INTO: The Deranged Magnetism of the Succession Theme Song

Published October 18, 2019

“Into” is a series dedicated to objects, artworks, garments, exhibitions, and all orders of things that we are into—and there really isn’t a lot more to it than that. Today: Mara Veitch explores the delightfully cursed dread of the Succession title sequence.

Succession’s second season just wrapped on HBO last week, and like so many people who have lost their weekly fix of ultra-rich, broken narcissists, I am in mourning.

I’ll miss Shiv’s tasteful earth tones and Roman’s perverse, bumbling asides; but more than anything, I’m unsure how to fill the void that the show’s title song has left behind. Put it on right now and you’ll understand why, once the opening sequence begins, there’s no chance of hitting the “Skip Intro” button.

The show’s sinister opening track—thumping, splashy, slightly asynchronous—was composed by Nicholas Britell, who scored Moonlight and The Big Short, among other films. Dissonant piano chords—Britell recorded on an out-of-tune piano— crash against hip-hop bass, tying grainy home video clips of blank-faced children to vistas of the Manhattan skyline and mahogany-bedecked boardrooms. Glimpses of extreme wealth loom in and out of focus: young boys standing like victorian dolls in three-piece linen suits; a faceless girl with a white hair ribbon walking her pony and staring from afar at two well-dressed adults; a patriarch’s signet-ringed hands resting on an elaborately set dining table. Distorted strings heighten the contrasts between the idyllic and dystopian, triggering a faint panic that never quite dissipates. In this sumptuous world of waitstaff and helicopter travel, something is not quite right. And I am into it. (Incidentally, so is Pusha T).

Though this season ended on a high note—no cliffhangers, no tragedies, just good clean poetic justice—the title sequence instills in the viewer a sense of dread that’s hard to shake. The effect threads its way through the show’s two seasons–the familiar piano hook lingers faintly in scenes where the Roy children flirt with disaster (a relapsed Kendall shoplifts, Shiv learns of her father’s betrayal). As members of Succession’s royal family vie for control of Waystar Royco while simultaneously trying to avoid being sacrificed at the company’s altar, this track reminds us that these characters were, so to speak, doomed from the very beginning.

Part of me is secretly relieved that I won’t be watching this opening sequence in its entirety every Sunday night for a while. Another part of me can’t stop thinking about it, and knows the track will forever be lodged in my brain— I’ve played it 27 times in the last three days.