The new season premiere, none-so-subtly titled “Secession,” sees Kendall, well, seceding; he declares all-out war on Logan, and the two men vie for the support of the remaining members of the Roy clan and their wider social network. The clash of the titans has begun.
It’s as simple as that but also far more complicated—“Succession” is a master class in duality, an object lesson on paradoxes, a narrative high-wire act on the level of Philippe Petit. Both sweepingly grandiose and deliciously petty—often at the same time—the Roys are built up big enough to earn the lofty allusions to bygone dynasties scattered generously throughout the dialogue, but “Succession” also doesn’t hesitate to make the Roys look like absolute dunces. It’s clash of the titans in one breath and attack of the clowns in the next.
The first few episodes of the new season feel like follow-through on the promises made last season, allowing the Roys to openly brawl amongst themselves, but the gloves soon come off and the real fun begins. Like most great stories, “Succession” plays with expectations, and does so with a particularly devilish glee—a literal Trojan Horse statue, for example, becomes a red herring in a situation where the actual Trojan Horse proves to be a box of donuts with a threatening aura.
Then there’s the tone of “Succession,” always subject to debate. (Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Let’s just tick all the boxes and call it a day.) The caustic sensibilities of the series are precisely what neutralize just how absolutely awful these characters are. As the Waystar cruises scandal continues to dominate headlines, talks of values and virtue signaling grow more prevalent this season than ever before, but the extent to which these platitudes are utterly empty is also clearer than ever. Notions of guilt and culpability are wielded as weapons, claims of moral high ground or outright innocence crammed into arguments as leverage—remorse or anything like it is never even raised as a possibility, because that’s simply not on the table for the Roys.
“Succession” is a den of monstrously selfish villains, and that’s precisely what makes it such a pleasure to watch—you are invested but not attached. It’s like the joy of scrolling through the highlights of the “Everyone Sucks Here” verdict on the Am I The Asshole subreddit, only with the peerless production values of an HBO flagship series. While all the characters are tasked with picking a side in the Roy family civil war, being a viewer requires no such decision-making: just sit back and enjoy as the Olympic-level volley of insults unfolds. And yes, the dialogue is just as delightfully sharp as ever. One new personal favorite, provided with no context: “That is an imaginary cat, now could you please f*ck off?”