HBO’s ‘Succession’ Portrays Complicated and Damaged People

The antics of the Roy family are one big car crash you can’t look away from.
January 6, 2020
8 mins read

Spoilers ahead. Throughout 2019, HBO was on a roll when it came to original series: “Watchmen,” “Euphoria,” Season 3 of “True Detective” and “Chernobyl” were among my favorite shows that aired on the network. One that also aired in 2019 but is not as popular is the second season of “Succession”; I think of the show as a white privilege version of “Game of Thrones” due to the social class of its main characters.

“Succession” follows the dysfunctional Roy family and their business dealings as the patriarch of the family, Logan, looks for someone to succeed him as CEO of the corporation he owns. The show has a lot of great humor, drama and a theme song so good that it not only won an Emmy but also had a remix featuring rapper Pusha T. What really intrigues me about “Succession” is its cast of characters and the themes it tackles.

Perhaps the most disgusting and vile member of the cast is Roman Roy, who is played by Kieran Culkin, brother of Macaulay Culkin. I don’t even know where to begin with describing him but I think Spin said it best when they said “Roman seems to delight and revel in his own awfulness.” The first moment that really made me realize how awful he was occurs in the first episode of “Succession.” Roman and his family hold a small baseball game at a local field, and he decides to offer the son of the field’s manager a check for millions of dollars if he can hit a home run. The boy is unable to accomplish this task as he gets out before he can reach home base.

When this happens, you would think that Roman would still give him the check he wrote just for trying, but no, he just rips it up in his face like a true villain. I enjoy this scene because it highlights the privilege the Roy family experiences. Roman can afford to just throw away millions of dollars like it’s nothing, but the boy’s family can’t do the same. The boy’s father is the head of maintenance for the field and has to do physical labor probably every day of the week just to provide for his family. Roman, on the other hand, has had things handed to him his whole life due to his father’s wealth.

He rips up the check because the boy has not earned it when you could argue that he hasn’t earned anything either. Roman got to leave the field that day in a private helicopter with his family and return to a luxurious New York apartment. Meanwhile, the boy and his family left the field, presumably in a car not driven by a chauffeur, and returned to their small New York apartment. It’s fascinating that one scene from a show could communicate so much about privilege and class within a few minutes. While this scene is very good at showcasing Roman’s behavior, it isn’t the only one that does.

There are a few scenes that show just how troubled he is. For instance, he randomly decides to start masturbating against a window in his office. When watching the scene, I thought it was meant to just be some comic relief but as I continued watching the show, I realized there was a little more to it. That scene was meant to foreshadow Roman’s sex life and maybe his sexuality. Eventually we unfortunately get to witness him do this again except he does it in the presence of Gerri, a sort of mother figure for him who also happens to work for his family’s company.

Roman has some obvious “mommy issues” because he appears to be turned on by being insulted by Gerri. This happens over the phone and in person. What’s strange about these two is that their pairing came as a result of post-editing on the show. According to Vulture, Kieran Culkin noticed something while the show’s director, Mark Mylod, was editing the show: “He saw in the edit room that I went up to her. I said something vile and she just sort of dismissed me, and then as I walked away I checked out her ass and then turned around, without knowing that she turned around and checked out my ass. He said he thought that was really funny, and they talked about that dynamic and thought they should sort of try it.”

The past two paragraphs I just typed may be the weirdest and most disgusting words I’ve ever typed but they speak to just how weird and disgusting Roman Roy is as a character. The best thing about “Succession” is that he’s not the only one. His entire family is full of flawed individuals. His brother Connor is oblivious to the fact that he’s a privileged rich guy and acts as if he can relate to the average person. His sister Siobhan asked her husband for an open marriage and reveals that she had an affair with a man who was at their wedding (that all happened on their wedding day, by the way.) His other brother Kendall is a drug addict that turned into an emotionless robot as a result of being blackmailed by his own father.

As you can see, Roman and his siblings are all messed up people. I think that is the most important theme of “Succession,” that no matter how much money you have, you’ll never be the perfect person. The show destroys the image we create for ourselves when we think of the wealthy. On the surface it seems like their wealth makes them happy, but behind closed doors it can make them miserable. I look forward to seeing future seasons of the show as I think it is important for a message like this to be in the media in a world where the gap between the rich and the poor grows bigger and bigger each day.

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