Succession: The Years After Everyone Else Watch-Along
OK, OK, I submit! I'm going in. And episode by episode, you're coming with me.
Look, I tried Succession once. My once-colleague James Dyer made me on the Pilot TV podcast. And like many things James made me do: it did not end well. I thought it was…fine. I mean, everyone was dreadful, but that’s not a deal-breaker for me. Mainly as, you know, everyone is dreadful, ultimately. But, the hoo-ha? Meh.
But. But. Given the recent wave of OH MY GOD, THAT’S THE BEST EPISODE OF TELLY I’VE EVER SEEN - much of it from people I like and respect - I thought I should give it a proper go. It’s my professional duty.
So, I'm going to fuck around and find out. Wanna fuck around and find out with me?
Season one, episode one: Celebration
And old man (Brian Cox!) is pissing on the carpet. “We’re in the new place,” says a woman as she leads him back to bed, but doesn’t clean the piss off the fancy carpet.
A guy who looks like a stubby pencil (Jeremy Strong!) is sitting in the back of a car, seat-punching and ‘rapping’ along to the Beastie Boys. The ‘rapping’ is in ‘inverted commas’ for a ‘very good reason’.
As he’s dropped off, the driver (you know, the guy he pays to drive him) says, “You’re the man Mr Roy. You’re the man.” Mr Roy’s chest swells even though there’s a truth universally acknowledged that if you need your driver (who you, you know, pay to drive you) to tell you you’re the man, you’re not, in fact, the man. You’re a man.
A Man AKA Stubby Pencil steps out the car, takes a puff on a cigarette and drops it on the sidewalk. A single puff! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THEY COST THESE DAYS.
The credits play, vintage and contemporary pictures intercut and…is that the work of Nicholas Britell?! YES IT IS. The old footage: big houses, lawns, linen, servants, kids riding on an, erm, elephant. The current: towers and bridges of Manhattan, computer screens, a man reading a piece of paper that’s clearly about B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S.
Stubby Pencil walks into a board room, the other attendees already present. “We ready to fuck or what!” he says. In my experience, New York is full of uptight corporate pricks who couldn’t find a personality if they were handed a bag marked PERSONALITY IN HERE. So, I’m up for his particular bullshit! Yes, Stubby Pencil, we’re ready to fuck!
The meeting does not go well. Because the guy who currently owns Volta, the media company he’s trying to buy, (Or is it Volter? Vaulter? Actually, it’s a new media company, it’s almost certainly VoltUGH), would sooner chop something off (Stubby Pencil, not himself) than sell the business to him.
Just in case SP didn’t get the message, VoltUGH Guy says, “I’m not letting you neanderthals in to rape my company, ever.” before signing off with, “Fuck you, Daddy’s boy”. One strike of the axe is landed in Stubby Pencil’s thin skin; the second as VoltUGH Guy squirts sanitiser onto his hands as he gets in the lift, finding even an interaction with him distasteful.
The men in suits with SP look worried. “Do you want to call your dad?”. Uh-oh. “Do you want to call your dad?” he shoots back. Then, unfortunately, Stubby Pencil’s dad does call him. NOT NOW, DADD…DAD. And hey, it’s the old guy who weed on the carpet! Dadd…Dad - Logan Roy - is disappointed that SP hasn’t closed and in between unreassuring words, his son manages to stutter, “Happy birthday, old geezer,” with the warmth and intimacy of that cousin fourth-removed.
We cut to a staff room at Waystar ROYCO, in another part of America called Not-LA-Or-New-York. A stoner puts on an animal costume and gets attacked by some feral theme park kids, before vomiting weed out of his eyes (well, the animal’s eyes). “I sort of screwed up,” The Stoner aka Greg (aka Nicholas Braun!) says to his mum. “What the fuck,” she answers for the 34,987th time since expelling his body from hers.
We’re back in New York and, “Hey, hey, motherfuckers!” says…hang on, it’s a Culkin! The good one! Roman, the bad brother, spends the entire scene rinsing Stubby Pencil (who’s allegedly called ‘Kendall’) and the suits who work in the business he calls “a cage”. “Bit of content and a brand name!” he smirks at the price SP is paying for VoltUGH and, as a magazine journalist of twenty-odd years, I enjoy the sensation of my career being reduced to dust and laughing gas.
There’s an unnamed woman cleaning up Logan’s piss, while other unnamed workers lay a fancy table for his not-a-surprise surprise birthday lunch. He sits on a white settee in a white room, seemingly never having sat on a settee before. He leaves to go somewhere with no soft furnishings and after he wanders off, the daughter arrives. It’s Sarah Snook! I love her! But what did they say her name was? Ship? No, wait, Shiv? Like the thing you fashion in prison to gut someone like a fish? Shiv, really?
Speaking of being gutted by a fish, Logan turns up at the office just in time to see Stubby Pencil chewing on a wrap while saying of the deal, “I’ll throw in a blow job, a reach around, I’ll grab his balls!”. He shits himself on the spot as he sees Daddy, quickly twitching with nerves, sweat tickling his forehead (and presumably his balls).
Back at the gargantuan apartment, we witness a complete normal sibling relationship as Shiv, Really leans in to hug Roman and says with a sniff, “What’s that, Date Rape by Calvin Klein?” and he replies, “You wish!”. You. Wish.
As Logan returns, a confused Greg is waiting in the lobby, like a stalker who’s forgotten who he’s stalking. Uncle Logan grudgingly takes him upstairs, before not being arsed enough to fake surprise when his family, gathered around the lift, fake surprise him. What he can be arsed to do though is humiliate Shiv, Really’s husband Tom (Actual Matthew Macfadyen, doing his best Demonic Labrador).
“Where’s Tom?” Logan asks. “He’s right there,” says a puzzled Shiv, pointing to him, you know, stood right there. The Demonic Labrador, terrified of his not-yet father-in-law, laughs like a blocked drain after Logan deadpans, “Oh well, never mind.”
They’re not the only odd couple - SP’s wife, who was definitely the one to leave him, arrives with their kid, confessing she’s seeing someone: “Just hoping this one doesn’t leave coke smeared all over the kids’ iPads”. Oh, yeah, SP had a drug problem.
He can’t get too upset over his missus moving on though, it’s coronation day! Stubby Pencil is taking over from Daddy and the announcement is imminent. Apart from - UH-OH - it’s not. Daddy lands a blinder on all the kids (there is a fourth one, but every time he’s on screen my mind wanders to dishwasher tablets). Firstly, he wants them to sign a deal agreeing that his wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass) will receive a double vote on the board, if he dies (they have one). Then the killer blow: “I’m going to give it a couple of years,” he says of being Chairman and CEO, like he’s announcing he’s off for another piss on the carpet. The succession is off.
Unsurprisingly, Stubby Pencil is livid, urging his siblings not to sign. “You’re gonna give a double vote to a power-hungry maniac who will do fuck know what with it because she’s got our dad’s dick in some super-max pussy grip and she’s juicing him before he croaks!” he shouts, appearing to find his (sweaty) balls.
“So, you fucked me,” he says to Daddy, who then goes on to destroy him in response (like only a sociopathic and/or narcissistic parent truly can). “I’m concerned you might be soft,” he begins. “I hear you bent for them, and he fucked you”. As SP clenches his fist, he taunts, “Do you want to hit me? Go on. Go on. Give it your best shot. Are you going to cry? Are you crying, Kendall?”
Because he can’t hit his dad, or cry in front of him, Stubby Pencil trashes the bathroom (well, smashes a hairdryer, rips up a magazine and snaps some cotton buds) and screams into a plush bathrobe. And then cleans it up afterwards.
“I think it’s time to play the game,” says Logan when everyone’s around the table. Yes! Spin the bottle! Five minutes in the closet! Pin the tail on the psychotic billionaire!
Cars take them to the helicopters that take to the sky above Manhattan like flies above a clogged deep-fat fryer. Logan and Roman talk on the journey and Christ, I think he actually likes him. I mean, I know it’s his son, but still! It’s kinda touching!
As they arrive to play ‘the game’ - rounders? Baseball? - Stubby Pencil urges his siblings to trust in the power of three and not sign (The power of three will set you free! Yes, a Charmed reference) but Roman says succinctly, “Fuck you”.
Fucking around must be catching, because the Demonic Labrador is across the pitch (is it a pitch?), tormenting Greg. “I may look like I’m fun, but I’m a terrible, terrible prick…I’m razzing you!”. And then: “Would you kiss me If I asked you to? If I told you to….I’m joking!”. A predator or your run of the mill twisted private school boy who spots an opportunity to not be crushed like a bug at the bottom of the pile anymore?
SP leaves the game to do some B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S and is replaced by the son of a groundsman. “I’ll give you a million dollars if you hit a home run,” says Roman. Woo! Poor kids as sport and entertainment! As the kid only makes it to third, he rips up the cheque in the boy’s face saying, “Take this back to your life”. OK. I’ve gone off him. When I say ‘gone off him’, I mean that I want to turn up at his house and turn his skin outside out before folding it back over his bones. FUCK YOU, ROMAN.
And fuck you, Roman times two. During that helicopter ride he wangled a new job at the expense of loyal lieutenant, Frank (Peter Friedman!), who is put on “lighter duties” (aka completely fucked over) by Logan. Poor Frank. It’s like Tom getting whacked in The Godfather and Vito doing the deed with a gun handed to him by Michael.
The family of the boy is given an NDA and, as the helicopters take off again, they’re clutching the very, very expensive watch the Demonic Labrador gifted to Logan.
Daddy thinks he’s played it perfectly - he offers the two hard core kids (Shiv, Really and Roman) what he thinks they want. But then, they fuck him right back - YES, KIDS! APART FROM YOU ROMAN - saying, “This doesn’t quite work for us at present”. And they’re pretty chuffed with themselves until he goes and collapses on them. Stubby Pencil hears all about it as he finally closes the deal.
We end at the hospital where Mrs Roy looks actually, genuinely upset. Is it because the kids didn’t sign the deal granting her two votes? (That “supermax” you-know-what must be tired). Or does she, you know, love him? I have more questions. Is Logan going to die (no)? Will Stubby Pencil keep a-hold of his balls? Will that kid take revenge on Roman in two decades in a satisfyingly bloody way? Will the Demonic Labrador chill the fuck out and LEAVE COUSIN GREG ALONE?
Stay tuned for season one, episode two of Succession: The Years After Everyone Else Watch-Along
Succession is on Sky and NOW TV
YES! I didn't realise I was waiting for this watch along until this moment!
I am doing exactly the same, so will join you on this journey! I tried previously to get into it but couldn’t get past Ep4. It’s not that I *have* to have a hero to guide me through, but they were all so horrible I had nothing to grasp onto. I too thought my nearest and dearest can’t *all* be wrong so I decided to try again and see if I could catch up before the big finale. Something clicked this time and I’m now fully on board! Looking forward to seeing what you think.