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TV Critic’s Corner

‘Succession’ is more ‘Dynasty’ than it is ‘King Lear’

Brian Cox plays media mogul Logan Roy in “Succession.”
Brian Cox plays media mogul Logan Roy in “Succession.”Peter Kramer/HBO/HBO

I love “Succession,” which recently returned for its second season, which has been a lot of fun so far. With dead-eyed Kendall, Roman the joker king, and Shiv the cold golden child circling around their aggressive, manipulative, and capricious father, media mogul Logan Roy, the show offers endless amusement. It’s a domestic “Game of Thrones.” There is enough back-stabbing and secretive planning among the Roys to keep them joyless — and to keep us joyfully entertained — for some time to come.

But I do want to clarify that “Succession” is, essentially, under all the exquisite camerawork, “Dynasty.” It’s on HBO, which carries the air of quality, and some of the acting — particularly by Brian Cox as Logan — is quite fine, even Emmy worthy. But it really is a family soap opera, with some of the excesses that go along with that genre. On “Dynasty,” the ladies mud wrestled; on “Succession,” Kendall gets spit on by a fired employee.

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I’m not suggesting it’s bad because of its DNA. But all the celebration about the show — including a nomination this year for a best drama Emmy and many comparisons to “King Lear” — might lead you to believe it’s something more exalted than it is. “Succession” is a portrait of an infighting family of bad people with a lot of money, no moral compass, and no redeeming qualities. They’re the one percent — but they can’t enjoy their power and money because they’re so insecure about losing them.