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So what is it about this show, yet another in a long line about selfish one-percenters trying to outdo each other’s depravity, that sucked me and so many others in this completely? Why do we care which member of a family based on the Murdochs — one of America’s most insidious dynasties, period — might come out on top of an empire built on corruption and deceit? Why do we enjoy watching them scrabble for security amongst themselves when their baseline is so completely despicable? What is, as the show’s terrifying patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) would say, the protein of the “Succession” obsession?
“Shakespearean” is also one of the best ways to describe the airtight structure of “Succession.” While the first season was strong, the second proved masterful with its command of pace and themes. It dropped hints that weren’t exactly subtle, but didn’t need to be when the payoff was so satisfying. It picked up seemingly stray threads, like the ticking time bomb of the company’s disastrous cruise division, with purpose and clear intent. It began and ended with prodigal son Kendall (a constantly simmering Jeremy Strong) giving a press conference at his father’s command, to dramatically different and equally important results. It traced the moral descent of characters like headstrong daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook), laying the groundwork for her embrace of power so that when she sacrifices an innocent woman to do it, it’s as disgusting as it feels inevitable. Comparisons of the show to “Game of Thrones” have proved tempting — both do revolve around warring families who slash and burn in pursuit of a throne — but “Succession” is far better at laying groundwork to earn its surprises. “Game of Thrones” routinely leaned on obscuring character motivations in order to shock its audience out of...
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