I should start with a confession: I have never watched a minute of Succession. Well, that’s not totally true. I do kinda watch it — just on Twitter. It’s like a form of osmosis; the plot advances and characters reveal themselves all via the memes cascading down my Twitter feed on Sunday nights. And that’s how I enjoy every episode, happily ensconced in a weighted blanket of ignorant bliss.
Like, who is Cousin Greg? I have no idea! What’s a Shiv? If you asked me a couple years ago, I’d have confidently told you it’s a jailhouse knife. But now, I know it’s also a wealthy, well-dressed white woman whose expression apparently never changes.
Clearly, you don’t have to actually stream the series to know what it’s about.
The Gist of the Show
“Privacy, pussy, pasta” seems pretty close to a fitting summation of the show, but that can’t be the recipe for its success. There’s something else going on. From what I can tell, Succession is essentially Crazy, Rich Asians or The Godfather but with way less ethnicity. Or a series on the Kennedys if they were more shamelessly self-obsessed.
Also, cashmere. The show is clearly about the pleasures of wearing cashmere, in very expensive ways, while demonstrating appropriate layering.
So, we’ve got: cashmere, betrayal and fabulously wealthy people with gangsterish tendencies.
Spinning that all together, Succession is primarily about a family competition to win daddy’s reluctant love (again, very Kennedyesque), while navigating cut-throat sibling rivalries and steering a modern business empire. Not to mention, the subsequent need for a clear continuity of power for the sake of that empire (see: American exceptionalism). And, of course, the aforementioned cashmere.
If Succession is indeed a show about a bunch of nepotistic cokeheads behaving badly in the tri-state area, well, that sounds entirely like my jam. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch rich assholes acting terribly? That is, as long as Brian Cox is involved. That dude has lungs made for shouting.
The Roy Family: So, Like, Who TF Are They?
The Roys — which I assume is a play on Royals — is the main family in the series. But what does it mean to be a Roy, to be part of the battle to grab the reins of the family empire, Royco? Or is it Waystar-Royco? Honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t think it really matters. As Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?”
Now, if you’re watching a show through memes, it’s super difficult to catch all the nuance — or even the character names. I think I know six characters’ names, tops. From the fews names I know, I’ve picked out a few faves to follow. I was tempted to pick them based on their relationship to cocaine and chaos, but that seems to apply to all of the Roys, except for Cousin Greg. And, I don’t know, maybe Daddy Roy. Anywhere, here they are.
Kendall Roy: From what I can tell, Kendall is the soft-hearted son who genuinely wants daddy’s love and cares for his siblings. This positions him in a place of weakness because he’s easily manipulated by his family members who all know what he wants — love. I think we can all agree that plenty of rich people see love as a luxury, not an essential.
I also like Kendall because, from the memes, I know his birthday parties end up being complete shit-shows riddled with moments of secondhand embarrassment. Like, say, a party featuring “mom’s vagina” and a tiny Wu-Tang?
I know as well that Kendall is the brother who raps. Badly. Which is also wildly entertaining.
I did look up the actual rap. That’s now the only two minutes and 21 seconds that I’ve ever seen of Succession, which somehow feels like cheating, but it was worth it.
Shiv Roy: She’s the daughter of Daddy Roy. Shiv may be the only daughter, or she may have a twin who ran away from the family and lives in Thailand. But she feels like the only girl child of the Logan family based on the memes. And apparently, my girl Shiv is all the way freaky, but power is her fetish.
This also means emotions are her nemesis. Shiv is like the WASP Supreme. She’s always perfectly coiffed, like Martha Stewart in more expensive fabrics but instead of edible arrangements, Shiv makes you eat a steaming shit sandwich of regret to remind you that you were a fool to ever trust her. Meanwhile, she calmly smiles a barely-there smile. Pale and ruthlessly cold, she’s like the Siberia of people.
Roman Roy: I’m guessing he’s the youngest, but I could totally be wrong about that since I’m just basing it on his baby face. All I know about Roman is that there are a few things he truly enjoys — cussing, cocaine, young Han Solo dick and fucking people over as sport.
Roman also seems the most like his father. Thus, he’s the most likely to win the game of Succession. Which means, he’s also the least likely, because where’s the fun in that? Either way, Roman is smart yet dumb, meaning he can do the impossible as well as the improbable. Basically, Roman seems a lot like Jared Kushner, if Kushner had a backbone and an observable libido.
Cousin Greg: He’s the innocent in the family and reminds me of Jeb Bush. He’s tall, he’s dim and he has no idea what his family is willing to do but he pretends like he does.
He’s also the only member of the Roy family who seems capable of being morally shocked.
Seems like ol’ Cousin Greg is dumb fun any way you slice it — the kind of character who winds up winning it all. Now, he may be the village idiot, but he’s also the dark horse, the sleeper, the innocent corrupted no one seems coming.
Or maybe I’m totally wrong. In the end, it doesn’t matter. I’m never gonna watch. Why would I? For me, Succession exists in a state of undisturbed perfection. The show is whatever I want it to be at any given moment and I have no expectations for it. Thus, like the Buddha, I’m free from the cycle of suffering and desire.
I mean, imagine that you have no idea what the scene below is about, no clue what this dialogue is in reference to, or what happened before or after this moment — you’re just left with the pure poetry of someone shouting at New York City: “It’s my birthday! Fuck you!” It actually feels like a postcard from humanity in 2021.
Try “watching” HBO’s next big show this way and perhaps you, too, can be free. At the very least, you’ll probably understand the gist better than Cousin Greg.