Succession, a black comedy about a rich family battling for control of a far-flung media empire, is one of HBO’s best current shows and one of the best the network has aired in recent years, but it’s not a huge hit, and if you stumble upon a particular moment in the second-season premiere, you can understand why. Logan Roy (Brian Cox), the 80-year-old patriarch, has called a family meeting at the “summer palace,” a Gatsby-ish seaside estate on Long Island, to discuss whether to sell the company to investors attempting a hostile takeover or fight to stay independent. Servants have prepared a lavish spread, but a mysterious foul smell is emanating from somewhere in the house, and Logan responds by announcing that the food has been contaminated and must be thrown out. So out it goes. All of it. Steaks, shrimp, whole lobsters go straight into the trash. The Roys eat pizza instead.
This blithe wastefulness is characteristic of Succession’s view of the superrich as fundamentally cruel, thoughtless people whose senses of decency and civic responsibility have been withered, perhaps at the genetic level, by proximity to billions in cash, assets, and playthings. The show is constantly quoting Shakespeare and is bound to remind viewers of other HBO antihero families, such as the Sopranos and the Lannisters. But because the series lacks the abstracting effect of genre, you’re aware that these people, however invented