[Episodes seen: Seven of Nine]
My dad is a “malignant presence, a bully, and a liar”. The final words of season two loom large over the sparkling new episodes of one of television’s now flagship shows.
Kendall’s mic-drop exit that threatens to blow up the already rocky foundations of Waystar Royco has the entire Roy clan seething and eager to return from their trip to Greece that ended in Logan’s “blood sacrifice”, as we begin season three from the moment we left two years ago.
And return they do, Tom and Gregg in hand, and with a sprinkling of surprise chaos from some non-family players. Some already part of the furniture, and some fresh to the fold, most notably Gerri Kellman (J. Smith Cameron, having her most fun to date), Adrien Brody’s somewhat twitchy shareholder and Alexander Skarsgård’s tech mogul.
The theme this time is simple, its full-on civil war. Going “full fucking beast” is the remit, and everyone follows, none more so than the monstrous, menacing Logan himself. On full-tilt this time around, dropping C-bomb’s in episode one and firing fucks like he’s putting bullet holes in anyone who hears it. That said it’s strangely comforting to see Brian Cox back telling anyone and everyone to ‘fuck off” after two years away, like seeing an old friend.
In the opposite trench is Kendall (Jeremy Strong), fresh from his world rocking revelations and ready to use 21st century media to twist the knife into his dad and push his reputation as high as it can go, but he too has cracks under the surface. Clearly with the events of season one still weighing on him, Strong takes the character to places above and beyond what we’ve already seen, a performance of ecstasy and agony, and euphoria and despair, often all within a single episode, his performance (yet again) is just astounding.
In fact, Logan and Kendall are really the only cemented players in their respective teams, and it’s the decisions of others that fuels the fire of the season. Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv (Sarah Snook), Kendall’s younger siblings have little time to feel like rabbits in headlights as they’re pressured from both sides, all of which plays out during a mini-civil war between the pair of them as their relationship is escalated further this season. Both of whom turn in A+ performances once again. While Succession wouldn’t be what it is without the Tom and Gregg dynamic, both of whom have fascinating and surprising arcs.
One thing really stands out about our third trip on the ol’ Roy Rollercoaster, this one feels way more personal. Business decisions still loom large of course, one episode in particular (which I’m sure will go down as one of the shows strongest and funniest) keeps it in the conversation, but it’s the character movement that keeps this season on its toes, and keeps this show, for my money anyway as the best thing on television. With each Waystar employee one bad decision from complete catastrophe, toying with hopping from one side to the next, in a bid to keep their head (even just slightly) above water. A notion quite apt from a season of TV that rarely lets you come up for air. Flashing through at breakneck speed, so much so that the week off in between each episode is needed simply to prevent whiplash.
This is no more on show than in the birthday party episode. One that may be compared as a spiritual sequel to the bachelor episode of season one, all be it laced with drama this time over comedy, an episode that hits you in the face like a heavyweight punch, raw in its dealings with pain and love. What is sure is everyone is having a whale of a time. Actors at the top of their game shooting for nothing but the moon, helped by material that takes them most of the way.
The writing is every bit as razor-sharp as its predecessors, with jabs, quips, and humour a-plenty, but strangely this one feels more human. The game of billions is still on the table, in fact this time you could argue they’re gambling with millions of lives as well as dollars, but so much of each character is on the line, as if each of them is pushing more chips in episode by episode. This builds immense tension, so much so that when the final foot drops this season, it could deliver more than one knockout blow. And as one-character beckons early in this season, “I don’t like to bet on blood feuds”. Well I certainly wouldn’t know who to back on this one.
So – pick your fighter, strap in, belt out the theme tune, get your affairs in order, the Roys are well and truly back.
Season 3 of Succession premieres Sunday, Oct. 17 at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO Max and on Sky Atlantic.