May 25, 2023

The King is Dead, Long Live the King? (3 minute read)

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By Trish Arab

WARNING This post contains spoilers for Season 4 of HBO's "Succession."

For four seasons, we have watched the Roy family backstab, cheat, rise and sometimes fall every Sunday night on HBO's "Succession".  Whenever the topic comes up, inevitably, I am asked, "So, which character are you rooting for?"

Anyone who has watched the show knows this question is challenging to answer.  In a series full of unsympathetic characters, it has been hard to figure out who the protagonist is or if we are even supposed to be cheering for them?  The show is called "Succession", and as such, the entire premise has been who will succeed media mogul and tycoon, the deplorable patriarch Logan Roy (played beautifully by the brilliant Brian Cox).  This man is awful.  There is no sugarcoating it; he pits his children against each other, verbally and emotionally abuses them to the point of collapse, then preys on the weaknesses he has created.  He isn't winning Father of the Year, but we have had to watch him play this game of cat and mouse with his children for three and a half seasons until finally, in season 4, episode 3, Logan Roy dies.

Even as I watched a flight attendant fruitlessly administer CPR to a clearly dead body, I wasn't sure he was dead.  No, part of me thought, this is just another twisted game Logan is playing with his kids (that's how demented this guy was).  Alas, no, Logan Roy finally died without a clear intention of who he wanted to succeed him.

Now back to the question; which character am I rooting for?  My answer has always been a hesitant "Kendall." I guess we would call Kendall the main protagonist of the show, we see things through his point of view throughout most of it, but Kendall isn't a hero.  Kendall also isn't an anti-hero.  He can be ruthless, powerful, tender, caring, weak, and cowardly.  Sometimes he is all of these things at once.  My answer is lukewarm, in honour of a lukewarm persona.

At the end of season 3, the Roy kids (except for older brother Connor, who has always been on the outside looking in at his three younger half-siblings) had finally agreed to work together.  

Finally, there were clearly two sides; one with the evil Logan Roy and one with the complex but united, therefore compelling team of Kendall, Shiobhan and Roman.  Finally, I could answer the question with a little bit more conviction because even though I wasn't actually picking one character, I at least knew who I was rooting for (team "kids" all the way).

Knowing the Roy family as intimately as I have, I should have known this truce would be short-lived, and sure enough, by episode 5, this stronger-together mantra is already starting to unravel.  These kids are so busy trying to outplay each other that they are oblivious to the actual enemies surrounding them.

This division of power continues to frey, and by Logan's funeral in episode 9, "Church and State," the penultimate episode that HBO is so notorious for, we are left to wonder if any of them will actually "win" in the end (My money says "no")

In a scene that shows the magnificent depths of Kieran Culkin's talent as an actor, Roman finally allows his grief to catch up with him (of course, not before getting in a few final jokes about impregnating his sister or sleeping with his father's widow on top of the casket however).  

Shiv, who has always been somewhat of a moral, liberal compass in the family (which really isn't saying much), aligns with the Swedish tech billionaire who plans to take over her family business even though she knows he has committed corporate fraud and requires her to get into bed with a dangerous ultra-right newly elected US President Jeryd Mencken.  Still, nothing is as worse as the fact that she finds herself pregnant, which disgusts Mattson and Mencken (I had to look this up, but in their discussion, Mencken says to Shiv "Kinder, Küche, Kirche," a term originating during the German Empire meaning "Children, Kitchen, Church" clearly showing what he actually thinks of her "situation").  

Finally, Kendall, who rallies with an applause-generating eulogy at the funeral after Roman sobs his way off of the altar, channels his inner Logan when he declares his intention of stopping the sale of the company, cutting ties with Roman and, in true Logan fashion, stabbing his sister in the back (or shiving shiv as it were).

Yes, by the end of episode 9, the Logan kids have become the absolute worst versions of themselves, and with only one episode left in the series, I'm starting to think that the only way this ends is with them all succeeding in getting screwed over.  

If I had to pick a likely successor, there is only one it could be; Cousin Greg, who has shown there is nothing he isn't willing to do and no one he isn't ready to step on to succeed.  While the Roy children have stayed pretty constant, Greg has gone from an amusement park employee throwing up in his costume because he smoked too much weed to a high-level corporate flunky who has ingratiated himself with all of the critical decision makers and holds many family secrets (his name was also mysteriously on the document that allegedly named Kendall as Logan's successor).  Let's just say if Gojo needs an American CEO for President-Elect Mencken to approve the sale of Waystar - Cousin Greg would be the more likely "puppet" for Mattson to appoint (and coincidently, as of pre-election night, is also Mattson's "drinking" buddy - we just aren't sure what it is they drank)

Don't sleep on Greg, people; he may just end up victorious.

We will just have to wait a few more days to see.