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How Similar Are the Characters of ‘Knives Out’ and ‘Succession’?

Some members of the Thrombey and Roy families have a lot in common besides outrageous wealth

Lionsgate/HBO/Ringer illustration
Spoiler warning

Some of the best films of the year—and Joker—have tackled class warfare. (See: Parasite, Hustlers, and Ready or Not.) As Knives Out arrives in theaters this Thanksgiving holiday, that trend continues. A whodunit in the style of Agatha Christie taking place within a lavish mansion straight out of Clue, Rian Johnson’s latest movie is as much entertaining fodder gesturing toward Trump-era themes as it is a movie concerned with solving its central mystery—that being the suspicious death of a bestselling mystery novelist, Harlan Thrombey, and the destination of the immense fortune he’s left behind.

But to watch the mystery unravel and see the Thrombey family resort to any means to claim Harlan’s inheritance, it was hard not to think of Succession. (And I promise this is not just because I’m more than a little obsessed with Succession and have been in a quiet state of mourning since the second season concluded last month.) Knives Out is basically Succession—if Logan Roy had actually kicked the bucket at the end of the pilot. Now, for Succession’s own purposes, it’s definitely more entertaining that Logan is still alive—otherwise we’d have been tragically deprived of god-tier Scottish thespian Brian Cox telling other characters to fuck off or play a round of boar on the floor. But seeing equally horrible rich people figuratively (and perhaps literally) stab each other in the back throughout Knives Out evokes a similar type of enjoyment.

The parallels between Knives Out and Succession, however, go beyond the broad strokes of wealthy assholes. In fact, you can find a close-enough Succession analogue for most, if not all, of the film’s star-studded ensemble. And to prove it, here’s a breakdown of Knives Out characters and how they match to their nearest Succession counterparts. Some spoilers for the movie ahead.


Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer)

Closest Succession counterpart: Logan Roy

Overview: The self-made patriarch of the family, Harlan is Chaotic Good Logan. He adheres to certain principles—i.e., he doesn’t believe in selling movie rights to his books despite his youngest son’s insistence, and is willing to financially support some members of his family—and holds some genuine affection for his children, as well as his nurse/caregiver, Marta.

Unlike Logan, Harlan appears capable of not hating his family even though they’ve grown up with the sort of privilege he worked very hard to attain writing his novels. (We get the impression he’s like James Patterson levels of popular, but unlike James Patterson, actually good at writing.) But that doesn’t mean he’d want to sit idly by and let the Thrombey clan leech off his fortune: The night before his mysterious death, Harlan changed his will so that the only recipient of his fortune would be Marta. Well-intentioned as that may be, the ensuing chaos his new will sets off is the sort of knife twist that carries some serious Logan energy. (LOL, imagine if Logan left his entire fortune to Cousin Greg; one can only hope!)

Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon)

Closest Succession counterpart: Connor Roy

Overview: While not so delusional that he believes he deserves to become president of the United States, Walt’s job running his father’s publishing house is all that prevents him from being as big of a failson as Connor. The two have a lot in common. Walt fashions himself as a budding mogul—even though the only business idea he seems to have is to try to turn his father’s books into the Thrombey Cinematic Universe. But because Harlan repeatedly rejects this proposal, Walt sits on the idea—and appears incapable of thinking up anything else, preferring to throw temper tantrums about his father’s stubbornness in tragicomic flashbacks. Still, the guy deserves a tiny bit of credit compared to Connor: having a job is better than living off your family money on a dystopian ranch in New Mexico. (Also, at least he’s married to someone instead of paying a woman to be his girlfriend.)

But that’s doing the bare minimum; let’s face it, Walt is still a loathsome loser. And if Succession and Knives Out exist in the same universe, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were one of the early backers of Connor’s podcast on Napoleonic history.

Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Closest Succession counterpart: Kendall Roy

Overview: I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t a like-for-like comparison, but the way Linda presents herself screams of near-Kendall levels of insecurity. (Just to clarify: Linda changed her last name to Drysdale when she married her husband, Richard; more on him and their son later.) Linda wants to believe she’s a self-made entrepreneur like her father, even though she required a small loan of a million dollars to become a real estate mogul. (Hmmm, sounds suspicious, and familiar!)

Linda’s insecurity about her achievements doesn’t manifest in ways as damaging as poor Kendall—for a start, I’m pretty sure Linda doesn’t have a debilitating coke habit, and she’s way less transparently sad. Thankfully, Harlan doesn’t need his daughter to be a broken person in order to love her; ergo, she’s got a much healthier relationship with her dad than Kendall. This Knives OutSuccession comparison would have a lot more weight to it if the movie had a throwaway line about the time Linda rapped about how much she loves her dad.

Hugh “Ransom” Drysdale (Chris Evans)

Closest Succession counterpart: Roman Roy

Overview: This chaos agent has the acerbic wit of Logan’s most mischievous man-child, although Ransom’s outfit of choice isn’t a fancy suit; it’s cozy knitwear. (On that front, Ransom definitely has Roman beat.) Also, Ransom is more of a family black sheep than Roman’s ever been.

But like Roman, Ransom is also a bit of a contradiction. He seems aware that the Thrombeys’ wealth has a corrosive influence that’s turned everyone into self-loathing individuals—at the same time, that hasn’t led him to curtail any of his own abhorrent behavior. And if you needed any further proof that Ransom is kind of a dick, while the family gets to call him by his nickname “Ransom,” he insists “the help” still refer to him as Hugh. The actor formerly known for having “America’s ass” has become America’s hug(h)est asshole.

Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson)

Closest Succession counterpart: Tom Wambsgans

Overview: The simplest way to describe Richard is that he’s Tom—if Tom were the cheating party in his marriage. Richard’s philandering is discovered by Harlan, who threatens to tell Linda in a sealed letter the night before his death. This is obviously bad news for Richard, who’s managed to integrate himself into the Thrombey family and doesn’t appear to have the same outsider status as the ever-insecure Tom—something that, perhaps, Richard’s had to work hard for in the years he’s been married to Linda.

Richard is also one of Knives Out’s vocal Trump supporters. In one excruciating scene, Richard asks Marta to talk about how her family got into the country legally and then goes on a rant about why other Latino families trying to enter the States need to follow their lead. (Little does he know that Marta’s mother entered the country illegally.) Conversely, Tom’s conservatism feels like a byproduct of his desire for career advancement at Not Fox News more than it seems like a reflection of his actual principles—then again, Tom has all but admitted he doesn’t have any principles, which is about as bad as Richard openly advocating for Trump. These fellow Wife Guys are pathetic bedfellows.

Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette)

Closest Succession counterpart: Willa

Overview: Harlan’s widowed daughter-in-law uses his wealth to keep her Instagrammable wellness empire afloat. (The brand is called “Flam,” but you might as well call it Goop.) Harlan is also the person who’s paying for Joni’s daughter, Meg, to study at an expensive liberal arts college. Both of these things imply that Joni would be a broke (and broken?) mess if she didn’t have the Thrombeys’ riches at her disposal.

Now, who else has used the near-unlimited assets of a wealthy family for a passion project that clearly wouldn’t be able to exist on its own? Willa’s Broadway aspirations might not require as many resources as Faux Goop, but good sand can be pretty expensive.

Meg Thrombey (Katherine Langford)

Closest Succession counterpart: Shiv Roy

Overview: Don’t let the liberal arts college and social activism fool you: Meg is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and just as awful as the rest of her family. She espouses liberal values only when it suits her and doesn’t get in the way of her privileged status or the rest of her family. Sound familiar?

To wit: Meg probably has the closest relationship with Marta outside Harlan. And when the family finds out that Marta’s getting the full inheritance, Meg calls her hoping to suss out anything the family could use to manipulate her. Sure enough, Marta lets it spill that her mom came into the country illegally—something the Thrombeys could use as leverage. It’s the closest thing in Knives Out to Shiv convincing a woman subjected to sexual assault not to testify against her father’s company in front of Congress.

Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell)

Closest Succession counterpart: The neo-Nazi anchor from ATN.

Overview: This alt-right troll spends most of the movie staring at his phone, and though the Thrombeys resist calling Walt’s spindly son exactly what he is, Daniel Craig’s private detective, Benoit Blanc, says it thusly: He’s a “Nazi child.” Jacob is barely in the film, which is probably a good thing. No disrespect to Jaeden Martell, but I was really hoping someone would punch the Nazi child in the face.

Wanetta “Great Nana” Thrombey (K Callan)

Closest Succession counterpart: Marcia Roy

Overview: Yes, Harlan’s mother is somehow still alive—a fact so ridiculous nobody’s even sure how old Great Nana is. (Harlan is celebrating his 85th birthday the night of his death, so she’s gotta be at least 100.)

Great Nana gives off serious “Tilda Swinton hiding behind old person makeup in the Suspiria remake” vibes and she’s also the closest Knives Out comes to having a Marcia equivalent. Like Marcia, Great Nana doesn’t speak a lot—but when she does, it’s important and more than a little foreboding. Even at the end of the film, Great Nana remains an enigma. Meanwhile, I still have no idea what Succession is trying to do with Marcia; I just know it’s probably not a good idea to piss her off.

Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig)

Closest Succession counterpart: Senator Gil Eavis

Overview: Just as Eric Bogosian’s Senator Eavis wants to hold the Roys and their entertainment conglomerate accountable for their actions, Detective Blanc is seeking the truth behind Harlan’s mysterious death and those who might be responsible. But that’s kind of where the comparisons end. Blanc is the sort of investigator whose famous exploits earned him the distinction of a New Yorker profile; Eavis is essentially Bernie Sanders.

It’s hard to overstate how delicious Daniel Craig’s Southern twang is. (If you liked the actor’s heat check in Logan Lucky, you’re in … luck.) It’s an essential, and showy, part of his character; Craig is just chewing up scenery. Conversely, Eavis has a droll delivery that makes his saying something like, “You can’t make a Tomlette without breaking some Greggs,” so damn funny.

Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas)

Closest Succession counterpart: Uh … if Frank or Gerri joined the #Resistance???

Overview: Marta is such a good and virtuous person that she will literally spontaneously vomit if she tries to tell a lie. It’s this quality that endears her to Detective Blanc when he begins his investigation—not to mention Harlan, who cared for her enough that he was willing to pass off his entire fortune to his nurse instead of his own family. And I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to confirm that, yes, Marta is as good as she appears to be; someone whose intentions are so pure it throws everyone with an agenda (so basically, uh, everyone) off.

Marta’s earnest, incorruptible decency makes her Knives Out’s indisputable moral center, something Succession lacks. Based on what we’ve seen so far in the Succession-verse, though, the likes of Logan and Shiv wouldn’t even consider Marta a “real person.” Succession would be a very different show if someone like Marta were in the Roys’ orbit. Of course, the lack of a Marta-like character on the series is kind of the point—just as much as her presence elevates Knives Out’s otherwise dubious, affluent ensemble.