Kendall struggles to land “Living+” as humiliation threatens to overwhelm him.
Succession has frequently received the label “Shakespearean.” In many ways, it’s a term that has lost some significance. If you squint hard enough, one can even compare Bluey to Hamlet. Still, there’s nothing more Shakespearean than a hero confronting the ghost of his father. In true Succession style, the series goes there this week but not with a specter appearing out of the mist but rather shrilling for a new product in front of a green screen.
Kendall (Jeremy Strong) stares at the screen, being judged from beyond the grave by his father, Logan (Brian Cox). He’s watching the raw footage that Logan recorded, presumably right before his death, for an upcoming shareholders meeting.
They’re launching a product called Living+. It’s pitched as a “community” where people can live in a secure housing development while enjoying wall-to-wall Waystar content. It sounds like Capitalism Hell. Unfortunately, it is a metaphorical prison of commerce not far from what Disney is developing with their terrifying Storyliving neighborhoods.
When Logan bristles at some gentle directing heard off-camera, he spits out, “You’re as bad as my idiot kids!” The footage pauses on Logan looking directly at Kendall. Ferocity twists the patriarch so noticeably that it convinced me the show would pull a Ring. Cue Logan crawling out of the TV to strangle his second child. Thankfully, no such monster bursts forth. Moreover, the insult doesn’t seem to bother Kendall. He asks to rewatch it since hearing Logan insult him is like “a Valentine’s card.”
Meanwhile, Shiv (Sarah Snook) is busy getting GoJo CEO, Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) under her thumb. They are sitting on neighboring planes on a tarmac when Shiv gets a call requesting she visit his aircraft. Instead, she gets Matsson to go to her, walking barefoot on what I assume is very hot asphalt.
In a flirtatious exchange, Matsson tells Shiv he wants nothing to do with the “land cruise” that is Living+. He also asks her to be his inside gal on the Waystar side. She agrees, and Matsson blows her a kiss as he leaves.
We then fly back to the west coast, where the Roys and the execs meet up at Waystar Studios. Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Ken try to convince the others that they shouldn’t sell to an unstable “Human Chernobyl” like Matsson. Shiv immediately sees through this. When the exec team leaves the room, she confronts her brothers.
Director Lorene Scafaria returns here with another excellent job, especially in this scene. She puts Shiv in the corner of a large conference table and frames her between people’s heads and her brothers. It leaves her isolated and excluded.
Director Lorene Scafaria returns…with another excellent job.
Afterward, Shiv goes to a conference room to let out her emotions. Since Logan’s death, she’s been “scheduling her grief” by booking rooms. She’s incapable of showing emotions in front of anyone, so she needs them to cry in private. This time, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) accidentally wanders in. Together, they begin a strange, hilarious, and kind of sexy healing process for their marriage. First, he holds her, comforting her. Then, his hands start to wander up and down her back, and they kiss.
The reunion becomes official later on at a rooftop party where they have an insane flirt-off by tearing the other apart. Shiv teases Tom about who he wants to hook up with at the party before dropping the truth bomb, “You were the one after the one.”
Now having a bit more of a spine than seasons past, Tom doesn’t give away how this bothers him. Instead, he gladly accepts a game of “Bitey,” where two people bite each other until one gives up. Tom wins the game and earns Shiv’s respect and admiration.
The two have makeup sex. After Shiv asks Tom about what to do with Matsson. Seeing an opening, Tom tells her, “I think I want you. I think I would like this back.” Initially, it seems Tom still has genuine feelings toward Shiv. However, after an incredible monologue from Macfadyen about “liking nice things,” it reads more like just another power play. Either way, by the end of the scene, Shiv tells him, “I’d follow you anywhere for love, Tom Wambsgans.” When they both laugh maniacally, we know these two are in it to win it.
While Shiv is actually pulling strings, her brothers are letting the time-sensitive power get to their heads. Roman has lunch with studio exec, Joy Palmer, to demand she “get the franchise machine pumping.” She tells him she’s concerned about ATN going extremely right-wing with their #1 fascist boy, Jeryd Mencken. In addition, she’s concerned about the state of democracy, which Roman has no time for. In maybe the most chilling line of the show so far, Roman says, “Mencken is IP just like anything.” Joy gently pushes back, which makes Roman fire her immediately.
Succession is excellent at making you realize fundamental truths about capitalism without hitting it over the head. The powerfully rich only see humans as commodities to be advertised to and to take money from. As Logan said in the season premiere, “people are economic units.” If you’re infinitely rich, you can’t get hurt. Thus, putting your money behind a wannabe autocrat doesn’t sound alarming at all. It’s just business.
The Joy firing gets back to Gerri, who confronts Roman. He hates that Gerri’s mad at him, so he immediately tries to backtrack. He says, “I didn’t fire her. I just said ‘she was fired’ to her.” J Smith-Cameron responds with the greatest “What the fuck are you talking about?” face I’ve ever seen.
After she calls him a “weak monarch,” Roman sorta puts his foot down. He tells her she needs to at least try believing he’s as good as his dad. Based on her face, it doesn’t seem like that’s gonna happen. Roman sees it too, and fires her. Knowing the history of the show and Gerri’s many previous firings, I don’t think our girl is going anywhere.
It’s another remarkable Jeremy Strong performance here.
The other Roy Prince isn’t having much success either. Kendall is back in his manic birthday party planning mode, but this time it’s an investor presentation. To wow people with the Living+ launch, Ken demands they build a house on the stage in less than 24 hours. “New rule, you can’t say no!” he declares. Hoping it’ll scare off Matsson, Kendall also tries to push up Waystar’s price. Worst of all, he insists on wearing a bomber jacket on stage.
He at least decides to nix the house idea as the clouds weren’t like what he saw in Berlin). Instead, he starts the presentation by saying, “big shoes, big shoes…” an uncomfortable amount of times. Then, he introduces the video of his dad. Now AI-manipulated and edited, the late Logan appears like he’s having a conversation with his son. Kendall further edits his dad’s words to have the patriarch declare profits will double because of Living+. It gets a strong response from investors, but Shiv and the gang know it’s bullshit.
With things looking like a disaster, Shiv tries to give it an extra push. She calls Matsson and jokes about these “prison camps for Grannies,” as Kendall promises the crowd Living+ may let them live forever. Matsson tweets a Holocaust joke regarding the new product, bringing the presentation to a screeching halt when an investor notices and asks Ken about it.
It’s another remarkable Jeremy Strong performance here. He goes from the top of the world, manic-confident to a puddle when he mentions he would gladly have another year with his dad alive before having to bullshit his way out of the Matsson tweet (“He’s very European”).
Ken survives the presentation and ends it on a high note, leading to him being cheered like a conquering hero. Little does he know that Shiv was the one who pushed Matsson to do the tweeting. Additionally, she was the one to get him to delete it, cooling things considerably.
The episode ends with a quick check-in with the siblings. Shiv is back with Tom, riding in their limo on the LA freeway, talking strategy. Roman is in his car when he gets another AI-edited video from Ken of their dad saying Roman has a micro-dick. Just some fun brotherly love there. Finally, we see Kendall walking alone on the beach. He takes his clothes off and jumps into the ocean. He floats, going nowhere in particular.
Boars on the Floor:
- You’re my #1 (Karl)!: It’s time to celebrate one of the best off-the-bench performances in TV history. David Rasche has been working steadily since the 70s, but he’s finally getting his due as Waystar’s long-suffering CFO. Rasche kills it in the hallway scene with Strong right before the investor presentation. When Ken threatens to fire Karl, he reminds him he “knows a thing or two about a thing or two.” and will not hesitate to light Ken’s life on fire if he does anything stupid. The way he goes from threatening to cheerful, “Good luck, buddy!” sums up why Rasche needs an Emmy now.
- The Living + slogan: “Minimize Surprise, Maximize Satisfaction”
- “I fucking know you. Boys, you’re not good at this.” -Shiv, sounding very Logan here.
- Am I a freak, or was the Shiv/Tom bitey scene the hottest this show ever got?
- I know this show ends this season, but after our first visit to Waystar Studios, I wish we could get more. Can we at least get a West Coast Succession spinoff where the Disgusting Brothers wreak havoc in Hollywood?
- Another great directing touch from Scafaria- the long tracking shot of Roman on the back of the golf cart cruising through the studio backlot. He’s a fake ruler surveying his counterfeit kingdom and looks absolutely miserable.
- “I have all the condolences I need. Tummy full. Mmmm”- Roman, turning into Homer Simpson after Joy shares her condolences about his father.
- “Live..if not forever then…more forever!”- Ken
- “It’s. Kinda. Dope.”- Greg, in robot voice
- “The numbers aren’t just numbers. They’re numbers!”- Poor Pete trying to crunch these numbers for Ken
- Ken recruits Greg to get the Logan video doctored. Greg threatens the video editor before saying, “I want to be in the good books.”
- That presentation video really gave me Jurassic Park vibes.
- “How am I supposed to follow this? He just offered them eternal life!”- Tom
- “You’re an ATN Citizen, and you’re an ATN citizen. (Points to self) I’m an ATN citizen,”- said Tom, bringing the heat to close the presentation.
- As a recent Survivor convert, I also find strategy sexy, Tom!