Following on from the huge critical acclaim of the first season, Jesse Armstrong returns to write this second season, as the fallout from the first season’s finale is laid out. Kendall is placed in rehab but quickly forced to go before the cameras to clarify why he backed out of seizing the company from his father. Logan meanwhile is having to consider who his successor will be and is sounding out the family, including Shiv, for the role, and it will change the entire dynamics of the family when he decides. The entire lead cast returns to their roles, with guest stars like Holly Hunter and Cherry Jones also added into the equation.
The plot of this season has so many twists and turns for all involved that I won’t go into any of that in detail, only to say that everything that happens still remains deeply rooted in character above all else. The writing from Jesse Armstrong (and the team of writers who bring their own voice but stay within Armstrong’s clear vision) is so impressive, with the dialogue being incredibly sharp and memorable, both hilarious and shocking when needed. On top of this though, the most impressive thing is how he balances a twisty plot with always putting character development first. Each of these characters feels completely unique and all get their own arcs this season, developing them all in interesting ways and it is this that really pulls the audience in and makes you care, even if what the characters are doing is not traditionally likable or acceptable behaviour.
One of the most instantly iconic, and agonising to watch, pieces of TV occur in episode 8 of this season as Kendall, ever desperate to impress, decides to perform a rap in front of all Logan’s friends and family, to celebrate his birthday. “L to the OG” is full of hilariously cringey lines, but feels like something Kendall would truly do and say, and it encapsulates his mental state at that point perfectly, whilst also being thoroughly entertaining. The song and tune are incredibly catchy, and even got released as a single for people to buy. “Never going to stop baby, fuck father time. Bro, don’t get it twisted, I’ve been through hell. But since I stan dad, I’m alive and well”.
Yet again the whole cast is great, with everyone getting a chance to shine. Brian Cox gets to play a wide range of emotions this season as Logan goes through crisis after crisis, and his presence absolutely dominates the screen whenever he is on it, and he brings an electric feeling to the show. Sarah Snook is superb as Shiv in this season, as she gets sucked into the family machinery and her desire to head the family business is revealed, but she is constantly being played by her father. Kieran Culkin is equally impressive, but his performance this season is much less as a livewire making jokes all the time, and focuses much more on his complicated personal and sexual life. Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun again prove to be the perfect comedic duo, and their interactions and characters are arguably the standouts of the show because of this, with both men having perfect comedic timing, whilst also getting to show off their dramatic chops at times too. A truly perfect ensemble.
The absolute star of this season though is Jeremy Strong, as Kendall becomes very much the lead of the story and his emotional turmoil is the driving force of the season from start to end. Strong is a notorious method actor and completely immerses himself in Kendall, in all the suffering and confusion that he feels, and you can see that weight on his shoulders up on the screen. He is quite rightfully winning lots of awards for this season, it is one of the finest performances on TV right now, and hopefully he will get to show a new side to Kendall when the status quo is shifted in season 3.
Overall, this season somehow manages to easily surpass the second season, with both the comedy and drama dialled up to an even higher amount, allowing for the wonderful writers and actors to absolutely thrive. With a blockbuster ending that sets the scene for all-out family warfare, the third season cannot come soon enough, and despite being delayed due to Covid, is now deep in production and heading for a 2021 debut.
Rating = 4.5/5