Succession Season 3 review: Funnier, smarter and more vicious than ever 2 months ago

Succession Season 3 review: Funnier, smarter and more vicious than ever

The Roy family are back.... and the knives are out.

At the climax of the second season of Succession, when it became clear that billionaire patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) was willing to throw his son under a bus to save his own skin, one-time-heir-to-the-business-throne Kendall (Jeremy Strong) went all-in, accusing his father of intimate knowledge of a scandal that rocked the industry to its core.

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Season three picks up right where that jaw-dropping cliffhanger left us dangling back in October 2019, setting out the chess board for an imminent civil war within one of the most powerful families in the world.

What initially felt like a pitch of "What if the Bluth Family from Arrested Development didn't just pretend to be very successful, but also they swore a lot?", Succession has continued to sharpen its intellect – and tongue – over the years, and from the first seven episodes of the third season made available to press ahead of release, the show feels smarter and funnier than ever.

It also feels tenser and more vicious than before, with the mind games at play between the family and their "friends" and "co-workers" going beyond anything that the Roy family has done before.

The cloak-and-dagger aspect is falling away, the shady skullduggery replaced by outright hostility among the ranks.

Having all been burned in one way or another by Logan before, but witnessing Kendall becoming a real-time martyr and/or cautionary tale (depending on who you ask) for standing up to his dad, everyone else is left scrambling to cement their place in the family business, while also keeping on eye on the emergency exit should everything suddenly go up in flames.

Shiv (Sarah Snook) continues to argue that she is the rightful replacement for Logan, positioning herself as the most intelligent and least damaged, at least in the eyes of the shareholders, which is something that Roman (Kieran Culkin) begins to violently rally against. Eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck) seems to gain confidence as all around him lose theirs, more sure than ever that his future lies in the White House.

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One branch down in the family tree, Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) continue to deepen their incredibly toxic bromance, simultaneously forced to face the dawning terror that should the business decide; they're little more than an appendix, easily cut out without so much as a second thought.

Some new additions to the cast this season might initially smack of stunt-casting – Adrien Brody, Alexander Skarsgård, Sanaa Lathan - but it quickly becomes clear that only those capable of playing on a equal footing with this cast, working from these scripts, have been invited. The show is still very much focused and committed on this Shakespearean tragedy-in-waiting.

And you know what they say about tragedy plus time...?

Well, that doesn't apply here, as show creator Jesse Armstrong and his impressive set of writers and directors all keep the dark laughs coming. Be it Tom's skin-crawlingly awful story involving a comparison to Emperor Nero, or the exquisite timing of Shiv getting cut-off in the middle of a speech about gender bias, barely a scene goes by without an absolutely killer, soon-to-be-meme'd one-liner.

At one point during a massive, career-saving event, you can see the expressions on everyone's faces – how much worse can this possibly get?

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The biggest issue with Succession is the exact opposite – when it is constantly this good, how much better can it possibly get?

Succession Season 3 kicks off on NOW and Sky Atlantic from Monday, 18 October.

Clips via HBO and Sky

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