Its Done: A Succession Fashion and Character Analysis
Trying to find meaning in the superficial.
It is with a heavy heart and an empty mind that I write to you this eulogy. It seems as though our beloved characters really made no change at all, and with ears to see and eyes to hear, I search for resolution but find nothing. We last saw Kendall wrestling with his mortality by the Hudson; he was losing.
Ultimately, Shiv became her mother, slipping her palm atop her marionette husband’s and sinking into the back seat. I wash my hands of it. There is a tightrope connecting the city skyline to heaven, where Roman is clumsily dancing between a happy ending or the beginning of alcoholism, and he’s not wearing a harness. Their souls left long ago, and I have nothing left to do but kneel and pray for open caskets, so I can get a better look at the outfits.
I'm trying to say there's a reason the Succession costume department picked what they did, or at least a large number of coincidences led to wardrobes dripping in dramatic irony. This season, we saw Kendall donning Tom Ford, Shiv in Alexander McQueen, and in the greatest twist of all, we see Rome go from Ralph Lauren to the children's section at Walmart. I hate to spoil it, but they don’t live up to their designer either.
Kendall is sick with desire. Despite having everything, he cannot be satiated by the silver spoon. We leave him staring into the emptiness, back towards the audience, and just like him, we cannot quite see what's ahead of us. His final desire was to fulfill the needs of a 7-year-old that his father could not. He never had to work for it, and yet it evaded him. He failed so far upwards that there was nowhere left to go.
This hungry ghost skulked around the office in a white Tom Ford sheet, using Oliver People's glasses for eye-holes. Revered in velvet, Ford graced us with Gucci 1994-2004, becoming a mogul and failing fantastically upwards to get there: dropping out of three colleges, with no fashion degree, and scraping for a break into the industry.
Like Kendall and Logan, he was under the thumb of a powerful patriarch, Maurizio Gucci. The difference is Ford proved himself. Ford the conqueror, Ken his father's serf. Maybe it's the altruistic clawing to the top that Kendall missed out on. Maybe if he didn't have to be a killer, he would be fulfilled. Tom Ford is Kendall's ideal self. "Hey Buddha, nice Tom Ford's," says Roman. I say he needs a better tailor.
In episode 9 of season 4, Shiv Roy says something so poignant and revealing about her father in the midst of an otherwise bumbling eulogy. She comes to the realization that her father "could never fit a whole woman in his head." Growing up as the only sister, with an estranged mother, and a father whose warmth waned like the tides, I wonder if Shiv knows who her whole woman is. It's clear that whoever this woman is, she's on the defense at all times. When asked to defend his debut collection, "The Highland Rape," Alexander McQueen said, "I know what misogyny is... I want people to be afraid of the women I dress." Impermeable, cunning, dangerous, and... feminine?
This is Shiv's whole woman. This is who sits in front of Matson as he clouds the room with weaponized sensuality in an effort to dominate her. At her most vulnerable, grieving a death and a marriage, while hiding a pregnancy, she puts on a McQueen corset. She is pulling herself together in cloth armor. In the end, Shiv's greatest loss is this woman.
Like her siblings, any character development falls by the wayside. Regressing, she will be chasing her days in the sun with Tom, the newly powerful replacement for her father in this self-fulfilling prophecy. Not a stitch sewn by McQueen as she stepped into that town car, she is dressed like she is going to her own funeral.
In contrast to the patterns of designers I've explored so far is the wonderfully bizarre (and fitting) occasion of Roman Roy wearing a child's shirt from Walmart. One thing about Rome, more than anyone else on this show, his childhood wounds manifest physically and viscerally.
He acts out with tantrums, craves humiliation in a sick psychosexual way, looks for someone to bruise and beat him when he can't punish himself enough. Particularly boyish is his unique ability to crumple himself up onto the floor and sit in his self-hatred during times of conflict. He's making himself small so he can feel childlike again because that's the mindset he constantly lives in.
After using himself as a human barricade in a protest and begging for bruising, he retreats to his mother's house, a woman he can't stand otherwise. With Logan gone, she's the last vestige of trauma he can hold onto, and so he sits at her table. This across the pond game of hide-and-seek finds him in his little blue shirt with canary yellow stripes and black eye accessory. He's taken his lashings, he’s sat in timeout, and gets whisked away to his concrete playpen, but he just doesn't want to play anymore.