Succession-1×03: ‘Lifeboats’

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Jonathan Glatzer
Directed by Mark Mylod
Original Air Date: June 17th, 2018

There’s a gentle (if that word can ever be used in relation to Succession) reminder that this is a series that has come from a branch of the television tree that has contributed to The Thick of It and Veep and their portrayals of incompetence in positions of power when we’re treated to the sight of Kendall trying to negotiate his way out of potentially having to pay $3billion in debt.

A telephone call that doesn’t go well, Kendall tries to channel his dad with a tough, sweary demeanour that goes nowhere quickly and instead we’re left to watch through our fingers in a manner that goes beyond cringe.

Jeremy Strong is wonderful in the scene in question, a far cry from the slickness that he tried to portray in those opening moments of ‘Celebration’. He wants to be like his dad so much, and yet when he tries to channel him it never quite comes off the same way, and even though he manages to keep the hounds from the door by the end of the episode, the approval he seeks from Logan is nowhere to be given. Instead he gets an insult combined with a swear word thrown at him in a much more powerful way than Kendall himself managed to deliver earlier in the episode.

There’s something gently tragic about Kendall that’s becoming more apparent as the series continues. He might be part of the lion’s den that is the Roy family, but Jeremy Strong’s performance does have a reek of sympathy about it at various points, or something that is as close to resembling sympathy as Succession gets.

He might have been primed his whole life to be in the position he now finds himself if, but that doesn’t mean he was ever going to be good at it, and it’s clear that while he has the ability to make ends meet, it’s never going to be good enough for dear old dad. Even his marriage, which has been falling apart and which potentially might be on the cusp of being back on even ground after a sexual tryst with his estranged spouse, is quickly revealed to only be a one night stand and the divorce lawyers are still going to be called.

Strong carries the slick aura of a character like Kendall brilliantly well, as evidenced by similar turns in The Big Short and Molly’s Game, but there’s also a sad sack quality to his performance, as if the possibility of tragedy just hovers around him waiting to strike. If Succession is throwing its oar into the realm of a Shakespearean drama of familial entanglement and power corrupting from the patriarchal heart of the Roy family, then Kendall at this stage is its sad, tragic centre.

Kendall and Roman might be in the big leagues at the family business, positions that they strived and negotiated for intensely in the previous hour, but they are still little boys lost when it comes to putting their words into practice and nowhere is this more apparent than with Roman. While Kendall has at least got experience, Roman is still a manchild to his core and the only thing he can do to get the day in is to masturbate in full view of that New York skyline that comes with his swanky new office.

It’s perhaps another one of those pivotal scenes that will somewhat horribly come to define Succession’s approach to this type of elitist, legacy driven family, that even with power and responsibility to shareholders and a public that is turning to you for information on what’s happening in the world, the keys to such kingdoms are being handed not necessarily to the ones who know what they’re doing, but to manchildren who either don’t really know what they’re doing, or have nothing better to do but jerk off in front of the sight and sounds of the Big Apple.

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