SUCCESSION (S2) gets 9.5/10 Slime puppies

Season 2 (Episodes 1-4)

Created by Jesse Armstrong
Starring Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook


Post-Game of Thrones HBO is looking for its next flagship TV show and they might have finally found it with Succession (sorry, Westworld fans). After a slow-burn first season, with enough under-the-table deals for this reviewer to need a second viewing, season two raises the stakes, ratchets up the cruelty and, above all, brings the LOLs.

Because at its heart, Succession is black comedy as much as it is drama. Academy Award-nominated creator Jesse Armstrong (In the Loop, Peep Show) reportedly had an unproduced script called Murdoch – about Rupert Murdoch and his family’s arguments over who should retain power in the wings for a decade. It’s apparent that this has since been channelled into Succession, perhaps to avoid litigation, with Murdoch replaced by fictional media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox). Roy is the overbearing and bullying father figure-slash-dictator of the Roy family, and owner of some of the series’ most acerbic dialogue as he tries to keep four spoilt, entitled children (aka the heirs to his throne) in line.

If season one was all about ambitious second-born Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and snarky, misanthropic third son Roman (Kieran Culkin, in the role he was born to play), the first half of season two swings the power play more in the direction of Logan and daughter Siobhan “Shiv” Roy (Sarah Snook). That’s not to say Culkin doesn’t still have a string of hysterical one-liners and scene-stealing moments – this review’s byline borrows from perhaps the most jaws-to-the-floor moment of season four thus far: Roman’s failed phone sex attempts with his girlfriend-minus-benefits, Tabitha (Masters of Sex‘s Caitlin FitzGerald) and the dark, Oedipal place the “slime puppy” finds himself in as a result.

But with Logan back in good health and his sons proving ever-unreliable, his largely unknown relationship with Shiv forms much of the nucleus of episodes one through four. This brings newly wed Shiv’s husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen, Spooks) into sharper focus, and the show’s most despised gold digger delivers some gold of his own as he tiptoes around a lack of actual power by sucking up to the elites and relentlessly bullying those beneath him.

Still, if it was unclear during the show’s first 10 episodes, there’s no mistaking it now: this is Logan’s (and hence Cox’s) show. While episodes one and two seem to build slowly, things are moving quickly behind the scenes and by the time episode three (Hunting) comes around, Logan is in full effect, a puppet master pulling the strings in a game of ‘Boar on the Floor’ in Hungary, where unlucky contestants (read: employees) fight for sausages on the ground. It’s a tortuous, hilarious and hellish scene you won’t forget in a hurry.

The slight on Succession last year was its unlikeable characters, but if HBO had listened to those kinds of criticisms Game of Thrones never would have made it past season one. The fact is that while we might not necessarily agree with or feel a great deal of empathy for the Roy family, the show’s creators have gifted us some unforgettable characters, plied them with enough entitlement, drugs and defamatory dialogue to get tongues wagging, and set them upon the world. The inspired ensemble cast embraces the Roy’s wicked ways, getting into character with a mix of scripted and improvised dialogue that’s as witty as it is clever; as darkly confronting as it is laugh-out-loud funny.

I haven’t waited with this sort of anticipation for next week’s episode since, well, Game of Thrones.