Warning! Spoilers for Succession season three, episode one are ahead.
A lot has happened in the two years since we last caught up with the Roy family. When the second season ended in 2019, no one could have predicted the world-changing events that would occur during the show’s hiatus – just one of which being the world’s wealthiest men profiting exponentially from a time of global crisis. This in turn sparked public discussion about the existence of the 1% and the damaging effects that the mass accumulation of wealth has on society’s most vulnerable.
These conversations have made Succession’s latest season that much more anticipated, with audiences primed for the show’s famed capitalist critique. However, although the HBO series is continuing its overall exploration of the lives of power-mad men, series three puts the women of Succession front and centre. The first episode picks up in the aftermath of Kendall’s damning press conference and we watch as the Roys retreat to lick their wounds. Sitting in a private airport lounge discussing their next moves, the undercurrent is clear: someone is about to be handed the top job.
It would look best for the company, of course, if this coveted position were held by a woman. With the world suddenly aware of historic sexual assault charges against Waystar Royco, Logan is forced to recognise the female powers in his life for the first time (not without caveats, obviously). Now that Rhea is firmly out of the picture, Shiv emerges as the logical choice but with less industry experience than her brothers, she’s forced to prove her commitment to the company by exploiting her female friendships to help fix Logan’s tarnished reputation.
Inevitably, once this doesn’t go according to plan Logan is quick to jump ship and switch his attention to Gerri. The matriarch of Waystar Royco and longtime businesswoman is a natural fit for CEO (one of the few things the family can agree on). But it’s clear that her boardroom skills aren’t a key factor in the decision, with her longstanding allegiance to her disgraced colleagues proving the major bargaining chip. This information further elucidates Logan’s motive: to have a female figurehead rather than a real leader.
Elsewhere, Kendall’s new women-driven crew seems to face a similar fate. After taking meetings with top New York lawyer Lisa Arthur, Kendall claims to want her legal counsel for honest reasons. It soon becomes clear, however, that his motivation for hiring her may be more to do with making sure that his father can’t, rather than her famous skillset. Similarly, his female PR and communications team are hired for being the best in the business yet when it comes to discussing their well-researched ideas, Kendall mansplains them both into oblivion instead.
These actions make it easy to be cynical about the future of Succession’s female characters. In the past we’ve seen women be discarded when they are no longer useful to the family – best illustrated by Logan betraying his wife in exchange for ample business opportunity and thereby proving that women are nothing but interchangeable pawns in his mad schemes. Nonetheless, the women of Succession have never been in a better position than they are right now. For the first time, the men of Waystar Royco are turning to their female counterparts to pull them out of the pit of despair and with that comes a certain level of control.
Though Logan and Kendall’s offers are hollow on the surface, the deals on the line finally give Succession’s women some skin in the game. In the same way that the IRL #TimesUp era catalysed a long-overdue move towards female leadership in top industry, the fallout from the cruises scandal gets Succession’s women a seat at the top table. It’s this small window of opportunity that gives them the chance to out-manipulate their manipulators. Yes, the Roy men want puppets instead of pioneers but who’s to say the women of Succession will honour those rules once they get on the inside?
If there is one thing we know about those connected to Waystar Royco, it's this: they know how to play dirty. Will they finally use all the years of watching and waiting for their own personal gain? Will Shiv align with Kendall for a full company takeover? Will Marcia come back and demand a bigger slice of the pie in exchange for forgiveness? With a woman now holding the keys to the Waystar Royco kingdom, it seems like a shift in power may finally be within reach. But if Logan built the castle, how much power can they ever truly have?
Season three of Succession airs on Binge from Monday 18th October