Warning: the following article contains spoilers for episodes one to six of Succession season four.

ONLY one episode of Succession is directly set in Scotland (Dundee, season two, episode eight), yet shadows and symbols of the country are threaded throughout the show.

Whether that’s through the Roy siblings’ horror at stepmother Marcia’s (Hiam Abbass) plan to bury Logan “in a kilt like a fucking Bay City Roller”, or youngest son Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) hilariously buying his father “The Hearts” football team by mistake – Logan’s actual team is their arch rivals, Hibernian.

Succession follows the sparring Roy family and their eccentric partners. Siblings Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman and Shiv (Sarah Snook), vie for their father Logan’s (Brian Cox) approval and his leadership role in the family’s global media entertainment conglomerate, Waystar Royco. That is, until he dies unexpectedly in the third episode of the final season.

The power and talent of the cast is undeniable, but the show’s portrayal of places and their pasts is also part of its irresistible on screen chemistry.

Succession’s representation of Dundee offers a glimpse of the unique Scottish city known for “jute, jam and journalism” that both Logan Roy and Brian Cox call their hometown.

The Dundee episode’s striking landscape shots include Magdalen Green, the city’s oldest park, which has been enjoyed for around 400 years. In contrast, the episode culminates in lavish scenes at V&A Dundee, launched in 2018 as part of Dundee’s contentious waterfront “redevelopment”.

V&A Dundee provides an opulent backdrop to Kendall Roy serenading his father with a now much-memed birthday rap song (“L to the OG” by composer Nicholas Britell), before throwing a tartan cap on Logan’s head.

READ MORE: Succession season four: Everyone still wants to impress Logan

The scene’s touristic tone differs to moments of reflection in the episode, when Logan wistfully recalls the Dundee of yesteryear. This symbolises the distance between Logan’s connection to Scotland and his children’s disconnection.

Logan Roy’s Scotland


Tensions between the old and new and between the tourist’s perception and local reality in Dundee buoy this memorable episode. They’re perhaps best articulated in a scene in which Logan indignantly declares: “The water used to taste sensational … it’s changed.”

The moment foreshadows some of Logan’s final words in season four. Shortly before his death, he wistfully reflects on life with his bodyguard, Colin (played by the aptly named Scott Nicholson). “Nothing tastes like it used to, does it?” he asks. “Nothing is the same as it was.”

Unlike Logan, the Roy children appear to have a detached and surface-level perception of Scotland as Roman scoffs at “Scottish kicky-ball” and Kendall exclaims: “Dundee in the motherfucking house!”

This contrasts with Logan’s earnest complaining about misconceptions of his hometown: “This place, you look at the old pictures and they all want you to think it’s all so fucking simple, but it wasn’t.”

READ MORE: Brian Cox says Scotland 'mustn't give up pursuit of independence' post-Sturgeon

Then again, Logan’s sighs and comments about the city may be part of a strategic framing of his hometown and childhood to suit his stoic personal narrative. Even though Logan’s childhood involved an element of tragedy (as the “Dundee” episode alludes to) his upbringing may have been less hand to mouth than he’d have people believe, as shots of his comfortable childhood home imply.

Succession’s venture into Scotland toys with a romanticised “rags to riches” storyline, but moves beyond this simple take to instead poke fun at stereotypical perceptions of the place.

Scotland and the art of ‘nation branding’


When recently re-watching Succession from the beginning (again), I was reminded of my time at Washington DC’S Library of Congress. I was there researching the history of advertising in the UK and the US, as part of my study of the ways that big brands are monitoring us.

While reading through archived material on the work of David Ogilvy (frequently referred to as the “father of advertising”) who was originally from Scotland, I came across correspondence from the 1950s about efforts to advertise the country to America. The letters detailed the marketing potential of kilts, whisky and other distinctly Scottish items.

The letters showcase the early days of what would eventually become nation branding – the strategic branding of a country and its culture for a global stage. “Americans thought I was crazy,” Ogilvy writes in his 1963 autobiography. “What could a Scotsman know about advertising?” That provocation could be at home in Logan Roy’s memoirs.

As Succession portrays, international perceptions of Scotland often invoke a sense of novelty. But in creatively invoking the country’s influence in ways that highlight how different ideas and experiences of places are implicated in the ruthless world of big business, Scotland becomes a conjuring force that is as much a part of the Roy family as the captivating and clashing relations themselves.

This article was syndicated from The Conversation