Succession Season 2 (HBO)
Written by Jesse Armstrong, Jon Brown, Tony Roche, Georgia Prichett, Will Tracy, Susan Soon He Stanton, Jonathan Glatzer, and Mary Laws
Directed by Mark Mylod, Andrij Parekh, Shari Spring Berman & Robert Pulcini, Matt Shakman, Becky Martin, and Kevin Bray
Season two of Succession starts with a feeling numbing cold. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Armstrong) is at a European spa when he’s summoned by his father, Logan (Brian Cox), to make a statement on the strength of his dad’s position in a pending buyout. Kendall complies, broken from what transpired in the final moments of season one and now forever kneeling before his father, who bailed him out. That is the arc of this character throughout these ten episodes, exploring if he can ever have his own voice or will forever bend the knee and allow his privilege to protect him. Some viewers may see Kendall as the one “good guy” in the Roy family, but Kendall is not. He actively participates in the cruel and criminal acts; his family perpetuates, and he benefits from the outcomes.
Succession does an excellent job of making the show into a real ensemble effort. In the first season, it felt like Kendall disproportionately get the spotlight, but this time around, we get lots of moments with Roman, Shiv, and Tom. Even Greg’s role is increased. Shiv (Sarah Snook) is another character I suspect audiences might “sympathize” with. She’s more liberal than her father and slightly more concerned about the editorial stances of her family’s news network. However, when the dam breaks and the cruises division’s crimes come to light in the media, Shiv is one of the first to use her prowess as a political strategist to create narratives that diminish the suffering of victims & empowers the corrupt institution of Waystar/RoyCo. She is woke to the extent that it doesn’t interfere in her family’s wealth and power.
Even I felt myself get pulled in a little by Tom’s sad-sack narrative but had to realize the only real reason I sympathized was that he’s just a white guy. Tom had the most direct role last season in the cruises crimes cover-up. His marriage to Shiv has always been a confounding point for me, I’m never able to figure out if there is genuine love between them or some mutually beneficial business relationship. Shiv, because she is “the girl,” has been boxed out of the family business, so Tom is her lifeline into the daily operations. Tom never had a chance at a high-level executive position if he didn’t marry into the Roy family. He’s only protected from the hammer of justice because he is a Roy by marriage.
The term “NRPI” is introduced this season when discussions of the crimes in the cruises division come to light. It means “No real person involved” and refers to non-wealthy, non-white victims of executives, particularly deceased executive “Mo” Lester. Anyone that is not a Roy and doesn’t have sufficient resources to fight back is an NRPI to that family. The only time they freak out is when a victim plans to come forward during Congressional testimony, and Shiv has to angle herself as weak to convince the woman to not turn on the “nice wholesome Roy family.”
There is no loyalty among these people. During a dinner at a hunting lodge, when Logan becomes convinced he has a mole inside the organization, he turns things into a demeaning display. Playing “boar on the floor,” he targets random members of his staff and forces them to crawl on the floor and scramble for food scraps he tosses to the ground. This is repeated later in the season, more formalized when Logan contemplates “sacrificing” a member of the company’s executive staff or family to quell the investors. Suddenly siblings are targeting each other; people who have worked side by side for decades are pointing out the benefits of sacking each other; it’s a pathetic display all done to appease a petty tyrant. Succession is a hilarious show but also incredibly pointed on its theme of “The wealthy are the worst of us,” proven right in fiction and in reality.