• Television

“Succession” – The Ties that Bind

Nothing brings siblings together like the death of a parent. In a particularly bold move, Episode 3 of the final season of the Golden Globe-winning series Succession marked billionaire Logan Roy’s unexpected and shocking death.

Roy, portrayed by Brian Cox, who earned a Golden Globe for the role, was a celebrated and feared media mogul, founder and CEO of a global conglomerate. While his aggressive and manipulative manner, particularly towards his four children, had certainly not earned him any Father of the Year awards, this patriarch of four left his offspring suitably bereft, grappling to come to terms with his sudden demise. Despite the conflicts between the siblings, they turned to each other in their time of shock and grief, though the question of who will take the reins is up for grabs.

The relationship between the siblings is complicated, competitive and fraught with tension. Throughout the show, created by Jesse Armstrong, they have jockeyed for their father’s approval and control of the family business, stopping at nothing to one-up each other. Each sibling believed they were the most deserving of their father’s attention and regularly engaged in power struggles and backstabbing within the family. They remain distrustful of each other even though they form various alliances between themselves. One commonality between them over the last four seasons is their desire to break free from their father’s hold over them to branch out on their own with varying degrees of success.

Jeremy Strong earned a Golden Globe award for playing Kendall Roy, a high-level executive at the family business before he turned on his father to make his own way. Kendall struggles with addiction and has a keen desire to prove himself as a man to be reckoned with away from his father’s shadow.

During an HFPA interview in 2019 on the set of Succession, Strong said of Kendall, “He overreaches the mark because he has so much to prove. I think he lives in the shadow of his father and is desperately trying to emerge from underneath that, but he’s spent his life shadowboxing with that. He thinks, ‘Do I try and free myself from my father’s legacy or do I try and become like my father?’ That conflict is at the crux of the show. There’s a deep lack, which he’s trying to fill through power, through his father’s acceptance, through his status and reputation in the world, which is a very modern predicament to be in. And that’s where the addiction also comes into play. I think that’s another thing that’s trying to fill that hole in him.”

Shiv, played by Australia’s Sarah Snook, earned a Golden Globe award for portraying the only daughter in this morally ambiguous family. It’s widely considered that of all the siblings, Shiv was the most like her father. “Yes,” she agrees. “Of the three, she’s probably the most similar. Obviously, she looks up to him and wants to have his pride in her,” she said on the set of Season 2.

Roman is the youngest son, played by Kieran Culkin, whose air of entitlement is both appalling and highly amusing. Earning three Golden Globe nominations for the role, Roman’s sarcasm causes friction within the family, and his loyalties have flip-flopped since the first season. “Roman grew up with the idea that no matter what he does, he will not suffer any consequences,” explains Culkin. “He learned that it doesn’t matter if he pisses people off. He can say and do whatever he wants. That’s who Roman is.”

Connor, played by Alan Ruck, sets himself apart from his half-siblings partly because of an age gap but also because he has a different mother. Opting to find his own path as a politician, he stays mainly away from the central family melodramas. Even on the day of his father’s death, which happened to be on the day of his wedding, Connor is treated as an outsider by Kendall, Shiv and Roman.

The relationship between the siblings is one of the critical elements that has made Succession such a phenomenon. Each sibling has their own unique personality, strength, and weaknesses, and while none of them are what you would describe as ‘likable,’ despite their dubious character traits they are irresistible to watch.

The highly acclaimed Golden Globe-winning show will no doubt be held in the pantheon of other groundbreaking shows of its time, alongside The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.