What: “Say What You Mean,” A deep-dive into the language of Succession.
Who: Video essay master The Nerdwriter.
Why we care: Succession barged right out of the gate, swinging, with some of the best dialogue on TV since Veep‘s heyday. (Not too surprising, considering that creator Jesse Armstrong is an Armando Iannucci affiliate who wrote for a time on Veep.) According to The Nerdwriter, however, the show is also a master class in how people can use a lot of words and not say anything.
While some actors like Anthony Hopkins are able to communicate more with a sidelong glance than words could possibly express, the performers on Succession are routinely required to stammer their way through substance-free blocks of inert verbiage.
“Words are just . . . uh, what? Nothing. Complicated airflow,” says Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), the troubled scion of the Murdoch surrogate family at the show’s center, in a scene. The Nerdwriter seizes on this line as part of Succession’s underlying thesis: a playful checking underneath the hood to determine whether words are indeed just nothing.
It turns out there’s plenty in the show to suggest that they are; never more so than when one of the Roys or their compatriots deflect questions using legalese. However, saying nothing with words is still an effective form of communication on the show, even if what a character is trying to communicate is pure obfuscation. “Say What You Mean” ultimately shows the “cold utility” of how the characters on Succession use words and serves as a warning sign to anyone who finds sincerity suspicious. Watch the full video below.