The main event, however, again boils down to family patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his son Kendall (Jeremy Strong), who wages a one-man war for control of Waystar, while seeking to pick off support from other members of his immediate and extended corporate family, testing the transactional nature of their loyalties.
Amid all the twisted family dynamics, Kendall remains the awkward heart of the show, a guy desperate to prove that he can take a joke who looks profoundly uncomfortable when he hears one. His father, he notes rightly, isn’t the indestructible figure he represented in the past, yet he’s still plenty formidable, prompting Kendall to ask, “Can I do this? Can I win?”
Perhaps most impressively, the new episodes set up plenty of tests for all of the Roys (and thus splendid showcases for the cast), including daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) and son Roman (Kieran Culkin). Indeed, just the promise of being named a figurehead CEO — as Logan contemplates stepping more into the shadows — sets off a dizzying whirlwind of shifting alliances even by “Succession” brutal standards.
Adrien Brody, Hope Davis and Alexander Skarsgard are among those who appear as major financial players in later episodes, as the Roys explore various options in their efforts to save the company.
As with “Veep,” much of the dialogue is gleefully vulgar, and the episodes get better and better as the season progresses, from the backstage maneuvering at a shareholders meeting to an insanely over-the-top birthday party.
“Succession” has no shortage of company in pulling back the curtain on the outwardly glamorous lives of the super-rich, exposing the insecurities and family grievances that lurk underneath.
As for that “Game of Thrones” comparison, the battles on “Succession” don’t leave a trail of bodies in their wake. But as meticulously constructed, the collateral damage associated with losing this game might be the next worst thing.
“Succession” begins its third season Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.