Across just two seasons, Succession has become the most acclaimed show on television by any measure. Charting the combative adventures of the rich and powerful Roy family, the Best Drama Emmy-winning series is defined by its caustic wit and a notable dearth of human decency.
Pandemic delays mean it's been two years since the explosive season two finalé, which ended with the troubled, ambitious Kendall Roy (Lead Actor Emmy-winner Jeremy Strong) publicly ambushing his brutish and mercurial father, media mogal Logan Roy (Brian Cox). Strong, Cox and the rest of the cast (minus Sarah Snook) recently previewed the new season to the Herald over a Zoom call.
"Kendall at the beginning of Season 3 [is] someone who feels like he's finally wrested himself free from the chains that have been binding him," says Strong of his character's big move. "[Creator] Jesse [Armstrong] said it was as if Napoleon is sacking Moscow and everyone has left the city so it's sort of a pyrrhic victory, which is part of what we explore in Season 3. I've done the thing, but if I don't have support in a coalition, what is the value of it?"
With Logan vowing to go "full beast" on Kendall in trailers, the stage is set for a big showdown between the pair, who are often at odds.
"Jung said that where love is absent, power fills the vacuum," offers Strong.
Succession began with Logan Roy disappointing his covetous adult children by deciding against retiring from his vast empire, and they've all been fighting for control since. Acting legend Cox, whose stage presence is somehow evident on a Zoom call, can appreciate the parallels to Shakespeare's King Lear, a role he's played repeatedly to great acclaim.
"Lear pretends he's able to let go of his kingdom," booms Cox. "[But] he makes certain provisos that keeps him going and Logan is the same. He's looking for a successor but he can't let go."
Cox calls the writing "brilliant" and says he feels privileged to be a part of the show, but he tries not to guess where's it's going: "I don't anticipate anything because I think it's a stupid thing to do and it's a waste of energy. You just take it as it comes. And, usually, as it comes, it's pretty bloody fine."
Alan Ruck says his character, the hapless Connor, who is usually played for laughs, will have a bit more to do this season. "More than I did in Season 2. But the show is called 'Succession'. It's not called Connor's Progress. Happily, I've had more to do and I enjoy it."
Nicholas Braun, who plays fan favourite Cousin Greg, knows what his character would think: "Greg would say that every season's a Greg season. It's high time for Greg to get up there. Greg makes some nice moves himself this year."
Kieran Culkin, who plays the often overlooked Roman, says he enjoys watching his character grow. "I always love it when I get scripts and I get to see that he's progressing more and more. Inevitably, I feel like he's going to blow it somehow. And often times he doesn't. I think he's a lot smarter than people think."
While Matthew Macfadyen, whose character Tom married into the Roy family, insightfully observes that "all the characters really think it's all about them and their world".
Armstrong acknowledges the show's upward trajectory, but says he tries to ignore it.
"There's a certain pressure from what feels like more people watching the show and enjoying it, [but] if you think about other people's reactions to show, you could go a bit crazy."
SEASON TWO FINALE CATCH-UP
Here's where things were left with the Roy family at the end of season two
Logan Roy (Brian Cox)
The Roy family patriarch chose Kendall to be the "blood sacrifice" necessary to resolve the cruise line sexual misconduct scandal, explaining that he never saw Kendall as a killer.
Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong)
At a press conference where he was supposed to take responsibility, Kendall blindsided the family and implicated his father in the scandal, resulting in a typically inscrutable (was that a smile?) reaction from Logan.
Connor Roy (Alan Ruck)
The useless eldest son agreed to put his presidential ambitions on hold in return for Logan investing in his girlfriend's play.
Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook)
After husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) revealed his dissatisfaction with their marriage, Logan's only daughter begged Logan not to make Tom the blood sacrifice.
Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin)
Shaken up after a hostage situation in Turkey, the callow youngest son was named sole COO of Waystar Royco.
Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun)
The bumbling interloper began displaying signs of competency when he backed up Kendall's blindside of Logan with damning documents he was previously tasked with destroying by Tom.
Season 3 of "Succession" screens on Monday, October 18, at 9.30pm on SoHo and is also available on Neon and Sky Go.