“Succession” is an in-depth study of generational trauma

Succession is an in-depth study of generational trauma

This article contains minor spoilers for “Succession”.

“Succession” is a comedy-drama series by Jesse Armstrong that premiered on HBO in 2018. The show follows the turbulent relationships and business endeavors of the Roy family, headed by media mogul and billionaire Logan Roy.

The show is mostly known for its crude, bizarre, and larger than life humor. And while it is a very funny and entertaining show, the most interesting part is the characters. The Roy family consists of the patriarch, Logan, and his four children: Connor, Kendall, Roman, and Siobhan “Shiv” Roy. The relationships between Logan and his children is complex and fascinating.

Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox) is an intense, compelling, and multifaceted character. He is, without a doubt, the worst person on the show. Logan is a bigoted, abusive, and cold character, and this shows in his relationships with his children. Throughout the series, Logan is explicitly and implicitly shown to be verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically abusive toward his children. It is easy to hate Logan at first, especially when we see the damage he has done to those around him. In the episode season one episode “Austerlitz”, however, Logan is humanized in a startling way. When Logan climbs out of the pool, the viewers see the multitude of scars (probably from a whip or cane) on his back. This aligns with Logan’s mentions of the strict and violent Uncle Noah who raised him. We can see the Roy family through a different lens by understanding that Logan’s behavior is part of an inter-generational cycle of abuse.

All four children carry this abuse with them, and hurt those around them. The most significant perpetrators of this cycle are Roman and Shiv. Roman (Kieran Culkin) copes with his deep seeded insecurities by ridiculing and degrading those around him. Rather than face serious subjects, he treats everything like a joke and says mean-spirited things in order to deflect. This inability to be genuine has led to familial rifts and breakups with his two girlfriends.

Romantic issues are nothing new for the Roys. Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook), as the only daughter, is held to a different standard than her brothers. Because of this, she presents herself and cold and unfeeling in order to avoid the emotional woman stereotype. The abuse stretches outside the family, with Shiv’s callous attitude toward her husband, Tom (Matthew McFadyen). He, in turn, takes this out on his assistant Greg (Nicholas Braun).

Overall, “Succession” is a lot of things: a comedy, drama, a Shakespearean epic. But most of all it serves as a genuine glimpse into how trauma can spread throughout generations and corrupt everyone in its grasp. Sure, most of us can’t relate to being a billionaire, but we can all relate to familial issues and how they spread without intervention.