Villainy Is Always More Interesting

HBO’s Succession, a binge-worthy cast of deplorables. Art composite by The Ringer.

Tony Soprano, Walter White, Iago–Satan himself–and now the Roy Family. Stories about devilish characters and reprehensible behavior always seem so hard to resist. HBO’s Succession is the latest version of a cringe-worthy but binge-worthy show, full of wealthy rogues backstabbing each other as they scramble to the top of a multimedia empire. I’m embarrassed to love it. Why is such villainy fascinating?

Lifestyles of the Spoon-Fed and Conniving

Succession debuted as a drama in 2019, sliding in under the radar between the ignominious end of Game of Thrones and the rise of The Crown. It won a slew of Emmys, though I’d never heard of it when I was flipping channels at my brother’s house last month on vacation, when I had extra time on my hands. The story circles around 83-year-old Logan Roy (Brian Cox), head of the Waystar media conglomerate, who ought to be aging out of his role and passing the torch on to one of his children. But he refuses to go, even though the shareholders clamor for a succession plan and he experiences episodes of physical and mental frailty. Logan is vicious, duplicitous, domineering, and as vulgar as a recent ex-President, full of quips like: “Would you like to hear my favorite passage from Shakespeare? Take the fucking money.”

Logan’s favorite word is money, but his second favorite word is family, which is the problem. He’s one of those people who constantly espouses family values while in the next breath belittling, snarling, and smacking down–literally–his adult children. He’s raised them in his image, so none of them has the right combination of intelligence, courage, or work ethic (never mind integrity) to run an $18 billion dollar enterprise. Waystar is a unique entity: think Fox plus Disney, Republican-leaning jingoistic news combined with theme parks and cruises. Someone has even created a real twitter account for the fake theme park with bizarre but hilarious tweets:

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The Cinematic Flowering of Dune

Dune afficionados: What’s wrong with this picture? Besides Sting in a metal diaper? Composite created by the New York Post.

Denis Villenueve may have finally reached the mountain top. Solved the mysterious Poincaré conjecture, created the Philosopher’s Stone, discovered the ruins of Atlantis. That is, as a movie director, he may have finally made a version of Dune that doesn’t need to be remade.

Fourth time’s the charm? Or maybe it’s twelve, if you count all the games, sequels and such–there are apparently fourteen books. (I read five, back in college). Let’s stick just the cinematic versions here: the Bad one, the New one, the Forgettable one, and the Psychedelic one. My fellow Frank Herbert dorks, I promised a review in my last blog (about the Roots of Dune). Links will be attached. Shade will be thrown. Sleeves are being rolled. Let’s compare Dunes.

Whose Idea Was THAT? The Bad, the Forgettable, and the Psychedelic

Why did Dune need so many remakes? Well, there was this one:

Lynch’s 1984 Dune. So much promise. So much wasted.

Patrick Stewart has always been one of the greatest actors on the planet… (see I, Claudius, Episodes 5 & 6). But Gurney Halleck wielding a 20th century rifle, carrying a pug into interstellar battle? Just say no.

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The Roots of Dune

Dune, 1990 edition, cover art by Frank Herbert

I give you fair warning: I am a Dune Dork.

I read all the books when I was a kid, i.e. in college. I had a poster for the upcoming 1984 Ridley Scott movie on my dorm room wall, facing my roommate’s life-sized photo of Spock. I owned the Avalon Hill game of Dune, which I regretfully gave away years ago because I thought it was too dorky to own and too complicated to play.

Dune is coming–a fourth movie version–yes! there are four. That’s how dorky I am, that I know about the Jodorowsky version. If you aren’t quite so enamored, I do understand. Some people prefer Xena or Ernest Hemingway. But Dune was a landmark in science fiction history, so I am excited. I will tell you more about Dune, the movie history, in a later blog. And I will review the movie after I see it on October 26th at the 2:40 pm show in seat B9, hoping not to be as disappointed as I was on December 17, 1984 when I saw it at the big dome at the Century Theater in Sacramento.

But wait, there’s more! Because we were out a wanderin’ and came upon the Dune Peninsula. (!!!?!?!!)

The Dune Peninsula

Imagine, if you are a Xena dork, coming upon the location where they filmed the Xena’s death scene–the first one. Or, if you like Ernest Hemingway (for some reason I can’t fathom, but to each his own), his favorite tobacconist in Paris. I own a second edition paperback of The Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones). During a tour of an ancestral home in Scotland, where our tour guide happened to be the Earl of Something, he casually mentioned that they had filmed a scene from Season 3 of the show out on his estate, near the folly. Squeee!

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