Succession wrapped its third season before closing out the 2021 calendar year to much critical acclaim and endless “memeage” on the internets. The show has successfully continued to build its viewership since its premiere in 2018 and has steadily become perhaps the one true successor to “water cooler” television in the post Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019) era. In an age where eyeballs are more scattered than ever before across streaming platforms and different mediums, HBO has stayed the course with its tried-and-true formula of Sunday night prestige, with other hits this year like Mare of Easttown and The White Lotus. This weekly episode drop continues to be successful for them, as it allows viewership and buzz to accumulate week to week, with word of mouth and Twitter fingers building engagement in a very real, palpable way. What sets Succession apart is this being its third season, whereas the majority of the shows that really catch fire these days tend to be limited series, a finite amount of episodes dropped either all at once a la Netflix with a Squid Game or Amazon Prime with The Underground Railroad, or a weekly release like the HBO series mentioned above. A show dominating the conversation like Succession has in its third season has become more and more rare, and for that reason it feels more like an heir to the “Golden Age” of television than anything else we have seen in a long time. Season 3 continues the show’s triumphant run in long-form storytelling, and it’s time to have the talk.
Filming for Season 3 was set to begin in April of 2020, before being postponed by COVID and finally getting underway at the very end of the year. The season is largely centered centered stateside in New York, the Hamptons, and Virginia, before moving to Italy for the final two episodes, where family matriarch iCaroline is set to remarry and the Roys gather in what turns out to be perhaps the show’s most thunderous series of events yet. By the time we cut to black in the season finale, all the cards have been laid on the table, Logan has once again succeeded in breaking his kids, proudly declaring, “I fucking win!” The buildup to this moment, not only in the riveting finale itself but with the season on the whole, is expertly drawn out by Jesse Armstrong and this team of writers. At the end of Season 2, in another remarkable mic-drop moment, Kendall declares war on his dad and Royco, rather than taking the bullet for him and going to jail. We see Logan smile as he looks on, welcoming the challenge from his son. Coming into this season, we had to wonder, could Kendall possibly take his father down? Could he win this fight? It isn’t long into this season before this dream starts to fall apart, and by the time we get to the finale, Logan again feels like the immovable object he has been for the majority of the series, save for several health scares.
In the finale, however, we do get one last gasp of hope, as Shiv and Roman, looking to hang on to the company before Logan takes it away from them for good, come to Kendall’s side in his greatest need before the three of them finally unite in hopes of stopping their dad from selling. This scene, in which the three siblings are alone in an Italian plaza outside the wedding ceremony, feels like a culmination of not only the entire season, but the complete series up to this point. Kendall is completely broken, beaten down by his father and the guilt of the negligent manslaughter he’s been holding in since way back in Season 1. The show comes to both an emotional and plot driven crescendo in this scene, and it is delivered masterfully by these three actors. The last 20 minutes of the finale as they go to confront Logan are some of the most riveting television you will ever see, and it is because of our history with these characters and our investment in this world that its final blow delivers as resoundingly as it does.
So where do we go from here? Well, with presumably about a year in between now and the show’s fourth season (assuming no further COVID delays), we have the talk. What is the talk? With 3 seasons now under Succession‘s belt, and with it only garnering more acclaim and prestige, with audiences clamoring for its punchy dialogue and wealthy supervillains, the show has officially entered into a higher esteem of television and needs to be taken seriously in a more historical context. It has graduated from the “best show on television” conversation, a title which it has laid claim the last few years. The current television landscape are not its peers. After 3 seasons at this level of writing, directing, acting, cultural relevance, and intrigue, Succession is on the path to all time greatness. It is at a crucial point in its run where it can either climb higher or begin to slowly fall under the weight of its own gravity. Think about shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, who after their third seasons, had clearly put themselves on the map, yet in retrospect arguably hadn’t even reached their peak yet. Game of Thrones on the other hand, after three seasons could have been viewed this same way, yet with the way the back half of that show went, is now viewed as more of a flawed classic a la Lost. The point is, Succession has now pulled off a three-season run with near universal acclaim and its popularity continuing to grow. It has a real opportunity to vault itself into yet another class of television, and how Jesse Armstrong & company are able to progress this story after this crushing finale will have a major hand in that. But with three seasons at this level already in the bag, Succession‘s success has become undeniable. It can’t be ignored. We have to have the talk.