Film & TV

Succession: A Shakespearean Tragedy or a Sitcom?

Picture Credits: IMDB

By Catarina Vicente

For all the ways 2021 sucked, Succession was one of its best parts. Nothing really compared to going home after a Monday full of lectures, to tune in and lose yourself in a new hour-long episode, after which you could browse social media to witness a whole fandom analyzing – or just making memes – of the latest developments in the series.   

The synopsis is nothing special: the show follows the Roy family, owners of Waystar Royco, the biggest media corporation in the world, after their father and CEO of the company, Logan Roy, hints at stepping down. The subsequent power struggle between the three siblings, Kendall, Shiv, and Roman, drives the series, as they become worse people to earn their father’s approval and keep the company afloat. 

What makes the story special are the characters; the main trio is especially well-developed and interesting: Kendall, the presumed successor, recently knocked off his pedestal by his father, Roman, the middle brother and unlikeliest contender for power, and Shiv, the only daughter, newly inducted into the world of Waystar business.  

There is no empathizing with the Roys: they are terrible people driven by money, tragic in the ways they have changed to get power, trapped in abusive cycles, and yet with total autonomy to leave. But I judge characters on the premise of being interesting or boring, rather than good or bad, and the Roy siblings are definitely the former, especially in the way they interact with one another. The story manages to hit a vein between funny and sad, thus opening it up to comparisons with both sitcoms and Shakespearean dramas. 

The show also tackles noteworthy themes, such as the toxic nature of capitalism through the depiction of the business environment at Waystar, and its subsequent imbalances of power between family members. It is a series worth analyzing and discussing, both for its themes and the twists in the story. 

If I were to see the series from an outsider’s perspective, I’d also struggle to see anything special about it; yes, it’s funny and smart, but so are many other shows. What makes Succession different, in my opinion, is the fandom, and it’s also a big reason why the show has become so special to me. Most fanbases focus on the shipping of characters, and though that’s also common in this fanbase, here what most fans focus on is dissecting the characters and plot, discussing foreshadowing, family dynamics, and more. The show’s fine line between a comedy and a drama makes the fandom content more varied: some fans are committed to making parodies and memes – recent Tiktoks parodying the Roys have become my favorite pieces of fan content – but just as many make content analyzing the show and linking it to other texts. In my opinion, the show wouldn’t have the traction it has if not for the fandom and the content they create. 

Though I love the show, I believe any ending short of a tragedy would be antithetical to its message: there is no redemption for the Roys, regardless of how much the fans seem to coddle them. Watching the show has also been a question of how long before the company, and Logan survives, and the ending of season 3 tips the scales against the Roy siblings’ favor. 

The start of this year will be a desert for Succession episodes, as a new season has been confirmed and is likely to be released at an unspecified date sometime in late 2022. But the fandom has shown no indication of dying down, excited to return to the new chapter of the family’s power struggle.