‘Succession’ Returns, With No Real People Involved

As Logan musters his defense, he leans on the show’s fictional American president, an unseen Republican he derisively calls “the raisin.” In the end, raisins are grapes, and grapes are meant to be stomped. Or cultivated, when the old ones stop giving juice.

With an election looming, Logan — who owns a Fox-like cable news network with conservative king-making power — begins auditioning candidates, including a slick quasi-fascist played by Justin Kirk. To Logan, the leader of the free world is, as he puts it in Season 1, basically an “intern.” This may explain his contempt for the presidential ambitions of his oldest son, Connor (Alan Ruck): Connor’s dream isn’t just absurd, it’s slumming.

Is there anyone good in all of this? Shiv, once a political consultant of modest principle, has ideals she’ll cling to a touch longer than the other Roys, before discarding them like a champagne flute onto a waiter’s tray. Roman is an irresistible imp, but his eternal joking-not-joking mode makes him all the more sneakily dangerous, like a circa-2016 internet meme-lord.

Beyond the family core, you get to the characters who are merely morally weak in the way you or I might be if thrown into this world. Shiv’s husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), is an arriviste with a tormenting awareness of his dispensability. Greg (Nicholas Braun), a cousin from a poorer branch of the family, is delightfully squirmy, a worm constantly twisting to avoid the hook and maybe wriggle a few inches higher up the fishing line.

Greg’s haplessness makes him sympathetic, but is he honorable? His grandfather Ewan (James Cromwell), Logan’s embittered brother, tells him in the new season that he is “in the service of a monstrous enterprise.” Ewan may be a sanctimonious scold — he is the most principled and least likable character on the show — but he is not wrong.

That’s “Succession” for you. The best lack all charisma, while the worst are full of panache and intensity.


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