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HBO’s Best: Why More People Should Be Watching “Succession”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

You’ve likely heard people talking about HBO Max’s Succession, and maybe you’ve heard its praises sung, and maybe it even ended up at the bottom of your watch list. I understand a dark drama-comedy where many of the most intense scenes take place in a corporate boardroom is a hard sell. But with the final season set to start coming out on March 26, I hope that by the end of this article, I’ve convinced you to move Succession to the top of your watch list. 

First, a basic summary so we can all be decently acquainted with the plot and characters. Succession is based on the Murdoch family who, among many things, own Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, and similarly follows the billionaire family that owns the fictional media empire “Waystar Royco.” At the head of this empire is aging Logan Roy and his three kids, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv, who are all fighting to take the top job as successor when Logan either retires or dies (but most likely when he dies). There are other characters absolutely worth mentioning, such as the eldest son Connor, who everyone forgets exists until he delivers some of the best one-liners, as well as Shiv’s husband Tom and his comedic relief assistant Cousin Greg. I could honestly talk about each character for hours, but let’s move on.

Everything comes down to two main themes: the cycle of abuse and the corruptive nature of power. These themes play off of each other in a way that’s so expertly woven that I can’t begin to explain it within this short article, I can only urge you to watch the show yourself. There are many themes, of course: psychosexual obsession, motherhood, addiction, mental illness, and obviously greed and money. But Succession is at its very best when the inevitable tragedy that concludes a character’s season-long arc reflects those two main themes.

Succession is like if you locked the worst people you know in a room and watched them torture themselves by balancing their human need for love with their billionaire greed for power. Except that room is a beautiful penthouse or a mega-yacht. Yet I, along with many viewers, can’t help but empathize with and root for all of the characters in spite of the hell they create for themselves. The characters of Succession are so completely out of touch with reality, living in their own worlds that exist only for the one percent. The fundamental feature of fully realized characters is just one element of the show that adds up to this modern Shakespearian tragedy. The main Roy siblings were born into wealth and can’t ever escape it, they’re just too powerful and yet still so vulnerable.

The characters’ dynamics are one of the driving factors of Succession, as it makes these slimeball characters endlessly make the others, and in turn, themselves, suffer. Thanks to the actors’ commitment to fully realizing their characters as people, the relationships between every character are unique and have overlapping tensions to consider. It amplifies every conversation to something that could ruin what one character has been working towards the entire season, just because the other simply changed their mind. 

Earlier I explained what the two main themes of Succession were, but I withheld the third and most important theme that encompasses everything: the need for love in a cold and corporate world. This desire for love is what truly completes the tragedy because the power-driven lives of the characters doom them so that genuine compassion is impossible. The Roy kids will never be loved by their father in the way they need, so they treat the other characters cruelly all while trying to do what they think will gain Logan’s approval. Then the people who the Roys showed no love to continue the cycle, treating anyone with less power than them horribly while they still expect to be loved. The themes of power and love chase each other around in an endless cycle, the characters always getting so close to the approval and genuine care they all desperately need, then always being just out of reach. 

Every character is a miserable person, and they’re all so miserable about being miserable. It’s a horrible cycle that’s caused by rich jerks, and I can’t get enough of it. I’ve rewatched all three seasons almost four times now, and each time I’ve rooted for different characters and found new details and background jokes. I promise that once you get a grasp on the main characters’ personalities and relationships, Succession will be one of the best shows you’ve ever seen — maybe watch the first few episodes with a character guide though.

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Jordan Hill

U Mass Amherst '25

Jordan is a sophomore at UMass Amherst who is double majoring in Anthropology and Sociology. In her free time she loves reading, skiing, people watching, and playing video games.