HBO aired the season finale of Succession tonight and it just affirmed what we already knew – this series is absolutely one of the best, if not THE best, on television at the moment.
Jesse Armstrong, the series’ creator and showrunner, told Vanity Fair that he and his team drew inspiration for the season finale from Senator Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick incident. Beware of major spoilers in that Vanity Fair write-up, if you haven’t already watched.
And while that tidbit is quite interesting as far as understanding the behind-the-scenes inspiration, the more interesting part, in my eyes, is the thought process of why a series like this is ultimately so gripping and irresistible. If the characters from this series were real-life humans, we wouldn’t be caught dead with them, right? You’ll have to excuse that figure of speech, given the circumstances, but I am interested in the human psychology behind rooting for obnoxiously wealthy people who, at the surface, have little to no redeeming qualities.
Yes, the writing in this series is superb. Yes, the cinematography is excellent.
Yes, I have to pause at times because the tension between the family dynamic is so palpable, I may implode simply from watching.
Yes, as a writer myself, I’d kill to write some of the lines that Kieran Culkin delivers [wait, are they hiring?].
Yes, Jeremy Strong is an absolute force, in what seems to be his breakout television role as a thespian. By the way, does anyone get major Giovanni Ribisi vibes from him? They even have the same facial mannerisms!
And yet, is there more to it than that? Do we even necessarily have to root for someone to find the art stimulating, and in the case we do happen to find ourselves rooting for them, what does it say about us?
I’ll tell you what I think — we feel compelled to watch and sometimes root for (oh the horror!) these type of characters because, just maybe, we see a little bit of ourselves in them. One can hate-watch Succession as many do. One can even see the series as merely a vehicle for impossibly wealthy, repugnant characters who create an illusory world in their minds — a world where they feel slighted by their tycoon, media magnate of a father, even though they have never experienced a single moment of true struggle. We can dismiss them as insufferable, born-on-third-base-yet-think-they’ve-hit-a-triple brats from Beelzebub’s fiery pits of hell. We can see them as characters who, instead of showing gratitude for the charmed lives they lead, head the opposite direction and become raging megalomaniacs. And while all of those are absolutely true to an extent, it may also be true that we have the life experience to understand that money isn’t everything, and that sometimes the brutal coldness and disapproval of a parent has a trickle-down effect that cannot be replaced by a personal chef, driver, and butler. When we see this pain, we immediately recognize it, and come to understand that, no matter the years passing us by and how old we may get, sometimes we are all still children who yearn for the love and acceptance of our parents.
From Logan Roy’s progeny, of course, Kendall seems to be the one most affected by Logan’s coldness. As far as tragic antiheroes are concerned, Kendall seems to be this series’ Heisenberg. What a fascinating insight it’s been so far.
We’re just getting started, too.
The second season can’t get here fast enough.