The battle over control of Sky Group between an aging media mogul and his media empire’s squeaky clean chief executive stretches far beyond the depths of the box office or behind-the-scenes drama that Netflix has made cinema history. Those stories were in evidence Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival, where HBO aired the new BBC/HBO drama Succession.
The 10-episode series presents Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of 21st Century Fox and News Corp, as the ultimate villain in the complicated blood feud between his two children’s offspring, played by Brian Cox and Nicholas Pinnock, who is thought to be stepping down as CEO of Sky. The rivalry has divided the Murdoch family since 2003, when James Murdoch became CEO of Fox, succeeding his father as chairman. After a run of mixed success, James subsequently ran Fox for nearly five years before a showdown with James’ children — one of whom — Kathryn, played by Kieran Culkin, decided to seduce Gavin, the eldest Murdoch (Jeremy Strong), who is enduring his own frustrations in his long-suffering pursuit of a takeover of Sky.
The series opened with Gavin’s retirement from a successful career in media, marking an end to a contentious decade in which his power at Fox and News Corp allowed him to use his wealth to oust family members seen as threats to his empire’s stability. The show provided a beautifully cast and titled world in which emotion drives much of the drama. Katherine Parkinson, as Gavin’s daughter, Jane, is a compelling bully as she insists on telling her father how to run his empire, allowing her family’s many problems to fester. Sky’s operations, meanwhile, remain under control by Thorne, played by Rupert Friend, who is the wife of Gavin’s own son, played by Nathaniel Martello-White.
Like any great series, Succession shows the characters grappling with the fallout from their increasingly complex situations. Just as the Murdoch family dashes between events in New York and London, it also resists temptation to go on vacation together. Not that the series rushes to bury the family secret, especially in a season that includes a game changer involving a woman named Victoria (Tracey Ullman) who claims to be the boss of a British TV channel.
The show has been renewed for a second season, so we can expect to see more of what made the movie GoT such a hit — or consider the possibility that at some point soon, after viewers have tuned out, the Murdochs will take another trip to the kingdom of Westeros and whack the bastard babies.