In advance of the second season of HBO’s Succession, we’ve decided to revisit the first season episode-by-episode. Yes, we shared some thoughts ahead of its season one premiere and also wrote up the finale, but we’re big fans of Jesse Armstrong’s wickedly funny exploration of the ultra-rich and want to dig a bit deeper as we gear up for the new season’s August 11 premiere. Expect new reviews on Tuesdays and Fridays. See a review of the eighth episode, “Prague,” here.
“It’ll be hostile, hostile, hostile,” Kendall says before the credits roll on “Pre-Nuptial,” forecasting the aftereffects of the bear hug he’s about to put on Waystar. With Stewy, Sandy Furness, and some “pension fund guys” in Canada, Kendall is ready to take the company away from his father and out of Roy family control forever. Hostility is certainly one word for it—perhaps too kind of one—but it’s appropriate considering hostility is flooding every corner of Shiv and Tom’s wedding in the English countryside. Not that that seems to bother Shiv (Sarah Snook), who’s as unflappable as she is downright ruthless in this episode. She plays politics, brokers a deal, fends off her fuck buddy, and lies to her husband-to-be, all without batting an eye. Well, that’s not entirely true, but we’ll get there.
She’s shaken, for example, by Logan (Brian Cox) and Marcia (Hiam Abbass) deciding that, actually, they will be attending the wedding. “I don’t want to go, but there is no other fucking way out,” he shouts at his team, saying there’s no good public narrative to explain his absence. This complicates things for not only Kendall (Jeremy Strong), but Shiv, too, who invited presidential candidate and ATN death angel Gil Eavis (Eric Bogosian). Eavis, who’s grown increasingly unhinged by ATN’s relentless coverage of his late wife’s suicide, is desperate for “a stick of dynamite” he can use to take down the cable network. Shiv has one in her quiver—the unspeakable misconduct festering beneath Waystar’s cruise and parks division—but to unbury it is to jeopardize Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun). Knowing that consequence is rare for anyone in the Roy orbit, she presses Tom for more details—more on that in a moment—and even uses it to threaten Logan when he arrives to the castle. This prompts a vicious takedown from Marcia, who calls Shiv a “spoiled slut” and lambasts her privilege. “You don’t know how vulnerable a human being can be,” she says, a piercing shot of truth. “He made you a playground and you think it’s the whole world.”
Marcia’s not wrong, of course, but she knows what she’s protecting when she attacks Logan’s enemies. She wants fealty from his children as much as he does. Shiv, shaken by Marcia’s words, nevertheless doubles down on her quest, promising Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) that the scandal will stay buried only if ATN stops slandering Gil. Gil, for all his righteousness, agrees to the deal, thanks in no small part to Shiv’s advice. “I’m pretty sure I can show him a dirty LBJ gets more done than a clean McGovern,” she tells Gerri. No politician is clean; that much is clear when Gil and Logan close the arrangement while walking the countryside. Gil, the progressive socialist, gives in easy, sounding almost wistful when he says he’d hoped to take Logan down. Logan can only smile: “Doesn’t a deal feel so much better?” Gil suddenly doesn’t seem so powerful anymore, does he? This isn’t Logan’s first rodeo.
It isn’t Shiv’s first, either, but it nevertheless shines a light on how much more suited she is to smart, beneficial modes of ruthlessness than her brothers. Like Shiv, it’s easy to wonder just why Logan tried out Kendall and Roman before her. Sure, it’s probably because she already had a career, but, like many a king before him, Logan likely longed for a male heir. He’d be proud of how she handled Tom, though. When he starts to suspect that something is still lingering between Shiv and Nate (Ashley Zukerman), she uses his vulnerability as a means of accessing the details of the scandal. “Is this real? Am I total jerk?” he asks. “What level are we on? Are you fucking around on me?” She is. He knows she is. Love always trumps logic, though, and he believes her when she denies it. “I trust you,” he says. And “we have to be able to trust” for him to be able to tell her about the cruise line. Work comes before her heart, though, and there’s a chill in the air when Tom wants her to assure him he’s not going to be hurt by this. Marcia’s words again resonate: “You don’t know how vulnerable a human being can be.”
Kendall, meanwhile, is trying desperately not to collapse beneath the weight of his own insecurities. Cocaine helps, in that regard, but Rava (Natalie Gold) is understandably annoyed when she catches a drift of it on his suit jacket. “Not one of your more relaxing interludes,” she notes before asking him to nudge his divorce lawyer. Kendall, who clearly has been putting things off in the hopes that they’ll get back together, instead asserts that her lawyers are trying to fuck him over. Their parting isn’t a pleasant one. What’s more pleasant, surprisingly, is Kendall’s reunion with Logan, who offers him a position at a TV network. “I’m just a lovely guy,” he replies when Kendall expresses skepticism.
Maybe it’s the coke, or maybe it’s the anxiety of knowing he’s about to drop a bomb on his entire family, but Kendall can’t help but allow his own bullshit to fuck up the takeover. After hearing the Canadians have concerns over him being CEO, he presses Frank (Peter Friedmann) for more information. Soon, he’s on a call with Sandy (Larry Pine) and Stewy (Arian Moayed) saying that things have been compromised. A reporter knows something’s up, and they know he talked to Frank. The bearhug, initially planned for 10 days out, needs to happen this weekend.
Kendall doesn’t know that, though, when he, Shiv, and Roman meet for a late-night joint at the boathouse they snuck away to as kids. It’s a simple scene, with the trio allowing an all-too-rare dose of sincerity to sneak into their dynamic for once. Kendall, knowing that this will be one of their last interactions before he yanks the family business away, asks for a hug. Not even Roman going in “butt first” manages to ruin it, and Strong’s smile in this scene is pure enough to make you forget just how cruel all of these people are.
Nobody, though, is cruel in the way Caroline “The Wicked Bitch Of The West” Collingwood (Harriet Walter) is. The trio’s mother spends the party tossing barbs like hand grenades, asking every stranger she meets how long they think the happy couple will last. “I’m trying to sparkle!” she tells Shiv.
As for Roman, well, he mentions that he “accelerated” the launch of the satellite. Acceleration is all over this episode, from the launch to the bearhug to Shiv and Tom’s wedding, which is arriving with far too much still undiscussed between the two. Everything’s moving too fast and nobody is ready for what’s to come.
- I’ll be re-posting my original review of the finale with some new thoughts on Friday, and I’ll also be recapping season two beginning on Sunday night. See you then, Fly Guys!
- Greg-ism of the week: “Is there doubt afoot?”
- Walter’s got no shortage of stinging lines, but it’s her crack about Tom’s parents buying the wine that takes the cake. “So clever the way they’re letting every single person know,” she says, taking a sip.
- A runner-up, though, is Caroline describing Tom as “very plausible.”
- Roman’s now dating the woman Tom got a blowjob from at Rhomboid. Tabitha (Caitlin FitzGerald), though, seems cool as hell. Roman certainly thinks so, as he more or less proposes marriage, despite the fact that they never have sex. “You’re not a head fuck or a bitch or a leech,” he says, casually. Her response is perfect: “Do you think this is the way to get someone to stay?”
- Roman calling Gil “Senator Beavis” is so perfectly Roman.
- “I’m desperate to make you concentrate on nothing but me for 15 minutes.” Nate is the worst.
- Greg doesn’t do much this episode, but he does catch a glimpse of Nate goosing Shiv, leading him to tell Tom that he thinks she’s having an affair. Tom, who’d really like to not know the truth, tackles him in a rage.
- Caroline makes it clear why Greg’s dad isn’t in the picture when she says he “used to try to sleep with all the men in Sausalito.” Oh, wow.
- Gil: “I’m in a knife fight here holding a dildo made of American cheese!”
- I laughed when Willa (Justine Lupe) tells the priest she’s a playwright and he just replies with a bemused, “America.”
- Would you listen to Connor’s podcast on Napoleonic history that’s “on the verge of being set up” and has “a considerable level of investment interest”? If not, that’s okay. He’ll just be out here “crackin’ the nut of happiness like a modern-day Thoreau.”