Yesterday, as social media was (rightfully) flooded with “L to the OG” baseball jerseys and red wigs, Succession joined in on the fun with its very own Halloween episode. Did the episode take place on or anywhere near Halloween? Absolutely not. Was it the most suspense-filled, stress-inducing hour of television I’ve consumed this entire last week of October? Yes by a MILE. Halloween episode it is.
We begin our night with Kendall, who’s grabbing control of the narrative by sitting down with a reporter. Being Kendall, though, he mostly gives her his trademark nonsense. We’re planting a flag? And the flag represents… you being okay with being called Oedipussy? I want to understand you, Kendall, I really do. Fortunately, the reporter is great at her job and gets him onto the one topic he can’t corporatespeak his way out of: his family.
Now, you may know that we were already treated to the backhanded compliment to end all backhanded compliments this week, when Brian Cox dropped his full diss track of a memoir and said of Michael Caine: “being an institution will always beat having range.” But far be it from the Succession cast to exercise restraint in this matter! Kendall, therefore, replies to the reporter’s question about his current relationship with his siblings in similarly devastating fashion:
“I’m just really happy in my headspace and I hope they’re happy in theirs.”
And so the Roy sibling showdown begins.
Over at the Waystar Royco headquarters, the executive team is reacting to Kendall’s interview. In particular, Logan would like to know “what does he mean by plant a flag?” This is the one and only time in my life that I am in full agreement with Logan Roy. Confusion aside, the plan is to respond to the article with a full newspaper ad that reads “We Get It.” Because “We Here For You” worked so well last time!
Meanwhile, down the hall, we finally get our in-person Tom and Greg reunion — which, in true Tom and Greg fashion, consists of Tom pretending mints are cyanide pills, punishing Greg with a dinky office, and then calling him “Rude Boy.” Yes, as in the Rihanna song. Despite the outward bullying, Tom has come to Greg with a proposition: join him that night to meet with an objective outsider to see where they might land on the other side of this legal battle (spoiler alert: it’s jail).
Unfortunately for Tom, Greg is busy. Kendall is giving him a watch, which apparently will take a full evening.
Fortunately for us, we get to go with Greg. And from this point on, the episode becomes Kendall’s reign of chaos.
Our first stop is the limo Kendall, Greg, Naomi Pierce, and Kendall’s PR rep Comfry (Dasha Nekrasova) are taking to a gala at the New York Public Library in support of journalists. As the bottles flow, Kendall suggests a game: Good Tweet, Bad Tweet. The group must take turns finding a good tweet and then a bad tweet about Kendall. Fortunately for the show’s writers, there’s a ton of existing material for inspiration: Succession fans are constantly tweeting good and bad tweets about Kendall (I should know, I am one of them). They were definitely making fun of us with this scene — and to be fair, we deserve it. The final bad tweet, though, gets a little too real: “He clearly has mental health issues, and crazy guilt coupled with addiction. That’s all this is, and it’s sad.” The limo is silenced, until Jeremy Strong delivers a flawlessly comedic “…boooo.” But you can tell it hurts (and to think he thought this was bad… just wait, Kendall).
At the gala (and after Kendall yells “fuck the patriarchy” on the library steps, a move that forced me to pause the episode so I could stare into space for a moment), we have our first battle in the Roy sibling war. Shiv has come to try to slow Kendall’s roll and stop him from trying to come to the Waystar Royco office. After a brief encounter with her ex, Nate (Ashley Zukerman), Shiv confronts Kendall. Using the classic Shiv tactic of pretending to be on someone’s side, she asks Kendall if there’s not a way for them to work together, enacting change from within. Unfortunately, her skills are much stronger on potential witnesses against her family than they are against family members themselves. Kendall calls her out, then delivers his own et tu, Brute: “Look at this. It’s you now.”
Kendall’s crew moves to the after party, where they watch Sophie Iwobi (Ziwe, playing a fictionalized version of herself) absolutely trash Kendall. This includes her showing a picture of him “flashing gang signs outside of Jean-Georges.” WHAT in the New York City elite! Somehow, Kendall deludes himself into thinking he’s in on the joke, and becomes determined to do Sophie’s show. And now I understand how Ziwe constantly gets guests to agree to humiliate themselves on Instagram live.
Things are pretty chaotic at this point, but the disruption is just getting started.
The next day, moves are being made over at Waystar Royco. Tom, after drunkenly and tearfully sharing his plan with Shiv the night before, lets Logan know that he’s willing to be his fall guy and go to prison for what happened on the cruise lines. (Side note: Matthew Macfadyen actually manages to make me feel a little bit bad for Tom in this episode, a thing that has NEVER happened. That’s talent.) Logan then meets with Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Linda Emond, theater hive rise up!), a senior aide to the President of the United States. When I say “meets with,” I actually mean “threatens to blackmail the President of the United States.” Just normal stuff. And finally, Shiv prepares to address the company in a town hall meeting.
Then, Kendall shows up, and the Halloween aspect of the episode truly kicks in. With his security guard filming the entire stunt, Kendall ignores Hugo and Karolina’s pleas, leaps over the security turnstile, and takes the freight elevator up to his desk. On his way, he meets Tom (in peak Midwestern nice form) and proceeds to creepy-whisper to him: “another life is possible, brother.” Chills.
Kendall has the chills too — he thinks they’ve “hacked his AC” and made his office slightly too cold. Yes, “hacked the AC.” Huge shoutout to Jess for this move, because same:
After a terrifying visit from Kendall’s former bodyguard, who now has crazed, watery eyes and seems to be there only to menace his former charge, it’s time for the town hall.
Shiv gets up to the podium and begins her “we get it” speech, when suddenly music starts blasting, and I mean BLASTING through the atrium. And not just any music: “Rape Me,” by Nirvana. That’s right, Kendall has decided to come back to Waystar Royco and deal with things the way a 17-year-old boy would. I can’t say I hate it, but I definitely can’t say I love it, either! I don’t feel bad for Shiv because of quite literally everything she’s done, but I do understand the anger that leads her to march up to her brother’s office and spit in his notebook — an instantly iconic scene.
Finally, Kendall gets his wish and is booked to appear on Sophie Iwobi’s show. But as he is consulting with (read: annoying) the writers, Shiv is doing some writing of her own. She enlists her two other brothers to co-sign a damning public letter listing all of his personal problems, including his addiction issues and capacity as a parent. As Connor puts it, it’s a “greeting card from Hell.” In the end, Shiv’s is the lone signature. The letter drops just fifteen minutes before showtime, and Sophie’s team is unwilling to remove it from the potential interview topics. Kendall, who moments ago yelled “HURT ME!” at the writing staff, now actually gets hurt. Jeremy Strong Emmy #2 campaign starts now.
One of Jeremy Strong’s greatest performances in the first season of Succession is his return to Shiv’s wedding after his car crash. As he stumbles through his post-traumatic daze and back to the party, he slowly begins to force the mask of a smile onto his face (all while Whitney Houston plays in the background). In last night’s episode, we see this progression reversed — and thereby see just how false a performance of confidence he’s been putting on this whole time. Walking away from joking around with Sophie’s producer, we see his smile melt away and that familiar pained look return over the course of a single shot.
At the core (and as pathetic as it is), everything Kendall does is for his family’s approval — even his current war against his family is to show them that he can be as ruthless as they are. So to be the target of such a public and personal attack from his own sister completely devastates him. He ends up in the control room in tears, watching Sophie read Shiv’s cold words live on television.
As if our blood pressures hadn’t suffered enough already, the episode ends with Gerri delivering the news that the FBI are in Waystar Royco’s lobby with a search warrant. As much as Logan would like to tell them to “fuck off,” he finally must comply, and the raid begins. From his sad little knee-hug, Kendall smiles.
Now, as always, time for our winners and losers of the week.
Ziwe: as is the case anytime she’s in the room, Ziwe is the night’s only winner. She also delivers the show’s most pointed read of its audience’s love for Kendall: “Actual progressives have been embracing this dude. Why?”
Lisa Arthur: how has she not quit yet? She has an unmanageable client who calls her his “regal legal eagle.” She deserves better.
Greg: he just bought a $40,000 watch that doesn’t work and makes him self-conscious about his wrists, so there’s that. But what’s more, Greg seems to have flipped from Team Kendall over the watch — he’s the one who alerts Tom that Kendall is coming in. Pick a side, Greg!
Tom: I went back and forth on this one. He made some good strategic moves (sacrificing himself for Logan, seeking his own outside counsel), but in the end he is still probably going to jail. And he had to pull his wife’s underwear out of his dog’s bum.
Tom & Shiv’s dog: see above.
Shiv: she had the worst town hall meeting in the history of town hall meetings, then sank to her new lowest depths of evil against her brother.
Roman: he spent most of the episode being forced to face the fact that he has no happy memories with his father.
Logan: well, the FBI is raiding his company.
“I Can Fix Them” of the Week
Listen. I’m not proud of it. But just when I thought I was out… sad Kendall pulls me back in. Last week I said he was unfixable, but guess what? Last week he wasn’t alone in a control room trying to give himself a hug. I amend my previous statement: I could still totally fix Kendall Roy.
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