Money makes things weird, and too much can make love difficult.
“Succession” is too layered and full of sardonic banter to have such a clear thesis, but its visual treatment of the Roys – especially Kendall (Jeremy Strong) – underscores a strange, essential character disconnect: He’s in or near water that the worst and most important moments of Kendall’s life happen. And it’s in figuring out how to shoot those sequences that director Mark Mylod has really brought in the character and essential tragedy of the series.
Kendall is the character who could most easily escape her father’s orbit and the burden of Waystar Royco, yet she repeatedly associates water with death and money with life – “the corpuscles of life”, starting with her eulogy in the penultimate season last season episode. While he doesn’t jump the barriers in Battery Park at the end of the series, it’s clear that being by the water visually equates to what he threatens Shiv (Sarah Snook) with during their boardroom punchline: That’s it for him; he could die.
Mylod credits most of the water’s resonance over the course of “Succession” to the brilliant writing of series creator Jesse Armstrong. But working on key Season 1 episodes also clarified #1’s convoluted relationship. 1 Roy Boy with it. “I was fascinated by a pilot (that could) have such hopelessly awful yet compelling characters, that I thought, you know, ‘How long can we sustain this? At some point, we have to peel back the layers and find the vulnerability. We need to find a context for their behavior. We have to find something deeper.’ I don’t think a hate watch can necessarily sustain multiple seasons,” Mylod told IndieWire on the Filmmaker Toolkit podcast.
Mylod credits Andrij Parekh, who directed the sixth episode of the first season, with perfecting the reactive and verité vocabulary of the show’s camerawork into something that is always whipping, panning, reframing and zooming with the specific goal of “rising tension, which it had thus far hasn’t necessarily been a trademark of the show. We’ve really whetted our appetite and bloodied the show with that appetite for there excruciating tension, which has become such an integral part of the show’s DNA Mylod said.
For the “Succession” EP and director’s work, though, it was really taking Kendall to the lowest (wettest) place she’s ever been during the series’ first ruined wedding that gave him a sense of how the show he would have grown into his emotional range. “I found purpose and I found a way in my head that I could balance the scope and grandeur of, I suppose, the (Roy’s) world without sacrificing intimacy – in fact, I found a way to balance those important elements together Mylod said.
It’s in the car crash sequence, where Mylod balances crushing distance from Kendall in the water with camera shake as the valet (Tom Morely) sinks to his death. Over the course of Season 1, “Succession” realizes that the right place to put the camera is always the most painful place. The panicked, quick shots of Kendall in the water aren’t nearly as awful, however, as the scene where Logan (Brian Cox) confronts him about the accident: the compositions are stately and static right down to the most intimate moment between father and son, where Mylod brings the camera closer to Kendall’s shocked face and keeps Logan’s face away. It’s a stylistic twist on the knife that shows that even when Logan comforts his children, he’s a brutal force.
With what Mylod calls the “sadism” of the camera, the second season saw “Succession” continue to increase the complexity of the scenes against which the Roys brothers find new and interesting ways to implode. “With ‘Tern Haven,’ the 22 people around a dinner table, I had a chance to channel my inner Robert Altman,” Mylod said. He did more than juggle a great cast for that episode; “Succession” began its policy of miking everyone in a scene so camera operators could intuitively react to the energy of a particular moment.
This readiness allowed Mylod to block scenes by building environments that simultaneously gave the actors a lot of freedom to explore and apply pressure that funnels them toward confrontation, as in the season 2 finale, “This Is Not For Tears.”
Placing the Roy clan in the (wide) confines of a yacht, trapped and isolated at the same time, brought out some of the show’s best comedic and visual contrasts. The summit setting for deciding who goes to jail is so contrived and strange that it actually comes back to heighten the characters’ emotions, in the tradition of ‘Gosford Park’, a touchstone for Mylod.
Season 3 adheres very much to that template of what the show should be. The visual agitation, juggling and fluidity with which “Succession” moves pair particularly well with the shots in and out of the water, especially Kendall just before she falls into a swimming pool in Italy at the end of the episode 8, “Chiantishire”. Much more than visually creating a sense of barely keeping up with events, the hardest moments for Kendall in “Succession” are the ones where the camera nearly drowns him out.
The camera drowns all the characters in Season 4 Episode 3, “Connor’s Wedding”. “(Episode 3 offered) a new kind of audacity,” Mylod said. “(We were) just trying to keep pushing as much as possible for every nuance, for every ounce of weight around those characters.”
In addition to running 30-minute long takes while shooting with film material, the backdrop of New York Harbor plays a key role for Kendall in that sequence: the manic denial dissipates once she’s in the fresh air, looking out over the water . “On the one hand, you had all the freedom of the water and the harbor and the kind of big New York City adventure beyond. But at the same time, the characters are trapped in this little glass cage, in this VIP room, trapped in their pain and their frustration at not being able to get this knowledge or this comfort that they seek,” Mylod said. When Kendall walks on deck, “It’s a big deep breath and it’s the first time you’ve ever been able to breathe properly.”
The tragic conclusion to Kendall’s fate is all the more striking due to the evolution of water in season four and the way the camera covers it. Episode 6, “Living+” director Lorene Scafaria told HBO’s Official Podcast that she was adamant about shooting the final beach scene because “I really wanted to see Kendall face up in the water. dark clouds on the horizon, it’s a victory lap and he’s doing it himself”.
That’s ultimately what “Succession” does with water and Kendall: It makes him completely alone. Also in the series finale, when Kendall receives word from Shiv and Roman (Kieran Culkin) that they are willing to make him “King”, Mylod separates him from his brothers in the dark waters of Barbados. “The whole sequence I call ‘the cruelty of hope,'” Mylod said.
“There was something in terms of taking Jeremy’s character to the absolute pinnacle of happiness. “This is Happy Ken.” Actually giving him what he thinks he wants in a place that has always been death to him has been the ultimate catharsis and wish fulfillment for the character on the surface – and likewise, we absolutely refute that with the finality of their humiliation to the board meeting, how much is public through those glass walls,” Mylod said. “The more happiness we have given them in Barbados, the more sheer abject misery we have had to heap upon them. voyage.
The emotional truth of Kendall’s journey is evident in the beauty of those final shots at the bottom of Manhattan and the bottom of her ambitions. The work of Mylod and his fellow directors on “Succession” has evolved into the work of creating contrasts – between billionaire-level luxury and the loneliness of a broken family, between the power of these characters and the short-term desires that drive them , between the expansive possibility of what water could mean for Kendall and the tides that wash him down.
“Just because we turn our backs on these characters, they continue (or not) with their choices. So when a character leaves the frame for the last time, obviously we’re so weighed down by the emotion of the moment,” Mylod said. “But in treating that, we need to stay laser focused with the hard, cold truth.”