Gather round, slime puppies: after two long years, the Roys have finally returned to their rightful place on our televisions to tear themselves apart for our enjoyment. As always, they aim to please — and please they did in Succession’s season turbo-charged premiere last night.
Succession seems to be leaning into the strangeness of the timing of its return. While for its characters only moments have passed, its audience have lived two of the strangest and likely most traumatic years of our collective lives. Priorities have been upended, personal development feels stalled, things feel both endlessly the same and unnervingly new. The show has somehow managed to insert the weight of these two years into two minutes.
The third season picks up where we left off, moments after Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) shocker of a press conference where he exposed Logan’s (Brian Cox) involvement in the company’s cruise cover ups and delivered the best line read of the word “but” in recorded history. We meet our best boy as he cools down from his latest attempt at business patricide by doing breathing exercises in an empty bathtub. Honestly, I was doing the same thing for the entire 57 minutes of this show. Yet soon after this reset moment, Kendall quite suddenly reverts to his manic, corny persona from the first season. After such a tremendous arc last season, it’s almost jarring to see him back to his old self. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Season 3 Kendall feels like the writers’ way of warning us not to forget the Kendall before that enduring press conference: namely, the Kendall who is a pretty huge jerk.
The starting lineup for #TeamKendall consists of Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), Jess (Juliana Canfield), and Karolina (Dagmara Domińczyk). The rest of the core Waystar Royco team are still in the Balkans — and, more importantly, in full crisis mode. After a call with the President’s office (yes, the one of the United States) ends on a less-than-solid note, Logan decides that he’ll take Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), Frank (Peter Friedman), Karl (David Rasche), and Hugo (Fisher Stevens) to Sarajevo, presumably to avoid potential extradition should things go completely south back home. Meanwhile, Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) are off to New York to fix things as best they can.
Kendall’s main objective for the duration of the episode is to assemble an air-tight team around himself for his upcoming battle against his father. After ditching a wavering Karolina and calling Frank and Shiv to try to get them to flip to his side, Kendall sets up base in the only place in the city he has left to go: his ex Rava’s (Natalie Gold) living room. Moving at lightning speed, he gets a PR team in place, hires a lawyer (more on that later), and even invites his girlfriend Naomi (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) to join him. At his ex-wife’s house. On a moment’s notice.
Not to be outdone in terms of sheer chaos, Logan takes the flight to Sarajevo as an opportunity to share that he has decided to take a temporary step back as CEO to save face for the company — though not a full removal, as he’ll still be pulling some strings in the background. Thus begins, once again, the debate about who will replace him. After a debate that includes Karl nominating Karl (“I like me!”) and Frank not even being able to finish a sentence before Logan calls him mashed potatoes, the group lands on a final three of Gerri, Roman, and Shiv. That trio soon gets wind of what’s going on and must spend the rest of their flight together anxiously awaiting the verdict.
Here, again, feels like Succession is using its hiatus to turn the show on its head. When Logan announces his plan to figure out his successor on the plane, I was just as shocked as the executives on board. The titular dramatic question of the entire series? Suddenly being decided by the Waystar Royco (and I mean full offense when I say this) B Team? It seems unthinkable, even if it’s just on a temporary basis. Not only does it show just how high the stakes have been raised in mere minutes, it almost feels as though Succession is making sure that even we as viewers can’t keep a firm grasp on what’s important anymore.
Once in New York, Shiv goes to see Logan’s top choice of lawyer, Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan). Instead of asking Lisa to represent her father, however, Shiv wants Lisa as her own counsel — or, to use her words, “consigliere.” That line… I am obsessed. Unfortunately for Shiv, Lisa is already working for — you guessed it — Kendall, and so can’t give any other Roys legal advice. Shiv basically has a mini tantrum and calls Lisa “honey,” which was not very girlboss of her.
That leaves Roman and Gerri, alone in a hotel room as they should be. The youngest Roy is badgering Gerri to join him for a mediocre night in bed when she gets the call: she is the next CEO of Waystar Royco. Gerri fans (aka, everyone with taste) rejoice! Roman gets the pleasure of delivering the news to Shiv, who decides to take a detour (possibly to Kendall’s?). Logan, meanwhile, receives the news that Lisa is no longer available, so he declares that they’ll get their backup lawyer to help them go “full fucking beast.” If Logan up to this point has *not* been in full beast mode, then I am deeply terrified for Kendall in the weeks to come.
Succession’s third season promises the ultimate Roy family civil war — last night’s episode was called “Secession,” after all — so I’ll be closing out these recaps with some of the weeks’ winners and losers.
The phrase “no comment”: what’s an episode of Succession without an iconic line from the egg himself, Greg Hirsch? Our favorite 6’7” cousin delivered several bangers last night, but none so perfect as his continued shouting of “NO COMMENT!” as he and the rest of #TeamKendall push through paparazzi to get to their car after the press conference. Even after Karolina clarifies, “You don’t have to say that, Greg. Just don’t comment.”
Jess: I’ve been waiting for Kendall’s trusty assistant to have her moment in the spotlight, and she finally got it when fielding a call from a furious Logan. With utmost professionalism, she lets Kendall know that Logan plans to “grind up your bones to make his bread.” Even more impressive, she relays Kendall’s response, “I’m gonna run up off the fucking beanstalk,” with more of a straight face than I could ever hope to muster.
Gerri: listen, I know we aren’t really supposed to root for anyone on this show, but unlike the Roys I am capable of full transparency in a public forum and I am ready to admit that I let out a “HELL YEAH” when Gerri was named CEO (even if it’s just temporary).
Roman: Gerri is going to be his boss, a clear win for him on several levels.
Rava: this woman is a true saint for letting Kendall use her house, being chill about his endless chaotic choices, and calling out the stupidity of women’s razor prices.
Twitter users: my dear fellow very online Succession stans, the writers see us and they here for us. A majority of Kendall’s big strategy seems to be getting really popular on Twitter. After a promising new follower turns out to be a dud (“It’s a pope. Not the Pope.”), Kendall gets his new PR team up to speed on his vision. A vision that involves hiring the “BoJack guys” to get his Twitter to be “off the hook.” Kendall may say he’s doing all of this for his wife and kids, but I know he’s really doing it for us, the people of Twitter. I would (unfortunately) probably retweet all of his Cool Tweets.
Kendall: in the war between father and son, it seems pretty clear at this point that Kendall is in the lead, as evidenced by the PR and legal professionals willingly coming to his aid (and the incriminating documents he possesses). But in the words of Roman, “Kendall will self-destruct because it’s his favorite” — so let’s see how long it lasts.
Kendall: while Kendall is winning the war, in the process of fighting the battle he has become… insufferable. The adrenaline of the moment has brought his arrogance out in full force, and he’s saying stuff like, “Fuck the weather, we’re changing the cultural climate.” And while deeply cringe-inducing, it’s not even his lowest low. While in the car, Greg compares their whole situation to the OJ Simpson trial, if OJ had never killed anyone. To which Kendall smirks, “Who said I never killed anyone?” (possibly the loudest gasp I’ve ever let out). If one win can give him the confidence to joke about committing manslaughter, how much of a win is it, really?
Connor and Willa: Logan literally leaves Connor (Alan Ruck) and Willa (Justine Lupe) behind in the Balkans because they are of no use to anyone and he sort of forgot they were there. Connor fully deserves this, obviously. He is the worst. And as iconic as Willa is, she’s ostensibly staying with a man who proposes marketing her play as a “hate watch” for the money. It’s hard to have much sympathy. This doesn’t mean I don’t want 10 times more Willa in every episode though.
Karl’s tummy: while everyone else is focused on the crisis at hand, Karl stops in the airport cafeteria to grab a sandwich. He later calls the whole mess they’re in “the full Baskin Robbins.” The man is clearly hungry!
Shiv: possibly the clearest loser of the episode. What doesn’t happen to Shiv? She gets called “Shivy, Shivy, Shivy” by one brother and the other one sings her the news that she isn’t getting named CEO. She gets turned down by a friend (who I am sensing may have once been more than a friend). Her husband is in the perfect position to help her get her dream job and instead hypes up all the other candidates, potentially on purpose. It is simply not her week.
The dusty bottle of wine: if having to host her frantic ex-husband and his new girlfriend weren’t enough, Rava loses a precious vintage wine to Greg’s over-eager hands when Naomi has him open the bottle in celebration. Shocked that he didn’t notice the dust indicating the wine’s age, Rava lets out a full shriek before composing herself, and I simply can’t blame her. I sense this bottle may just be the beginning of more conflicts to come.
Logan: for the first time, the evil patriarch of the Roy family seems truly overwhelmed by the situation in which he finds himself. Previously never one to back down from a fight, he’s now in full hiding at an airport hotel in Sarajevo with no family members by his side (Tom doesn’t count, I think we all can agree). Even Frank and Karl see this as a challenge that’s more complex than the many he’s managed to overcome in the past — so we’ll have to wait and see the lengths to which he’ll go to survive.
“I Can Fix Them” of the Week
And finally, we close with a special segment. Who amongst us has watched an episode of Succession without saying “I could fix him” about at least one character? Certainly not me! So I will be ending these recaps with the week’s most fixable member of the Roy family and friends.
After much deliberation, I’ve decided that this week I could fix Cousin Greg. Greg came through with the key documents that made Kendall’s plan possible, and he made the right choice to stay in the car to join the so-called revolution. There’s potential here. But now he needs a calming presence to prevent him from accidentally tweeting from Kendall’s account, to stop him from ruining his mom’s credit score, and to teach him how to spot dust.
Greg. Let me fix you.
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