Hereditary Venom: On Nicholas Britell’s “Succession: Season 4” Soundtrack

Hereditary Venom: On Nicholas Britell’s “Succession: Season 4” Soundtrack

Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the final season of HBO's Succession . IN JESSE ARMSTRONG'S revered and recently concluded Succession , love is weighed down with heavy qualifiers. “I love you,” series patriarch Logan Roy tells his children in what will prove to be his final conversation with them, “but you are not … serious people.” “I love you …” Kendall will tell his father one episode later, as he lies dying on the floor of a private plane—but “I don't know … I can't, I can't forgive you.” “I love you. I really … I love you,” Kendall's sister, Shiv, tells him before obliterating his chances of succeeding their father, in a shocking boardroom betrayal. “But I cannot fucking stomach you.” In the world of the business elite, love exists, yes—but it comes with a superscripted dagger, poised and waiting to sink itself into the flesh of those loved ones' backs. This idea of emotional duality is at the heart of the show: corporate action is animated by personal agendas; intimate relationships implode due to shareholder unease. All good dramatic has its text, and then its subtext—but Succession 's silver-spoon, sharp-tongued principal characters are distinct in their commitment to using communication as a deliberate smoke screen. Despite a capacity for vicious insults and hyperarticulation, Armstrong and his actors also force the audience to extrapolate multidimensional meaning from a litany of uhhs, umms, and okays. Characters code-switch between distorted honesty and intentional deceit, circling around truth but never quite arriving at it. It's fitting, then, that the show's most reliable narrator is one who never appears on-screen, one who never manipulates, postures, or double-crosses—one who remains wordless, voiceless until the very end: Nicholas Britell's soundtrack. Since Succession 's debut in the late spring of 2018, Britell's score has made this deception and doublespeak navigable, guiding the audience through the Roy children's gilded cages. Britell deftly captures the emotional dissonance at the heart of the show. His score's dual capacity for harmony and dissonant chords underlines the nuanced nature of so many interactions, as affection is clouded […]

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