In last night’s episode of Succession, “What It Takes,” Mr. Roy went to Washington. Or, more accurately, Virginia. Or, to quote Kendall, “Nuremberg, Virginia.” Listen… subtlety is not the name of the game this week!
The Team Logan side of the Roy family is attending the Future Freedom Summit, a secret conference where leaders (both public and shadow) of the Republican Party are, as is explicitly stated, picking the next president. With “The Raisin” deciding not to run for reelection at the last minute, there isn’t enough time for a full primary, so this group of politicians and business leaders will determine who the Republican National Convention will put forward as the party’s nominee. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: truly upsetting that this is probably realistic!
In case the vibe of this place wasn’t already abundantly clear, nearly immediately upon entering, Greg complains, “Some guy with an undercut just called me a soy boy.” Tom tries to comfort him (“It’s a nice safe space where you don’t have to pretend to like Hamilton.”), but even he seems uneasy in the present company. The Roys, on the other hand, acknowledge the white supremacist elephant in the room, but appear unfazed (or, in some cases, in agreement).
Over the course of the meeting, four top candidates emerge: Dave Boyer (Reed Birney, in another win for the theater community), the current vice president whose primary problems seem to be that he licks his lips a lot and is a vegetarian. Rick Salgado (Yul Vazquez), a more centrist congressman who propositions Shiv by promising to send her father to prison and make her CEO (which, naturally, she goes for). Jeryd Mencken (a problematically spicy Justin Kirk), a literal fascist. And Connor — yes, he’s still in this thing!
The event, for the most part, is a schmooze-fest. Naturally, no one is taking advantage of this as much as Connor. He totes Willa around, showing her off to every gross man on site, until they reach the final boss of sleaze (played perfectly by Stephen Root), to whom Connor practically pimps his girlfriend out.
After a long first day of rubbing elbows with the worst of the worst, Tom seeks comfort in the latest batch of wine from their new family vineyard, which is undrinkable. His second attempt of comfort is Shiv, who obviously does not give him any. So, finally, in the middle of the night, he calls Greg.
The two men head to a diner, where Tom has been eating normal people food to train for jail. They seem to be headed for a heart-to-heart over their impending prison time. But instead, the two seem to talk past each other. Greg shares his fears (“Because of my physical length I could be a target for all kinds of misadventure”), while Tom shares his sad acceptance of his fate (“What’s good is to eradicate hope”), but neither seem to be listening to the other. That is, until Greg asks for a favor. Now, I fully thought he was going to ask Tom to make sure they ended up at the same prison and I would have perhaps teared up. Instead, Greg asks if Tom would carry his charges as well, since he’s going down anyway. Cold, Greg. Cold. Tom sadly agrees. Anything for his egg.
With the summit over, the real work begins: the Roy family gathers in their suite to decide who they will back as the Republican nominee, which really means who will be president. All four sides are heard. Shiv is for Salgado, Roman is for Mencken, nobody is really for Boyer, and Connor is for Connor. And yes — there is an actual moment when they are seriously discussing Connor for president.
In the middle of this family meeting to decide the fate of the entire country, Tom gets a call. It’s Kendall, and he’s in town. But let’s review what he’s been up to this episode.
Frankly speaking: he’s been acting like a huge jerk. Leading up to and during his testimony to the DOJ, he has been undermining Lisa Arthur at every turn. He doesn’t stick to the script, has an attitude, and takes strategy into his own hands without consulting her. And when she finally calls him out for his behavior? He calls her toxic and fires her! Kendall, if anyone is toxic right now it’s you.
But now, Kendall has an offer for Tom. They meet at the same diner, and immediately share what I can safely say is my favorite dialogue of the entire series:
“I think you know, I’ve always liked you Tom.”
“Well, I like you too, Kendall. I mean… I have notes.”
“Oh no, I have notes.”
“I think mine might be more extensive than yours.”
The tension is real, palpable, and lasts the entirety of their conversation, where Kendall tries to convince Tom to join his side of the fight. When Tom ultimately refuses, Kendall deals some low blows, including heavily implying that Shiv will leave him once he goes to prison and taking photos of their meeting for future blackmail. Tom’s reply is simple: “Do you know what they’re doing up in the suite? They’re picking the next president.” Nothing Kendall can say to Tom can hurt worse than reminding Kendall of how far out of the loop he now is.
Finally, it’s time to pick the winner. After Salgado and Boyer have each come to the suite to make a case, the last option to vet is Mencken. But first, he and Roman meet in the bathroom to swap strategy and share an absolutely insane amount of sexual tension. I mean seriously, a LOT. It’s almost enough to distract from the fact that every word out of Mencken’s mouth is deranged, terrifying, and evil (including him nicknaming Hitler, “H.” H!!!!). This man makes the Roys look kind in comparison.
Unfortunately, it is Mencken that Logan chooses to back. When Shiv voices concerns about him not being the right man for the current political climate, Logan declares, “I guess I’m a climate denier.” Of course he is. It’s not that surprising a choice though, is it? Mencken is the definition of a killer. He goes so far as to call Logan irrelevant when the man is right next to him — an insult that brings a smile to Logan’s face. The episode ends with a new family portrait, except this time it’s Mencken in the place where Kendall once stood.
So, who were our winners and losers of the week?
Matthew Macfadyen: I’m not the first and I certainly won’t be the last to say this, but give this man his Emmy NOW! His portrayal of Tom’s downward slide into resignation upon realizing that the Roy family (his wife included) never had his back has been mesmerizing this whole season, but it’s in this episode that he truly shines. His disillusioned journey through the hotel after his meeting with Kendall was on par with Jeremy Strong’s best sad walking scenes — a high bar to clear.
Lisa: I know she got fired, but honestly… good for her! She is way too talented for the catastrophe that is Kendall Roy, and better off without him as a client. I only hope she finds some way to take Kendall down in revenge, because we simply have not gotten enough Sanaa Lathan this season.
Greg: Every time I think his both sides approach is going to be his downfall, he wriggles his way back out. He also finally shows a little bit of backbone (keyword: little) when he tells the family that it is his duty to the American people to say that he does not think Connor should be president.
Willa: Wins for her delivery of the line, “Maybe I don’t want to donate my body to political science.”
Caroline: In the middle of the summit, Roman finds out from literally just some guy that his own mother, Caroline (Harriet Walter), is getting married. Yes, the ice queen herself got engaged to a whole new man, planned a Tuscan wedding, and didn’t inform her own children! Iconically evil behavior.
Kendall: Fired Lisa Arthur, is planning a 40th birthday party whose mood board is “Weimar meets Carthage meets Dante meets AI.” So, Hell. His birthday theme is literally Hell. I have been going to bat for Kendall but I don’t think I can do it anymore… this is just messy.
Shiv: For the briefest of moments, it looked like she was going to stick with her principles and refuse to be in the photo with Mencken, but at the slightest hint of paternal disapproval she caved. Consistently disappointing!
Salgado and Boyer: Got bullied by Logan the whole conference and then somehow managed to lose to the worst man on the planet.
Logan: I’m sure he thinks he’s winning, but putting all your eggs in a fascist basket that is vocal about thinking your entire operation is passé doesn’t really seem like it’s going to help you in the long run.
“I Can Fix Them” of the Week
I never in one million years* (*two and a half seasons) thought I would be saying this… but it’s Tom. He’s still ridiculous in his own special way, but I think he’s starting to pull back the curtain and recognize the evil he’s let himself get sucked into. Is a full redemption possible? Absolutely not. Do I now want to get him at least part way there? Absolutely.
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