This was the best HBO show of 2023 (no, it wasn't The Last of Us)

2023 was another big year for HBO, with shows like Our Flag Means Death, How to With John Wilson, Barry, and Succession returning. We also saw awesome series premieres such as The Last of Us.

In this photo illustration, the American premium cable and...
In this photo illustration, the American premium cable and... / SOPA Images/GettyImages

It's no surprise that HBO has continued to see success in recent years. The network that brought us critically acclaimed hits like The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Six Feet Under, and The Wire is always on its A-game, and 2023 was no exception. Despite their major miss in the now-canceled series The Idol, this year has been another big one for HBO. And 2023 started off extremely strong with the premiere of their live-action adaptation of the video game by Naughty Dog, The Last of Us.

The Last of Us was certainly highly anticipated, but it went beyond any expectations I had for it. Created by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (The Last of Us game), the series led by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey tugged at our heartstrings and told a tale of humanity first and foremost. The second season is in the works and the series is on its way to becoming one of the best HBO shows ever.

But while The Last of Us is one of my favorite shows of 2023, it's not my number one. In fact, there's another HBO show that owned this year, and that would be the final season of Succession.

Spoilers ahead for Succession season 4.

Succession. WBD. /

Created by Jesse Armstrong, Succession premiered on HBO in 2018 and instantly attracted viewers with its hard-hitting storylines, fantastic performances, and strong dialogue. The series follows the wealthy Roy family who run a major media conglomerate. Located in New York City, we watch each of the Roys navigate their power struggles, societal roles, and pressure to win. Patriarch Logan Roy owns the company, but his eldest son Kendall believes he's the rightful successor to the job. As the seasons go on, Logan plays each of his children and makes them believe they could be CEO one day. And in the end, it's actually none of them.

The fourth and final season of Succession aired on HBO from March to May of this year, and boy, that was some appointment television. If you didn't tune in to watch new episodes of the final season every Sunday night, you knew you'd have to steer clear of social media all night and casual work conversations the next morning. Not only was Succession season 4 an emotional gut-punch, but it was also very satisfying in ways we didn't see coming. It was both character and plot-driven, which really worked. And the cast gave it their all.

The fourth season of Succession continued the siblings' fight for power leading up to Logan's death in the episode "Connor's Wedding" which is without a doubt my favorite TV episode of the year.

Jeremy Strong as Kendall had been my favorite portrayal throughout the first three seasons, and while he gave another great performance in the fourth, his co-stars showed up in the final 10 episodes with more emotional depth than we had seen before. I was especially impressed by Kieran Culkin's performance as Roman Roy, who developed quite a bit from the start of the show to the end. He had absolutely heartbreaking scenes and I hope he wins the Emmy Award for Best Actor at the 2024 ceremony. If he ever deserved the award, it'd be for the final season. His portrayal of grief after Logan died was very compelling and stayed with me for a long time.

As always, cast members like Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun, and Brian Cox were super strong as well. Alexander Skarsgärd, who was introduced in the third season as the Swedish billionaire Lukas Matsson, returned for the fourth season and was an awesome addition to the main storyline.

A photo from the production of episode 404 of “Succession”. Photo: David M. Russell/HBO ©2022 HBO. All Rights Reserved. /

Throughout the seasons of Succession, the Roy siblings prepared for life without their father, but once he actually died, they didn't know how to act — understandably. Despite Kendall desperately wanting to take over the business, he didn't anticipate how heartbroken he'd be. The siblings were never exactly in touch with their feelings, but Logan's death forced them to confront them, even if it was in unhealthy ways. I never really liked the Roy siblings (who could relate to them?) but this final season finally made me sympathetic. I don't come from a billionaire family, but I have experienced loss. What makes the Roys so relatable is the fact that they can't escape trauma even if they pretend they don't care. And even if they can't admit it, they're incredibly insecure.

Succession might not have had killer cordyceps or jam-packed action, but the fourth season had a level of heart I truly wasn't expecting. It was so impactful and made me feel all the feelings — sadness, excitement, anger, and most importantly, closure by the end. I love this show so much and it had the perfect ending. How could any show beat this one in 2023?

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