'We just made a night of good TV': 'Succession' breaks the spell

'America Decides' reminds us who these characters really are. PLUS: Hoult may be Gunn's Lex Luthor, 'Justified: City Primeval' gets a teaser, and is 'Fast X' the first part of a three-part finale?

'We just made a night of good TV': 'Succession' breaks the spell
Adam Godley and Kieran Culkin the Succession episode “America Decides.” / HBO

Welcome to a Tuesday edition of Popculturology!

My Monday reading list was dominated by stories and features about “America Decides,” this weekend’s episode of Succession. When this show ends and people make their lists of its greatest episodes, “America Decides” is going to be very high on those lists.

Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk has a great interview with Andrij Parekh, the director of the episode. Turns out part of “America Decides” was based on producer Adam McKay’s actual 2016 election party. (And the LaCroix that Greg poured in that guy’s eyes? It was originally a Sprite.)

While I have yet to buy Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (the lack of a PS5 being the issue), I did get The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom over the weekend. My plan was to begin playing it during our daughter’s nap on Saturday, but it wound up arriving too late for me to jump in. My Switch is fully updated now and ready to go for the next time I have a window of time to start playing the game.

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In Today's Edition
  • Feature Presentation: ‘The election has been called by authority of known integrity’
  • Bonus Features: WGA strike updates
  • The News: Vin Diesel says there might be another Fast and Furious movie out there, new names surface for Superman: Legacy
  • Trailer Watch: Justified: City Primeval, The Bear
  • Playlist: Barry, The Other Two
  • Snack Break: Mtn Dew Zero Sugar Summer Freeze
  • Odds and Ends: James Gunn names his top comic book movies

Feature Presentation
Nicholas Braun and Matthew Macfadyen in the Succession episode “America Decides.” / HBO

‘The election has been called by authority of known integrity’

Welp, that was a stressful episode of Succession.

“America Decides” took us inside ATN on election night as the network struggled (and failed) to ethically cover the news while the Roy siblings immersed themselves in the newsroom — and possibly handed the nation to a fascist in order to secure a favorable business climate for themselves.

With the exception of the “holy shit” factor of Logan Roy’s death earlier this season, “America Decides” seems to have struck a nerve with people more than any other episode of Succession in recent memory.

“[Jesse Armstrong’s] diabolical script for “America Decides” — the irony dripping from that title is like the Xenomorph blood in the Alien movies — takes the past two presidential Election Nights as a template, which may explain the sinkhole that has opened up in the pit of your stomach.” — Scott Tobias, Vulture

“Although this episode is incredibly entertaining, it does cut uncomfortably closer to real-world politics than is typical for Succession.” — Noel Murray, The New York Times

“This episode hurts so much because we all know that fear and pain of someone taking the presidency who doesn’t care about the American people or democracy as a whole.” — Rachel Leishman, The Mary Sue

“It’s been fun watching you all have nervous breakdowns.” — Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker

Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall broke down this episode succinctly, pointing out not only how it played on past presidential elections that have shattered our psyches, but also how this episode served to snap us out of the idea that any of Succession’s characters were heroes to be rooted for.

For anyone with PTSD from the last seven years of American political life, the episode’s hour-plus running time may have felt much, much longer, or simply been much more difficult to sit through than your typical Succession. We all make the Faustian bargain with these kinds of shows that we will spend hours and hours, across years of our lives, watching, analyzing, and at times empathizing with the absolute worst types of people alive. As you may know, it took me the better part of two seasons to make peace with that in this case, and to invest in the story of these despicable people fighting over who gets the ultimate authority to make the world a worse place. But I eventually fell under the spell of what Jesse Armstrong and company were doing. I learned to laugh at all the nasty things that Roman or Tom Wambsgans said, to develop rooting interests in different characters and team-ups, and to hope for ways in which Kendall could manage to be a little less broken.

But like some of the final Sopranos or Breaking Bad episodes, “America Decides” removes any barrier or level of artifice that has allowed us to simply laugh with the Roys. It is all of them — Roman most of all, but the whole group, Shiv included — turning America, and by extension the planet, into collateral damage in a fight over the deal with Lukas Matsson. Which, as we know, is in no way a fight over principle, but simply Kendall and Roman not wanting to let go of their chance to stay on the throne they’ve dreamed of occupying for their entire lives. They let Mencken’s followers light thousands of votes on fire, and in turn set a torch to the country that Mencken may now get to lead, depending on whether there is an actual legal battle over those incinerated ballots. It makes clear, in no uncertain terms, that all of them are monsters in some way or other, and that they have combined to unleash a bigger monster on everyone else.

We’re all guilty of having a favorite Succession character, rooting for them as we tell ourselves they’re better or more ethical or more deserving than the other characters.

This episode broke the spell.

I took a special liking to Roman this season, making the argument on several occasions that he was the Roy sibling who actually had a grasp on what was going on. Whoops.

Maybe you’re a Shiv fan — which, I’m sorry, I have not been able to wrap my head around for a long time.

While the Roy brothers are diabolical morons, their scheming made them co-CEOs of their father’s company and gave them the power to have possibly installed a president friendly to their needs.

Shiv is inept as she believes she is cunning.

Time and time and time and time again, we’ve watched Shiv’s plans blow up in her face. She is Sideshow Bob stepping on a cascade of rakes. Her threats to Greg were so hollow and empty and impotent, Greg threw her under the bus to Kendall the first chance he got.

So now we enter the final two episodes of Succession. The nation is broken. ATN is broken. And the Roy family is broken.

After a recent episode of Succession, I suggested to a friend that I have no clue how this show ends. What’s an appropriate finale? These character don’t deserve any kind of win, but as “America Decides” reminded us — by grabbing us by the shoulders and violently shaking us out of any kind of stanning we’ve been doing — these characters, these “monsters” as Sepinwall calls them, win all the time in real life.

“We just made a night of good TV,” Roman says at the of this episode. “Nothing happens.”

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Bonus Feature
The Family Guy family. / 20th Television Animation

The writers’ strike

Updates as the WGA strike continues …

Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy and American Dad showrunners join strike

As long as the writers are on strike, Seth MacFarlane and the showrunners for Family Guy and American Dad won’t be working either. Deadline reported on Friday that MacFarlane, Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin (Family Guy) and Brian Boyle and Matt Weitzman (American Dad) have exited their shows in solidarity with the writers.

‘Netflix broke the model’

The New York Times had a piece at the end of last week looking at how Netflix has become the major villain for the writers during the strike.

“I have 26 years of continuous service, and I haven’t worked in the last four because I’m too expensive,” former Charmed writer Peter Hume told The Times. “And that’s mostly because Netflix broke the model. I think they put all the money into production in the streaming wars, and they took it away from writers.”

As the strike loomed, there had been some chatter that Netflix was the one holdout among the studios keeping a deal from being reached with the WGA …

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The News
Vin Diesel and Daniela Melchior in Fast X. / Universal Pictures

Vin Diesel hints that Fast X could be a three-parter

Fast X hits theaters this weekend and was expected to be the first movie in the two-part finale for the Fast and Furious franchise. During the world premiere of Fast X, though, franchise star Vin Diesel revealed that the two-part finale might actually be a three-part finale.

“Going into making this movie, the studio asked if this could be a two-parter,” Diesel said (via Variety). “And after the studio saw this one, they said, ‘Could you make Fast X, the finale, a trilogy?’”

When pressed further, Diesel said, “You’re gonna get me in trouble here.”

It’s unclear if this is something Universal Pictures actually plans on doing — or if Diesel just threw it out in to the universe in hopes of it becoming a reality.

Fandango’s Erik Davis was the first to report Diesel’s unofficial announcement.

A new (and lengthy) trailer for Fast X also released on Monday.

Jason Momoa appears to be having a ball in this movie.

TheWrap also “scooped” the credits scene for Fast X, ruining the surprise cameo on Twitter. We’ll talk some more about this cameo after the movie opens this weekend.

The cover of All-Star Superman. / DC

Has Superman: Legacy found its Superman and Lex Luthor in David Corenswet and Nicholas Hoult?

It’s only a matter of time before one of the trades scoops who James Gunn has cast as the title character in Superman: Legacy. The Hollywood Reporter appears to be getting closer, reporting on Saturday on a few names that appear to be in the running for the film’s leads.

Superman: Pearl’s David Corenswet has advanced to the screen-test stage along with other unknown possible contenders. Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi, who had previously been rumored to be in the running, was never in the mix.

Lex Luthor: Sounds like Nicholas Hoult has this one nailed down. The Renfield and The Menu actor missed out on playing Batman in Matt Reeves’ movie.

Lois Lane: THR lists Emma Mackey, Rachel Brosnahan, Phoebe Dynevor and Samara Weaving as names in the running to play the Daily Planet reporter, with the note that Brosnahan “may be in the older range for what Gunn is ultimately hoping to achieve.”

‘I think people dig seeing that character. I want to learn more about that character.’

The third season of The Mandalorian was a mess, but it did give us the very cool return of Ahmed Best to the franchise. The actor, who portrayed Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy, played Kelleran Beq in an episode of The Mandalorian, with the reveal that Beq was the Jedi who rescued Grogu during Darth Vader’s attack on the Jedi Temple.

Since Best showed up in The Mandalorian, fans have been asking if and when we would see him as Beq again.

“It’s always a possibility,” The Mandalorian executive producer Dave Filoni told Entertainment Weekly. “We love Ahmed, and he did such a great job. It was a real thrill for us to get him involved.”

“I think people dig seeing that character,” The Mandalorian executive producer Jon Favreau added. “I want to learn more about that character.”

Sam Worthington in Avatar: The Way of Water. / 20th Century Studios

Quick hits

  • Avatar: The Way of Water dives into streaming. The Avatar sequel will be available on both Disney+ and HBO Max on June 7.
  • Ron Howard’s Origin of Species assembles all-star cast. Deadline reported on Sunday that the director’s next film has added Ana De Armas, Jude Law, Alicia Vikander and Daniel Brühl.
  • Willem Dafoe is something of a Beetlejuice himself. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed on Friday the news that Dafoe has signed on for the upcoming Beetlejuice sequel. Giant Freakin Robot had the scoop first.
  • Mel Gibson directing Mark Wahlberg. Just two super nice guys working together on Flight Risk.
  • Reservation Dogs, What We Do in the Shadows and Archer return this summer. FX/Hulu announced on Monday season premiere dates for Reservation Dogs (Aug. 2), What We Do in the Shadows (July 13) and Archer (Aug. 30). This will also be Archer’s final season.

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Trailer Watch

Justified: City Primeval

Basing the promotional campaign for your show around the main character’s hat is a tricky move. Remember Prime Suspect, the NBC drama where Maria Bello wore a hat? That one didn’t even make it through a season. Justified, though, already had an entire series run as one of the best dramas on TV, so making Raylan Givens’ hat the star of the first trailer for Justified: City Primeval should be just fine.

Justified: City Primeval premieres on FX on July 18.

The Bear

I worked a lot of weird jobs in high school and college (the warehouse that stocked dead animals for science classes was probably the wildest) but I never worked in the food industry. That’s probably a good thing, since I’ve heard that The Bear nails the experience so perfectly that it’s triggering for people who have worked in that field.

The Bear Season 2 premieres on Hulu on June 22.

💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!

The Box Office Report
Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldaña, Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. / Marvel Studios

The Box Office Report is Popculturology’s look at the weekend box office. It’s another great add-on available to paid Popculturology subscribers.

The Box Office Report: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ adds $60.5M in second weekend
Hello! Welcome to The Box Office Report for the weekend of May 12-14, 2023. 1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Weekend gross: $60.5M Total domestic gross: $213.2M Last weekend: 1st Percent drop: 49 The first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies saw 55 percent drops their second weekend. Marvel Studios obviously wanted Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 to match its predecessors, but even more critically, the movie needed to avoid the unprecedented 70 percent drop that

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Sarah Goldberg, Zachary Golinger and Bill Hader in the Barry episode “the wizard.” HBO


Episode: “the wizard”

Quick thoughts

That was a depressing one.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, the latest episode of Barry gave us Sally burning a sandwich before boozing up her son while Barry is in Los Angeles to kill Gene.

Sally chose this life. She chose to flee with Barry.

“the wizard” wasn’t all depressing, though. We got to see what Fuches and Noho Hank have been up to during Barry’s time jump. Fuches — sorry, The Raven — is now tattooed up thanks to his in prison. And Hank is running a Fortune 500 business called nohobal.


“We either do this or we drop Jon off at an orphanage and kill ourselves.” — Barry

Case Walker in The Other Two episode “Cary Becomes Somewhat of a Name.” / HBO Max

The Other Two

Episode: “Cary Becomes Somewhat of a Name”

Quick thoughts

There were a bunch of throwaway visual gags in “Cary Becomes Somewhat of a Name” that took this episode to another level for me.

  • The MVP of these gags was obviously Chase’s “shitty little rat look,” which seemed to be pure Justin Bieber.
  • Then you had Pat escaping the watch of her security detail by using a Talkboy — yes, the cassette toy from Home Alone — to trick her body guard into thinking they were having a conversation.
  • And finally, you have Brooke wearing what I’m pretty sure was the dress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore to the State of the Union in 2019.

“I knows it’s not ideal since he’s in-character as an 18-year-old virgin.” — Cary referring to his boyfriend

The Links

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Snack Break

Mtn Dew Zero Sugar Summer Freeze

I’ve been hunting for this for a few weeks now and finally found it at a 7-Eleven over the weekend. They only had the Zero Sugar version in stock, which is just fine since it’s been probably almost twenty years since I switched over to diet soda.

Based on the cartoon on Summer Freeze’s label, this Mountain Dew variety is meant to evoke a Bomb Pop — and it doesn’t disappoint. While I’m not sure a melted down Bomb Pop would be this shade of deep, electric blue, Summer Freeze nails the flavor.

Odds and Ends

James Gunn reveals his top five comic book movies

LOVE that Gunn picked Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as his top comic book movie.

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