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‘Succession’ Returns, As Bleak and Brilliant as You Remember

You don’t get to be the best show on TV without containing multitudes. From the start, HBO’s Succession has operated on several levels: the intimate scale of family, and the global one of corporate warfare; the savage comedy of satire, and the deep sadness of Shakespearean tragedy. But starting this Sunday, the show shifts into yet another mode. In its long-awaited third season, Succession is essentially an extended horror movie—the story of a man haunted by familial ghosts, trapped in an emotional Trump Tower of terror he can’t escape. Happy Halloween!

HBO Max Watch Guide | Succession

The series’ second season ended with a dramatic cliffhanger, one that lingered for an extra year on account of a global pandemic. All that time has let the endorphin rush of the final scene, and the Emmy near-sweep that followed, overshadow the 20 hours of cringe comedy that preceded it. This is not the kind of show to sustain a triumphant note for long, a fact easy to forget in a euphoric haze. Yes, Kendall Roy has defied his father in an act of public whistleblowing, car-related kompromat be damned. But on a practical level, ending Logan’s reign is easier said into a press-conference microphone than done. And on a deeper, psychological one, Kendall may not be as ready to cut ties with his father or siblings as his grand gesture may suggest. After all, it was supposed to be Kendall taking the hit on behalf of his dad—and people will say a lot of things to avoid going to prison.

To use a bit of corporate jargon that would make Waystar Royco proud, Season 3 has the audience drinking straight from the firehose. We begin mere moments after Kendall’s big bomb drop, with his family still floating on a yacht somewhere in the Mediterranean. Everyone instantly scrambles to assess the new hierarchy and their place within it. There’s Siobhan, soul freshly sold and marriage on ice; Roman, one half of an unlikely alliance in business and pleasure; and Logan, blindsided by a chutzpah he didn’t think was there. Still, the time for grudging respect was that last shot of the Season 2 finale. Season 3 is for rallying the troops and making sure no one joins Kendall’s mutiny enabled by the Department of Justice. Or as the patriarch himself puts it more succinctly: “It’s war. Fuck off!”

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