WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS.
It’s election night in the ongoing saga of America’s favorite dysfunctional dynasty, the Roy family. The eighth episode (“America Decides”) in this final season of HBO’s “Succession” is in many ways what liberal audiences have long been waiting for: a full accounting of what they believe is conservative media’s — namely Fox News — complicity in poisoning our most sacred democratic institution.
With the Roy family patriarch, Logan Roy, no longer alive to oversee his American News Network’s (ATN) coverage of the night’s main event, it’s up to his children and business lackeys to steer the information ship home for their preferred Republican candidate, Jeryd Mencken.
With his German surname, flamboyant speaking style, and Kanye Westian affinity for Adolf Hitler, Mencken was perfectly built by series creator Jesse Armstrong and the writers to channel an authoritarian figure from our dark past. In these days of total absence of nuance and historical accuracy from the left, that meant he was a surrogate for their favorite boogeyman: President Donald J. Trump.
But it’s not only the Mencken-Trump personality allusions that were designed to trigger leftist audiences. The episode conjured the real-life Democrat ballot incongruities of the last three elections and flipped the script against the Roys and Republicans in the show. Ballot chain of custody is suddenly now of the utmost importance. Government buildings set on fire — a tactic used solely by Antifa in the 2020 summer of George Floyd and Jacob Blake — is now suggested to be a disruptive act by Mencken supporters.
Perhaps most important to the episode’s duplicity was the real 2020 election anomaly in the city of Milwaukee becoming a swing-state focal point for the drama to unfold. Those who would dismiss this retooling as harmless fictionalizing might be interested to learn that a key and controversial figure in Milwaukee’s 2020 general election and 2022’s midterm battleground advised the “Succession” writers last October during preproduction.
Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, misplaced a flash drive with a crucial absentee vote count during the wee hours of the 2020 post-election morning, was involved in text message chains of collusion between Milwaukee’s mayor and Mark Zuckerberg nonprofits, and is named in several legal complaints for allowing unqualified election officials to oversee duties in 2020 and falsely designating improper absentee voting sites before the 2022 midterms.
The optics of this certainly aren’t good. Imagine if “Yellowstone” hired Alec Baldwin to consult the on-set actors about handling firearms. It certainly raises certain ethical questions on the part of HBO and the “Succession” creative team. In their minds, perhaps there is nobody better to reverse-engineer the electoral sins of the left than someone who was intimately involved in its party’s subterfuge.
What makes “America Decides” truly infuriating is the hypocrisy it reveals about the leftist intelligentsia and their hive-mind viewership. Where was their outrage when Fox News called Arizona prematurely in 2020? Where was the bipartisan support to acquire ballot chain of custody in not only Wisconsin, but all the swing states in 2020? All of these things actually happened to Trump and Republican voters. A TV show that dramatizes the corrupted ways media can influence an election by premature electoral count projection and failure to accurately report on ballot controversy is cathartic for Democrats when it’s their party as the victim. In the real world, they turn a blind eye.
Armstrong teased this episode as the most “shocking” one of the final season (the ghost of Logan Roy has entered the chat). It’s clear these comments were meant for a very specific demographic that HBO seems to relish gaslighting. The same people who thought Jan. 6 was the worst attack on our country since 9/11 were quick to champion “America Decides” as the latest stunningly brave episode of television ever made, without ever stopping to think where this inspiration may have come from. Listening to Kendall and Shiv agonize over the fascist and threatening nature to democracy that Mencken-Trump poses rings extremely hollow when we not only consider all the heinous ways they’ve behaved in the show, but more importantly the underhanded way the Democratic Party and left-wing media behaved in 2020 and beyond.
But as John Nolte suggests over at Breitbart, this season’s paltry debut numbers may signal the majority of the country doesn’t really care anymore about liberal prestige TV the same way it used to. Ultimately, HBO knows who its primary audience is: radicalized manchildren who desperately need to be told who is good, who is bad, and what democracy in this country really looks like. How “Succession” ends from here is anyone’s guess. This week’s penultimate episode (“Church and State”) already saw Shiv abandon her moral crusade against Mencken and offer herself to him for a Waystar CEO position if Matsson can close the acquisition deal. It’s a good reminder that the left’s virtue signaling will always fold when the promise of establishment power presents itself.
It would be nice if the election storyline fades into the background entirely and instead the show focuses on what made it so interesting in the first place: a ruthless power grab for the media throne and how it affects the Roy family dynamics. But the damage may have already been done. The show’s creators have aligned themselves to the perpetually losing political ideology of Never Trump, rather than taking honest stock of the real-life Democrat operatives and establishment media who still haven’t been held accountable for election violations and irregularities.
Brian Dunigan holds a Master of Arts in Film Studies and writes about film, television, and sociopolitical issues. Follow him on Twitter @GnosticCinema or contact by email at email@example.com
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