The Success Of “Succession” Shows Our Relationship To The Ultra-Rich

This month has seen the return of “Succession” for its second season. The show that started out as critically acclaimed but a slow-burn among audiences, has now become a full-blown obsession. It has an avid cult following, but the HBO-run series has now landed firmly in the mainstream, a hit on both sides of the pond.

But the question has to be: Why? Sure, the team is incredible — with “Peep Show” creator Jessie Armstrong and Lucy Prebble, the Enron playwright, and the “Veep” writers Tony Roche and Georgia Pritchett all on board. It’s technically masterful and enthralling, but every single character is unlikeable, if not downright contemptible.

How have we all fallen in love with a show about, essentially, detestable billionaires? Focused on a dynastic, Murdoch-type media family, every single character is ruthless, cold, and calculated — in one way or another. Even those who you want to feel sympathy for, the Gregs and Toms who are less vital to the dynasty and treated as expendable jokes by the other characters, show themselves to be consistently vile.

And yet, we’re hooked. Because in a time of increasing and destructive inequality, this is our chance to see the 1% — to see them and to kind of… hate them.

In a world where 26 of the richest people own more than the bottom half of the entire global population, almost all of us are victims of inequality. Some of us have been brutally affected and live lives of chronic financial instability, some of us make up the working poor — who, despite having full-time jobs, still can’t make ends meet — and others might be some of the strangled middle class who find that life is always just a little harder than it should be.

It’s a world where we know the 1% exists, but most of will never come even close to being in contact with any of them. We feel angry, resentful, disenfranchised — and maybe even a little fixated on those who have always had life handed to them a little too easily. The billionaires. The heirs. Those who refuse to check their privilege. Those who refuse to share their resources.

So “Succession” puts that 1% front and center. Not only allowing us to examine them, but confirming what we always thought — yes, they’re just as dreadful as you imagined them to be. And yes, though they may have their own problems, they are, at their core… just kind of terrible.

The brilliant writing, the incredible performances — there is so much about this show that makes it a technical wonder. But our obsession with the ultra-rich is a driving force — one that “Succession” uses to great success.