I Love the Scary, Powerful Women of ‘Succession’
The Holy Trinity
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: HBO
To know the characters of Succession is to hate them, and to hate them is to love them. This is especially true of the women on the show, who are so deliciously terrible, so gorgeously conniving that I cannot help but say, beg even, “Step on me, mother.”
There is Shiv (Sarah Snook), the sole daughter of the Roy children, and the one who is absolutely the most cunning. Despite her father, Logan, perpetually dangling in front of her the promise of a top position at the company, always keeping it slightly out of reach, Shiv’s power is undeniable. It was her influence that made Rhea Jarrell — who is played by Holly Hunter, and I will get to her in a second — CEO of the company when disaster was on the horizon. It was her call to pick her older brother Kendall as the blood sacrifice, though we all know how that went. (Poorly.) Tom is less her husband than her pet. I don’t know if I’m more scared of Shiv running the world or her not getting exactly what she wants, which is, I’m assuming, to run the world.
There is the incomparable Gerri Kellman, played by J. Smith-Cameron, whose matriarchal power over the Roy family business is maybe the only thing that has kept it together for this long. Gerri telling her mentee and personal slime puppy Roman (Kieran Culkin) what to do is nothing short of pornographic. If the two of them don’t release their psychosexual tension in season three, I will perish.
Even the peripheral women in the Succession universe hold a perverse sort of power over the men. The mere presence of Tabitha, Roman’s escort girlfriend, is a discomfort to Tom, whom she made swallow his own load at his bachelor party. She also had video evidence of Kendall rapping, among the most devastating pieces of blackmail on the show. Holly Hunter’s Rhea, the former head of not one but two giant media corporations, is a bulldog in a Pomeranian’s body. There’s Marcia Roy, Logan’s current wife … maybe? It’s unclear whether she left him in season two, which is, of course, a power move. Marcia is among the only people who sees Logan at his weakest, giving her more power than anyone seems to realize. She knows too much about everyone despite nobody really knowing anything about her. I’m convinced she was an assassin in a previous life. And, of course, there is Willa, the wife of eldest son Connor, who … had the audacity to write a play called Sands. It went over so poorly she threw an iPad into the sea. To destroy a man’s iPad is true power.
Adding to all of this is the deep sadness of the men on this show. From Tom’s inheritance of the cruise-ship scandal to Kendall’s desperate attempts to earn his father’s love and respect, the men are made to feel dejected, cast aside, and small in a way so often reserved for female characters. They beg to be talked down to, sometimes literally. They are chastised and humiliated in a way that is admittedly cathartic, and made to answer for their own inflated egos time and time and time again. Even Logan Roy, though terrifying in his brutality, is a crumbling patriarch of both his family and his company.
It’s no secret that the world of Succession is dog eat dog; it is depraved, dehumanizing, boar-on-the-floor ruthless for everyone involved. And I cannot wait to watch every last female character eat all of the men’s lunch.