I first heard about the Murdoch family succession drama on The Daily, where Michael Barbaro was unearthing the next possible CEO for the media conglomerate after Rupert Murdoch tripped on his luxurious yacht and was left immobile. A media tycoon, his company owns the most influential news and media services including 21st Century Fox and The Sun. Plausibly the world's most influential man had almost left his billion-dollar company without an heir.
Drawing inspiration from the Murdoch family among others, creator and writer Jesse Armstrong takes us through the surreal world of billionaires who live life without consequence and frankly, might not even know what they're doing. Logan Roy (Brian Cox), the founder of global empire Waystar Royco, has left his seat vacant after suffering from a hemorrhage. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), the first born from his second marriage, is seen as an obvious successor if his father expires. Of course, that’s only how he perceives it. The first season sees him trying to claim what he rightfully thinks is his by calling for a vote of no confidence against his father and pulling a few strings while Logan is in recovery.
‘Succession’ brings out the superficial lives of the exorbitantly rich, highlighting power battles and the nature of words and commitments as ‘complicated air flow’: it roots fiction in reality so well that any plot point on screen is a plausibility in real life. The depth of character is astounding, showcasing the lengths to which they will go out of hunger for power. But as ‘Succession’ seeks to underline, if you’re rich you can get away with it.
The strained familial ties of Logan and Kendall are gut wrenching. The patriarch manipulates his son to such an extent that Ken is left a void puppet, one who tries to live up to his father's expectations, always trying to please him but to no avail. His attempts to impress his father even overshadow his thirst for the throne. Their complicated dynamic runs through the show and stretches over to the media and tech industries showing us the political landscape through an interpersonal lens. Evidently, each Waystar Royco associate tries to overpower the next, creating a constant hierarchy which poses questions such as whether to keep a far-right news anchor on board a right wing news channel or which sibling has to bear the brunt of the next crisis at hand.
What grips and fascinates however is the writing. The slew of curse words that trickle out of every single character's mouth has floored me. Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) now plays a puppy-eyed suck up desperate to get into his father-in-law’s good books, and has one of the best lines in the show (‘Buckleup Fucklehead’). The swears get better and better after each episode, as good as we’ve seen on ‘Veep’ (2012).
The handheld camera and swooping pans also tightly weave the dialogues to heighten the drama and comedy, and showcase the lack of honesty in conversation. Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) even acknowledges over and over again the absurdity of his family, how none of them talk to each other intently.
By finding inspiration from real life billionaire families, Jesse Armstrong has created a satire that keeps us in a post-truth world of Trumps and Murdochs, where we laugh not only at the characters but also at the current political scenario.
Edited by Juliette Howard, Deputy Film Editor