Succession: The Complete Series (DVD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stuart Galbraith IV
  • Review Date: Dec 21, 2023
  • Format: DVD
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Succession: The Complete Series (DVD Review)


Jesse Armstrong

Release Date(s)

2018-2023 (September 12, 2023)


HBO Entertainment (Warner Home Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A-

Succession: The Complete Series (DVD)

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One of television’s best dramas in recent years, Succession (2018-2023) explores the unhappy lives of the Roy family, ultra-rich owners of the media and entertainment empire Waystar RoyCo, a fictitious conglomerate seemingly modeled after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and other cancerous global media holdings; one can also find similarities to the Trump family, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and many others, which is part of the fun.

While Waystar RoyCo’s news network, ATN, like Fox News, is founded on incendiary, hard-right “infotainment,” politics are largely incidental to Succession, which is much more about how enormous wealth and power propagates misery and paranoia within the pampered Roy family, a darkly humorous collection of entitled, sophomoric, uncultured, foul-mouthed boobs, people utterly unqualified and unworthy of holding so much power and influence over the rest of us.

For years, Americans especially though hardly exclusively, have idolized the uber-rich, from Warren Buffett and Oprah Winfrey to Trump to Musk. Dreamy-eyed, royals-watching Americans, a nation of temporarily embarrassed millionaires, have long eaten this stuff up, sometimes imagining themselves the next Steve Jobs or Michael Jordan or Taylor Swift, or maybe fast-tracking a fortune by willing the Lotto. Not long ago much of the TV-watching universe was transfixed by the absurd Downton Abbey, with its humanist masters upstairs benevolently trickling their good fortune on the help downstairs, even rushing to pay for a beloved cook’s eye operation. This perverse adulation finally seems to be slowly swinging in the opposite direction, with Succession reflecting this gradual realization the rich don’t know that you exist, or care to know, and whom generally find the 99-percenters personally repellent. In the real world, the likes of Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) would’ve responded, “Fuck her—let her go blind. Why should I give a shit?”

The media empire founded by dictatorial, foul-mouthed Dundee-born billionaire Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is in jeopardy following a debilitating stroke, leaving his adult children jockeying for power while trying to save the family business. Heir-apparent Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) has inherited his father’s cutthroat approach to deal-making, but is personally weak in Logan’s presence and has a long history of substance abuse. Siobhan “Shiv” Roy (Sarah Snook), Logan’s only daughter, is ambitious but not as whip-smart as she thinks she is and an outlier because of her comparatively liberal politics, and has infidelity issues with her fiancé/later husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), a Waystar executive. Roman Roy (Culkin), the youngest of the siblings, is a venal, sarcastic toady, entitled and immature after years of abuse and sexually dysfunctional.

Significant supporting characters include Marcia Roy (Hiam Abbass), Logan’s third and current wife, fiercely protective of her husband and so guarded she often clashes with her stepchildren; Greg Hirsh (Nicholas Braun), the bumbling, scarecrow-like yet Machiavellian cousin of the siblings, taken in like a stray pup as an assistant to Tom, who transfers his growing frustrations with Shiv and the others by mercilessly tormenting this distant relative; Connor Roy (Alan Ruck), Logan’s only son from his first marriage, a dim-bulb residing in New Mexico with his ex-prostitute girlfriend (Justine Lupe), who has pipe dreams of running for President, a la Ross Perot; and Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron), Waystar’s general counsel, who becomes sexually involved with the much-younger Roman.

As the show’s opening titles make plain, the series largely revolves around these three adult children yearning for their emotionally distant father’s approval—love is clearly out of the question—while also trapped in a universe where Logan Roy is its absolute, all-controlling center.

So far I’ve watched the first two seasons of this four-season, 39-episode program, and without fail each episode impresses with its writing, acting, production values and insight. Significantly—at least so far—the series strenuously avoids Archie Bunkerisms, that is, softening these almost universally wretched characters. (Trust no one!) One feels a kind of pity for their inability (or unwillingness) to join the human race, but the teleplays never ask us to sympathize with them, and wisely reminds us they deserve no sympathy with their occasional acts of profound cruelty and inhumanity. Despite having (or having access to) enormous wealth, they have the same hang-ups and psychological problems as we of the hoi polloi—except they are so pampered and isolated from the rest of society their personality problems go unchallenged and untreated, where the only empathy and understanding available is the kind of empathy and understanding you pay for.

Undoubtedly, the Roy family more accurately captures the essence of uber-rich lifestyles and personalities than, say, the Crawley family on Downton Abbey. Growing revelations of Elon Musk’s incompetence with Twitter and Tesla are amusingly reflected here; in an early episode Roman oversees the launch of a new ATN satellite in Japan that spectacularly blows up during its launch. Again and again, the myth of the “self-made” billionaire, that they are an elite class of inventors, innovators, and economic miracle men is exposed as a Great Lie. The Roys have zero interest in benefiting mankind, helping others—their sole goals are to amass even more money and power.

Visually, Succession is interesting in how isolated it keeps them. When not in their vast but impersonal Park Avenue penthouses and Downton Abbey-like estates, they travel in hermetically-sealed limousines, helicopters, and private jets, rarely coming into contact with the outside world. On those rare occasions they do, the siblings scoff at the items sold at convenience stores, and obsessively wash their hands Howard Hughes-style upon returning. In one early episode the naïve Greg offers to take Tom to dinner. “I heard California Pizza Kitchen is pretty good,” he offers, to which Tom responds with derisive laughter, at the absurdity of a Roy eating that kind of food. Instead he takes Greg to a pretentious, ludicrous eatery—$20,000 a person?—serving revolting items like a small whole bird, eaten bones and all in a single nauseating bite, the kind of food rich people find exotically delicious and, more importantly, exclusive to them.

Succession generates its own paranoia in the sense that, just as a character is beginning to show vague hints of decency, the writer pulls the rug out from under the viewer. In one devastating episode, Kendell appears to disagree with his father’s insistence that a promising new acquisition, a social media creator called Vaulter, should be shut down. He delivers a heartfelt speech to all its employees, urging them to belay plans to unionize, that he’s interested in hearing everyone’s ideas, in saving the company from his father, and pleads with them to trust him and work together. He returns but days later to unceremoniously fire everyone, to order them to clear their desks and be off the property in 15 minutes, and it becomes clear that Kendall was merely stalling for time while picking their brains for useful scraps of innovative to be assimilated by Waystar. Welcome to America.

Succession: The Complete Series presents the show in a single plastic case containing 12 DVDs, with 3 to 4 60-minute-plus episodes per disc. The show itself was shot in Super 35 and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate, presented here in 1.78:1 widescreen with 16:9 enhancement. It’s a handsome looking show, and the transfers are up to current technological standards. Audio is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English with optional subtitles. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and subtitles are offered for season one only, with audio and subtitle options varying on the extra features. These include more than two hours of behind-the-scenes content and interviews, including Inside the Episode and Character Recap featurettes. The discs are Region 1 encoded.

Succession achieves something unusual, turning a brood of gallingly “entitled” buffoons with few, if any, redeeming qualities into characters that are endlessly fascinating yet not sympathetic and never ever likable. Like a car wreck on the freeway, it’s impossible to look away.

- Stuart Galbraith IV