Does Succession hate the super-rich? Does it really?
This should be an easy question to answer, given the cruel and petty loathsomeness of the show’s protagonists, a reckless gang of vindictive, comic sociopaths. But if you make it past the pilot — in which, among other things, middle-son Roman tears up a million-dollar check just to mock a working class child — you will suddenly realize that you’ve started to sympathize with these extremely bad people. Over the course of that first season, you will find yourself following Kendall’s quest to be his father’s son with interest — even rooting for his takeover(s) to succeed — and you’ll laugh at Roman’s jokes; you will feel for passed-over daughter Siobhan, clearly the smartest of the lot, and you may sympathize with Greg and Tom, the show’s most hapless and out-of-their-depth characters. You will probably even catch yourself grudgingly respecting the family patriarch, Logan Roy, for his steely, unsentimental empire-building resolve as he shakes himself out of illness to seize back his kingdom. You will do this because, like it or not, they are the show’s protagonists; if you keep watching, there is no alternative.
It is amazing who you can be made to sympathize with, if you are made to watch them suffer. So we see the Roy children suffer, each in their own precisely-crafted hell. Kendall, most obviously, is driven by his desperate insufficiency, a need to please and be loved by his weakness-hating father that ensures that he will never succeed. Roman’s infantile humor prevents him from being taken seriously by anyone (from which he retreats into infantile humor), while eldest brother Connor’s secret belief in his intellectual superiority can only survive in secret, where it can never be recognized. In the second season, it seems, we will focus on Siobhan, whose gender dooms her to be one of the many not-quite-Roys that orbit the family patriarch, and who has finally given into the hopeless hope that she could be accepted (my prediction is that she will, of course, be frustrated and betrayed by her father). Above them all reigns Logan himself, an abusive father who hates his children for the wealth and ease he’s given them, and who — consciously or unconsciously — drives them to betrayal, the only form of love he can respect.