Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Succession Thoughts

I keep getting into stuff like "Succession" ahead of the crowd (I first recommended the series way back in 2018). And then the thing gets popular, and the haze surrounding it becomes so stupid that I'm almost embarrassed to be involved.

It certainly happened with food media. And now mainstream commentary on this beautiful show has sunk into the muck. For those keeping up on Succession, and reading opinions online, let me debunk some dumb popular takes (with spoilers from last Sunday's episode):

1. Kendall's not dead, duh.

He's just slumping in a pool, blowing bubbles in the water to signal his utter resignation while the director gets his arty BoJack Horseman shot.

2. Logan wasn't trying to poison his grandson, duh.

Kendall did his wryly deadpan little move, telling the waiter, "No, that's his plate." So Logan knocked back. Because Logan never doesn't knock back. Totally expected.

Plus, if Kendall did poison the food, he wouldn't have let his kid eat it. So Logan was in zero danger of actually poisoning his grandchild. I realize that any sentence with the words "poison" and "child" makes certain people feel compelled to SPEAK UP FOR THE CHILDREN, earning Logan a forehead sticker as worst possible human. But maybe we can try to be as nuanced as this show and put away our pricing guns.

3. The Kendall/Logan scene wasn't just evidentiary item #12000 of Logan's bad parenting, duh.

When your kid has been relentlessly, needlessly, stupidly, aimlessly trying to blow up everything you hold dear - just because - including your very freedom as you enter your ninth decade, and you graciously agree to a sit-down where he proceeds to tell you, with his dead eyes, how EVIL you are, when he's a depraved addict and cater-waiter murderer who's spent his entire life sucking at the teet of an operation which makes no effort to hide its nature, really, the only thing you can do is to remind him he's maybe not such a terrific guy due to, for example, the whole murdery interlude, and tell him to fuck off, and stride back to the limo. I mean, what else was he going to do? Vow to reform his ways under the weight of Kendall's hypocritical shaming?

4. Same with Caroline and Shiv, duh.

Viewers are all pissed at their mothers and fathers, so no one can watch drama without projecting their issues. So the previously mentioned scene was Logan being a terrible father (and grandfather), while the Shiv/Caroline scene showed the latter as an awful, awful mother.

Did everyone miss how Shiv painted a portrait of a mother brutally abandoning a poor, defenseless 10 year old...when it was actually the free, calculated choice of a savvy, stabby 13 year old? A choice which, incidentally, broke said mother's heart?

To be sure, Shiv absolutely believes her version, much like Kendall believes he's a genuinely "good guy", whatever that even means. But even having been corrected, Shiv keeps gratuitously stabbing away at her mom, who, quite understandably, finally sighs and says she'd have preferred mothering a pack of dogs.

Do I approve of any of these people, including Logan and Caroline? No. Would I have served that mozzarella to my grandchild just to fuck back at my son? Absolutely not. But awful as Logan and Caroline both are, their kids, who are way worse, forced their hands.

Four more Succession thoughts at this juncture:

1. Logan's Buy-Out Offer

I’ve finally gotten around to understanding Logan’s offer to buy out Kendall.

It was very time-limited and Logan knew 1. Kendall would not accept, and 2. it would mess with his head, and 3. no more offers or money would ever be forthcoming after that, ever ever.

This also explains the mystery, which really shouldn’t have been lost on Kendall (plot hole), of how the company would have even raised that $2 billion.

2. It's All About Shiv

This series is “The Rise of Shiv”. And not just because of the way she's messing with our dear Geri. Shiv is the worst character on the show, way worse than Logan. She's capable of anything. Consider:
Logan legitimately loves his family, though he shows it strangely. Shiv has never loved anyone ever.

Logan has no shame or conscience, but he does operate within a certain code. Shiv has no code, no boundaries, no compass, no nothing. Extraordinarily dangerous.

Shiv is gratuitously cruel with those who don’t deserve it. We have never seen Logan punch down for kicks.

Logan’s a person. Who Shiv is is open to any oppportunistic change of wind. While Logan’s a selfish man with megalomania, Shiv is pure ambition and megalomania, with no human in the equation.

3. Season Four Will Suck a Little

This is two shows: a dark family comedy (for most of the cast), and a Shakespearean tragedy (for Kendall). Kendall's not dead, but he's obviously done as a character. As Alan Sepinwall wrote this week, it's either that Jeremy Strong wants out, or else that show runner Jesse Armstrong has written him into a corner. Either way, that character's done, albeit non-dead.

But the special sauce of this show stems from the deliciously dissonant grind of its two tectonic plates - dark comedy and Shakespearean tragedy. With Kendall out of the picture, it will be just one thing. No grind, like sugary Paul without the vinegar of John. Season four, I predict, will be akin to Paul McCartney and Wings.

4. We Don't Deserve Jeremy Strong

Our society has so lost its aesthetic compass that Jeremy Strong's effort to fully commit to his work makes him seem like an asshole to coworkers and much of the punditariat, regardless of universal acknowledgement that the guy's turned in one of the greatest dramatic performances in recent history.

Geez, don't you imagine the two might be related?

The widespread media/social media takeaway from this recent New Yorker portrait is that Everyone Hates Jeremy....who takes himself soooo seriously.

There's zero evidence that Strong's the least bit stuck up or self-important (if there was, believe me, we'd have heard). He's just trying his best. And it's working. Isn't that admirable? How do people snark at the notion of deep commitment? What's wrong with us??

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