If you only watch one TV show this year
WHEN the book closes on 2019, the TV triumphs will be clear.
There was Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, a superlative dark comedy, and then there is Succession.
The second season of Succession is one of those extraordinarily rare series in which absolutely everything is working in tandem. You will struggle to find another show this year (again, Fleabag being the notable exception) that is so tightly constructed, well-written and perfectly performed.
The second season finale aired last night and its 74 minutes, which flew by, proved why Jesse Armstrong's biting, insightful and entertaining TV show is the most exciting drama all year.
The series set in the world of the modern-day uber-rich is a mix of social satire, Shakespearean tragedy and razor-sharp comedy. And the balance is as precise as a surgeon's scalpel.
If you're not already watching Succession, you need to start right now. The whole first two seasons can be binged now on Foxtel/Foxtel Now and, from today, through iTunes, Google Play or any digital purchase platform.
Like, seriously, go do it right now. Leave work early, tell them you had tuna sashimi for lunch and you're regretting everything about that decision.
This will be a largely spoiler-free discussion so newbies can plunge into those crystal blue Mediterranean waters that splashed across our TV screens last night.
When Succession first dropped last year, it was the story of the Roy family, a media dynasty headed by patriarch Logan (Brian Cox). The tension of the story is in the title, with Logan's four adult children - Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Siobhan (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck) - angling for position.
Logan is a cold-hearted son-of-a-bitch who have always played his kids off one another, withholding the affection and approval they all desperately crave. It's a chess game where the prize is control of a multibillion-dollar empire and where every rook cast aside is another bit of your soul.
When the show first started, it drew comparisons to 21st century dynastic families including the Murdochs, the Sinclairs, the Redstones, the Trumps, the Kushners and more.
That question of how to pass the reigns onto the next generation has played out in the media for decades, and Shakespeare certainly captured it in something like King Lear.
And as much as Succession was first this indulgent drama that let audiences watch the obscenely wealthy destroy and emotionally torture each other, albeit in the prestigious package an HBO series provides, the show has slowly and subtly morphed into a family drama with incredible weight.
The first season was a slow burn but midway through, it starts to really punch and the momentum has never stopped. This is a show that gets better with every episode and you'll feel yourself yearning for more, but still 100 per cent satisfied at the same time.
Succession is right up there with the likes of Mad Men, The Sopranos, The Wire or Six Feet Under.
Every single character in Succession, from the core Roys to all their hangers-on employees or partners are so vividly drawn - they're vulnerable, insecure, pandering, confused, ambitious, snivelling, hateful and arrogant.
But no one person is the same kind of bitter or contemptuous - the writing and the performances are so good that there's not one named character that feels half-baked or indistinct. Quite rightly, Armstrong won the Best Writing in a Drama award at the Emmys last month.
While it's hard to favour one character arc or performance over the others, special mention goes out to Strong's Kendall Roy.
Kendall starts off the series as the heir presumptive of his father's empire and he's spent the past 20 episodes on a journey with oscillating between crevasse-like lows and moments close to, but not really, joy.
Last night's finale provides an outstanding pay-off for the audience who has followed Kendall's arc. It's actually a visceral sensation and you may struggle to calm down in the minutes that follow.
Strong does so much incredible work with just his face, with his reacting. He doesn't need chunks of dialogue or monologues or soliloquy to tell us everything about this character. The simple act of washing up a waterglass (in episode seven) screams volumes without saying a word.
Strong's is the most compelling performance on TV right now.
RELATED: Succession season one review
RELATED: Succession season two review
Add to all that Nicholas Britell's (If Beale Street Could Talk, Moonlight) wonderful score and a kinetic visual style established by pilot director Adam Mackay (The Big Short, Vice) and maintained by series directors including Mark Mylod and Andrij Parekh.
So if you're not gobbling up Succession, you're only cheating yourself.
Succession seasons one and two is available to stream on Foxtel/Foxtel Now or for digital purchase on iTunes, Google Play and other like platforms.
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