The personal website of Chris Coyier

Coincidences and Succession

I enjoyed Succession for the most part. I just finished season one last night. Here’s one brief thought though of something that bugs me a little (aside from, you know, the fact that I spend so many hours watching a TV show entirely comprised of deeply awful people).

There is a list of rules that Pixar has for crafting stories. #19 goes like this:

Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

So like, a meteor crashes to earth and sends a bunch of dinosaurs flying off in different directions, and they are very sad because they have lost each other. Fine, a random coincidence causes trouble. To solve that trouble, the characters have to try and go through a journey. If a magic portal opened randomly up and they all stepped through it and were together again, we’d be disappointed in that story. The magic portal being a coincidence to get the characters out of trouble.

In the middle of the first season of Succession, there is a huge power-play with Kendall trying to forcefully remove Logan from the company. It requires a board meeting and a vote. Kendall is supposed to be in the room and Logan was supposed to be out of the room. It is a time-sensitive thing, but Kendall is essentially stuck in traffic and doesn’t make it there until the very end of the meeting. It made for an intense scene. But, we have every reason to believe the outcome of the meeting would have been entirely opposite if Kendall was there. Having a major plot point be determined by traffic just wasn’t very satisfying. It feels like a coincidence getting a character out of trouble, or at least, having undue influence on the plot.

It would be one thing if this was a one-off, but it plays out again at the end of the season. Again Kendall has a plan to oust Logan. Again the plan is thwarted by coincidence. In this case, a deer in the road causes a catastrophic event that torpedoes the entire plan.

I haven’t seen season two yet, but I’ll probably watch it. My hope is that we get to see some plot play out without a random coincidence having so much plot impact.