Brian Cox rules the roost as the Murdoch-meets-Ted Turner-style Logan Roy, dressing his unruly children down and gruffly taking no nonsense from anyone, least of all a contractor who decides to get revenge on a bad deal by hiding a bag of raccoons in the mansion’s rebuilt chimney structure. The lingering scent from the long-passed creatures is one giant metaphor for the rot at the heart of the family, but it’s also a source of amusing frustration for the Roys.
Strong brings a damaged energy to Kendall, who largely seems deflated in the wake of the crash that left a young man dead and a potentially dangerous skeleton dancing away in his closet, despite the family enforcer’s best assurances that it’s all been quietly solved. He’s trying to get clean, but just can’t resist a little something to straighten himself out, leading to one of the funnier moments in the premiere where Nicholas Braun’s Greg brings him some questionably sourced narcotics.
Highlights as usual are Kieran Culkin’s spiky, bratty Roman, the immature yet ambitious younger brother, and Sarah Snook as the determined Shiv. She’s not only got the wrangle the competing egos of her family, but the blend of eagerness and creepy, toadying behaviour. The first episode offered less to do for Alan Ruck’s Connor, though even he got a moment to shine with his recent purchasing habits.
Season 2 points towards possibly finding some measure of sympathy for the characters – especially Kendall – but it remains to be seen if that holds, especially as the family scrambles to keep its business out of the hands of others.
The very definition of Marmite TV, *Succession*’s new episodes isn’t likely to win many new fans, but it remains a darkly funny treat.