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 episode six, “Which Side Are You On?,” here.
One might think the war was over after Kendall and Frank failed to oust Logan from his throne in the previous episode, but the battles rage on. Kendall, not content to simply disappear into his trust fund, has filed a lawsuit against the board for its failure to fulfill its fiduciary duty and its breach of his employment contract. The optics of Logan firing half the board doesn’t look good, either. Nor does his plan to buy up local news stations, which has resulted in protestors lobbing piss-filled balloons at Logan as he walks into work. “Everyone fucking hates you,” Stewy declares, noting that the protests are nothing compared to the bad press swirling around the family. As Waystar’s stock again plummets, it’s up to the Roys to, as Kendall might say, regain control of the narrative.
The solution? A PR package masked as a cleansing weekend of family therapy at the New Mexico ranch of Connor (Alan Ruck), with cameras on hand to capture all the progress they’ve made. “A family reunited in the desert,” spells out the PR team. Logan (Brian Cox), meanwhile, has just one question: “Does the traitor come, too?” Kendall (Jeremy Strong) declines the invitation, but Logan sits with Connor, Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) anyway as “corporate therapist” Alon (Griffin Dunne)—he worked with the Sultan of Brunei!—does the bare minimum to bring them together. “Everything I’ve done in my life I’ve done for my children,” Logan says, reiterating his gala speech from “Sad Sack Wasp Trap.” “Dad, you can’t just use the one sentence,” Shiv retorts. Things don’t progress far from there. Hilariously, Logan responds to Alon asking if he thinks his kids are scared of him by screaming “fuck off!”
It’s a strategy to Logan, that’s all. A cost of business. “What you kids do not understand, it’s all part of the game,” he says. The thing is, they do get that. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s also a game for them. Even Roman knows it’s fucked up for Logan to tell reporters that Kendall is back on drugs; it’s part of the game, sure, but Shiv and Roman know it has real-life consequences. Roman’s never seemed more human than he is in this episode, his concern for Kendall manifesting in him setting aside his hedonism for an evening to ferry his brother away from the gang of meth addicts he’s shacked up with.
Yep, Kendall made his way to New Mexico, too. After spending however long moping in a dark bedroom, the lure of his congregated family is too strong to resist. What really sets him off, though, is Rava (Natalie Gold) believing the manufactured reports of his drug use, as well as his children being confronted with it via their social media accounts. If he’s going to relapse, he might as well shove it in Logan’s face. Sure, he orders a “nonalcoholic beer” when he walks into the bar down the street from Connor’s estate, but you don’t walk into a bar unless you want a drink. And you don’t go home with a trio of meth peddlers if you don’t want some meth. And some weed. And some Oxy.
Strong is fucking fantastic in this episode. His waxen countenance slowly begins melting after that first sip of Smirnoff, and his bemused chuckle while torching the pipe—“I never did meth,” he recalls—sloughs off that much more. Soon, in a voice akin to the one he uses in the board room, he declares he’s “interested in becoming a meth head.” He knows he’s self-destructing, and he’s loving it. It’s not as if he has a job to worry about. Or a family. Or a healthy fear of the authorities. How many drugs can he do before his dad notices what he’s doing to him?
More than he took, apparently, because Logan more or less ignores him once he bursts into Connor’s house with a squeal. Logan, desperate, perhaps, to not see what he’s wrought, instead trains his rage on Shiv—we’ll talk about her story shortly—leading Kendall to say everything his sober self couldn’t. “I was born lucky. I’m a lucky person, I realize that. And you’re so fuckin’ jealous, aren’t you?” he teases. “You’re so fuckin’ jealous of what you’ve given your own kids. You can’t handle it.” Logan keeps his cool, but then Kendall drops a bomb, his mention of an “evil Uncle Noah” bringing he and Logan face to face. “You are a fucking nobody,” Logan tells him. Later, the specter of Uncle Noah looms over the cursed image of Logan’s irreparably scarred back.
A show about the impossibly rich and powerful is inevitably going to touch on privilege and resentment, and I love how Succession frames that exploration through its richest, most powerful character. I also love how restrained the show’s been about Logan’s past, allowing only brief, subtext-laden glimpses that point to what was clearly a troubled, cash-strapped upbringing. You may hate what he’s built, but you can’t dispute that he built it. His children were given posh lives and all the opportunities he wasn’t, and they pay him back by either fucking it all up (as with Kendall and Roman) or pursuing an entirely separate path (as with Shiv). His resentment for the ultra-privileged, then, isn’t all that different from the rest of the country; he’d almost be relatable if that bitterness didn’t curdle him into a tyrant who wants everyone in his orbit to bend the knee. He built this kingdom, and those who benefit from it are his subjects. It makes sense, then, that he’d label Kendall and Shiv “traitors,” describing their own efforts to defy him as “rebellion.” He hates Kendall all the more because he knows calling him a “nobody” is an empty attack; Kendall will always be somebody because he’s a Roy. He hates what his kids are doing to his name.
He feels that way about Shiv, too, lambasting her for meeting with Gil Eavis (Eric Bogosian), the one Senate member “who wants to fuck me ragged.” Logan’s not wrong. When Shiv meets with Gil—“Stalin in a plaid shirt”—about his presidential campaign, he says he’s going for Logan’s throat. “Legally, legislatively, hearings, referrals; it’ll be ugly,” he says. “Do you want this enough to go to war with your family?” That Shiv’s so excited about the potential of working for him—she forces d-bag Nate (Ashley Zukerman) to rub her down after the meeting—says a lot about her own desire for both power and, sure, rebellion. Her attitude’s one of having nothing to lose; even if Waystar was gutted by Gil, she’d still have her own fortune to fall back on. That sense of abandon, though, displeases Logan, who, like our shitty president, desires loyalty above all else. His attacks on her are vicious: “You’re scared to compete,” he spits. “You’re marrying a man fathoms beneath you because you don’t want to risk being betrayed.” Dude, Tom is right there (and he totally knows there’s some truth to that).
Connor’s estate, Austerlitz, is presumably named after the 1805 battle that saw Napoleon emerge victorious in the War of the Third Coalition. Historically, the battle’s remembered as a tactical marvel, which is ironic considering the War of the Roys is anything but. What looked like a decisive win for Logan last week is looking to not be so simple. As Kendall lounges on the rocks in the episode’s closing moments, after all, he looks a lot less defeated than he did in his dim bedroom.
- No Greg this week! Bummer.
- Logan casually puts Roman in charge of a spaceship launch in Japan, a plot point you’d be wise to remember as we approach the finale.
- Connor renamed the estate Austerlitz because its previous name was “racially insensitive.”
- Nate, who I hate, tells Shiv he’s always down to bang. “You have all the power you can do whatever you want with,” he tells her, which is a really gross way of applying pressure on a woman who’s made it very clear she doesn’t want to actively cheat on her fiance.
- Speaking of Tom, he’s excited about Shiv potentially working for Gil, even if he “wants to line up me and everyone I know and shoot us.”
- “Hello to the metropolitan elite,” Connor says as Tom and Shiv enter his ranch. “Welcome to the real America.” You’d like to think he’s kidding, but, c’mon, this is Connor. Self-awareness is not his strong suit.
- Shiv on the ranch: “It’s...brown.”
- Also funny: Connor being so furious after Roman jokingly threatens to say he “sexually abused” him as a child, then bringing it up unprompted with Alon.
- Also funny: Tom genuinely asking if he’s allowed to shake Roman’s hand since Shiv is mad at him.
- Shiv and Roman make up almost immediately, though, which makes total sense with how the show’s treated the pair this whole season. I genuinely find their relationship to be the show’s purest.
- Connor wants Willa (Justine Lupe) to spend more time at the ranch in the hopes that she could actually really fall in love with him. For now, though, they’ll just say the words. “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” he asks after she mutters a half-hearted “I love you.” All of this might resonate as serial killer shit if it weren’t already clear that he genuinely thinks he can pay her into really, truly loving him.
- Oh, the irony of Stewy decrying protestors as “trust fund YouTube shits.”
- Connor: “This family’s broken and that has consequences. A missed phone call today, a couple dozen kids lose their jobs in China. Butterfly wings, but bigger. Huge wings, like a pterodactyl. Or the Smithsonian. Let’s fix our wings.”
- Kendall’s meth friends are charming: “Hey, Kendall, tell Bill Gates my computer’s fucked up from all the fucking updates, man!”