Next Story

Power, family and conspiracy

Patriarch of HBO’s widely acclaimed show Succession creates and desires an epic hero to be successor to his empire

By Khizer Asif |
PUBLISHED December 26, 2021

HBO's show, Succession, is a breed of its own. Media mogul Logan Roy has pitted his children against each other to see who will succeed him and take over his company. A situational comedy (and in some circles a dramedy) that has its characters attempt being well-calculated and serious—albeit their failed attempts. Those attempts are a satire to the classical depictions of the business world and those at the apex. One classical depiction is Gorden Gekko's character, who epitomises Wall Street and capitalism, characterised by his decisiveness, ambition, manipulativeness, and ruthlessness. Whereas Logan’s children are prone to having hissy fits (Kendall), are indecisive (Roman), disinterested in work (Connor) and are impetuous (Shiv). It is because of these traits the kids(an apt description of their characteristics) are not able to win the favour of Logan, who is dismissive of the idea of naming any of them as his successor.

Yet, the children aren't only filled with bad traits. Kendall, for instance, is the most business-savvy among the four children, whereas Shiv is the most decisive and Roman with his charisma. Connor is considered “the first pancake” of the siblings, meaning his purpose and strengths pale into comparison, and his involvement is usually neutral, refusing to participate in the king of the hill fight amongst the family.

However, Logan’s egotistical and ruthless nature perceives himself as a role that can never be replaced and requires impossibly high standards for those who want to succeed. It is a narrative mould that Logan has created through the 60 years he spent building his company, and as per the characteristics of a mould—only one can fit.

‘I don’t want to call my dad’

During the first moment of season 1, Kendall is asked by a well-meaning employee whether he needs to call his father to help close an important deal with a media company. To which Kendall responds with, “Do I want to call my dad? No, I don’t want to call my dad. Do you want to call your dad?” The phrase, Do you want to call your dad? defines the pivot in the power dynamic–Logan. Logan’s children are at his beck and call, their decisions, relationships, jobs and stake at the company; all micromanaged by their father. Micromanagement, pushing the narrative and empty words are just the tip of the iceberg on Logan controlling the narrative of his children's lives.

Logan demands respect and dominion over anyone he views below himself---which is everyone. The main reason for control is to control the words and the story changing public perception of him, including those closest to him. For the public, he is a great benefactor to the world and to his employees, their overlord. Pushing his narrative and will, such as having a premade obituary that portrays him as humble and kind. He forces a story before his death, another show of prioritising on building his narrative.

In season 1, episode 6, Kendall attempts to forcefully take his father’s position by holding a board meeting to vote of no confidence. The reason for his removal is because his recent bizarre behaviour and bad business decisions make him unfit for the role of chairman. Besides the failure at this attempt, this scene is important as it depicts Logan’s towering personality, derailing them and controlling the vote by bullying them into keeping him as the chairman.

When the vote turned to Roman on his decision, Logan states aloud, “You better be smelling you f***ing armpit, Romulus.” Logan was commenting on Roman hesitantly raising his hand as he was about to vote against his father. Logan again pushes the narrative by cutting his son off mid-sentence saying, “Roman for me.” Whilst Frank (the COO) complains that this isn’t legal for Logan to be in the room, Logan replies, “Whatever. If you count ‘em out. Deadlock. Continuity prevails. I’m chairman. Casting vote. I win. It’s f***ing over!” The way Logan reacts to the words used, regardless of whether they are right or wrong, shows that he only sees validity in his words, and everyone else’s is meaningless. If words have no meaning to Logan, this would mean he can't trust nor believe the empty words that come from his family.

Sausages: not the kind you want to eat

Kendall, Shiv and Roman were raised in an environment created by Logan filled with lies and deceit. They are unable to communicate healthily without making it into a mind-game. Gaslighting, belittlement and other forms of abuse are the hallmarks of the Roy family's dynamic and Logan in the centre of it.

The word "succession" in terms of ecology (from a quick Google search) means the process by which a plant or animal community successively gives way to another until a stable climax is reached. A clever title for the show and is the perfect representation of the Roy family. The constant bickering, fighting for control, and inability to decide on the victor. Logan only stokes the fire for these kinds of fights and even starts it.

In season 2, episode 3, the Roy family and friends are having dinner and halfway through the dinner; Logan accuses Karl, Tom and Greg of talking to a reporter about him. Forcing them to do a performance called Boar on the Floor. Logan, then commanding the three, says:

Logan: Oink for you sausages, piggies. Shh. Shh. Shh. Oink for your sausages, piggies. Oink.

Karl: Oh, Jesus Christ.

Logan: Oink for your sausage, Tom. Oink.

Tom: Oink.

Logan: No. No half-hearted oink.

Tom: I'm not doing it.

Karl: Oink, oink, oink.

Logan: On the count of three, the last piggy to eat a sausage is the mole.

Tom: That doesn't seem like a very good system...

This utterly hilarious scene, although cruel in intent, provides the audience with the chaos that Logan instigates. By reading the transcript of the scene alone, it can be seen as childish. If the lines were given out of context, the audience would intuitively believe that kids played a game involving pigs and sausages. It is silly for an 80 year old man to tell adults to oink for sausages. Metaphorically, the sausage is a phallic symbol, and it is Logan's way of asserting his male dominance. With the silliness of the scene, the attempt by Logan seems less about his manliness; instead, he appears threatened about the betrayal—who is later found out to be his son Roman. Logan's male projection and accusation are empty words representing the fear and anxiety he feels that there is a mole in his circle and he doesn’t know who.

A Neverending epic

In terms of succession, the Ambani family share a similar situation concerning dividing the fortune amongst the children. Mukesh Ambani decided on following the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart) on how they passed 80 percent of the family business and evenly shared it with the four children. This way of passing wealth allows the Walton family to retain majority ownership of the Wal-Mart while maintaining an even spread of the money to each child. Ambani took a step further and has employed his children and wife in his company. This transfer of wealth ensures that his family will gain competency in dealing with the fortune added that they can run the company without him.

Ambani is preparing for his eventual death, whereas Logan does not want to stop living the story of which he is the hero. It is like his story is of the hero Beowulf, who had to vanquish monster after monster, but in Logan’s case, it’s his competitors and now his family. Logan’s unwillingness to let go of his role is another sign of his insecurity of being forgotten. Logan creating conflict and never relinquishing allows him a glorious death like episodic heroes. When Logan discovers that Kendall is planning to announce his retirement during the RECNY Ball, he again forces his narrative, stops Kendall’s speech, and announces, “I’m back.” If these were words of a hero, it follows the popular trope of heroes never dying and always coming back at the end. In the “Chiantishire” episode, Logan speaks to Kendall about the gravity and importance he plays, saying, "Not everyone can live this life. I'm a great revolutionary. A bit of f*cking spice. Bit of fun...A bit of truth." This affirmation is him writing the story of his narrative where he is the main character, and everyone else are the side characters.

The hero in Logan’s story emulates the characteristics of being manipulative, cunning, and ruthless, which conveniently Logan checks out on all of these aspects. Logan may never let anyone take his throne; he might want to let his legacy succeed him instead.