'Succession' recap, Season 3, Episode 4: Can Kendall and Logan put on a good show?
What happened this week
Kendall wants to ratchet up his campaign against the family, but he's persuaded by Frank to participate in a meeting with Josh, an investor (played by Adrien Brody) who's trying to decide whether to stick with the Roys or throw in with Sandy and Stewy in their takeover bid. Out at Josh's estate, Logan and Kendall come face to face, and while they put on a good show for Josh, they are as bitter toward each other as you would expect. What's more, Logan's health continues to teeter, and his shaky condition scares Josh into aligning with Sandy and Stewy. Meanwhile, Tom is trying, pretty unsuccessfully, to come to terms with the idea of prison toilet wine, but he really isn't as ready to throw himself to the wolves as he thinks he is. Greg is gradually being sucked back into Logan's orbit, which, again, makes it seem like Kendall should maybe have sprung for that watch.
85 MPH: Logan ... and Kendall
This is the episode where we reach a kind of equilibrium. Logan and Kendall are on even ground, equally bad, equally vicious, equally morally vacant. Which really isn't where many of us thought they were heading at the end of last season! Now on the one hand, you could say Logan is worse because he made Kendall this way, but on the other hand, you could say Kendall is worse because he's more self-aware; he seems to be a person who sort of has feelings and a conscience and ignores them, while Logan has neither. And while we are encouraged to feel sympathy for Kendall because he comes from so much pain, who's to say Logan doesn't?
What's impressive is that the writers create such an enormously sad scene between these two men in spite of both of them being awful. When Kendall sits there listening to his father tell Josh that he loves his son, that his son is "a good kid," and (most important) that Kendall might be the best of all Logan's kids and the one who will one day be in charge, he knows it's all lies. He knows Logan doesn't mean it. He knows Logan is just trying to settle Josh's nerves. But oh, he still wants to hear it. He wishes it were true.
That fact, though, doesn't stop him from ridiculing and mocking his own father for his cognitive and physical decline, or telling Logan everyone hates him, or making fun of him for being old, or making fun of Shiv. And there is also a moment during that lunch scene where Logan's face perhaps registers some distant wish that he meant at least some of what he's saying, but that doesn't stop him from taunting Kendall about how Greg's not on his side anymore, the DOJ isn't coming, the whole family stayed with Logan, and as Logan puts it, "you lost." There is a weird kind of love in this relationship somewhere, probably, or there was, but it does neither of them any good.
This is the difference, for the record, between character complexity and character inconsistency. Kendall seems to both deeply love his father and want his approval while also deeply despising Logan and being willing to do almost anything to spite him. But the thing is, that's always been true. Kendall always seems to be the same person and it seems to be the same relationship, even as it reshapes itself over and over in response to circumstances. That's what you get from good writing and good acting. That's very different from inconsistency, which comes about through a muddy writing where a character changes from week to week based on the needs of the plot.
75 MPH: Roman
Roman is taking Kendall's stunt at the meeting last week very personally, which leads him to one of his ugliest acts: seeking out the then-unhoused man who, years ago, was persuaded by the revelers at Kendall's bachelor party to tattoo Kendall's initials on his forehead. The tattooing was an act of pure, bored cruelty back then that Roman exacerbates now. His dismissal of this man's humanity, his desire to use him as a public relations weapon against Kendall despite the man's efforts to move on — it all speaks to the fact that Roman is a much more vicious, heartless person than he sometimes seems to be when he's engaging in funny flirtation with Gerri or being the Roy sibling with the best zingers. As with Kendall, it's best to remember that whatever sympathy you have for Roman's obviously considerable pain, he's absolutely awful. And this is one of his most awful moments.
I've often said that it's when the Roys collide with regular people that their cruelty and villainy really comes into focus. Roman was the one who brought this home in the series' very first episode, and he's the one bringing it back here.
65 MPH: Shiv
Shiv is trying hard to recover from last week's humiliation, which only gets worse when her father scolds her for doing exactly what he told her to do and closely monitoring the Sandy/Stewy negotiations. Apparently, Logan expects her to come up with a magical way of controlling the way employees like Karl and Frank resent her, when in fact it's Logan who could sweep out that resentment if he chose to. It seems at times like Logan is a bit kinder to Shiv than he is to the boys, but really, it's only that he knows exactly how to adjust his viciousness to fit the cooler temperature of her personality and the slight remove at which she's always tried to hold the family business. He goes for the throat with his daughter as much as with his sons — he just gets there differently.
Shiv also finds time to bully Tom about the fact that he needs to bully Ravenhead (the ATN anchor) about going harder on the president at Logan's request. (Logan hopes to gain leverage in the battle with the DOJ by using ATN to hurt the administration.) Tom resists being undermined quite as directly as she's doing, but eventually, he agrees. But when he reports back that Ravenhead isn't really interested in being pushed around, Shiv finds the anchor herself and makes the pitch very explicit: We own the network, my father hates the president, you will say what we tell you to say, regardless of any claims of editorial independence you may be allowed to make in public. And he shouldn't bother going public: "We don't get embarrassed," she says, crystallizing a strategic advantage held by a number of people in contemporary times, not just the Roys.
64 MPH: Tom
Tom basically volunteered for incarceration last week, but the more he thinks about this idea, the less he likes it. He's exploring the fine points of lockup distillery, but really, he just wants Shiv to be upset that he might go to prison, and she just ... isn't. She only seems to care what Tom can do for her and her family, what he owes to her and her father, and how well he executes the little tasks she gives him.
As always, Tom gets a little bit of pleasure from trying to torture Greg while pretending to also be his best pal, but even this turns out to be in vain, since Greg has started to assert himself more and doesn't need Tom's advice. Tom cannot catch a break.
40 MPH: Greg
Oh, Greg. You were so close! It really seemed like Greg might be on a path to rejecting the Waystar Royco way of life, but nothing doing. Having gotten the distinct impression that Kendall's "loyalty" to him is going to last exactly as long as it's convenient for Kendall, Greg figures he might as well scurry back to Logan, who can at least give him something. Greg just has to figure out what.
Speaking of which, it's sort of adorable how Greg thinks he can get out of ATN and evade the evil of the Roys by going to work in parks.
A final note on Greg: I'm not sure the Greg who is gently ordering rum and Coke and choking on how strong it is can be fully reconciled with the Greg we met in the first-ever Succession episode when he was barfing out of the eyeballs of his costume at the park because he was so high. They seem to take the position now that Greg is something of an innocent man-child; that was not necessarily the origin story.
35 MPH: Connor
There have been times when Connor seemed not to be on the road to hell at all; when he seemed to want to just retreat to the desert and be benign-ishly rich, which at least would slow you down to a nice 10 MPH or so. But he's been sensing an opportunity in Kendall's rebellion. Not just for his father's affection, but also, now, for some résumé-burnishing as he prepares to run for president. Connor wants a good job in the company to fend off accusations in four years that he has no real-world experience, and Shiv offers him ... a food network. Connor knows that's just going to make him seem more unserious to the people he's worried about, and he doesn't take long to make his intentions clear: Shiv can give him what he wants, which is a good executive position, or she can risk that he will go public with everything he knows about Logan.
Would Connor really do that? It's not clear. It's also not clear what Connor thinks will happen if Shiv passes this along to their dad, with whom Connor maintains an almost entirely conflict-free relationship. But for the time being, he's dealing with Shiv, and Kendall isn't wrong when he says nobody takes Shiv very seriously right now. (Shiv's current position is one of the few times the show has explored something the characters rarely talk about: Let's say one of the siblings prevails, wins, gets the brass ring, and takes over someday. Then what?)
The Roys are days away from the shareholders' meeting, and that's the biggest question dangling over next week's episode. As we move in that direction, let's recap exactly where we are.
Sandy and Stewy continue to try to take over Waystar Royco by persuading shareholders to support them and boot out the family. (Technically, because the company is publicly owned, the shareholders own it and can fire Logan and all of his kids if they choose; it's just always seemed very unlikely.) The current controversy (to say the least) caused by Kendall's public statements have both weakened Logan and weakened the company. But as Stewy has pointed out in the past, the only thing the shareholders are going to decide is whether they can make a little bit more money on their investment by having Sandy and Stewy's crew in charge instead of Logan's.
There's also an effort underway to settle with Sandy and Stewy — that is, to come to an agreement where the Roys would share power with them in some way, in return for the family maintaining ultimate control of the company. This is the deal Logan and Kendall tried to strike when they went to visit Stewy off the yacht at the end of the second season; those negotiations are still ongoing, though, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that this contentious shareholders' meeting won't happen at all.
And on top of all this, Logan's health has chosen a bad moment to get wobbly. If the family is trying to convince everyone it can steady the ship, what's going to happen if the captain collapses again?
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