Succession is at its best when it traps its characters in a room and forces them to wriggle their way out without the benefit of time or privacy to pull any meaningful strings on the side — see boar on the floor and the sacrificial lamb debate as two prime examples. Fortunately for us, last night’s episode, “Mass in Time of War,” is almost entirely one of these metaphorical poker games, as the Roy siblings finally gather together to hear Kendall’s pitch to destroy their dad. Yes, even Connor.
The episode opens, once again, mere moments after last week’s ended. Shiv — to the great ire of her father — is ignoring Logan’s calls on her way to a mystery location. A moment here to pause on the fact that her contact picture for her dad is one of Saddam Hussein… Who is doing details better than this show? No one!
If you guessed that Shiv is on her way to Kendall’s you’d be correct. But while she’s driving towards the official headquarters of Changing The Cultural Climate (aka, Rava’s living room), Greg is already inside, and he’s starting to worry that he’s perhaps in over his head: “I’m kinda too young to be in Congress so much.” Kendall recommends that he head home for the night, with a promise to provide him legal counsel. Not one to take anyone in the Roy family at their word, Greg consults his friend Lia (Gabby Beans), a first year law student, who is bewildered by the situation and has no advice to offer. Honestly, we are all Lia. Suddenly there’s a knock at the door, and a man tries to convince Greg that he is his new lawyer, while remaining extremely dodgy about who sent him. There have been plenty of stressful scenes in Succession, but this one may truly top them all. A full psychological thriller in two minutes. Somehow Greg gets him out of his house with the line, “Let’s let you go now.” A line I’m co-opting for every phone call I will ever have from this day forward.
Meanwhile, in Sarajevo, Logan’s team convinces Marcia (Hiam Abbass) to come back for a show of family unity — which she agrees to do under the condition that she gets to completely renegotiate her shares of Wayster Royco in compensation for the humiliation she was forced to endure when Logan cheated on her with Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter). Her terrifying representative lets Hugo know that Marcia will be asking for a hefty sum. She also lets him know that he will be paying it — in fact, that he’ll be happy to be paying it. Who is this woman and how can I never meet her?
But now, to the main action.
All four Roy siblings arrive at #TeamKendall HQ to finally hash out Kendall’s betrayal. Connor comes at Kendall’s invitation, while Shiv and Roman make it abundantly clear that they are doing their father’s bidding to derail their brother’s campaign. For privacy, the foursome head to Kendall’s daughter’s bedroom to hear him out.
And so, surrounded by twinkle lights and photos of Billie Eilish, Kendall Roy proceeds to give the buzzword-filled monologue of his entire life. Calling Waystar Royco “a declining empire inside a declining empire,” he outlines his proposed path to bringing the family company “omni-national” to “leapfrog tech.”
“Detoxify our brand, and we can go supersonic.”
Truly the corporate disruptor speech of the century.
From here, the conversation briefly dissolves into a brilliantly conceived debate over how much awareness each sibling had of the illicit activities occurring on the company’s cruise lines. Sarah Snook is, in particular, devastating in this scene. Shiv is adamant that she was in the dark on this one — and even Connor admits he knew! Shiv needs to hold onto the ignorance that can keep her at a safe enough distance to maintain her image as “the good one,” and Snook plays the moment with such desperation I almost believe her. But if Connor got the picture while he was off doing whatever it is he does on his ranch, there’s no way someone as astute as Shiv could have missed it.
Sidebar aside, all that’s left to do is decide: who’s in, and who’s out? The catch in this plan, of course, is that Kendall sees himself as the only natural CEO for this transition — an idea that Shiv, Roman, and Connor are not too pleased about. So they need some outside advice. Shiv consults Tom, who can only answer in secretive “mhms” given his proximity to Logan (though he does manage to ask who will be “King Potato” under Kendall’s plan). Roman consults Gerri, who warns him against joining his siblings in a “snake linguini.” Did Karl write this?
Kendall, meanwhile, has already stepped out to secure a backroom (or rather, backseat) deal with Stewy (Arian Moayed), Sandy (Larry Pine), and Sandy’s daughter, Sandi (Hope Davis is IN THE BUILDING). Connor consults… no one.
But none of these outside perspectives really matter, because in the end the Roys only care about one person’s opinion: Logan’s. And upon returning to the living room, they find a delivery of donuts from the man himself. Donuts that are, as Roman says, relevant. The moment that box enters the picture, it’s like their father is in the room — that’s the extent of his oppressive control over them. The tone completely changes. First Connor bows out. Then Roman. Then Shiv — the one Kendall really wanted this whole time.
Faced with the reality that his father can gain the upper hand with the simplest reminder of his existence, Kendall snaps. While it’s often fun to watch the Roys bicker and degrade each other, this feels different. There’s a deep anger behind this unfiltered Kendall, as he calls his siblings every name in the book and spits at Shiv that she only mattered because “girls count double now.” Kendall has become pathetic in a way that only Logan can bring out.
It was hard to believe Succession could top its sophomore season, but the writing this week has completely raised the bar. It felt more like a stage play than an episode of television, and it worked.
Especially potent was the contrast between the Roy siblings and their cousin. By the end of the episode, Greg has secured himself legal representation (in the form of a lusciously bearded Peter Riegert, and yes I did cheer when he appeared on screen). While Greg and his inheritance are light years away from being anything other than upper class, he still hasn’t walked through life with the power of the Roy family at his disposal. He understands what it means to face consequences. Seeing his very understandable breakdown under the pressure of this situation, then watching the Roy siblings arguing (in a child’s bedroom, no less) and calling themselves spies makes it clear that no matter the stakes, they see this as a game still. Because they know that the consequences will likely never apply to them. Looking forward to the rest of the season, we can only hope they’re wrong.
And now, of course… our winners and losers!
Marcia: obviously, Marcia wins this week for being a badass. A terrifying badass, but a badass nonetheless. Get your evil Waystar Royco bag, mama.
Greg: it might actually be more appropriate to say that Nicholas Braun won this episode, because every single line out of his mouth was a certified Cousin Greg Classic. From giving his Uber driver an emphatic “five stars!” to apologizing to his grandfather (James Cromwell) for the visual of him in a codpiece, Greg kept the hits coming. Plus, now that he is lawyered up to take down capitalism we can kind of… maybe… actually root for someone for once? A tall order, but something tells me Greg is up for it (it’s the fact that he’s 6’7”).
Shiv: at the end of the episode, Logan makes his carefully orchestrated return to New York, and on the drive home from the airport informs Shiv that she will be given a senior role on the team. The responsibilities? Essentially making all the CEO decisions while Gerri is the face (and so takes all the heat). But we all know that Logan will give his children exactly what they want just to manipulate them into loyalty, so we’ll see how long the good feeling lasts.
The Trojan Horse: yes, this icon of ancient history gets a cameo when Stewy sends a fairly large replica to Kendall as a gift. Ah, friendship.
Logan: unfortunately for all of us on #TeamKendall, Logan seems to be pretty clearly back in the driver’s seat and taking control of the situation with the full family on his side.
Kendall: also unfortunately for all of us on #TeamKendall? He is completely spiraling, in possibly the worst way we’ve ever seen on this show. And we have seen a LOT on this show. His ideas were cringeworthy, but his final outburst (even yelling at Jess!) sealed the deal. I’m afraid Kendall might never be fixable again, and I certainly see why his siblings jumped ship.
Kendall’s therapist: Logan’s best boy was already talking about outsourcing his love/hate feelings for his father to his therapist before his meltdown, so I hope this therapist has a therapist for whatever their next conversation is going to be like.
Gerri: our favorite boss lady was so secretly excited to be acting CEO that she was taking pictures of the chyron announcement to show her daughters — and now it turns out she really is only acting as Shiv’s shield.
Connor: the eldest Roy is subject to perhaps the worst emotional roller coaster of the night. First, Logan tries to act like he didn’t call him an embarrassment on their yacht trip from hell. Then he finally gets brought into the fold with his siblings, only to be called an irrelevant “national prick.” I almost feel bad for the guy. Almost.
Me: I thought I was smart, and then I had to look up the words “histrionic,” “meretricious,” and “epiphenomenal” all in the space of five minutes.
Sophie Roy: poor girl is going to need to sage her room after this night of terrible energy in there.
“I Can Fix Them” of the Week
Not even a contest this week: Roman Roy, I can fix you.
Roman did it all this week. He whipped out impressions of Shiv and Kendall rivaled only by the iconic work of Ben Cahn in “Succession but everyone wants some of Logan’s M&M’s.” He brought his estranged brother cute little cookies from the airport. He kind of, sort of stood up for Connor (I mean… it’s more than I could bring myself to do). He continued to listen to Gerri, as he should. That’s what I would call a solid foundation on which to teach someone not to be terrible in every single other way.
More Succession talk next week — and more Kieran Culkin even earlier than that when he hosts the next Saturday Night Live!
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