The television show Succession ended its run on Sunday to much public acclaim and personal confusion—in tandem with a sense of dread for what is next for mainstream culture. (Spoilers for the show ahead.)
I’d watched the first season out of curiosity and found it generally loathsome and pointless. There were one or two interesting moments, but for the most part the squabbling amongst the family members or the business partners (or both) felt shallow and inconsequential. A lack of compassion can make for an interesting character in an entourage, but when it’s literally the entire cast, there’s just no reason to watch.
After hearing rave reviews of this season, the fourth and final, I went back and re-watched the show from the beginning. Now that it’s all over, I still have no fucking clue what all the fuss was about. This was a ‘prestige drama’ that had no stakes. Everyone was filthy rich and had absolutely nothing to lose—by the end credits, every character is still a multi-millionaire and multi-billionaire. The power they held felt trivial because the consequences of their actions largely took place off-screen. This may be applicable to what it’s like for the ultra-wealthy to make choices in reality, but it makes for piss-poor television.
I could pick at the details, but another major gripe is that their business world felt completely foreign. This was an abject failure on the part of the show. I’ve never lived in the ‘wild west,’ but watching Deadwood, I found myself immersed in it. Succession takes place parallel to this moment in time and, outside of the recognizably fancy cars, never crafted a dialogue with the audience that invited a comprehension of media moguls.
It seems fitting to me that as the show ended, HBO became a tab in the new max streaming service—fallout from Discovery’s acquisition of the brand in 2022. Since then, no agendas were hidden:
“We all love HBO, and it’s a brand that has been built over five decades” to stand for “edgy, groundbreaking entertainment for adults,” [president and CEO of global streaming and games for Warner Bros. Discovery JB] Perrette said. “But it’s not exactly where parents would most eagerly drop off their kids. And yet Warner Bros. Discovery has some of the best-known kids’ characters, animation and brands in the industry. Not surprisingly, the category has not met his true potential on HBO Max.”
This cultural moment we exist in seems perfectly parallel to Succession and this max streaming service—making more out of less, dressing up emptiness in polish, and vying for relevance while lacking creative reach. The kids on the TV show were handed everything and managed to fuck it all up because they had no appreciation for anything—much the way Discovery is doing with HBO. In the end, it’s not dramatic, or even tragic. It’s just a depressing waste of time.