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Series / Succession

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Take what's yours.note 

"Look, here's the thing about being rich, okay? It's fucking great."
Tom Wambsgans

A 2018 satirical comedy-drama of the Eat the Rich persuasion, airing on HBO and created by writer Jesse Armstrong of Peep Show fame. The show focuses on media baron Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his family's struggle to divide his massive conglomerate, Waystar-Royco, among themselves.

In the running are: Logan's four dysfunctional children — dimwitted libertine Connor (Alan Ruck), power-hungry Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Sad Clown Roman (Kieran Culkin) and headstrong daughter Siobhan, a.k.a. "Shiv" (Sarah Snook) — as well as his third wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass), sycophantic son-in-law Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and bumbling grandnephew Greg (Nicholas Braun).

Further complicating the Succession Crisis is the fact that the Roy family's massive wealth has made them all self-absorbed and divorced from reality, which inevitably poisons their relationships with each other and the world around them.


This show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Logan's presence was scarce when his children were growing up, and he was not the most pleasant or supportive figure when he was around. It was this and them being spoiled by too much money that made the Roy children such narcissistic JerkAsses as adults. He's also implied to have a history of physical abuse. On one occasion he's said to have beaten Roman with a slipper until he was left crying, because Roman had ordered a certain meal at a restaurant. In the second season, he backhands Roman in a fit of rage.
    • When we meet the younger siblings' mother in the final episodes of the first season, it becomes clear that they received no reprieve on that front either. Caroline Collingwood displays a deeply passive-aggressive and acerbic tone toward those around her, and reactions from her children show that this is something they've come to expect to turn toward them as well. In the first season, she slips in a few cutting digs at her daughter during her wedding reception toast. In the second season, she tactfully postpones a heart-to-heart conversation with Kendall and then slips out early the next day to avoid him.
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    • Logan himself was raised in part by what he claims to his children was an even more abusive and controlling uncle than they might think of him. Indeed, when we see shots of Logan half-dressed there are many scars across his back similar to those given by belt or cane beatings. The only time he actually seems ashamed of his abusive behavior toward his own children is after he backhands Roman. This provokes an unprecedented but still halfhearted apology the next day.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: It sounds pretty implausible if you've never heard of it, but ortolan really is eaten whole with a napkin over your head to shield yourself from God's judgment on your decadence (among other possible reasons).
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
    • Greg seems to have some sort of developmental impairment that resembles autism. He's socially awkward and seems to lack the ability to pick up social cues. He's gullible and easily pushed around, but also not exactly stupid.
    • Rava and Kendall's son Iverson also seems to possibly have autism or some other similar learning difficulty, although he's a kid so it can be hard to pigeonhole. Rava describes him as struggling with "transition", he refuses to fit in with the Roys' games, and he bluntly and rudely tells Logan that he got the game wrong even when Logan is in clear distress.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Tom sports a black eye and awkwardly claims that he got it during a night of passionate lovemaking with Shiv. This sounds unlikely given that Shiv and Tom aren't shown to have a particularly passionate relationship. The actual circumstances of how he got it, whether clumsiness, accident or abuse, are never revealed.
  • Amicable Exes: Kendall and Rava try to keep these cordial, and Rava does her best to be supportive after Logan's stroke. Things end up deteriorating, however, and in the end he dismisses her for trying to screw him over in their divorce.
  • Arc Words: "Killer". Logan torments Kendall because he believes he lacks "killer instinct" and he's not "a killer", but Kendall is also wracked with guilt over being an actual killer, of the waiter he left to die.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the first episode, although he displays harsh and callous behaviour to his children, Logan gets a few redeeming moments as well. He's praised and called a friend in a sincere speech from Frank, who appears to be a decent and intelligent person, he's affectionate with Marcia, and he's kind to the working class boy that Roman humiliates. There's almost enough Pet the Dog moments to make the audience wonder if he has Hidden Depths, and may be a complex character but deep down a good guy who's frustrated with his entitled children - and then, in one scene, he remorselessly fires his long time friend and employee for seemingly no reason. The audience at this moment realises how much of Jerkass this guy really is - he respects no one but himself.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: One of the main themes of the show.
    • Kendall is desperate to become CEO, to the point of ignoring multiple warnings that indicate not everything is well. The minute he gets it, Gerri tells him that the company is seriously in debt and may actually be about to go under at any moment.
    • Tom and Greg are both desperate to get higher, and better, positions in the company, Tom especially. The minute both get it, they learn about the assault cases on the cruise ships, and Tom instantly realizes that unless they do something immediately, they're co-conspirators. And they don't.
    • In "This Is Not For Tears," Logan dismisses the idea that Kendall would have made a good CEO on the basis that he's not a "killer." Then Kendall eviscerates him on live television. And Logan's smirk at his words seems to suggest that he actually respects Kendall for it.
  • Big Fancy House: All of the Roys have very expensive homes, though they live in New York City, so they're not very big. Connor's hacienda in the desert counts, however, and the biggest example is Caroline Collingwood's slave-built castle where the wedding takes place. The first episode of the second season, titled "Summer Palace", is named after the Roys' massive Hamptons summer home featured in it.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Everyone who at first seems to be a decent person ultimately reveals an ugly side.
    • Roman is sarcastic and snarky, but at first seems to be the most down-to-earth Roy sibling in the first episode, until he offers $1 million to a lower-class Little League player (with his parents watching) if he hits a home run, then tears the check up in his face when he fails, likely traumatizing him in the process. And he does it because he's bored.
    • Shiv is a political consultant for a liberal populist presidential candidate and tries to come across as a Granola Girl, but she's just as near-sociopathic as the rest of her family, cheating on her fiance Tom and ultimately using him to further her career at his expense.
    • Tom himself seems like an awkward Nice Guy around the Roys, but he reveals a very nasty side whenever he has someone under him to push around. He starts creepily bullying Greg the moment they cross paths and continues once Greg becomes his subordinate. He's also extremely rude to his wedding planner.
    • Connor likes to assert himself as a relaxed intellectual who stands above all the family infighting, but he's not. He completely goes berserk at the slightest bit of difficulty when hosting a charity event.
    • Greg, the newest member of the Roys' inner circle, comes off as a regular person who is out of his depth, but is clearly trying to milk the Roys for money and isn't afraid to use blackmail and deceit to advance his position.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Rava did manipulate Kendall by sleeping with him and suggesting the divorce might not happen, but she is similarly shown to have a very good reason for not wanting him back, as he spent literal years on drugs.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • With the Roys being a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of the Murdochs, their news channel ATN is obviously supposed to stand for Fox News, another news channel that is frequently accused of being a right-wing mouthpiece. Likewise, the liberal PGM news network, ATN's biggest rival, obviously stands for CNN, which is Fox News' biggest rival.
    • Edgy digital media outlet Vaulter is a mix between VICE, Buzzfeed and Gawker. The office is eerily similar to VICE's, the inane headlines are in the style of VICE and Buzzfeed, and the Vaulter plotline in the show mirrors Gawker's real-life trajectory.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • After Greg is fired for being high at work, he claims that he got a contact high from a hitchhiker.
    • Logan claims that he doesn't think he even made contact with Roman after backhanding him so hard that Roman has to check the status of his teeth.
    • When Tom is being grilled by the Senate subcommittee, he claims, among other things, that he doesn't know who Greg is, his personal assistant. He quickly backtracks, claiming he didn't understand the question, which causes the subcommittee to further grill him on how that could be possible.
  • Book-Ends:
    • The Season 1 premiere and Season 1 finale each feature scenes of the Roys paying off characters to keep quiet about certain indiscretions.
    • The Season 2 premiere opens with a still drugged-up Kendall giving an interview where he shoulders all the blame for the attempted hostile takeover, as he's at Logan's mercy since he let the waiter die. The Season 2 finale ends with him giving another interview where he's promised Logan that he'll take the fall, only, this time, to stab Logan in the back and say he and he alone was ultimately responsible for the cruise sex abuse coverup scandal.
    • Season 1 ended with Tom declaring his love for Shiv at their wedding, letting her into the secret about the cruise ship scandal so she'll have leverage against Logan, and reluctantly agreeing to an open marriage. Season 2 ends with Logan seeming to break his promise to Shiv that Tom will stay out of the scandal, only to backtrack when she begs him, and Tom snapping back at Shiv, telling her he's not sure he can stay with her, and threatening to get a divorce.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: The Pierce family is almost as rich as the Roys, but they maintain liberal principles and are disgusted by the conservative-slanted ATN. They have a Pretentious Latin Motto inscribed on their doorway and quote Shakespeare instead of saying grace.
  • Brick Joke: In his first scenes, Greg makes some Blatant Lies about smelling like pot because he picked up a pot-smoking hitchhiker. In the first season finale, Kendall stumbles upon him outside the wedding reception and Greg immediately starts claiming that he smells like pot because there's some other guy smoking pot nearby. In fact, there is another person smoking pot.
  • But I Read a Book About It: When Kendall makes a business decision, Logan scornfully asks if he'd learned that from one of his books, implying that Kendall has the theory of business but lacks the knowledge and experience of the Self-Made Man Logan.
  • Cast Full of Rich People: All the main characters are obscenely wealthy, as they are a media dynasty. Even the comparatively middle-class Greg is revealed to be in line for a large chunk of a $250 million inheritance. However, the family is very dysfunctional, and the dynamic only worsens as the titular Succession Crisis comes to a head. Instead of enjoying their vast riches, they seem more concerned with keeping the wealth.
  • Catchphrase: In the first season, Connor announces that he "doesn't take sides" so many times it's basically a catchphrase. He even says it immediately before telling Shiv that he's on her side.
  • The Chain of Harm: This could be the entire idea of the show, and of Waystar-Royco themselves. Every single person needs someone to punch down at: Logan tries to keep his children close so he can belittle them; Shiv marries Tom at least in part because she knows he's so far out of his depth that he'll put up with her treating him badly (though he finally snaps back at her in Season 2); this is even why Tom helps Greg get his job, so he's no longer on the lowest rung of the family ladder.
  • Character Development: Lots in the second season:
    • Kendall regresses to becoming his father's whipping boy and hatchet man, until the season finale, in which he bites back.
    • Roman starts taking his job seriously and shows that he actually does have a lot of business knowledge and instincts. After a season of being asexual, he also starts to plumb his sexual fetishes.
    • After waffling for a season over whether to embrace her family or political life, Shiv finally chooses her family. She also is forced to pay more attention to her relationship with Tom.
    • Tom finally stands up for himself and calls Shiv out on her poor treatment of him throughout their marriage.
    • Greg becomes more accustomed to the wealthy lifestyle: hosting parties, requesting cocaine and developing a taste for champagne. He also starts flexing the leverage he built up in the first season to stand up to Tom.
    • Willa seems to be warming to Connor. While in the beginning of the second season she still reacts with instinctive disgust at his embrace, by the mid-point of the season she's remarking on how "cute" he looks in his campaign video.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: You could count on one hand the characters who don't exhibit this.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: All of the Roy siblings are delusional to some degree or another. The worst offender ultimately proves to be Connor, who reveals that he seriously believes he could become president after a lifetime of doing nothing.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Tom's lesson to Greg on "how to be rich" runs on this. They eat expensive foreign cuisine and then drink gold-flecked liquor from bottle service at the empty VIP area of a club simply because it's expensive. In the second season, Logan orders an entire opulent feast be tossed out uneaten because it was sitting out while a stink was permeating the house.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Succession takes the unusual step of having the people perpetuating the conspiracy (the board of Waystar Royco) as the main characters. They've sent their cruise ships out under a non-American flag to save money and avoid legal trouble, which has fostered a culture of institutionalized rape and sexual harassment going on, and their attempts to thwart investigations into it are a huge part of the conflict.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Much like Jesse Armstrong's previous shows — The Thick of It, which he wrote for, and Peep Show, which he co-created — Succession is a pitch-black comedy where terrible things happen to terrible people. In addition, both Succession and The Thick of It are about wildly unqualified people in positions of power.
  • Cringe Comedy: Lots, mainly when one of the Roys (particularly Connor or Roman) says something completely inappropriate to the situation apropos of nothing whatsoever.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Greg and Tom come across as morons, but they're actually pretty good at scheming when their back is against the wall.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: On his first day as COO, Roman stares out at the view from his high-rise office and masturbates onto the window. The metaphorical connotations are rather straightforward.
  • Dirty Old Man: Karl is past middle age and is said to frequent brothels whenever he goes on business trips. He protests that his wife understands that he's a "libertine."
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Kendall's car incident is clearly based on the infamous Chappaquiddick incident.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • After Kendall spent the whole season being trampled on, controlled, and humiliated by Logan, and denied even the courtesy of his father telling him he'd make a good CEO, Kendall upends the press conference designed for him taking the fall and instead uses it to very publicly stab Logan in the back, revealing his complicity in the cruises scandal.
    • In the same episode, after a season of simmering tension, Tom finally lashes out at Shiv for all of her grievances in their relationship, from forcing an open marriage to treating him like a slave to the humiliation of agreeing that he should take the fall for the cruises scandal, and hints at the idea of a divorce. It shakes Shiv enough to plead with Logan to not sacrifice him.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Kendall falls off the wagon after his vote of no confidence fails.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the first few episodes of the first season, at various family functions, a third child appears alongside Kendall's who is strongly implied to be Roman's. She later stops appearing and is never mentioned - although, to be fair, neither are Kendall's children when they're not around.
  • Ensemble Cast: While some characters, like Kendall, Shiv and Logan, are more central to the plot, the entire Roy family collectively functions as the show's Villain Protagonists.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Kendall arrives by limo to a very important business meeting and immediately starts using casual youth lingo, showing how unfit he is for the world of business. The businessman he's meeting balks at being called "dude."
    • Greg gets fired from his job as an amusement park character due to a bad reaction to pot, then tries to lamely blame it on a hitchhiker when calling his mom for help. He's a total loser.
    • Connor's first lines are explaining to a child how he's developing a parcel of land and wants to hoard the water on it for himself when the world starts to run out. This touches on Connor's lack of interaction in the family business (he's interested in land instead), his mild personality in most situations (talking to a child) and his underlying weird political views.
    • One of Shiv's earliest scenes establishes her political job and alludes to the fact that getting Democrats elected in New York isn't particularly difficult.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • While the Roys have no problem in-fighting and plotting against each other, they are joined in feeling embarrassment and shame that Connor continually brings his escort to important family events.
    • When the Roys are positioned to take over PGM and likely turn it into another one of their mouthpieces, Shiv has a guilt attack while wondering how the world will function without someone doing real journalism.
    • Rhea manipulates her way into Logan's good graces and positions herself as the perfect alternative for CEO. However, she then discovers just how corrupt the company is and realizes what kind of nasty things she would have to do in order to run it. She walks away and tells Logan to find someone else to succeed him.
    • In spite of constant infighting among the Roy siblings, they all immediately leap to Roman's defense when Logan backhands him. Even Logan is moved to an uncharacteristic, if half-hearted, apology the next day.
  • Everyone Is Related: Justified Trope due to the show's focus on a media dynasty. In the first season, all but three characters in the main cast (Waystar board members Frank Vernon and Lawrence Yee along with general counsel Gerri Kellman) were members of the Roy family. (And Frank is Kendall's Honorary Uncle, while Gerri is Shiv's godmother.)
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Logan's impetus for his extremely risky and potentially catastrophic (if not outright illegal) obsession with acquiring PGM? They spent a few inches of print mocking him, decades ago.
    • With everyone except Logan, this is reconstructed. Even the siblings that appear the kindest demonstrate that petty cruelty is one of their favorite pastimes; for instance, Roman might appear to be the most genial Roy in many ways, he baits the Little Leaguer with a million dollar cheque in the first episode and then rubs his face in it, for no good reason.
  • Excrement Statement:
    • A bystander throws a jar of his own piss at Logan at the start of "Austerlitz."
    • Logan himself pees on the carpet in Kendall's office as a show of disrespect.
  • Extreme Doormat:
    • Tom was this, responding to the bullying of the Roys (and even Shiv, his actual fiancee - and later wife) with nothing but mild chagrin at best.
    • Tom's parents, at least when they're around the Roys. They note how "fun" it was to sit at the airport for hours waiting to be picked up. His mother then gets embarrassed when his father asks for a beverage on her behalf.
  • Fall Guy: In the season 2 finale, Logan has to decide who will take the public fall for the cruises scandal. He is told by the company board that it cannot be just one of the senior executives but it needs to be a member of the Roy family, even Logan himself. He chooses Kendall.
  • Family Versus Career: Shiv must choose between loyalty to her family or dedication to her job, which puts her in opposition to her family. This ends in the second season, where she quits in order to pursue the position of Logan's successor.
  • Foil: Every character has one, some more obvious than others:
    • Gerri and Frank. Both are extremely close to Logan and Waystar-Royco, and have worked with them for decades, knowing all the kids since they were little. Frank is fired in the first episode (although he never really leaves) for relatively petty reasons, but is also shown to have a close bond with Kendall in work and a concern for his welfare. He's also a savvy businessman who seems to have the Roys' best interests at heart. Gerri is probably even savvier, because while Frank has Butt-Monkey status, Gerri excels at Playing Both Sides but has managed to escape detection by Logan, actually being praised as his most loyal board member. Gerri also develops a close (although sexual and Oedipal) relationship with Roman.
    • The Pearces are contrasted with the Roys. Both are a Big, Screwed-Up Family who have a family board of media and newspapers, but the Pearces have liberal values and the Roys are very conservative. The Pearces prize art, culture, and are generally very pretentious, while the Roys are very conspicuous and, despite their investments, don't care for or understand culture.
      • The Pearces are also run by a woman, Nan, who is a foil to Logan. While she's clearly very stern, she is nowhere near as abusive as Logan.
      • Kendall has a Distaff Counterpart in Naomi Pearce. Kendall is very close to Logan and Naomi is very close to Nan, both their opinions carry a lot of sway, and both are recovering drug addicts who are both "secretly" and not so secretly Off the Wagon with wild early years.
  • Foreign Queasine: Tom and Greg splurge for the controversial French delivacy Ortolan (a songbird eaten whole), which Tom describes as "gamy" and Greg also doesn't appreciate.
  • Foreshadowing: After a misstep by a young waiter at Shiv's wedding, Logan goes on a tirade and complains that he never wants to see him again, ever. The waiter ends up dying. Wish granted!
  • French Cuisine Is Haughty: Tom goads Greg into eating Ortolan, a controversial French dish comprising mainly of a tiny whole songbird, with him. Tom describes the flavor as "gamy."
  • Gift-Giving Gaffe: Roman buys his father the one things he remembers fondly from his childhood, his favorite soccer team, only to have to be informed upon presenting it that he got the wrong one.
    Logan: ...I'm Hibs.
    Roman: Really? I thought you were Hearts. I'm pretty sure, Dad.
    Logan: know, maybe you're right. How would I know which team I supported all my fucking life?
  • Hidden Depths: The first season establishes how messed up the Roy siblings are. Season two shows that they have positive qualities and can grow as humans. Kendall slowly grows a backbone and realizes that he cannot ignore the guilt he is feeling. Roman takes a more serious approach to his work, negotiates an important deal and then has enough business savvy to realize that the deal is too good to be true. Shiv shows how ruthless she can be but ultimately is not willing to give up Tom to please her father. Connor stays useless.
  • Honor Thy Abuser: Played with. Logan is a vitriolic, narcissistic bully whose only response when Kendall tells him he loves him is to insult him for being stupid, and who was immensely neglectful of his kids. However, Logan also raised them in the height of luxury, as a multi-billionaire, and the show zigzags between criticising his children for hurting their dad when he's in a vulnerable state, especially as it's made clear they'd be nowhere without him and have largely coasted by on his name and reputation, and Logan himself had an awful upbringing, including brutal physical abuse. Nevertheless, he's still shown as a total jerk, and his kids are also presented as deeply hurt by his treatment.
  • Hope Spot: The first season finale zig-zags and starts with Kendall having Logan backed into a corner despite a series of misfires, making it seem that, after being humiliatingly fired from the board after the failed takeover, he finally has one over his father... Then, in a search for more drugs, he gets behind the wheel of a car with an innocent young caterer and gets into an accident. After a failed rescue he leaves the kid to die, hides from a passing car rather than flagging it down for help, covers up his tracks and establishes an alibi. No one seems the wiser and the caterer dies, leaving his tracks covered... Until Logan reveals that he has damning evidence against them, and is willing to help Kendall with the potentially life-ending cover-up, so long as he comes under Logan's control again.
  • Inadequate Inheritor:
    • The plot is kicked off by Logan planning to retire but then deciding that none of his children are suited to run his empire, so he decides to postpone his retirement. Kendall, who was supposed to become the new head of Waystar-Royco, takes it extremely badly. The second season hammers home how the desire to be Logan's successor negatively affects anyone pursuing the position, not just Kendall. Shiv, who was consistently coolly competent during the first season, begins to fall apart and embarrass herself in her pursuit to be the inheritor in the second season, ending in a humiliating outburst in "Tern Haven."
    • Special mention goes to Connor, Logan's eldest son, who takes no part in the family business and is never once considered to be useful by his father. Kendall is clearly seen to have supplanted his position, to the point that an employee refers to Kendall as Logan's "eldest son" before quickly correcting himself to say "second-eldest" when Connor scowls.
    • Ewan Roy threatens to disinherit Greg if he continues to work for Logan.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: All of the working Roy children have an inflated sense of competency in their fields, which often results in them getting outmaneuvered and embarrassed. Even Shiv, who seems to be the most competent of the bunch, is implied to only be as successful as she is because her job (getting Democrats elected in New York City) is hard to fail.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: There are 13 characters with main cast billing as of Season 2, not to mention various recurring extended family members, business associates and rivals.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: A key reason Kendall is not ready to handle taking over the company is because Logan has been keeping so many things close to him. Such as the fact the company is about three billion dollars in debt.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Not wanting to lose Tom, Shiv begs Logan to not let him take the fall for the cruises scandal, which not only makes Logan quietly dismiss her as a potential successor due to her siding with her husband over family, it also inadvertently leads to Kendall's disastrous press conference in the final moments — and it doesn't even seem to have that much of an effect on Tom as it is.
  • May–December Romance:
    • The other siblings jab at Connor for "dating" a call girl who appears to be no more than half his age. Connor labors on the delusion that their arrangement will surely become an actual romance even though she clearly dislikes him.
    • The Ship Tease between Roman and Gerri, who is nearly twice his age, is this.
  • Meal Ticket:
    • Connor pays a woman to be his girlfriend. His family has to repeatedly remind him that she's a prostitute, but he's deluding himself to believing that she'll eventually fall in love with him. She clearly doesn't like him and is uncomfortable with how much he loves her, but can't leave him because she relies on his money to finance her theatrical writing.
    • Tom does seem to love Shiv a lot, but it's also obvious that part of the reason he's with her is because she's rich, and her family has given him a powerful job that he doesn't seem qualified for.
    • Logan's current wife had a hard life in Beirut before marrying him and clearly endures his defects of character because of his money.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The show is about a modern-day dynasty going by the name "Roy," meaning "king."
    • A "shiv" is a slang term for a switchblade or improvised weapon.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup:
    • Though they had problems before, Roman ultimately breaks up with Grace when she admits she likes a children's movie he had tried to kill, for no other reason than he thinks it makes no logical sense.
    • Kendall falls instantly in love with the lead actress of Willa's play, Jennifer. He persuades her to abandon the play to come out to Scotland with him, only to ghost her (and asks an employee to break up with her for him) because she said "awesome" too much when she was speaking to Logan. Although it's implied the real reason is just as petty: that she casually pointed out he talks about his dad a lot.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal:
    • Kendall was loyal to Logan and had just completed a major deal for Waystar-Royco. He fully expected his father to name him the new CEO. Instead, Logan decides to stay on and treats Kendall as a failure. Fed up, Kendall tries to take over the company.
    • Frank also treats the Roys like his own family, but gets cruelly fired by Logan moments after singing his praises. As a result, he allies with Kendall in the takeover bid (which gets him really fired).
  • My New Gift Is Lame: The Roy kids gripe about how it's impossible to give Logan anything he'll like. He already has everything he wants, and whenever something new comes out that he might like, he'll always get a dozen of them. Logan gives away the watch Tom gave him almost immediately. When Connor tries to go unconventional and give him some starter dough to make old-fashioned sourdough, Logan condescendingly thanks him for the "old bread."
  • Naïve Newcomer:
    • Greg is Logan's grandnephew, but he grew up in a middle-class setting and had little interaction with Logan's side of the family until his mother sends him to New York. He is now smack in the middle of all the Roy family drama but is not really a player in it yet. He is out of his depth and is quite bewildered by what is happening around him. He seems mostly incapable of any sort of cunning until the end of the first season, where he implies he'll blackmail Kendall with the cruise scandal unless he gets to keep his job, and even Kendall is kind of impressed with him.
    • Tom is effectively treated as this by everyone in the family, which initially leads to some rivalry and conflict with Greg.
  • Nepotism: Most of the Roy clan works in the family business, whether or not they're qualified. Kendall is his father's #2 man and seems to at least understand business theory. Roman starts the show having quit the company, but soon returns as COO, a position he seems wildly unqualified for, and is given responsibility for overseeing a satellite launch. Tom heads a division that runs the company's parks and cruise lines because he's Shiv's long-term boyfriend. Greg, who seems to have no marketable skills beyond general computer proficiency, is given an ambiguous job under Tom because he is Logan's grandnephew. Marcia's son by another marriage announces that he'll head the European animation division, though his qualifications are completely unknown.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: None of the main female characters are remotely self-made, with it being lampshaded by people about Shiv, Logan's only daughter. Willa is a prostitute who is paid by Connor to sleep with him then pays for her show to be on Broadway as a way of convincing her to be exclusive with him. It's possible in only Marcia's case, as her Mysterious Past leaves it open how much money she made before marrying Logan. However, her previous husband is mentioned as being influential. Even Logan's Distaff Counterpart in Season 2, Nan Pierce, is the head of a huge empire of family money rather than making it herself as Logan did.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The Roy family are broadly based on Rupert Murdoch and his children. Like Roy, Murdoch is a foreign-born media magnate whose holdings push a conservative narrative, and most of his children have joined the family business.
    • Likewise, the Pierces are broadly based on the Sulzbergers, the longtime owners of The New York Times.
    • Gil Eavis, who Shiv is supporting for president, is pretty clearly based on Bernie Sanders as a vaguely Jewish liberal senator who focuses on wealth inequality.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Zig-zagged. Most of the Roys are pretty industrious in spite of their wealth. Kendall and Roman occupy high positions at the company (though Roman rejoins the company after a period of unemployment at the beginning of the series). Shiv is a political strategist for the Democratic Party. Connor is the only Roy child who "does nothing," though he denies this description. In the second season, he starts a political campaign to run for president and produces a play. However, as much as they like to deny it, none of them are as talented as they think they are and all have more or less coasted to extremely influential jobs they haven't earned on the Roy name.
  • Not So Different: The case with all the Roy siblings.
    • All the siblings are disgusted by Connor bringing Willa to family occasions when she's a call girl who is paid to be with him. However, it's made clear over and over that Tom is marrying Shiv for her money and social standing (although he does genuinely love her) and that Rava is only putting up with Kendall - in Season 1, at least - in the hopes she can get a better divorce settlement out of him.
    • Shiv is very proud that she has a job separate from the Roy family money unlike Kendall and Roman, which she views as lazy (in Season 1, at least), but as Marcia scathingly puts it, she wouldn't have any of that if she wasn't a Roy.
    • The Pearces and the Roys seem completely different. The Pearces are liberal, very old money, and relatively harmonious. However, the Pearce empire is also troubled by money worries (as the Roy empire also is) and they jump at the offer of more money, even when it means betraying their values. There's even Naomi Pearce, who is a "recovering" addict with a troubled past like Kendall. However, see Not So Similar.
  • Not So Similar: However, the Pearces also genuinely believe in their own values, as shown when the cruise ship scandal finally gets too big to be ignored and Nan calls off the deal, to Logan's shock.
  • Nouveau Riche:
    • Tom thinks that Conspicuous Consumption is how you "be rich" and is marrying into his money.
    • Since Logan is a Self-Made Man, the Roys are new money as a family. The old-money Pierces regard them as crass.
  • Odd Couple: Tom and Greg are both outsiders to the Roys and often find themselves dealing with each other as a result. Tom quickly latches onto Greg, at first offering mocking camaraderie and bullying. Although this lessens up as the season goes on, which shows them exchanging moments of bonding in the finale.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Guaranteed.
    • Shiv is The Stoic and extremely cool and unemotional even by those standards, which makes it even more jarring and serious when she breaks down and begs Logan not to make Tom take the fall for the cruise ship scandal in Season 2.
    • Logan is a total violent asshole, so even his mumbled apology to Roman after hitting him hard shows an unusual streak of remorse and guilt over physical abuse (probably due to his own abusive past.)
  • Overly Preprepared Gag: Roman spends an episode trying to find out whether his exploding satellite caused any deaths that he'll be liable for, possibly incurring prison time. He eventually learns that the injuries were limited mostly to the loss of two thumbs. Later still, a relieved Roman celebrates with a Has Two Thumbs and... gag.
  • Parental Incest: Shiv visits Logan when he's doped up on morphine and confused, and when he takes her hand he tries to pull it towards his crotch. She's appropriately squicked out and leaves.
  • Patched Together from the Headlines: The warring family are the Murdochs (see No Celebrities Were Harmed for exactly how), but they also run theme parks and cruises that are heavily reminiscent of Disney Theme Parks and several high-profile controversies and speculations, such as the possibilities of cover-ups occurring within, especially in Season 2 when similar controversies become a major plot point. They also bear some striking resemblance to the Kennedys and then there's the fatal car crash.
  • Plausible Deniability:
    • Tom discovers that the cruise line division is covering up a wide range of crimes that occur on their ships, from systematic sexual harassment to murder. He is legally required to report this to the authorities, but if he does then it will cost Waystar-Royco millions in lawsuits and lost revenue. He lampshades the fact that by being so diligent he cost himself plausible deniability. If he stopped looking when he realized that something fishy was going on, he could truthfully say that he had no knowledge of any specific wrongdoing. Now, if he is ever forced to testify on the matter, he will be committing perjury if he denies knowledge. Similarly, if Tom tells anyone about what he found, that person will lose plausible deniability and will become part of the conspiracy.
    • Early in the series, Kendall thinks that some negative press about the situation at Waystar would help his case to be appointed acting CEO, but he can't be the source for such a story. He gets around this by calling Lawrence Yee to demand that Lawrence run no stories about Waystar and gratuitously insulting Lawrence in the process. This, of course, gets Kendall both the story he wants and an excuse if he's asked about it later.
  • Popularity Cycle: This is regarded as Logan's MO by all familiar with his methods:
    • He chooses a favorite (in Season 2, it's Rhea; Gerri is a past example) who can do no wrong before inevitably casting them aside when he gets bored with them — or even just when he gets them, as Shiv learns when he flatters her into joining Waystar-Royco before losing interest in her. Marcia is smart enough to call him out on this and his infatuation with Rhea — which is over before the end of the season because she doesn't drink — is what pushes her to leave him.
    • This is also one of Logan's favorite methods of "parenting" the kids that work with him. He promises Kendall the top job, but mobilizes Roman and the board as best he could against him when it poses a threat to him. He then promises Shiv his job, but loses interest. He even briefly promises Greg advancement to get an advantage over his brother Ewan. Shiv then tries to reassert herself by telling the Pierces she would be the successor, which drives Logan against her and compels him to name his usual least favorite, Roman, as his successor after Kendall appeared to take the fall for the cruise ship scandals.
  • Privilege Makes You Evil: Played with before being played straight. While the Roy kids haven't had an easy time of it (Logan is a horrible person who relentlessly criticizes, abuses, and scorns them) and we are encouraged to sympathize with them, it becomes clear that their massive wealth have given them all an outsized sense of importance and a means of avoiding consequences that lead to them perpetrating evil. For instance, Kendall is a very sympathetic character a lot of the time, but he still let a man die out of self-absorption and used his family's resources to cover it up.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Marcia gives one to Shiv in the penultimate episode of the first season, calling her out for being spoiled and entitled as she actively works against the one man who gave her the privilege to do so.
  • Recycled In Space: Borrows its premise from King Lear, with three children vying for the affections of their aging father and control of his empire.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: The curse of the Roy children, who have grown up pampered and unloved, so that they feel inadequate compared to the success of their father and seek his approval, but have been given none of the tools to actually achieve anything and earn that respect.
  • Running Gag:
    • Shiv calling Tom a "good guy" when people ask her why she's settling for him.
    • Tom's hatred for Cyd throughout Season 2.
    • "Greg the Egg" (which Caroline calls Greg at the wedding) becomes one in Season 2, too.
  • Scandalgate: Shiv refers to the incident at a public panel where she calls her father a "dinosaur" as "dinosaur-gate".
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Shiv tries to sink a negative story about her candidate by reminding the station pushing it that her family owns them.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Kendall's vote of no confidence. He works tirelessly, feeling a great deal of guilt, to organize against Logan. He then worries about one vote which isn't supposed to show up...and his anxious phone call ends up alerting the (very ill) board member that he's trying to keep her out of the meeting. This results in the numbers tipping against Kendall and he tries to fly out to see her. Due to a terrorist threat, he can't make it, but gets extremely late for his own meeting, having previously been very early. He ends up calling the vote via cell phone and running across New York to get there in time. This means that some of the people who would've voted for him lose their confidence in him, and enables Logan to bully his way into staying at the vote. Even Roman and Geri opt not to support Kendall due to his absence. Kendall gets there a minute too late, he loses the vote, and the board voter who he feared would vote against him? She voted in his favor anyway.
  • Self-Serving Memory:
    • Comes up when the guys all attend a bachelor party. Roman yells at Kendall over how, as a kid, Kendall would lock Roman in a cage and feed him dog food in a bowl, which made him "go weird" and eventually pushed Logan to send Roman to military school. Kendall claims it was a game and that Roman enjoyed it. When Roman snaps about it to Connor, Connor confirms that the cage was indeed a game they played together, and tells him that, as he remembers, the "dog food" was actually chocolate cake and the reason Logan sent him to military school was because Roman asked to go.
    • Logan criticizes Ewan for writing a begging letter for the farm he now owns. Ewan claims this wasn't the case and Logan seems to have no interest in the farm anyway.
  • Serious Business: Connor flips out because the butter is too hard at his charity event, "firing" his event manager and all of the staff during a tantrum. He then personally apologizes to various tables for the butter. In fact, when Logan asks why he's apologizing, Marcia replies with disdain that "the butter is frozen," showing that Connor's concern is probably well-founded. His guests really are that particular.
  • Shallow News Site Satire: Vaulter is a trendy online media brand recently acquired by media titan Waystar Royco. It seems loosely based on various media companies, such as Vulture (note the name), Vox (for its explanation articles), and Buzzfeed (for its clickbait). A visit to the Vaulter offices in season two shows that it is populated by young writers and has a fun, open-concept type of office. They have headlines like "Wait, Is Every Taylor Swift Lyric Secretly Marxist?" and "5 Reasons Why Drinking Milk on the Toilet Is Kind of a Game-Changer". However, the show portrays their business model as unstable, as they can artificially inflate data and are subject to the whims of the Facebook algorithm; by episode's end, Logan orders Kendall to dismantle it for being hogwash, and so the latter fires everyone and incorporates only their revenue-generating ideas into the greater Waystar portfolio.
  • Ship Tease: Between Gerri and Roman. In the second season the former helps the latter masturbate twice and Roman "proposes marriage" for the two of them to work together to take over Waystar-Royco.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Episode 6 of Season 1 is titled "Which Side Are You On?" after the Florence Reece song by the same name. A version of the track plays over the episode's ending.
    • Logan calls Greg "an Ichabod Crane fuck".
    • Kendall refers to his position at Waystar as being carried around in Logan's pocket like Stuart Little.
    • At various points in the show, Kendall is referred to as "Yuppie Robocop" and Ken.W.A..
    • Tom is called "the cunt of Monte Christo".
    • Frank quotes Shakespeare's Coriolanus.
    • Tom calls Greg "his little R2 unit" and "the talented Mr. Greg".
  • Soccer-Hating Americans: Roman listens in on in total confusion to a European business contact's plan for a soccer team:
    Eduard: Agent in Spain, big baller. I buy the club, he loans me nine shit-hot players. We climb the ladder, take the second Champions League space, UEFA goes full European super-league, flip it, walk away.
    Roman: I have no idea what you're talking about, but it sounds fucking slick, dude.
  • Spiritual Antithesis:
    • To The Righteous Gemstones; both are HBO comedies that air together on Sunday nights during the summer, each is about a Big, Screwed-Up Family involved in the media business, with the family members having more money than sense. Succession is set on the East Coast, and is darker and more dramatic in tone, while The Righteous Gemstones is lighter and set in the Deep South.
    • To Dallas and Dynasty, which were also about Big, Screwed-Up Families of oil tycoons. However, where the older shows are soap operas, Succession is more of a black comedy, with an "eat the rich" tone.
    • Succession is also a darker, less whimsical version of Arrested Development. Both shows center on an uber-rich Big, Screwed-Up Family of Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists who are constantly engaged in backstabbing and petty in-fighting, while trying to keep the family business (which involves some illegal activities) afloat. Both start the same way, with the second son and heir apparent informed that his father is staying on at the family business. There are even character parallels: Logan is George, as the family's terrible patriarch; Kendall is Michael, as said heir apparent and the only child with anything resembling a conscience; Roman is Gob, as the resident agent of chaos; Shiv is Lindsay, as the only daughter and the child with a career in politics; Tom is Tobias, a rube in an open marriage with said only daughter; Connor is Buster, as the weird, harmlessly insipid half-brother to the rest of the children; and Greg is George Michael, as the youngest and most naive/innocent of the characters.
  • Spiritual Successor: to Billions, another contemporary show about the conflicts of ultra-rich in New York City, which is likewise populated with morally bankrupt characters.
  • Stealth Insult: As a sharp-tongued British aristocrat, Caroline Collingwood is an expert at these. She notes how "clever" it is that Tom's middle-class parents are letting everyone at the wedding know that they bought the wine. Tom acknowledges that he's just been "stabbed."
  • Succession Crisis: It's even alluded to by the title. Logan postpones his retirement because he considers none of his four children as suitable heirs to his vast media empire, and the children repeatedly demonstrate this with their squabbling over who gets what and their dickish behavior in general. It's also invoked in that Logan loves to dangle the possibility of being his successor in their faces.
  • Take That!: ATN, a Bland-Name Product stand-in for Fox News, is repeatedly described as a right-wing propaganda platform rather than a genuine source for journalism. Of course, Logan and the head of ATN both strongly deny this charge.
  • Thicker Than Water:
    • Ewan Roy seems to despise his brother Logan, but he would never betray him. He is outraged when he finds out that Kendall and his siblings are conspiring against their father.
    • Greg is pretty much a stranger to Logan and his family, but he is Ewan's grandson, so he is given a job where he has access to Waystar-Royco's top executives and is used for sensitive tasks. Tom regards him as trustworthy because he's family, but also expendable, because he's only distant family.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Once learning about the company's dark secrets, one of Tom's first instincts is to come clean about the situation as a way of producing reform while saving the company's reputation. He is stopped, however, once it becomes clear to him that elements within the Roys' inner circle aim to shut down the possibility, and the second season has him frantically scrubbing any trace of evidence about it while actively helping the cover-up.
  • Trauma Conga Line
    • Kendall in the second season, due to being completely under Logan's control. He's made to give an embarrassingly inadequate explanation for backing out of his plot on live TV, forced to completely destroy his pet project, repeatedly falls off the wagon and generally has to act as nothing more than a defeated puppet and spy for his father. When confronted about one of his actions, he can only summon a miserable, pathetic, "My Dad told me to."
    • Roman, over the course of the third and fourth episodes of the second season. His attempts at impressing Logan by going behind his back to try to work out a deal with the Pierce family backfires horribly and nearly ruins his father's plans, and Kendall spies on him for Logan to find out that he was considering talking to the biographer. This leaves him a pathetic, sniveling mess begging for his father's approval, who dismissively calls him an out-of-touch moron. Following Gerri's advice, Roman enters a management training program, which turns out to be a hokey ground-floor operation that puts him in one of the Waystar-Royco theme parks as a mascot — ironically, the same character he had raged against in the first season.
  • Unwanted Assistance: In Season 2, when Tom finagles high-end promotions for himself and Greg to the company's Fox News-styled network. While it's obvious that Tom brought Greg along mainly to continue to have him as his "gofer," he also believes he is doing the best for both of them. Greg, for his own part, states he would have been happier back in the Parks division, as the politics of the network conflicts with his morals.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Greg is prepared to stay loyal to Logan, losing hundreds of millions in inheritance from his grandfather in the process, but Tom and Connor mock the idea of his consolation $5 million being any kind of decent money. This is partly what makes Greg decide to turn around and help Kendall to expose Logan.
  • Villain Has a Point: Logan makes it clear to Kendall that he finds him incompetent as well as untrustworthy due to his history as an addict. Kendall falls off the wagon (albeit due to his plot to oust Logan failing and Logan firing him) and makes some of his worst mistakes while using again, including accidentally getting someone killed.
  • Villain Protagonist: Logan Roy is essentially the villain of the series, with all of his awful family as the antiheroes who have been ruined by a life in his influence.
  • Visual Metaphor: Lawrence Yee tells Kendall that he'd never do business with the Roys, then steps into the elevator and rubs sanitizer on his hands, literally washing his hands of the family.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Kendall and Stewy go way back, and hang out together as friends even though Kendall openly sees Stewy as an untrustworthy parasite.
  • Wacky Startup Workplace: Vaulter, the trendy media brand recently acquired by Waystar Royco. While we see their "renovated warehouse"-look open-concept office, Roman comments they have 'beehives upstairs', implying other trendy amenities we don't see.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: All the Roy children. Roman openly is desperate for any kind of attention or approval from Logan, Kendall desires respect from him even when he's working against him, and even Connor in his own way doesn't like to go against Logan. Shiv becomes more of this in the second season, when she becomes desperate to be Logan's successor.
  • We Used to Be Friends: After Logan forces Kendall to screw over Stewy in the second season, their old friendship falls apart and Stewy spends the season trying to ruin Waystar-Royco wherever possible.
  • Wedding Episode: The first season finale is set across Shiv and Tom's wedding.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Which Side Are You On?" Kendall's motion for a vote of no confidence finally happens and it fails when traffic forces him to arrive late and Logan refuses to leave the room, pressuring Roman into abstaining and then refusing his attempt to vote. Logan stays on as chairman and fires half the board that voted to remove him, including Kendall, who's left shell-shocked on a busy street in New York.
    • The first season finale, where an innocent minor character dies as a result of one of the leads, and Logan regains power and control in the end.
  • Wham Line
    • Logan telling Kendall that his keycard was found near the scene of the accident where the young caterer was killed, and one of his assistants spotted Kendall with a compromising appearance. Not only does it mean Logan knew about the accident, which Kendall had thought he had gotten away with, but Logan is also fully prepared to weaponize it as blackmail. Kendall's winning strategy with Sandy has to fall through and he's left completely at the mercy of Logan, knowing that if the truth got out it would ruin him forever.
    • In the second season premiere Kendall learns from security that the waiter he was involved with in the accident was alive and conscious at the time of the crash and had tried to free himself, so when Kendall hid from a passing car and built an alibi instead of getting help, he really did kill him.
    • In "Tern Haven" Shiv's "Oh for fuck's sake, Dad, just tell them it's gonna be me"
    • In the second season finale, Kendall seems to be preparing to take the fall for the cruises scandal, until he adds a "But..." and then dives into exposing Logan's involvement in the cover-up on live TV.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A non-scifi example. During the cruises scandal, crimes involving dead migrant and sex workers were callously filed under "NRPI" — "no real person involved." Logan also refers to the dead waiter from the first season as "NRPI" which also motivates the still-guilty Kendall to take his very public stand against him.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Zigzagged by Kendall's accident. When trapped in a sinking car, Kendall manages to escape and surface, but immediately dives down again and makes several efforts to save the car's driver before relenting due to exhaustion. There was no one to witness what happened, so he could have worried only about himself. However, once on land, Kendall immediately begins to cover his tracks to avoid responsibility for the accident.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Tom to Shiv's lover at his wedding. After a season of the latter mocking him both behind his back and in front of it, Tom takes no little pleasure in utterly humiliating him at the reception before having him escorted out.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Logan makes no bones about showing that he feels this way about all his kids.
  • Wicked Step Mother: The Roy kids all distrust Marcia, their father's current wife. They suspect that she's manipulating him to get more power and wealth for herself. One of the precipitating incidents of the show is Logan trying to install her as an additional trustee. When Logan falls ill, the Roys are suspicious when she doesn't let anyone see him, and they discuss how they know almost nothing about her.
  • Women Are Wiser: Seemingly played straight before being subverted. Shiv likes to appear above it all while her brothers argue, Marcia is in general a coolheaded conspirator for Logan, and Geri is a highly respected board member who manages to end up on the winning side all the time. But Shiv proves that she's no wiser than her brothers by leaving her own career to fall in with Logan's mind games, and then loses Logan's respect, just like her brothers, by asking him to spare Tom from the cruise ship scandal, and Geri has managed to be successful due to canny exploitation of her circumstances (such as her evasion of betraying Logan despite promising Kendall she would during the no-confidence vote)).
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: When Logan browbeats Roman into abstaining from casting the deciding vote of no-confidence, he calls him "Romulus," which seems to be a childhood nickname; Logan uses it more in the second season, usually when twisting Roman's arm.


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