Arts and Culture TV

The Inevitable End of Succession’s Social Satire

Succession. The struggle for power and lasting influence that each member of the fictional Roy family faces can be neatly summed in the show’s one word title. And what a struggle it is. 

The Roys are the family that sits at the center of Succession and are essentially the show’s fictional equivalent of the real life Murdochs, a family of extremely influential business magnates that own many of the world’s news and entertainment sources. They control everything from the Wall Street Journal to the entirety of Fox News and the larger Fox Broadcasting Company. Their close ties to news essentially means that they have more control over the sociopolitical landscape of the world than any other group of individuals, even when considering major political figures. They can sway the views of their massive audience, tweak news stories to portray themselves more favorably, or use their news outlets as leverage against political figures who rely on their coverage for support. 

They are the 1% of the 1%, and Succession does a marvelous job of tearing down these vulgar, egocentric elites before our eyes, pitting them against one another as their empire of manipulation crumbles down around them. 

So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the fourth season of Succession was recently announced to be the final installment in the series. After all, the show begins with the legendary Logan Roy, patriarch of the Roy family and narrative mirror to Rupert Murdoch, stumbling around in his own house in the dark, not knowing where he is or how he got there. His deteriorating health mirrors the decline of his legacy media empire, which exists in a world where technology is slowly making his life’s work obsolete. So as the Roy family members attempt to support their ailing father, they also spy an opportunity to seize his media empire for themselves, which is where the main conflict of the show arises. Logan’s health improves and sets up a brutally personal battle between him and his children, as he pushes and tests each of them to see who has what it takes to become king of the multi-billion dollar castle.  

The show is fated to end, but exactly how it ends is the question on everyone’s mind. The third season ended with Logan essentially giving up on his children and turning over the company to Lukas Matsson (played by Alexander Skarsgård) who is Succession’s equivalent of the real world’s tech elites — think Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk. As a result, Logan’s children must now work together for the first time in order to wrestle control back from their dad and secure their place in the company. It certainly seemed like the setup for a final season, and that’s just what it turned out to be. 

But before it all ends, I think it would be interesting to point out some more of the real world parallels that exist within the show. It has a kind of prophetic quality, wherein many events depicted in the show have manifested in real life and vice versa. The first of which is almost identical, in the form of two guests attending the 57th Superbowl. Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch were spotted sharing a booth at the game, which is telling considering that Elon Musk recently bought Twitter, and the fact that the Super Bowl itself is essentially one giant money making machine for the Murdochs. This closely resembles one of the final moments in Season 3 of Succession, where Logan Roy and Lukas Matsson finally meet to discuss a merger between Matsson’s tech giant and Roy’s legacy media conglomerate. What’s more is that many news outlets are theorizing that this appearance was a calculated move to reassure shareholders that Rupert Murdoch is in good health, a plot point that would be very familiar to watchers of Succession

Elon Musk Spotted With Rupert Murdoch at Super Bowl 57 | Entrepreneur
Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch, and Elisabeth Murdoch sitting together at Super Bowl LVII

Another similar event is the recent lawsuit against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems, where dozens of internal dialogue messages at Fox were leaked, revealing that the anchors and writers often know that the news they are reporting is not based in fact and only meant to gather more viewers with its provocative nature. This kind of doublespeak is at the core of Succession’s identity, where characters often never truly mean what they say, and instead are only providing appearances for the sake of the market or to manipulate others. This, paired with the fact that Succession’s American Television Network (or ATN) has been under fire for some of the same practices, paints a picture of worrying similarity. 

Leaked Texts Reveal: Fox News Knew They Were Spreading Lies and  Conspiracies About 2020 Election - The Copper Courier
Some of the exact words Fox News employees used to describe their own coverage.

I’m not saying that Succession has some magical predictive power. But, the lessons taught through its portrayal of media conglomerates and the elites that run them certainly help in understanding the profit-driven media machines that claim to objectively inform us about the events of the world. 

So as Succession ends, it leaves a lasting depiction of the elites that run the world. Its clever, expletive-filled dialogue keeps the show thoroughly engaging as we follow the conversations that shape the future. Its camerawork uses the mockumentary style of quick zooms, reactionary pans, and dialogue driven movements to increase tension and realism, making the glamorous world of the 1% feel entirely authentic. Incredible acting by a wonderfully assembled cast makes the Roy family and their associates as despicable as they are entertaining, while genius character writing gives them depth beyond compare. It will be sad to see it finally end, but until then, we’re in for a wild ride.

Succession is one of the best shows to ever do it, and if you haven’t watched it already, do yourself a favor and start before its final season airs on March 26.