Review: Season Two Of SUCCESSION Is Ruthlessly Entertaining

FIRST IMPRESSION

Full of the same sharp satire as season one but with more of an emotional punch, HBO's Succession remains one of the most strongly-acted shows on TV.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

After a highly-acclaimed first season, creator Jesse Armstrong’s satire of the media world, Succession, returns to HBO this summer with a second season that manages to double down on the sharp wit of the first season. Offering a unique blend of humor and unnerving tension, this truly is one of the most intelligent shows on television right now.

The second season picks up soon after the first one left off, with the Roy family attempting to clean up the mess after Kendall (Jeremy Strong) attempts to carry out a “bear hug” acquisition of the family company. Apart from one or two brief exposition dumps that are used to remind viewers of important events from the last season, very little time is wasted trying to reestablish the world. Instead, you are drawn into the world as a result of the continuing and shifting dynamics between the characters.

The patriarch of the family, played wonderfully by Brian Cox, is even more fun to watch this season than the last. Whereas season one was primarily about his children trying to oust him from the company, the storyline of this season gives him plenty of room to shine. Cox’s performance is one of the best parts of this show, the definition of awards-worthy, and you will be left trembling by the intimidating power of his delivery in more than one scene.

That said, with the increased focus on Logan, there is less time to be spent with his children. Kendall (Jeremy Strong), who was arguably the protagonist in the first season, is given significantly less to do in these new episodes. It is certainly a bit disappointing that the series did not continue to develop the arc that was started for him at the end of last season with more depth, but sacrifices had to be made in order to expand some of the other characters.

For example, Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) gets a much larger role in this season. Her storyline was always an interesting part of the series, and the writers seem to have realized her potential as a deeper character. Her storyline this season does a great job of exploring and evaluating the patriarchal structure of the business world with far more depth than before. Hopefully the rest of the season will follow suit.

Roman (Kieran Culkin) also has a more complex storyline. Although the commentary associated with his character doesn’t seem as deep or timely, it does show the potential to go somewhere in future episodes. Of course, Culkin is a very talented actor, and he does a great job of adding a deadpan sarcasm to the series, which makes it all the more enjoyable. Whenever he comes on screen, you know that something very funny is about to happen.

succession roys
Season 2, episode 3 (debuts 8/25/19): Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, Brian Cox, Peter Friedman. Photo: Peter Kramer/HBO.

And of course, what was likely the single funniest part of season one — the dynamic between Tom (Matthew Macfayden) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) — is continued in a glorious fashion in season two. Macfayden and Braun have phenomenal chemistry together, and it’s just wonderful to watch them bouncing lines off of each other. Their antics are even crazier this season than they were in the first, so if you are a fan of this relationship, be prepared to eat up even more drama.

Some of the other side characters from the first season, such as Stewy (Arian Moayed) and Marcia (Hiam Abbass), aren’t really given as much to do in the new episodes. Perhaps some of this is the result of scheduling conflicts, or maybe the writers didn’t feel the need to explore these characters anymore. Whatever the cause, there are a few characters that are missed.

There are also some new additions to the mix, from recurring roles to guest spots, some of which are more useful than others. Gifted character actor Danny Huston is new to the series, but he isn’t given much to do. Other fresh faces include Holly Hunter and Cherry Jones, both of whom add a unique flair to their respective episodes.

Also worthy of note is that this season seems to be more well-shot than the last. The first season felt a bit grittier, with more handheld camerawork and rough editing. Although this helped create the tense and energetic feel of the shifting power dynamics, this season, which focuses more on familial relationships, is a bit more warm and welcoming. Nicholas Brittell’s score is still one of the best in all of TV, too.

If you are a fan of the first season of Succession, you are sure to be pleased by season two. It offers some of the same pleasures, but in a different way. Featuring some of the greatest performances and sharpest dialogue of any show on right now, this is a show you will want to keep on your radar come awards season.

Season two of Succession debuts on HBO on Sunday, August 11 at 9pm ET/PT. (Five out of ten episodes reviewed.)

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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