It’s hard enough to keep up with the likes of the Trumps, the Murdochs and all the other powerful, evil families that have their money and interests tied up in global political and media empires. So, how can one be expected to keep up with the fictional Roy family, and all the players in their inner workings, on HBO’s excellent, Shakespearean satirical drama Succession?
In anticipation for the show’s second season, we’re running down all the main characters—the bickering kids, the partners, the suck-ups, the ladder climbers, and the charmingly oblivious cousins—and where they’re at by the end of Season One.
The founder of the international media and entertainment conglomerate Waystar Royco, Brian Cox’s Logan Roy is a Rupert Murdoch-type billionaire and patriarch of his powerful family. Succession opens with his expected retirement, as we see him pissing on his bedroom floor in what appears to be the early stages of dementia. The family converges in the premiere at Logan’s 80th birthday party, where despite his health, he announces that he will continue as CEO for at least the next five years. Throughout the season, Logan’s health continues to deteriorate, yet he remains an unrelenting force at the head of the Roy family. Also complicating the power dynamic is Marcy Roy, Logan’s third wife and his confidant, who appears to have a plan of her own in this constant struggle for wealth and power. In the end of Season One, Logan’s son Kendall approaches him with an attempted hostile takeover of Waystar during his daughter Shiv’s wedding. Logan appears to be ready to fight it, but the night of the wedding, Kendall kills a waiter while drunk and on drugs, and everything falls apart. Logan steps in to cover up his son’s manslaughter, effectively using it as a blackmail technique to get Kendall to back out of the takeover at the last minute (more on that below).
Though he’s a power-hungry, weak, conniving, silver spoon-fed piece of shit—Jeremy Strong’s Kendall is the closest thing Succession has to a protagonist. Early in the season, Kendall—the Roy family’s golden boy—seems to be the assumed fit to take over as CEO of Waystar. But when his father denies him his promotion, Kendall’s life takes a nosedive. He’s all at once trying to fight his way to the top of the Roy family, and fighting his own battle with addiction. Meanwhile, Kendall is also deeply alone, still in love with his estranged wife Rava (Natalie Gold) and unable to connect with their children. Believing that his father is running the company to ruin, Kendall negotiates a hostile takeover of Waystar with Stewy Hosseini, an associate of the Roy rival Sandy Furness. Everything is in the works, and Kendall delivers the news to Logan during his sister Shiv’s wedding. But when he gets one of the waiters at the wedding to score him drugs, Kendall drunkenly drives a car into a nearby lake and flees the scene. He makes his way back to the wedding venue, where he tries to play it cool. But the next morning, Kendall is brought in front of his father, who tells him about the death of the waiter, who was in the passengers seat of the car.
When Kendall plays dumb, Logan says:
“One of our guys found a key card to your room, near where this kid went into the water. And Amir saw you last night rather damp. The police are here. This kid, I think he might have been a thief who broke into your room and took your card. Let me handle this. I know the guys, they’re good guys. We’ll let them know what was taken. This has been quite stressful. Why don’t you get in my car, we’ll drive you to the plane so you can relax. Tell Sandy you’re out. Tell Stewy this thing looks like a shit show. Go to the desert. Dry yourself out. You haven’t been yourself. This could be the defining moment of your life. It would eat everything. A rich kid kills a boy, you’ll never be anything else. Or, you know, it could be what it should be. Nothing at all. Just a sad little detail at a wedding, where father and son are reconciled.”
Kendall, at this point, is a blubbering mess between his attempts to pretend he had nothing to do with it. Logan opens his arms, Kendall embraces him, and his father says, “You’re my boy. You’re my number one boy.“
Siobhan Roy (Shiv)
While everyone else is playing the big corporate, consumerist game, Shiv is embroiled in politics, where she’s working for the campaign of a Bernie Sanders-type presidential hopeful who is at odds with her father. Throughout the season she’s been sleeping with her colleague Nate while engaged to Tom Wamsgans. The season concludes with Tom and Shiv’s wedding, where she reveals the affair to her new husband. To his credit, Tom legitimately loves Shiv, which doesn’t change in light of the news about the affair. Shiv—whose nickname I should note is also a weapon used to stab people in the back—seems in a pretty good position going into Season Two, given her political connections. She’s also the least dim—and comparatively most moral—of the Roy children.
Greg the motherfucking egg. Nicholas Braun’s lovable Greg Hirsch is the grandnephew of Logan Roy and the grandson of Logan’s estranged brother Ewan Roy. From the black sheep side of the family, Greg is kind of a burnout and loser who has gotten fired from a job at one of the Roy-owned theme parks, when his mother sends him to get a job among the family executives. He’s sent to be Tom’s errand boy in the parks head offices, where he learns a thing or two about the family power dynamics while running their humiliating errands. One of these includes being Tom’s fall guy in covering up years of sexual misconduct on the company’s cruise line. In the final episode, Greg tells Kendall just before the car crash that he made copies of all the documents that prove Waystar’s illegal actions. “So I would just think anyone would be wise to keep me in a good role,” he says. Don’t sleep on Cousin Greg!
Kieran Culkin’s brilliant Roman Roy is proof that it’s possible to at once despise and love a TV character. The third youngest of Logan’s sons, Roman is the family fuck-up who is hungry for power despite having absolutely no qualifications for running a massive corporation. It’s true Roman is smart—even if he rarely uses his intellect for anything constructive. That’s also what makes him weirdly charming—given that his wit and sense of humor make up for what is otherwise a piece of shit personality. He constantly seems at once deeply insecure and self-aware. By the end of Season One, he’s the COO of Waystar when he is responsible for a disastrous space launch in Japan. No one died in the explosion, but the failure should—theoretically—be on him.
The outsider of the family, Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom is the milk-drinking mid-westerner who somehow found himself in the Roy inner circle by getting engaged to Shiv. He’s constantly trying to prove his own worth to the family, even from his position at the bottom of the ladder. During Season One, Tom gets put in charge of the parks and cruise wing of Waystar, where he immediately ends up covering up the company’s longtime sexual abuse.
Logan’s eldest son from his first marriage, it’s hard to pin down what to make of Alan Ruck’s Connor Roy. He’s something of a hermit, living in a desert compound with Willa, a former escort whom he’s fallen in love with. Connor is kind of an eccentric recluse, but at the end of Season One seems to be pretty seriously beginning a campaign for president.