The dark side of ‘Succession’ | Inquirer Business

The dark side of ‘Succession’

(Last of three parts)

Money, power and family conflict against a backdrop of luxury and intrigue in a sexy profession: media. No wonder “Succession” catapulted itself to the top since it burst into HBO screens in 2019. The show also ruled the Emmys: outstanding drama, acting, casting, writing, directing, editing, music composition, production design and title theme.


For the past two weeks, we looked at how showrunner Jesse Armstrong riveted the audience as he weaved the pessimistic tale of narcissistic media mogul Logan Roy, and described how his equally self-absorbed children Connor, Kendall, Shiv and Roman one-upped each other in their quest to succeed their father.

“Succession” has been compared to “The Sopranos,” another HBO series about the most power-obsessed family of all, the Mafia. Armstrong eschews this analogy, and insists that the show is not pure drama or comedy, but a satire. Whatever the classification, viewers are mesmerized by the whiplash dialogue and the myriad plot twists.


Comic moments provide a break, as when Cousin Greg takes the “cultural temperature” after Kendall’s public denunciation of his father, by scrolling through Twitter feeds that are for and against him. And in true HBO tradition, the show is designed to shock, so there are profanities galore. The show, says the United Kingdom’s The Guardian, is the “most thrilling and beautifully obscene TV there is.”

“When you get that combination of money, power and family relations,” Armstrong tells reviewer Rebecca Mead in The New Yorker, “things get so complicated that you can justify actions to yourself that are pretty unhealthy to your well-being as a human being. Or you don’t even need to justify them, because the actions are baked into your being. We are all individuals with our own psychological makeup and impulses, and yet we find ourselves in vises of social and economic situations, which means that we are bent in and out of shape—and we’re bent out of shape by the psychologies of our families. So navigating the space between those—that you can act outside of your material interests, but will you?—that is a good area for where the conflict between human beings happens.”

Will money and power always win out?

Armstrong started out as a comedy writer, and by all accounts, he is a pleasant, sunny and warmhearted individual.

But he tells Mead that as you grow older, “you’re more aware of the tragic things that can happen to yourself, and other people. So-called dark or serious things can still be funny, but as you get older, more terrible things happen to more people you know. The things you laughed at as a young person—you’d better be careful, because they could happen to you tomorrow. With jokes about old people wearing nappies, or infirmity—what are you laughing at? It’s going to be you, or your mum and dad, tomorrow. There’s nothing funny about that, and if you think there is, you had better wonder about who is the subject of that joke.”

Much as I dislike the characters, I will keep on watching the series, in the hope that a character or two will see the light and find redemption. The patriarch, however unfeeling, did work hard on his way to the top, and ensconced his children in comforts that none of them did anything to deserve. And the children, however power-mad, acted to secure their father’s and the world’s approval.

In the third season, Kendall deludes himself that he is “woke,” but we witness the self-centeredness and insecurity lurking beneath.


The show’s creator has empathy in spades—if only the characters show an ounce of it.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook version at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at

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