Succession returns on October 17th to remind us of the growing chasm between HBO’s smash hit and everyone else. Jesse Armstrong’s show has evolved into a cultural phenomenon over the years and has become the standard for which other shows strive to reach. Shows like Mare of Easttown and Queen’s Gambit have kept the seat warm for the king’s return, Logan Roy (Brian Cox). What drives this show is how Armstrong keeps the narrative evolving. While the trailer each season makes the show look overly dramatic, each season has examined the dysfunction that makes the Roy family who they are.
In Season 1, the Roy children clamor for their dad’s empire after he falls ill and examines how much greed could shape who they were. In the 2nd season, we got a closer look at the interpersonal relationships and how everyone would react when the “shit” hit the fan. Is anyone in this family loyal? At the end of Season 2, when Kendall (Jeremy Strong) did a 180-degree turn and announced that Waystar Royco knew about the sexual assault allegations in the cruise ship division, it appeared that he finally had some moral compass. How silly of me to think that!
In Season 3, it’s quickly apparent that Kendall Roy’s motivation was more career-driven than any sense of morality. Armstrong uses this to set the stage for our new season. Will the Roy children continue to turn a blind eye to the awful things their family has done and to those sexual assault allegations that occurred on their cruise line? Are Kendall, Roman (Kiernan Culkin), Conor Roy (Alan Ruck), and Shiv (Sarah Snook) capable of finding their humanity after all these years, or has immense wealth eroded their sense of morality?
At the beginning of the new season, we find the battle lines drawn between Logan and Kendall. Initially, it appears that Logan might be on the ropes, but it’s always foolish to underestimate the old man. Of course, Roman, Shiv, and Connor waver as to which side they want to be on. As the walls begin to close in on Logan, it appears he’s willing to do what is necessary to maintain control of the company (even in the face of overwhelming odds). At one point, we see his lawyer’s attempt a reconciliation with his estranged wife, Marcia (Hiam Abbass), because the optics look better when they are together. Of course, this ends up costing him financially.
Gerri (J. Cameron Smith) and Shiv are thrust into the spotlight this season. Part of Logan’s strategy is to install an acting CEO that he has some control over during the government’s investigation and Gerri ends being the choice. From the start, she was battered verbally by Logan and undermined at every turn. While Gerri has remained fiercely loyal to the Roys through so many scandals, it’s easy to see that she’s nearing her breaking point. Who could blame her?
Shiv is brought on as the President of Waystar Royco to oversee the operational side of the company. She initially hopes this is her moment to ascend to the top of the corporate ladder, but Logan is more interested in Shiv being a female than any skill she might bring to the company. What’s sad is she realizes this relatively quickly but still attempts to help her father in hopes of winning his favor. Shiv begins to see how futile all of this has become and her authority being undercut at every turn; her patience is wearing thin.
Roman is seemingly following Gerri’s lead in Season 3. The problem with that is while she’s very levelheaded, he’s a bit of a wild card. That’s not a formula for success in any corporate setting. Complicating matters is the romantic chemistry these two have. Is it a bit twisted? Of course! But is anything in the Roy family ever straightforward?
While Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) seem preoccupied with their imminent incarceration, what has stood out so far this season is how each of them is coming out of their “shell.” It appears that Tom is no longer happy with just being Shiv’s trophy husband and is beginning to look out for his own best interests. Greg seeks out his own legal counsel, so he’s protected from any federal investigation. During that process, we begin to see that Greg has his own aspirations in the corporate world. Each of them provides some of the best comedic moments in Season 3 and they continue to have the best chemistry on-screen.
Adrien Brody and Alexander Skarsgård both are guest-starring during Season 3. Brody plays Josh Aaronson, an investor in Waystar Royco, who is pivotal in the battle for ownership. Skarsgård plays tech mogul Lukas Matsson whose an interesting addition because if anyone has seen the trailer, his character openly questions when Logan will die. Hope Davis joins the show, and plays Sandy Furness’s (Larry Price) daughter, Sandi. Her character ends up playing a pivotal role during the beginning of Season 3, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she plays a more prominent role in the last quarter of this season. Of course, this comment is just speculation as we were only provided the first seven episodes from Season 3.
The writing in the third season is even better than in the previous two seasons. Armstrong is fantastic at connecting the littlest of moments in previous seasons to this narrative arc. Nothing is ever wasted! The standout performances that everyone will be gushing about (other than Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox, who are amazing again this season) will be J. Cameron Smith and Sarah Snook. For Smith, this slow build towards this moment and seeing Gerri at the center of this season adds another layer to the show. Without revealing too much, this is a different side of Smith’s character that fans will enjoy.
Sarah Snook’s Shiv undergoes an identity crisis this season. Her whole life, she’s been striving to one day win her father’s favor and hopefully run his empire, and now that seems like a pipe dream. When she attempts to seek sympathy from her husband Tom, he’s cold towards her after he’s made of her sexual exploits. She’s seemingly at odds with Kendall yet intrigued by what he’s trying to accomplish. Does she team up with Kendall? Is she even capable of working with him?
Kendall and Logan are certainly at two ends of the spectrum during this season. Kendall knows he’s doing what is right, but the wear and tear of going against a monster like Logan would sink anyone’s self-worth. How far is he willing to take it? Is the allure of running his father’s company enough to risk it all, or is it part of the journey of realizing when limits are reached?
However, Logan feels trapped in a corner and is willing to do anything or say anything to win. Of course, he is the man who was willing to sacrifice his son in Season 2. However, this type of behavior has its consequences. Eventually, if you’ve burned so many people, it will come back to haunt you. In Logan’s case, it hasn’t, but he’s been lucky.
While the tone of Season 3 is in line with what fans have expected in previous seasons, there is this sense of something ominous approaching Logan Roy. Fans might respond by saying, duh … this is Succession, but this is different. In the first two seasons, there were undoubtedly twists, but they blindsided us. In Season 1, Kendall’s reconciliation with Logan at Shiv’s wedding, and in Season 2, it was his big announcement about the scandal at Waystar Royco. In this new season, everything seems a bit too neat, and anything that would be classified as shocking is resolved within the context of that episode. Does that mean something mind-blowing is around the corner?
Succession has quickly ascended to the type of series that ultimately defines a network, much like Game of Thrones and The Sopranos did for HBO years ago. Season 3 reminds the world once again of the brilliance of this ensemble and the stellar writing of Jesse Armstrong. Succession Season 3 will exceed all expectations fans have and then some. It’s appointment television. Make sure you clear your calendar for 9 pm on October 17th.