“Secession,” directed by Mark Mylod, starts Succession season three with a bang. Bombastic Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) battles his father, the ruthless Logan Roy (Brian Cox), for control of Waystar RoyCo. Initially, Kendall hides from the press in his ex-wife Rava Roy’s (Natalie Gold) apartment following the last season finale’s earth-shattering press conference exposing the cruise ship sex scandal. Then, with the “support” of his hopeless cousin Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun), Kendall configures a war plan to defeat his father.
CEO Logan temporarily hunkers down in Sarajevo, Bosnia (a country with no U.S. extradition treaty) with his son-in-law Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), CFO Karl Muller (David Rasche), COO Frank Vernon (Peter Friedman), and Senior Communications officer Hugo Baker (Fisher Stevens). Logan decides to step down as CEO of Waystar RoyCo, but only temporarily. His son Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin), Waystar general counsel Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron), and his daughter Siobhan “Shiv” Roy (Sarah Snook) all vie for the spot of temporary CEO. Will Logan keep control of Waystar RoyCo, or will Kendall finally take down his God-like father?
Roman Mythology is a significant motif in “Secession.” There are several direct references to Roman Mythology peppered throughout the first episode. An example of an explicit reference is when Logan hashes out who should be the “puppet” CEO. It’s no coincidence that one of his sons is named Roman, evoking the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire conquered most of the known world because of its superior military. Obviously, by naming his son Roman, Logan reveals that he wants a child that can assist him in conquering the world. Instead, Logan got an entitled wild child with an Oedipus complex. To top it off, when Roman calls, Logan answers, “Oh, Romulus.” Based on ancient mythology, Romulus was the founder and first ruler of the city of Rome. He killed his twin brother Remus during a conflict over where they should build their new city. Logan wishes Roman would metaphorically kill his brother Kendall. Episode One contains some covert Ancient Roman Mythology metaphors as well.
In the first episode, Logan violently speaks to Kendall through his son’s assistant Jess Jordan (Juliana Canfield). Kendall refuses to talk directly to his father on the phone, so Jess becomes their go-between in a bizarre game of telephone. Logan tells Jess that he will grind Kendall’s bones to make his bread. In response, Kendall instructs Jess to say that he will climb up the bean stock. In other words, the rebellious son will go after his father. While this directly references the fairytale Jack and the beanstalk, it connects to Titan Saturn eating his sons. According to prophecy, one of the Titans’ sons will overthrow him. Saturn consumed all his newborn sons to circumvent the prophecy. One day his hidden son Zeus defeated the Titan. Logan, like Saturn, plans to symbolically eat Kendall to stop him from taking his “throne.” The narcissistic CEO jumps on any sign of weakness that his children display and uses it as an excuse to cover up the fact that he doesn’t want to give up his “god-like” persona.
CINEMATOGRAPHY AND MOVEMENT
Mylod uses movement and documentary-style cinematography to craft the story. Whenever any of the Roy family members are actively strategizing their next chess move, they are traveling in a car or airplane. While cruising through Manhattan in the Waystar company jeep, Kendall orders Jess to contact high-profile lawyer Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan) to inquiry about her becoming his advisor. Kendall’s activity contrasts with Logan, who silently marinates on the press conference in a private airport lobby.
The documentary-style cinematography creates a sense of immediacy and urgency. The camera “zooms in” and moves with the characters making it seem like the cinematographer reacts to the character’s organic movements and speech. We as an audience feel pulled into the tension and frenetic energy of the scenes since it feels like we are watching events unfolding in real-time. Shiv meets with her attorney friend Lisa who wants to hire her to be her consigliere—the camera shifts between these two women as they speak. Lisa is always framed in a static medium shot. Lathan’s calm, firm line delivery and the stationary camera reveal a steady confidence in her character, Lisa’s position. At the same time, the medium shots of Shiv shift around and zoom in on her. For most of the episode, Shiv appears to be confident in her desire to be the new CEO of Waystar but the frenetic shots Shiv’s pent-up energy. Her nervous state of mind has been building since she saw the press conference. However, Shiv lets down her guard while talking to her friend Lisa. She nervously twitches and babbles about how conflicted she feels about taking on a more significant role in Waystar RoyCo. She could become CEO or need to flee a burning ship.
The high octave “Secession” promises a series of battles that will end with Logan or Kendall bloody on the floor.
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