HBO’s Succession premiere episode recap: ‘Celebration’


HBO’s Succession started strong, with a low-key intensity and brilliant dark humor. Things are looking bright for this media-mogul family drama!

“Celebration” begins awkwardly. Logan Roy (Brian Cox) wakes up in the dark, then proceeds to urinate on a carpet. Though it could be considered old age or disorientation, it could also show a type of disregard. As the episode progresses, we get to learn more about Logan, the so-called “patriarch” to a media empire family business in Succession.

Logan’s the type of man who says what he wants, does what he wants, and anyone who doesn’t like it can take a hike. His main moral limit may be that he doesn’t murder people, or anything quite like that. Still, one gets the sense that, because he has money, he’s very used to having his way. He expects it. As it turns out, the rest of the family resents that a little. It may be a quiet resentment, but a resentment nonetheless. Logan represents someone who, at one point in time, may have been “gruff but lovable.” However, he’s mostly grown out of the “but lovable” part.

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Kendall Roy — Wannabe Leader/Full-Time Punching Bag

One of the most resentful characters in Succession is Logan’s son, Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong). What’s brilliant about the writing (and his performance) is that, somehow, you get the feeling that he’s not naturally resentful or bitter. However, growing up with a father like Logan in a cut-throat corporate environment, he is essentially forced into his position. At the same time, he’s convinced himself that his situation is natural. Kendall is, among other things, a Division President, and stands to potentially inherit his infuriating father’s power.

Additionally, he has to deal with people like Lawrence (Rob Yang). Lawrence’s business could potentially join the conglomerate, but he’s very bitter about it and makes no effort to hide it. While Kendall could try to accommodate him, he also has to appear tough (or so he thinks). So, much as his father would do, Kendall joins the game of ramping up the cut-throat rhetoric. It gets to the point where it seems a murder could actually occur. Bad manners, sure, but good television!

One of the funniest moments in the episode: While standing among his colleagues, Kendall is asked if he wants to call his dad. Kendall oozes with bitterness as he asks everyone else, “Do you want me to call your dad?” It’s definitely a funny moment, and one could easily imagine this sort of thing happening. Then, of course, Kendall does receive a call from his dad. Ouch!

Greg, Theme Park Boy

Logan’s great-nephew, Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun), is actually first introduced under a costume. He’s acting as a Theme Park dog mascot (apparently named “Dodgerick,” or some ridiculous thing). Very quickly we get a feel for the character, as some kids gang up on him, jump on him and hit him. It’s too much for Greg, so he ends up puking through the dog’s eye holes. What can be said about such a scene? Brilliant! Were it not for my sanity, I might have watched the scene a few more times.

Anyway, Greg essentially plays the role of the yipping little human dog, pestering Logan Roy about his position at the theme park. Greg’s concerns seem esoteric to Logan. Even though Greg’s livelihood may be at stake, he is essentially swatted away like a fly. Logan all but mumbles some assurances at him, as a means of just getting him to go away. Yet again, it’s a very funny moment, even though not everyone would catch that aspect of it. Another insight into the character? When first meeting Logan, Greg gets roughed up by one of his bodyguards. Regarding the experience, Greg remarks about how competent the guard is.

Roman Roy — Succession’s Fun-Loving, Spoiled Brat

Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) is a character, that’s for sure. In a business meeting, he does almost nothing but makes fun of everyone there. He calls his father’s mentor, Frank (Peter Friedman), “Old Father Time,” and all but dances around the room, dismissing its cloistered inhabitants for their ultra-serious demeanor. He likens the company to a cage — although all signs point to him benefiting from such a cage.

The Celebration and the Hemorrhaged Brain

A focal point of “Celebration” is Logan’s birthday party, but is it a celebration? Sure, it has all the appearances of such at first, but things go downhill pretty fast. For one thing, an attendee gives Logan a sourdough starter kit. Logan has no idea what it is, and repeatedly calls it “goo.” It’s obvious that he has no intention of using it, and resents the idea of being obligated to give thanks for it.

A bigger moment, though, is when Logan discusses business with Kendall. The whole thing falls apart, and Logan ends up asking him questions like, “Do you want to hit me?,” and “Are you going to ****king cry?” It all culminates in Logan deciding not to retire, which inspires a complete spazz attack in Kendall later on, as he takes his rage out on material objects in the bathroom.

The Game

Although Logan provides plenty of Succession‘s dark laughs, arguably this episode’s biggest WTF moment stems from Roman. During a little family baseball game, Roman actually offers $1 million dollars to a boy if he can hit a home run. The boy hits the ball but fails to make it to home base. This, of course, gives Roman the opportunity to tear up the check in front of the kid.

Meanwhile, in another suggestion that life’s just a game to the Roys, Logan essentially backstabs his mentor, Frank. For seemingly no reason, Frank is demoted to “light duties.” While viewers might ask, what does that mean and why would he do that? It’s apparent that Logan doesn’t ask such questions. He just does things. He’s a decider, and others just have to make do.

Next: Succession episode 2 recap: ‘S*** Show at the F*** Factory’

The Hemorrhage

While in a family helicopter (you gotta’ have more than one!), Logan suffers a brain hemorrhage, after re-negotiating a family deal between Roman and Siobhan Roy (Logan’s daughter, portrayed by Sarah Snook). The question is, what did the job? Did the years of business stress, bitterness and cut-throat corporate rhetoric do the trick? Was it a health problem that could happen to anybody? Stress can indeed be a killer. While Logan’s not necessarily dead, the possibility will up the stakes as the series progresses.

How about you? Did you like this episode of Succession? Tell us in the comments!