Carlos Boyero said a few weeks ago in his column that they are all bastards in Succession and that the series bores him because it is limited to recounting the expendable existence of a family of forrados where everyone becomes bad people in order to achieve the power of the old patriarch. Instead, it seems to me that Succession masterfully draws the foundations of evil in the contemporary world. Well, actually, he doesn’t want to talk about how bad all the rich are, but about how badasses we can all be. In other words, it explains why this society and our way of living is so bitchy. And no, it’s not about money, power or inheritance, certainly not only. I will try to explain myself with the help of this fiction.
In the first place, we must place the patriarch. Logan Roy is the owner of the business conglomerate Waystar Royco, which is exclusively dedicated to communication. He has the means ergo he has the power. A bit like Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane —inspired by the life of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst— only eighty years later. The sons, unhappy, believe that their father’s power is declining because he has grown old. But it is not true, because what is really happening is that the traditional media —and their prescribers and their owners and even their viewers and readers— are losing their place in the world. There is something in our history that is becoming blurred and all of us born analog can feel it.
Thus, not only the decline of old Logan is told, but also of the world that he knew, that he understood and that he managed. The children, the young people, are (are we?) willing to do anything to take the place of the powerful father, to devour the corpse left by those who leave: the flat inherited, the position of official, the chair in the Council , the vice presidency of the government… But Logan realizes that his empire will die with him, even before him: there is no inheritance to share. His televisions, all the world’s press, the opinion makers he has on his payroll and even the excellent information he could generate are of little use to him now. What does all this matter in a world where even the president of the United States communicates through tweets and the vote is shaken based on fake news. Communication has been fragmented into countless versions, as many as there are Twitter, Instagram or TikTok profiles. So who has the power now? Whose information is it? Is there any chance of reaching the truth? Logan understands that the new media owns the new messages and that all of this is the capital of the big technology companies. So he chooses to surrender to his power and gives in to survive. Notice of revelation: in the last chapter the old man sells his empire to a sort of young Zuckerberg.
“It’s over. Saturn returns to devour his children”, a friend wrote me when this season ended. And you’re right. In the end, the metaverse wins the game and the barbarians, the bitcoins, the fake news, the virtual world and all its arbitrariness (and its modernity) reach the center of the empire, just as the barbarians sacked Rome. Of course the barbarians never wanted to finish off Rome. On the contrary, the barbarians of all times dream of being Rome. That is why in the last episode, a young Aryan, blond and perfect as a hologram, buys the empire of the old man sitting next to him in a garden on Lake Como. An entire civilization is destroyed and forgotten with the frivolity with which two men they drink tea And here Logan is revealed as an American Gatopardo, the same story but without the Italian sophistication and beauty. In this sense, I understand that Carlos Boyero, who enjoyed so much with Prince Salina in Visconti’s film, today cannot connect with the old patriarch. The truth is insufferable without beauty to support it. But the story does not change and Brian Cox’s gaze is not so different from that of Burt Lancaster saying goodbye to everything he has been and loved.
So Logan is the only one who understands the world as it is. Thus, although young people burn with change and desire, it turns out that only experience is capable of understanding what is happening. At least that’s how it is in Succession. The contemporary drama, the origin of all our ills, is that when there is only the possibility of giving up or fighting to stay with the same as before, there is only room for cowards and bastards. And in the end they end up being very similar subjects. Or what is the same: we are bad when we have no alternatives. We are told that we inhabit the world of possibility, that we are overwhelmed by possibilities, but that is a lie. There is no chance for anyone. And in this sense it is key that the protagonists of Succession be rich, not to show that they are more worthless than the rest but that even they have no choice. We already knew that money does not bring happiness, the novelty is that it does not offer the possibility either. We are lost, period.
And the others? The new ones, the ones to come, the modern ones, the free ones, the young barbarians. What will they do? What kind of world do they dream of? It is said: they want to be Rome. As soon as they reach their goals, they will become real bastards and their creation will consist of destroying everything known. This is how the new wars are, as transformative, devastating (and masculine) as all the previous ones. Some will say that it is money, which rots everything. And they will be wrong, it is not money that makes us bad people, but something much worse: our vision of the world. That’s why desperate children cry out to the father at the end: don’t you realize that if you sell you will only have more money? They, of course, do not need a fortune that they already enjoy, but they yearn for the recognition of others, they pursue their reason for being in the world, they need a sense of life. The misfortune is that they look for it, perhaps like all of us, just where they will never find it. They are bad people, they do not like the world that has touched them and they are also unhappy. The question is how many more times this story will be told.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.