My favorite TV genre is “wealthy dysfunctional family.” It’s apparent in the show I’ve recapped for this site: Big Little Lies, Sharp Objects, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. So, it’s only fitting that I be the one to recap season 2 of one of the best, and most fiercely hilarious, dramas of the year: Succession.
Despite my upfront confession that this show — about the back-stabbing and filthy rich Roy family — falls squarely into my interests, it really is a near-perfect hour of TV. The headlines praising the sophomore season read like hyperboles, but they’re all true: "The Year’s Best Drama Is an Absurd Amount of Fun" (IndieWire); "The second season of Succession would eat Game of Thrones alive" (Polygon); "Succession Season Two Is Merciless, Cruel, and Better Than Ever" (Vulture). (The first season, on the other hand, was a slow burn, picking up by episode 3, and entering uncharted territory of sibling cruelty.)
For many, a show about corrupt people in power sounds a little…redundant, considering our the current state of our news cycle. Yes, sometimes when I’m laughing I want to cry. Yes, it’s hard to ignore the extreme parallels between this fictional family dead-set on running the world’s largest media conglomerate, and their controversial real-life counterparts. But the brilliance of the show is that we aren’t sympathizing with any of these power-hungry characters — we get to laugh at their stupidity as much as we get to be in awe of their privilege. It’s not that we want them to fail, but it’s that they will all fail, and we get to go along for the ride. Think Schitt’s Creek with an HBO edge.
The season premiere of Succession picks up right where season one left off: Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) is a shell of a man, destroyed by a Chappaquiddick-like tragedy, and his failed attempt at taking over Waystar Royco, his father Logan’s (Brian Cox) company; Roman (Kieran Culkin) is flailing in his new position as COO at Waystar; Shiv (Sarah Snook) feels betrayed by Kendall, and is thirsty for more power; Connor (Alan Ruck) is inexplicably running for president. And the side players: Marcia (Hiam Abbass), Greg (Nicholas Braun), and Tom (Matthew Macfayden), are ready to climb up their own respective ladders.
Immediately, it’s clear that the dynamic between Logan and Kendall is going to, once again, be the main focus of this season, mostly because the other siblings fucking hate both of them. They hate Kendall because he went behind their backs to take over the company (they still don’t know why), and announced his plan at Shiv and Tom’s wedding. Now, they hate him even more for abruptly changing his mind and pivoting from selfish rebel to "Dad's plan was better" suck-up. He is not the only one who wants to be CEO. At least Shiv and Roman are united over their shared disdain for their older brother.
Logan is cashing in on the collateral he has against Kendall, embarrassing him at every chance. First he scoops him from his tranquil retreat to make him perform a scripted interview, deeming it “the first fucking thing my son’s ever done right in his life.” From there, the humiliation continues when he doesn’t allow Kendall to ride his own motorcycle, and instead gives him a permanent bike chauffeur to keep an eye on him. Kendall looks as bad as he feels, and the insults continue to hit him like dodgeballs: “God he looks terrible — he’s like a sweaty corpse”; “He looks waxy, like an unshaven candle”; “He looks shitty.”
In the beginning of the episode, Logan questions his banker, Jamie, about how Sandy Furness (Larry Pine) received access to financial information to inform his bid for the company? Logan also calls out his CFO for incompetence as he slowly dismantles his inner-circle. This means — hopefully — that the women on the periphery, like Karolina (Dagmara Domińczyk) and Gerri (J. Cameron Smith), will fill these roles since they’re already running the show anyway. Let them be more than handlers for these fuck-ups! Still, it’s clear the two main options for Logan are sell (to Sandy), or name a successor (one with a plan, ideally).
The family reunites at their “summer palace”: Roman, from Japan where he’s cleaning up the missile mess he made, Shiv, from her isolated honeymoon with Tom, Kendall from his undisclosed spa hideaway, and Conor from his Southwest abode, with Willa (Justine Lupe) in tow. The gathering immediately stinks. Literally. It reeks due to a bag of dead raccoons stowed away in the fireplace, left intentionally by Logan's new contractor (so he thinks). The family, and their über-luxurious lobster and shrimp lunch, have been marinating in rancid air all day, airing out their own dirty laundry, before the animals are finally located. Logan demands all the food be thrown away, and pizza be ordered. Not only is he throwing away thousands of dollars worth of food, he’s also creating a more casual environment for him to reveal the real reason he’s gathered everyone. He wants to name the next CEO of Waystar instead of selling the company — and he wants to talk to his children one-by-one about it, planting seeds of hope that the role is each of theirs. If he pits Shiv, Kendall, and Roman (sorry Connor...you can keep shopping for Napoleon's dried genitalia?) against each other, then he can have them expose each other’s weaknesses instead of him doing all the work. It’s conniving, but it’s brilliant. Just like him.
The most realistic option is (of fucking course) Shiv! It takes awhile for her to admit she wants the position because her barriers are higher than the Great Wall of China. Unlike Roman and Kendall, she doesn’t wear her emotions — or her ambitions — on her sleeve. She tries to play hardball with her dad, saying that she wants him to sell so she can be free of all this bullshit and continue on with her own career in politics. But Logan strategically unravels her, making her reveal her plan for the company *if* she was to take over. By the end of the conversation, there’s a tear-filled verbal deal made. “Remember this,” he tells Shiv in his sunny office. “This slant of light. Remember this. This is it.” Logan even promotes Tom to chair of global broadcast news for ATN, the company’s cable company, which means he’s officially out of the death pit. (Bring Greg with you, please!) The only obstacle is getting Shiv to subtly enter the company and gain experience before she’s formally announced. And she’s going to do all this without her siblings noticing. Lol, good luck.
Still — Logan’s as trustworthy and brutal as the Co-Star app, so if I were Shiv, I would not be sleeping easy, despite their sworn agreement. Meanwhile, the patriarch announces that Kendall and Roman will be co-COOs. Bloody fucking brilliant.
But the final scene of the episode throws yet another wrench in Logan’s plans: Sandy and Stewy will not back down on their plan to buy Waystar. They’re prepared to bleed cash, and suffer the wrath of a Roy scorned. It doesn't matter if Shiv is ready to run the whole company if someone buys it out from under her.
Episode 1 ends with Logan dealing with his feuding children, secretly naming his daughter the successor to the company, and ignoring the aggressive tactics of the men who want to buy his company. Don't forget that S^2 also have black book filled with collateral against Logan thanks to his back-stabbing son, Kendall. It's going to get so ugly and I can't wait.
Legacy media at its best.
Welcome to Cousin Greg’s Corner
Every episode I’ll breakdown the *most* Cousin Greg moment.
After being selected as Kendall’s drug mule, Greg comes over to Kendall’s extremely lavish temporary apartment to drop off a bag of cocaine. Kendall is fully and utterly shocked to find out the white powder was acquired from a drug dealer in Washington Square Park. “Park coke?! You got me park coke?” he screams. Flustered, Greg offers to return to the drug dealer because he’s Greg.