The first season of Succession, a rare show that managed to get better with each passing episode, has given us plenty in its first season: trips to Europe, trips into high-intensity corporate boardrooms, trips inside the impossibly goofy psyche of Cousin Greg. With the first season coming to an end Sunday, here are some awards honoring the show’s best, worst, and most.
Best Turning Point
Alison Herman: Kendall’s palace coup was doomed to fail before it even began. Still, Succession needed to get it out of the way to become its best self: an ensemble show whose characters are simultaneously codependent and at least slightly independent from one another. The nail-biting head count works as a scene in its own right, and it also serves a vital structural purpose in the overall arc of the season, introducing a definitive rift between Kendall and his power-possessive father, Logan, and clearing the board for more interesting conflicts than who controls a corporation. Kendall’s relapse, Tom and Shiv’s wedding angst, Shiv’s political career—the rudimentary, Oedipal tug-of-war between father and eldest son had to die so they could thrive. To me, this was the turning point between Succession as a promising yet frustrating show working out its kinks and Succession as one of the stronger debuts of 2018. Sorry, Ken.
Thankless Jobs at Waystar Royco, Ranked
Ben Lindbergh: Waystar Royco, the massive media conglomerate operated (for now) by Logan Roy, seemingly serves three purposes: making money, satisfying Logan’s lust for power, and prolifically producing complaints to HR (which will later be shredded illegally). Everyone wants to take over the company, but no one wants to work there. Don’t believe the video at employee orientation: In real life, smiles are scarce at Waystar, from the C-suite on down. Below, we salute some of the corporate peons who’ve had it the hardest this season.
5. ATN Producer
The pearls are pretty, but no necklaces or earrings are worth letting Logan dictate your propagandistic programming, only to be berated by his daughter because the anchors on your network are nothing more than mouthpieces for a family feud. To make matters worse, it’s also your responsibility to talk the talent into dating the boss’s son.
4. Helicopter Pilot
On any given day, a Waystar chopper pilot can be called upon to: medevac one of the world’s most powerful men after he has a stroke midair while scheming against his son; risk losing his license and his life to spirit that son through restricted, F-16-patrolled airspace in time to be at a board meeting; or help the head of the company crash his daughter’s wedding in the most conspicuous possible way. Waystar pilots must be making combat pay.
3. Head of Public Relations
Imagine waking up every morning and facing the prospect of putting a positive spin on a person so despicable that he’ll have you plant false stories about his own son. Waystar’s communications/crisis manager juggles both the impossible job of making Logan likable and the unenviable job of giving him regular briefings about his latest round of bad press. Logan says he pays his PR flack “a million a fuckin’ year,” which sounds exorbitant but might be a bit of an underbid for one of the world’s worst jobs.
2. Theme Park Character
The smell of vomit inside the suit never entirely leaves a former mascot’s memory, no matter whose cousin he is or how high he subsequently climbs on the corporate ladder.
1. Custodial Staff
Industrial-strength carpet cleaner may mask the smell, but there’s not enough Nature’s Miracle in Manhattan to erase the stain on one’s soul that sinks in while sopping up Logan’s power-piss.
Best Use of Rain Gear to Illustrate Wealth Inequality
Alyssa Bereznak: Living in New York means putting up with thousands of maddening space-related microaggressions that may or may not also be an assertion of privilege. The guy manspreading on the subway, the mom who parks her baby stroller in the middle of the crowded coffee shop, the woman who unfurls her extra-large mat in the middle of a teeny yoga studio. (OK, sorry, that last one is me.) But maybe the most infuriating offense is the guy in the $10,000 suit who insists on walking down a crowded city street while resting his oversize golf umbrella just above his shoulder, so that its pointy metal prongs swipe the face of nearly everyone who enters his orbit. Of course Kendall is this guy. The scene in “Lifeboats,” in which Kendall meets with his friend to discuss a potential business deal, depicts this behavior perfectly. By virtue of his expensive rain gear, Kendall keeps a healthy 1-yard distance from the mere mortals of the city, while his slightly less important friend keeps about 2 1/2 feet, and a passerby in a poncho—a metaphor for the proletariat—is nearly run off the street trying to avoid them.
All-Time Best Free #Spon for California Pizza Kitchen
Kate Knibbs: As my very smart colleague Jason Concepcion noted, Succession does a very good job of making it look gross to be rich, a feat few shows about wealth have achieved. And in its sixth episode, Succession succeeds at something even more difficult: It makes California Pizza Kitchen look like the premier destination for people with moral compasses. All sweet Cousin Greg wants is to celebrate his first paycheck at CPK, where “they make a Cajun chicken linguini just how I like it.” Instead, Tom forces him to eat ortolan until he almost pukes. I’m now hoping that Succession ends with Greg munching on some poultry-based California Pizza Kitchen pasta from the corner office.
Most Relatable Family Member
Katie Baker: If you can’t identify the random aunt in your family who takes all her phone calls from bed while stroking a lap dog, I have news for you: You ARE that aunt. Greg’s Mom contains unseen multitudes; Greg’s Mom has been through some shit. As we learn from a tough conversation between her son and her uncle’s ex-wife, Greg’s Mom once labored to deliver a child so unfortunate-looking that he was nicknamed “Greg the Egg” by the family. The father of this boy tried to sleep with all the men in Sausalito. And Greg the Egg grew up to be a man-child who flunked out of an employee training program by puking through mascot eyeholes in front of traumatized kids. Still, all is not lost for Greg’s Mom: She is currently, finally solvent. Her young lad, against all odds, is turning out to be quite the wheeler and dealer. Things are gonna work out for Greg’s Mom, I can feel it. Greg’s Mom, we salute you. Stay in bed, there’s no need to get up.
Most Honest Party-Hosting Behavior
Amanda Dobbins: Do you like having people in your home? Before they arrive, I always think I do, and when they leave, I’m sure I’ve had a marvelous time—but in the middle, I lose my damn mind. Is it too hot to have everyone in the kitchen? Did I forget that someone doesn’t eat seafood? Are we out of ice? Do eight to 10 people live here permanently now? Ina Garten makes hosting a dinner event look easy, but Alan Ruck and I know the truth: It is a high-wire act, full of catastrophes like frozen butter and bad crowd flow. A kitchen meltdown is inevitable; just try to not be near us when it happens.
Most Efficient Assessment of Boat Shoes in the Year 2018
Andrew Gruttadaro: Look, I have no ill will against the Sperry shoe company or any of its imitators. Boat shoes are fine—I once liked them so much that I owned a pair that could be worn in the winter, and a pair with flashy blue bottoms. But boat shoes aren’t exactly appropriate footwear for adults in this day and age, and so it must be said that once you graduate college (and learn to respect yourself), you should wear boat shoes only if:
- You are on a boat
- You are otherwise within 500 feet of a body of water
Tom Wambsgans is a man who understands this. “Greg, are you kidding?” he asks in the third episode, which is aptly titled “Lifeboats.” “Forgive me, but are we talking to each other on the poop deck of a majestic schooner? Is the salty brine stinging my weather-beaten face? No? Then why the fuck are you wearing a pair of deck shoes, man?” Sure, Cousin Greg has no money at this point and is shoveling free cookies into a dog poop bag (which, thank god, do not come “pre-pooped”), so we can’t fault him too much, but he did learn an important lesson that day: Boat shoes are not to be worn in non-boat settings. Get that kid a pair of cap-toe oxfords, Crockett & Jones, ASAP!
Best Billions Crossover
Miles Surrey: Succession and Billions share DNA in many ways, not just in their fondness for a particularly delectable songbird. To me, though, the thing that might separate both shows from the glut of TV are their caustic, Shakespearean soliloquies—just swap in some colorful modern profanity and a dictionary’s worth of pop culture references. These moments are best delivered by actors who know how to command a room: Succession has Brian Cox—who has played King Lear—and Billions has Paul Giamatti, my father.
But the man most adept at jumping between both shows is the playwright and actor Eric Bogosian. Bogosian frequents the stage more than the screen, and he’s the perfect sounding board for some of both shows’ tastier exchanges. As Succession’s Gil Eavis, a clear stand-in for Bernie Sanders, he gets to spar with Cox’s Murdochian media magnate—which then reminds me of the tête-à-têtes his character, Lawrence Boyd, shared with Giamatti and Damian Lewis over on Showtime. These shows are so damn entertaining, and they constantly hit viewers with a barrage of memeable quotes—but let’s not forget that it comes down to the great thespians, like Bogosian, to deliver them.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.