Succession is back with a new season so seamless you’ll almost forget it ever stopped.
Returning this Sunday, HBO’s award-winning satirical drama picks up immediately after the events of Season 2, aired all the way back in 2019. An explosive finale saw Kendall (Jeremy Strong) attack his father (Brian Cox) on the national stage, naming Logan as a key figure in the cruises scandal. That surprise maneuver effectively torpedoed WayStar RoyCo’s position in the ongoing proxy battle, and left damn-near everyone hanging in the balance ahead of Season 3.
What ends up on screen is a relentless next chapter that hits just as hard now as past installments did then.
It’s a killer cliffhanger. But capturing a major moment from pre-pandemic TV and convincingly extending it to now is a tall order. A lot has happened in the real world, and another round of Pin the Tail on the Biggest, Richest, Meanest Asshole could have been more grating than gratifying. Not to mention, Succession’s ripped-from-the-headlines approach couldn’t possibly work right now since no one wants to hear the Roys’ views on face masks or, heaven forbid, vaccines.
Fortunately for us, creator Jesse Armstrong’s carefully crafted series rises to this very of-the-moment challenge with the signature cultural savvy Succession fans already know and love. The writing is just as shrewd as it ever was, but with the finesse and smarts to make big picture connections rather than overly timely political quips. Plus, the ensemble acting matches the tenacity and tone of the first two seasons with such precision you’ll question whether HBO figured out thespian time travel.
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With a Roy family civil war in place from minute one, major players hit the ground running as they scramble to choose sides. As in Season 1, the ideological similarities between Team Logan and Team Kendall make the metaphoric battle for CEO one of immense hypocrisy. So watching Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Connor (Alan Ruck), Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), Greg (Nicholas Braun), and others weigh their options, and then shamelessly lie about weighing those options, is a comedy-dense cluster-fuck. Seriously, it’s hard to say whether any one-liner here surpasses the brilliance of Season 2 classics like “The butter is all fucked!” and “You can’t make a Tomlette without cracking a few Gregs…” — but many, many come close.
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Simultaneously, we see newcomers, such as attorney Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan), tech CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), and activist-investor Josh Aaronson (Adrien Body), unleash their respective interests on the chaos, keeping up the pressure across the first seven episodes provided to critics. Of course, it’s all part of the Shakespearean cycle of abuse and toxicity that’s anchored Succession since day one. But it’s a testament to the show’s honed-in craft that it can be repeated in 2021 without losing its bite. Truly, you’ve seen nearly every power play of Season 3 executed on this same show before, but odd-coupling and steady character development sells each one.
What ultimately ends up on screen is a relentless next chapter that hits just as hard now as past installments did then, without under- or over-doing the “too close to home” details that give Succession its satisfying sting. Sure, it’s more of the same, but it’s an extraordinarily good same, with Emmy-winning Strong delivering a particularly intriguing next act for Kendall. That it was delivered under such extraordinarily difficult circumstances makes the show all the more impressive.
To borrow a phrase from before the Season 2 schism: If Succession got hit by another world-stopping challenge tomorrow, the world would be down one crisis — not this unstoppable show.
Succession Season 3 premieres Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO; streaming same time on HBO Max.
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