CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the opening to the third season of SUCCESSION 

Succession 

Rating:

Welcome back to the Logan Roy Show. The vicious, bullying, billionaire mogul, that monstrous thug controlling a global media empire, has completed a hostile takeover of his own TV serial.

Despite a Senate probe into his odious business practices and two attempts by his son to oust him, as well as a near-fatal stroke, Logan remains the towering force at the centre of Succession (Sky Atlantic).

His four children and the other characters – wives and ex-wives, rivals, henchmen – circle him like anxious jackals and vultures gathering to fight for scraps around a lion gorging on its prey.

This was not how Succession was meant to pan out. As actor Brian Cox revealed in the Daily Mail on Saturday, when he signed up he expected that his character would be written out after the first year.

Despite a Senate probe into his odious business practices and two attempts by his son to oust him, as well as a near-fatal stroke, Logan remains the towering force at the centre of Succession (Sky Atlantic), writes Christopher Stevens

Despite a Senate probe into his odious business practices and two attempts by his son to oust him, as well as a near-fatal stroke, Logan remains the towering force at the centre of Succession (Sky Atlantic), writes Christopher Stevens

Despite a Senate probe into his odious business practices and two attempts by his son to oust him, as well as a near-fatal stroke, Logan remains the towering force at the centre of Succession (Sky Atlantic), writes Christopher Stevens

The clue is in the title. All the emphasis was originally meant to be on the internecine warfare of the siblings – emotionally-damaged Kendall (Jeremy Strong), conflicted Shiv (Sarah Snook), feral Roman (Kieran Culkin) and fruit loop Connor (Alan Ruck). But the spectacle of Logan’s volcanic anger is too mesmeric for his creators to allow him to fade.

Every time we think he has burned out, the red-hot lava erupts again.

At one point as the third series begins – in an episode aired here at 2am this morning, simultaneously with the US screening, and repeated in the UK tonight – the ageing boss appears befuddled.

He’s mislaid his phone. He is quiet, distant, almost vacant. Shiv and Roman watch him from across the room, out of the corner of their eyes, whispering: ‘He’s toast. Is he toast?’

At one point as the third series begins ¿ in an episode aired here at 2am this morning, simultaneously with the US screening, and repeated in the UK tonight ¿ the ageing boss appears befuddled

At one point as the third series begins ¿ in an episode aired here at 2am this morning, simultaneously with the US screening, and repeated in the UK tonight ¿ the ageing boss appears befuddled

At one point as the third series begins – in an episode aired here at 2am this morning, simultaneously with the US screening, and repeated in the UK tonight – the ageing boss appears befuddled

And then, with a snarl, he’s awake and in control, and those rebellious children are scrambling to serve him like waiters bringing room service to a tyrannical guest.

In a show renowned for its lacerating and occasionally shocking dialogue, where the cast are encouraged to shoot half a dozen versions of scenes with different sweary put-downs, Logan has all the most quotable lines. Phoning Kendall, who has just appeared before the world’s cameras to denounce his father for covering up rape and murder, the old man finds himself talking to a secretary.

She asks if she can take a message. ‘Tell him,’ Logan growls, ‘I’m going to grind his f*****g bones to make my bread.’ He’s a fairytale ogre and he’s relishing every filthy mouthful. Cox has a simple technique to heighten the drama. Like a child twiddling the volume control, he surges from a whisper to a bellow and back again, almost as often as he draws breath.

When a desperate executive asks if they can stop moving long enough to eat, Logan asks quietly: ‘Food?’ And then he roars: ‘Swallow! We’re on saliva and adrenaline here.’

In a show renowned for its lacerating and occasionally shocking dialogue, where the cast are encouraged to shoot half a dozen versions of scenes with different sweary put-downs, Logan has all the most quotable lines

In a show renowned for its lacerating and occasionally shocking dialogue, where the cast are encouraged to shoot half a dozen versions of scenes with different sweary put-downs, Logan has all the most quotable lines

In a show renowned for its lacerating and occasionally shocking dialogue, where the cast are encouraged to shoot half a dozen versions of scenes with different sweary put-downs, Logan has all the most quotable lines

Even the US President isn’t safe from this fury. After the leader of the Western World side-steps a phone call, Logan refuses to talk to anyone else at the White House: ‘I don’t speak to the babysitter!’ Small wonder his children are nervous wrecks. The new series opens with Kendall in a New York bathroom, shaking with fear at his own audacity in betraying his father. To calm himself, he curls up in the bathtub in a foetal ball. Jeremy Strong’s portrayal of mental disintegration is the most disturbing element in the show.

Logan is half-way around the world, flying over the Balkans with a pair of helicopters that swoop and cross each other’s paths in an aerial ballet. When they land, his senior executives stagger out on to the tarmac, both air sick and shellshocked by their boss’s seismic mood swings.

The most devious of them, Frank the lawyer (Peter Friedman), sums up the flight: ‘I got fired, he got fired, she got promoted, I got rehired, she got demoted.’ That’s the whole story. No one ever wins or loses for long because Logan is playing them all against each other, spinning them like plates.

You could skip half a dozen episodes and pick up the story almost where you left it – except that you’d miss so many subtle shifts of allegiance. One character stands slightly outside the frenzy. Dimwit nephew Greg (Nicholas Braun) is happy just to get through the day without being savaged, though he has no clue how to achieve this.

You could skip half a dozen episodes and pick up the story almost where you left it ¿ except that you¿d miss so many subtle shifts of allegiance. One character stands slightly outside the frenzy

You could skip half a dozen episodes and pick up the story almost where you left it ¿ except that you¿d miss so many subtle shifts of allegiance. One character stands slightly outside the frenzy

You could skip half a dozen episodes and pick up the story almost where you left it – except that you’d miss so many subtle shifts of allegiance. One character stands slightly outside the frenzy

There’s a hilarious scene on a New York street with Kendall surrounded by baying TV reporters, and Greg struggling behind him. He’s clearly been told to say nothing to the Press because he’s yelling: ‘No comment! No comment!’ like he’s trying to hail a taxi in an alien language. Ever since we first met Greg, bumbling around one of his family’s theme parks in a cartoon costume, he has been a lamb among the wolves, protected by his own innocence – but for how long?

Perhaps his destiny echoes that of the helpless young Bran Stark in Game Of Thrones … to be ignored by the warring factions, until finally he is crowned king.

The other characters are too busy fighting each other to see him. They’re so intent on their enemies they don’t dare allow their concentration to slip for a moment. They all know Logan will never relinquish power as long as he has a pulse, but they’re addicted to the drama of it – just as we are.

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