Is “Succession” the best sitcom on TV?

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At the premiere of the third season of “Succession” a few weeks ago, some viewers who were watching on HBO Max had a problem: instead of being taken to the first episode of the new season, they found themselves in review the first episode of the whole series. . The Driver opens with Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) banging in a city car owned by Waystar Royco, the right-wing media conglomerate run by his father, Logan (Brian Cox). It’s Logan’s 80th birthday, and Kendall is sure his father will make him CEO of the company. (“You’re the man, Mr. Roy!” Kendall’s driver tells him.) The scene is a far cry from the actual opening of Season 3, which begins where Season 2 left off, with Kendall pulling off pulling himself together after a press conference at which he effectively declared war on his father. And yet, Kendall made it through several bars of The Beastie Boys’ “An Open Letter to NYC” before viewers realized the mistake.

The confusion was understandable. Despite all of its twists and turns, “Succession” is surprisingly static. The series, a brilliant tragedy-satire of the corporate elite, created by British comedy writer Jesse Armstrong, centers on the question of who will succeed Logan, a formidable Rupert Murdoch-style tycoon who ends around sixty – ten percent of his interactions with the epithet “Fuck you!” Although Kendall is initially introduced as the heir apparent, it soon becomes apparent that he isn’t cut out for the job, and neither are his equally power-hungry siblings: Shiv (Sarah Snook ), a shrewd political operator; Roman (Kieran Culkin), a nihilistic squirrel; and Connor (Alan Ruck), a foolish libertarian. There are other contenders, including Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), Shiv’s sycophantic and tortured husband, who also works at Waystar, and Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron), a general counsel with a wicked side. The underdog choice is cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), an ingenious upstart who, with long limbs and prone to goofs, provides much of the show’s comedic relief. For two seasons, these characters circled the meaty hunk of the CEO role like Cartier vultures carrying a tank. But Logan held on to his power, even after falling ill, and took gladiatorial delight in keeping his kids freaked out, undermining each other, and trading inventive bitches’ verbal slaps in their midst. fighting to be daddy’s # 1. It was all very “Buddenbrooks”, passing by “Veep”.

The end of the second season seemed to signal a potential drastic change. A congressional investigation into a cover-up of sexual assault at Waystar had required a fall man. “The Incas, in times of terrible crises, would sacrifice a child to the sun,” Logan told Kendall, who agreed to take responsibility for the scandals in order to stabilize the business. But, when the time came to do so, Kendall ditched his prepared remarks and announced that her father was a “malignant presence,” wholly responsible for Waystar’s many wrongdoing. It was time for heroic seriousness, clean hands, corporate oversight. Was the boy finally becoming a man? Was Logan, as Shiv asks Roman, “toast”?

As if. Season 3 might not open with Kendall’s rap, but, in many ways, we’re back to the beginning. His Judas moment was a big cliffhanger, but he doesn’t have a real plan to topple Logan that also wouldn’t result in the Roys losing society altogether. The first episodes take place in the days leading up to a shareholders’ meeting, which will determine whether Waystar should remain in family hands. (This mirrors Season 1, the first half of which worked at a board meeting predicting a potential upset for the company.) The prospect of a DOJ investigation looms. Still, not much is happening. Logan, who is locked up in Sarajevo in order to guard against extradition, continues to shuffle his underlings like cards, choosing one over the other as potential successors and also as possible scapegoats in prison. The oft-whispered question “Is it me?” Could refer to either role, and while the former is obviously better, the latter has its advantages. In one incredible moment, when Tom suggests to Shiv that he should treat himself to be the Fall Guy, his wife calls the idea “impactful”, saying she will “bank gold” with it. Logan.

Kendall has a few wins, including that of star defense lawyer Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan), which Logan also fights for. (His choice does not bode well for Logan: according to Shiv, Lisa “loves winning, and she loves money.”) Interested in being in politics with her siblings, the only people besides her father, whom he really cares about opinions. (It’s like all his ideas about staging a business takeover came from watching a TV show like “Succession.”) Persuades his siblings to team up with him against their father. They only hesitate when they realize that Kendall, just like Logan, won’t give up on the CEO award.

In the hands of less proficient Guardians, this kind of narrative rehashing would become bland, but watching the new season, I felt like “Succession” got more enjoyable with each episode, deepening its core as a study even further. . of human thirst for domination. With its backdrop and cinematic feel, the series has all the attributes of an HBO drama, and it’s often compared to “The Sopranos,” another show that has documented power struggles that have lasted for seasons. The most appropriate comparison, however, might be a sitcom. There are times the series feels almost Seinfeldian in its cyclical efforts to capture a group of quirky, petty characters as they try, over and over again, to unite.

What makes a good sitcom work is its ability to repeat itself with small differences. Kendall is always a weakling who oscillates between complacency and an insatiable thirst for comfort, and Strong is fantastic in his portrayal of this back-and-forth. But in Season 3, he transforms into an Awakened Warrior, which opens up new satirical avenues for the show. “Fuck the patriarchy,” shouts this missed patriarch to the press as he went to a charity gala. “Another life is possible, brother,” he said to Tom, urging him to leave Logan’s camp. (“Fuck you, Plastic Jesus,” Shiv tells Kendall at one point, hitting the nail on the head.) He’s also obsessed with tracking the public response to his new reputation as a whistleblower, asking Greg to “slide the thermometer up the nation’s ass and take a reading.” The hapless sidekick checks Twitter and notes that Kendall is “the # 1 trending topic, ahead of Tater Tots.”

Later, Shiv, who Logan appoints President of Waystar, delivers a speech at a corporate town hall to reassure employees that a new chapter in corporate responsibility has begun. “I’m here to tell you: we get it,” she says, as we watch a company slam words into the audience with her. As Shiv continues, his voice is drowned out by Nirvana’s “Rape Me”, emerging from a speaker Kendall has placed above the auditorium. The Generation X grunge anthem is meant as a fair signal of alliance with the women who have suffered at the hands of Waystar, but it is a cheap gimmick, an act of solidarity just as ingrained as the largely decorative role of Shiv. (As Kendall tells her, “Girls count double now, didn’t you know? It’s only your pacifiers that make you valuable.”)

“Succession” offers no real liberal alternative to the conservative monolith that is Waystar. All attempts to undermine Logan’s empire are toothless, whether they take the form of rote jokes served on a late-night show called “The Disruption” (the host is played by comedian Ziwe) or The Vision of the future of the business that Kendall describes to her siblings. (“Detoxify our brand and we can go supersonic.”) Even Shiv, who in previous seasons was described as the progressive Roy, is easily enveloped in the corporate embrace. In “Succession” ideological differences don’t matter. Arguably the biggest threat to Logan’s regime this season is a shareholder in Noah Baumbach (Adrien Brody), who puts the CEO to the test simply by taking him on an idyllic walk. ??

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