The Best ‘Succession’ Quotes, from Tomelettes to Greggs

One of the best ways a TV show can distinguish itself from the pack is by developing a vocabulary and cadence that’s completely its own. “Seinfeld” turned long, rambling conversations about nothing into an artform. “Gilmore Girls” had viewers struggling to keep up with the leads’ motor-mouthed wordplay. And every Aaron Sorkin show has the signature grand speeches, and the almost musically precise line readings that made “The West Wing” a pioneering force in prestige TV.

Now, in an age when too many shows and movies have the same strained, pop culture heavy snark leaving their characters lips, there is “Succession.” Created by Jesse Armstrong, HBO’s juggernaut series about the power plays of the media mogul Roy family carries much of the same DNA from the British writer’s prior work on series like “Peep Show” and “The Thick of It.” The latter series, especially, has the same kind of colorful, vicious insults that have becomes the bread and butter of “Succession” scripting.

But the series’ oral style distinguishes itself from Armstrong’s other shows in a number of key ways. The first, and most obvious, is that the characters are mainly Americans instead of Brits: giving them an entirely different toolkit of phrases and references to verbally demolish each other. Suffice to say, Roman (Kieran Culkin) shouting about jerking off wouldn’t have the same ring to it if he was talking about “wanking.” Even more vital to “Succession” dialogue is the way it molds the business-speak and corporate jargon essential to its setting of board rooms and corporate retreats to suit the show’s central figures, resulting in a universe where no two figures have the same way with words.

Characters on “Succession” have a talent for saying a lot of nonsense that nonetheless communicates everything about who they are. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) speaks in stammering buzzwords and tortured metaphors that only underline his inability to become the killer he thinks he needs to be. Roman’s foul-mouthed smartassery, and the way Culkin stumbles and catches himself on swears and punchlines, conveys the armor that he uses to hide his vulnerabilities as the youngest. Shiv (Sarah Snook) has a haughty, snide stable of clap-backs, but is frequently reduced to verbal gaffes and self-humiliation when it actually matters. Eccentric Connor (Alan Ruck) is slower-talking and less snarky than his younger siblings, with a penchant for off-topic rambling that marks him as the family’s obvious black sheep.

Their father, the terse and terrifying Logan (Brian Cox), has his iconic “Fuck off!” and the ability to silence his motor-mouthed kids with a single brutally constructed sentence. Interloping Midwestern boy Tom (Matthew MacFayden) uses eloquent and pompous verbiage as a rope to aid in his social climbing, while his sidekick Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) can barely form a full sentence in the face of the universally quicker-witted ensemble. Even characters on the periphery of the action have their own style of speech — Logan’s cold wife Marcia (Hiam Abass) has her witheringly poetic put-downs, Connor’s girlfriend Willa (Justine Lupe) is quiet but with bite, and general counsel Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) has a more professional demeanor but a crackling no bullshit bottom line — that makes them all stand out from each other.

The result is a show that’s very funny; filled with savage disses and bizarre twists of the English language that make it one of the most meme-able shows  on air. But beyond the insults, some of the show’s most cutting quotes come from when characters drop their pretenses and say what they actually mean to each other. In those rare vulnerable moments, the dialogue still sings, with simple sentences conveying the hurt, anger, and pain that’s molded these abused children into the tragicomic failures they are as adults.

In honor of the ongoing fourth and final season of “Succession,” here’s a list of some of the best insults, one-liners, and devastating admissions that the series has given to us over 30 episodes and counting. Entries are listed in no particular order, and were chosen based on a mix of memorability, how well the line works in the show, and what it conveys about the person speaking it.

[Editor’s note: This list will be updated continuously throughout “Succession” Season 4.]

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