Every person in the bucket of snakes that is the Roy family on HBO's Succession is horrible. Logan (Brian Cox) the patriarch belittles people to their faces and will pee on your carpet to mark his territory. His son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is manipulative and self-righteous. Logan's daughter, Siobhan or "Shiv" (Sarah Snook), lies and cheats as easily as she blinks. Eldest kid Connor (Alan Ruck) is an aging trustafarian who spews excruciating quasi-New Age nonsense.
This is not to say the Roys — what would happen if the real-life Murdoch family was as awkward as the Bluths of Arrested Development -- aren't fun to watch. No, no. They're a thrill. They're even a little comforting, because seeing these rich people rip each other's skin off for control of Logan's empire convinces us cockroaches that being born into untold wealth isn't that fun. Unless you're Roman Roy.
Roman Roy, played by Kieran Culkin, is the most despicable Roy. He made this clear in the premiere when he humiliated a cute little Latino kid by promising him a million dollars if he could hit a home run and then ripping up the check in his face when said kid, predictably, could not. Roman Roy is a total prick. Most pricks, like his brother Kendall, deny their prickishness, masking it with delusional benevolence or, like his Dad Logan, behave like pricks because their micropenises and black hearts make them wildly overcompensate.
Not Roman. Roman enjoys being a prick and that — it sucks to admit this but it would be a lie not to — makes Roman Roy kind of irresistible. He is primal and disgusting, yet so rich, so naturally fit and so impeccably groomed he is mesmerizing. (Culkin's brooding sex appeal helps greatly.) Roman turns aristocratic assholery into an art, like when he threatens his personal trainer with white shoe lawyers — the kind who could sue God and win, presumably — to ruin his life, just to see the look on trainer bro's face. Whether in spite of or because of the current climate, which favors famous families flexing power with no regard for rules, Roman Roy is the perfect poster boy for the times. He's gross, he's intoxicating and impossible not to like, to envy or want to bed, or all the above. Shag, Marry or Kill? With Roman, the answer is yes to it all.
The very definition of the hate-f--k, Roman embodies just about everything you're supposed to think about when hearing that name: grand heights of human ambition, moral conflicts, amazing hair, hedonistic excess. Drink and drugs aren't really Roman's thing though, at least not anymore, even if he does look perpetually hungover. Roman's drug is disruption, the ability to create anarchy but live in luxury, and conjuring up demented joys, like, say, masturbating in front of a floor-to-ceiling window in a busy office in the middle of the day.
Roman is the Rihanna of the Roy family, because of all of the Roys, he understands that not giving a f--k is a type of art. Roman treats his almighty father Logan with bemused nonchalance when Logan practically begs him to take control of Waystar Royco at the start of the series, and though he'll never jeopardize his access the fruits of his father's labor, showing respect for anything else is for foolish mortals. Slap your sister across the face after she shoves you for making a cruel joke about her infirm partner? Why not? Take off your shirt in a meeting despite the protests of a female colleague? Who's going to stop me? Guys, wouldn't layoffs be fun?
Roman Roy is the son of a son a bitch who seduces viewers by giving them a look at a newly endangered species: a rich white man defiant about his privilege. The standard rich people narrative — I got here through hard work, sacrifice and vision on my own! — is almost always hogwash, but, especially now as the whole world reckons with a wave of female and/or people of color rising to the top, it's insulting. Roman is a walking, talking f--k you in nice shoes — a loaded guy who not only admits to being the beneficiary of generational wealth but luxuriates in it too. It's inappropriate, and it's so titillating.
Hate-f--ks are deeply satisfying because they allow at least one party to redress an egregious slight — revenge for cheating, say — or, in the case of Roman, try to regain some power. Roman has no doubt paid for a range of services so comprehensive that the Masters of Sex hadn't heard of it all, so there's an imperative to embrace props and stunts so wild that Roman is for once utterly and completely vulnerable. Or at least shuts up for a little while. He's much more likely to have a bodyguard escort someone out while she's still trying to find her socks than call the next day, but part of hate-f---king Roman hinges on the hope that, after some bomb ass sex, he will call and thusly transfer advantage. This is where one changes the voicemail to a fake pizza delivery spot, or pretends to be an underage runaway, or better yet, claims to be a producer from an MSNBC show looking for hot tips. Hate-screwing Roman is a brickbat against the patriarchy — it's sticking a wedge in the capitalist pig factory his whole life is attached to. He's a complete little sh-t, but, hey, at least he's honest about it. Face it: you'd hit it if the opportunity presented itself. You know it, and Roman does too.
Succession airs Sundays at 10/9c on HBO.