Succession, Game of Thrones show how power transforms and consumes families

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As Succession draws to a close after four electrifying seasons, a bittersweet void lingers in one’s binge-watching universe. The temptation to hop aboard another show’s bandwagon, in search of new faces and fresh plotlines, is alluring. Yet, deep within, one knows that it will never be quite the same family and the same troubles again. This happens from time to time because it’s harder to bid adieu to the small-screen characters.

From boardroom battles to personal vendettas, the Machiavellian machinations of the Roy family and their media empire have enthralled audiences with its intricate plot twists, biting dialogue, and complex characters. The last episode of the HBO series’s final season, ’With Open Eyes’, aired on May 28; according to HBO, nearly 3 million people watched/streamed the series. While Succession revels in its sweet success, it faces an unassailable opponent in Game of Thrones. The fantasy phenomenon reached unprecedented peak during its grand finale in 2019, clocking a colossal 19.8 million viewers on its premiere night.

A thrilling drama, with a dash of sarcasm

It comes as no surprise that the kids of Logan Roy (Brian Cox) are vultures. In fact, they begin to fight for his throne as soon as he dies. Throughout the fourth and final season, there are some truly remarkable touches in which the siblings, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv (Sarah Snook), bond over the loss of their father.

Also read: Succession review: A cautionary tale on the state of democracy, and rich-poor divide

There’s one such scene even in the closing episode where all of them shed tears while watching Logan and his cohorts, including their older half-sibling, Connor (Alan Ruck), have a merry dinner. But this semblance of unity does not last for long.

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Succession has always been a thrilling drama, with a dash of biting sarcasm thrown in, about the lack of trust between people who are related by blood.

The siblings do not make a song and dance when they learn about their father’s death, obviously. They try their best to revive him from afar, despite knowing that their efforts are going to be fruitless. However, once the grim reality sets in, their minds immediately race to the throne. In the previous seasons, Shiv and Kendall fought bitter battles for the Waystar Royco empire. Logan was pretty much alive and calling the shots then. But he made it a point to only favour the child who stood by him and shunned the others.

Succession, created by Jesse Armstrong, has always been a thrilling drama, albeit with a fair bit of biting sarcasm thrown in, about the lack of trust between people who are related by blood. While the saying goes that ‘blood is thicker than water,’ in the real world, it fails to sparkle when confronted with the ruthless dynamics of a thriving company. Logan knew everything about everybody and used it to win arguments and business deals. He was a bully and a shrewd media tycoon who preferred to lead from the front, fully aware that his children would never be able to ascend to his level of power and influence.

Also read: White House Plumbers review: A goofy, sharply satirical ride through Watergate scandal

While Kendall may have the business acumen to captain the ship, he’s like spilled coffee; in practical terms, he’s of no use to anybody. He tells a senior executive, during a conversation, that he has set his eyes on becoming the next CEO and that he’ll throw millions if he’s helped to reach the coveted rank. But the terms he uses to explain the course of action are wantonly disrespectful. He wants the executive to be his “dog” and not a collaborator. This is not to say that his father is better than him.

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Even in Game of Thrones, people betray each other in the land of the living.

Logan was harsher and meaner and expected his employees to worship him. Nevertheless, he had the temerity to get what he wanted. And that’s exactly what Kendall lacks. When it comes to Roman and Shiv, the former is more likely to crumble under pressure, and the latter is prone to underestimating her associates. Other top guns (Frank, Gerri, and Karl) may also have similar weaknesses, but I’m explicitly mentioning these points in order to state that the children, more than the outsiders, aren’t well-equipped to take Waystar Royco to the next chapter.

Succession, therefore, comes full circle by handing over the reins to (spoiler alert!) Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen). The love-hate relationship between the married couple (Shiv and Tom) acts as an open wound and adds yet another wonderful layer to the show. But one has to remember that there are no moral quandaries to ponder over here. Shiv doesn’t backstab her brothers to grab her piece of the pie. Her brothers, too, would have gladly done a number on her.

Gloomy families, power, and unlikely victors

What if I dare to compare the footnotes of Succession and Game of Thrones, which ended more than four years ago? On a surface level, they are both shows about gloomy families and their age-old, relentless pursuit of power to secure the ultimate position of authority.

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Game of Thrones is a prudent show where an unlikely protagonist emerges as the victor

Even in Game of Thrones, people betray each other in the land of the living. Also, the Lannister siblings, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Cersei (Lena Headey), and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), shift their allegiances at the drop of a hat. But there’s nobody quite like Tyrion in Succession — a voice of reason and a darling who tries his best to work for the greater good. In Armstrong’s bubble, as that’s what it essentially is, there isn’t any space for a social revolution. All that the Roy siblings are fiercely interested in is wearing the crown and passing orders.

Also read: Killers of the Flower Moon: Martin Scorsese’s intimate tale of racial reckoning in America

Game of Thrones is naturally spread across a wider landscape and employs several more plot points, but it is still a prudent show where an unlikely protagonist emerges as the victor. Tom, who’s generally cunning, is not a copy of Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright). They are both as different as chalk and cheese and might even scoff at what I’m saying. Still, their unchecked tenacity is what gives them an extra edge. If Tyrion’s moving speech convinces the council members to elect Bran as the King, Shiv’s change of heart in the climax enables Tom to become the boss.

Although violence and incestuousness follow Jaime and Cersei right from the beginning, they hold on to each other in their final moment of crisis. For the Roys and the Lannisters, bickering and slandering are as much a part of their equation as their innate ability to face storms together. This is why I’m sure that the resentment won’t last forever. Kendall, Shiv, and Roman will bury the hatchet soon and have a party.

Succession and Game of Thrones will always be open to interpretation as they are made and unmade by the desires of narcissistic people.

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