‘Succession’ Returns For Season 3 With The Family At War And The Battle Lines Drawn (In Pencil)

Succession is back, finally, after almost exactly two full years away. The extended absence is understandable considering, well … [gestures toward entire world] … but it still stung. The show was a blast in its second season, just stuffed full of the worst people you’ve ever seen trying to destroy each other for an hour at a time, and also Cousin Greg, a sweet lanky boy who is in so far over his head that he needs a periscope to see dry land. It was so good. A reasonable argument can be made that Succession holds the title belt as Greatest Show On Television, even now, 24 months and 7,000 shows later. There is definitely no show that is more fun to talk about. I’ve missed it all — the show, the discussion, the screencaps littering my social media feeds — very much. This is all good news.

But before we get to the new season, it would be good to take a minute and remember where things stand. The season two finale blew things up a bit. Logan (Brian Cox) set up Kendall (Jeremy Strong) to take the fall for the massive cruise ship scandal but Kendall called an audible and aired out all the family business during a press conference. Tom (Matthew McFayden) confronted Shiv (Sarah Snook) about his problems with their marriage. Roman (Kieren Culkin) and Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) started a kind of fling — still strange, but the official stance of this review is that “we are rooting for them,” if only for the lols — and Roman was set to nab a big promotion before Kendall blew things up. Connor (Alan Ruck) and Willa (Justine Lupe) were nowhere to be found because her big play was bombing spectacularly. Cousin Greg was darting around in perpetual panic like a goldfish in a piranha tank. Sandy (Larry Pine) and Stewy (Arian Moayed) were trying to stage a coup among the investors. Karl (David Rasche) had a panic attack.

The long and short of it all is that, as season three opens, the Roy family is at war. This is bad news for the Roys and probably for their media empire, but it is really just terrific for us. Have you missed hearing Logan Roy grumble/shout the f-word at anyone who displeases him even a little? Have you missed watching Kendall flail about like a kite in a monsoon as he tries to stake out territory as his own person separate from his powerful dad? Do you want to hear a flustered Greg say the phrase “nice memes”? It brings me great pleasure to report that all of that is coming your way in the near future.

You knew some of that, though. You’ve seen the trailer. But let’s post it again anyway.

The good folks at HBO made it quite clear that they would very much prefer I not reveal anything specific or even semi-vague about the third season, but I think can say a few things without getting yelled at:

  • The family immediately starts drawing battle lines in the Logan v. Kendall showdown
  • The battle lines appear to be drawn in pencil, not pen, because the only thing characters on this show do better than wreck their own lives is conspire to wreck each others’
  • There are helicopters, because there are always helicopters
  • At one point Kendall looks at a concerned potential co-conspirator and asks the following question: “Wondering if you tied your dick to a runaway train?”

This last thing gets us to something important: Succession has a way with language unlike any other show on television. I could have spent this entire review just quoting my favorite lines from the new season. I didn’t, in part because you have a right to hear them with fresh ears and in part because they’re not as fun without the kind of full-ish context that gets filed under “spoilers,” but still. I’m excited for you to see them. Succession is the rare show that does not need physical action — car chases, gunplay, dragon and/or alien attacks — to be scintillating and addictive television. It just needs two people who don’t like each other and/or a third person offscreen. It’s a heck of a trick.

There’s more good news, too. We have new characters. The show has always had a great eye for casting (Fisher Stevens as a communication executive, James Cromwell as Logan’s cranky older brother, Holly Freaking Hunter as a friendly/rvial CEO), and that vision shows no signs of deteriorating. Alexander Skarsgard comes in as a tech CEO whose icy Skarsgardian stare might launch one thousand GIFs. Sanaa Latham plays a big-deal lawyer who wears fashionable glasses and who both sides try to woo to their side. Adrien Brody shows up as a billionaire activist investor, which is notable for many reasons but mostly because it is startling to realize Adrien Brody had not already been a guest star on Succession. He was born for this, the same way he was born to play a toothpick-and-scenery-chomping Italian mobster on Peaky Blinders, which is also something that happened recently. Sometimes we are all blessed in ways we are not prepared to comprehend. It’s still good to try to acknowledge it. That’s all this is.

The takeaways of this review should be threefold, I hope, if I’ve done my job reasonably well. Let’s go back to the bullet points, just to be safe:

  • If you enjoyed the first two seasons of Succession, the third season appears to be cooking up another stew you’ll love, complete with anarchy and alliances and poison-tipped turns of phrase that will make you do an evil little supervillain cackle on your couch
  • I need you to watch it because I’m a few episodes ahead and not being able to discuss certain plot points with everyone is killing me
  • After the cold open of the premiere, when the opening credits started and the first little piano sting of the show’s top-shelf theme song hit, I broke out into a gigantic cheesy smile that lasted for almost two minutes

I know I didn’t say anything in this review that tipped off that last thing explicitly, but I feel safe in saying it was implied throughout. I’m so happy this show is back. I think you will be, too, when it hits HBO on Sunday, October 17 at 9 PM sharp. Let’s all buckle in and watch these monsters tear each other apart. We’ve all been through a lot since 2019. We’ve earned this. We deserve this.

Hit the music.