Warning! Spoilers for Succession season three, episode six, "Going For What It Takes", are ahead.
Let’s set the scene. In season three, episode six, the Roys are on the way to Virginia to attend what Roman sarcastically describes to Greg as "just a nice political conference of like-minded donors and intellectuals." We swiftly infer – through a disturbing slew of Third Reich references – that it’s a conservative rally, where the deplorable gang are set on choosing the next Republican presidential candidate they will back. The Roys have a lot of influence and the stench of desperation is in the air as candidates slither over the family to try and win their endorsement. Out of the blue, Roman is blindsided by a 'save the date' on a randomer’s phone: "Congratulations by the way for the wedding – your mother is Caroline Collingwood, right?" Shock ripples around the siblings when Roman shares the news: the prickly and unpleasant Roy matriarch is getting married and she hasn’t even told her children, let alone extended an invite. Like Freudian Mentos in a demented Coke bottle, all sorts of childhood insecurities and mommy issues fizz to the surface. Predictably, it’s Roman who proves to be a man-child possessed.
The HBO show has always been driven by an abundance of Oedipal lols. "You may want to screw your mother but I am okay in that department," Logan has previously jabbed at Roman. At the beginning of this very episode, Shiv jokes at Roman’s eagerness to acquiesce to his dad’s every request: "You just want to give him a blow job so stop projecting." Cut through the blue-blooded media negotiations and dodgy dealings of society's upper echelons and at the heart of the series is just a bunch of kids who have never been told that mommy or daddy loves them.
Upon discovering news of the engagement, Roman goes on the offensive, knocking back the whiskies and googling the groom-to-be – wealthy CEO Peter Munion – while mocking him as a "cheerio pip-pip fucker" and threatening to stop the wedding. The barely concealed tantrum provokes a laugh from Shiv: "Poor Rome, his dreams of porking Mom are slipping through his little lubed up fingers."
Our resident Slime Puppy™ has exhibited more than just a few signs of abject mommy issues. We know he gets off on being humiliated and rarely has sex; on the rare occasion that he does, he’s told girlfriends to play dead, once to the response: "I think maybe the morgue is closing for the night." Then there's his will-they-won’t-they, semi-ironic psychosexual relationship with surrogate mother-boss Gerri Kellman, which came to a head when the pair engaged in some freaky phone sex. He masturbates furiously to her insults of "revolting little worm" and "overexcited little boy".
"When a child is raised by an emotionally absent mother it can prove to be a hugely unsettling experience that can skew their attitude to adult relationships," says senior therapist Sally Baker. "If they choose emotionally absent partners who struggle with the authentic emotional connection they truly crave, it can be their way of fulfilling their negative life script. This means they may have felt unloved during their formative years and some part of them considers themselves to be unlovable. Therefore, they choose partners who will be unable to meet their emotional needs which proves to them that they are unworthy of being loved."
The mommy issues aren’t surprising, considering what we know about the passive-aggressive Roy mother, wealthy British aristocrat Caroline. We’ve seen her joke about her children being Nazis, make cruel predictions about how long she expects Shiv's marriage to last (in front of guests on the day of her wedding: "I give it a year"), psychologically stonewall Kendall and serve them pigeon with shot and feather embedded in it for lunch – hardly maternal or nourishing comfort food. During S2 negotiations, Roman – uncharacteristically quiet – accuses his mother of "burning down the Colosseum with [her] children inside of it". A little smirk appears at the corner of her mouth. Now, not even giving her kids a heads-up that she’s getting married (a text message would do!) is the pinnacle of cutthroat parental manipulation 101. There’s no denying Caroline is more emotionally unavailable and brutal than Logan has ever been.
Strangely, Roman flips at the prospect of his mother getting married but regularly turns a blind eye to Logan’s abhorrent and adulterous behaviour, even the fact he’s probably sticking it to his young assistant Kerry (has a new mommy dropped, too?). "It often doesn’t matter who is at fault, children will most often choose to be more demanding of the parent they perceive will not betray them," says Baker. "This means that even though the exploits of one parent can be more extreme than the other, if a child pushes the envelope with one parent, it is always a demonstration of who they feel emotionally more secure with." Logan is literally the lesser of two evils.
Back at the conference, Logan plays on Roman’s blind dedication to his father. Roman begins a deal with the devil aka alt-right candidate Jeryd Mencken whose policies, according to Shiv, include "rape is natural, it’s all red pill baby" and "medicare for all, abortions for none". It’s terrifying stuff. But the thing is, Roman isn’t terrified. He's visibly turned on. When he and Mencken convene in Logan’s bathroom to discuss policy, it is a scene so homoerotic, filled with so much sexual tension and Roman moisturising his hands up to the elbow (!) that I nearly screamed: "JUST DO IT ALREADY." A potential queer romance incoming? Or are we just witnessing the meeting of two people so scheming and messed up that they are turned on by the vitriol spewing from each other’s mouth.
Baker believes this is yet another symptom of Roman’s acute mommy issues. "Sometimes when a child has been taught that love from their mother is conditional and not guaranteed or freely given, their adult search for love can be associated and confused with pain or negative thought processes and these can be stimulating in a sexual way," she says. "Roman may have dramatically fetishised his mother’s coldness into an emotion he responds to in a sexually charged way. It certainly makes for compelling viewing!"
We end the episode with the Roys backing the fascist and, in a sick twist of brilliance, Roman going full Parent Trap and inviting Logan to his mother’s Tuscany nuptials, despite knowing full well that none of them has been invited.
"You did good this weekend, son," Logan smiles at Roman. With what feels like a wedding crash pending, it’s only a matter of time until it all comes to a head with mommy dearest.