I watch Succession like a Jacobin Linus Van Pelt, yearning for the Great Pumpkin to appear, bearing guillotines. I hate every character in Succession but I’ve nonetheless watched every episode, hoping against hope that I’ll finally see the Roy family executed in a public square. When that glorious episode comes at last, here’s the ideal the order of how the Roy family heads will roll.
Roman’s a caustic sexual deviant lacking empathy or tact. Nonetheless, he’s displayed a scintilla of personal growth. As such, he’s the least awful Roy. To be sure, he had a lot of room to grow: the first episode he mocks a domestic worker’s family with a cruel wager. His subsequent humiliations—professional failures, impotence, getting held hostage by terrorists—rattled him. He’s slough off a layer of smarm and sociopathy, at least temporarily. And recommending his Roystar management course class partner for promotion is the only time we’ve seen a Roy be nice to someone outside their immediate family.
Compared to the Roy family, cousin Greg is an innocent naif. The truth is he’s likeable because he’s stupid and polite. In virtually any other context than the Roys be the most vile person in the room. Despite his winning social awkwardness, Roy DNA courses through him. He was cunning and self serving during the cruise scandal, using a trove of information to his personal advantage instead of going public. The maneuvering wasn’t merely against the public’s interest; it was pointless. As we learned this season, if Greg had spent years quietly waiting for his grandfather’s death, $250 million would’ve landed in his lap. If he’d done the right thing, he could’ve lived off the royalties of a tell-all book until the multi-million dollar windfall arrived.
Watching Kendall suffer throughout the second season makes him seem sympathetic. But as season one showed, Kendall is a monster. And his pain doesn’t make him any less a monster. A monster doesn’t cease to be monstrous when they’re sad. Before his fall, he was a power-tripping cokehead trying to backstab his way into usurping a media empire who fled a vehicular homicide scene. He was the same person afterwards, only mopier.
The Roy family patriarch is tyrant who’s had a profound negative impact on his family and the world. He’s loyal to no one and nothing but power. But he doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what he is and his lack of illusions is just enough to edge out other more self-deluding family members.
Tom made a Faustian bargain he’s come to regret. He wanted a place at the Roy family table but once there, the Roys don’t even bother to hide their contempt for him. He’d be sympathetic if he wasn’t such a stupid and heartless gasbag whose only skills are toadying up to power and innovating new forms of bullying. Time and again he’s unable to think on his feet or offer a coherent original thought but he has the hazing season in the frat-house basement instinct to use people as footstools.
In the first season of Succession, Marcia tells Siobhan that her father made her a playground that she thought was the whole world. For all of the show’s brutal invective, that’s probably the line that cuts the deepest. Shiv thinks she’s more moral than the family’s business and was smart enough to escape it. She doesn’t realize she’d be nothing without it. When her morality and business savvy is tested, she fails time and time again and resorts to begging her dad for help.
Connor’s loathsomeness is different from the rest of his family’s. He doesn’t speak with the Roy’s customary smarm and bite but with sunny and sincere seeming optimism. But it’s a sunniness born from a lifetime of unexamined privilege. He turns into a tyrant at the slightest opportunity, from yelling at caterers to planning to horde water on his southwestern estate. He bankrolls a quixotic presidential campaign to protest taxes and uses the money he doesn’t want taxed to buy Napoleon’s penis. Forget that he seems so lived-in and remember that the world will burn like the head of a lit match because of men like him.