The director of Hustlers skillfully guides the audience through the grotesque bash the second-eldest Roy sibling throws for his 40th.
After weeks of battles on Succession, it’s time for a party. A birthday party fit for “Little Lord Fuckleroy” Kendall (Jeremy Strong). It’s his 40th birthday bash, aka “The Notorious Ken: Ready to Die.” He’s rented out a state-of-the-art performance venue at Hudson Yards, and he’s filled the space with themed rooms specific to his life. The episode opens on Ken rehearsing his grand entrance to his party, singing “Honestly” by Billy Joel, planning to drop onto the stage of his party attached to a cross.
It’s a lot, but in Ken’s words, “If I start second-guessing, it collapses.” This week’s episode of Succession plays out like Dante’s Inferno, as Kendall and his family take a journey through different levels of hell via his birthday party. Episode director Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers) serves superbly as their Virgil.
At Waystar, there’s a celebration in Logan’s (Brian Cox) office. Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) is hearing from sources that the rumors at DOJ are that Kendall overpromised on the evidence he had against the company. They’re cautiously optimistic that no one will go to prison, news that Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) is very glad to hear. They all raise their glasses of champagne and toast “To us … and justice.” Despite their toast, there’s still a handful of episodes left in the season. There may yet be surprises on that front.
Kendall’s getting the guest list finalized for his party. Comfry (Dasha Nekrasova) goes through the list of A-list celebs, including tech giant Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), but Kendall’s interested in knowing if any “sibs” will be coming. Like Tom in last week’s episode, the audience knows when Kendall’s spiraling. He’s filling his life with lavish parties and produced events to distract himself from the fact his family has rejected him. Strong brings a nervous energy to Kendall, the sort of vibe whose collapse is both inevitable and a decided question mark.
The Roy kids are trapped in a loop. They always choose to save the company to the detriment of their family.
Back at Waystar, Logan’s upset that Matsson’s snubbed a planned meeting. The company is looking to negotiate a deal between its glitchy streaming app StarGo and Matsson’s social media company. With Matsson failing to appear in person (he only sent his team), it’s up to Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) to appear at Kendall’s birthday party and negotiate a deal with Matsson. Logan doesn’t want Roman to show up at the party empty-handed, so he hands him a card to give to Kendall on his big day.
At the party, Shiv and Roman enter the building through a neon pink tunnel. They join up with Connor (Alan Ruck) and Willa (Justine) in a baby nursery, greeted by a staff member announcing they’ve just been reborn and handed a champagne bottle wrapped in a swaddling cloth. Yes, that’s right—the Logan sibs just entered their brother’s party through a tunnel meant to represent their mother’s vagina. Sure, they think it’s sick (in an “oh god no” way, not a “Tight, bro!” way), but they’re here to close the deal with Matsson, so they steady on through their brother’s absurd party.
Roman and Shive don’t find Matsson but do find the birthday boy. This is their first reunion since the epic falling out at Rava’s. Not missing a beat, Kendall takes them to the “tabloid” room, a room he made with mock-ups of fake tabloids featuring his family. Connor pitches a fit. He’s running for president and can’t have fake news out there. Kendall says they were all made in jest but agrees to pull Connor’s off the wall.
Just when it looks like the Roy siblings might brush everything under the rug, Roman presents Kendall with a birthday card from him and Logan. Kendall smiles and takes a moment to head to the “Waystar on Fire” room (a Waystar conference room with fire projected all around the windows). He opens the card to discover that Logan’s crossed out “Happy Birthday” and written in “Cash out and fuck off”, with an offer from Logan and Roman to buy out his shares for a cool two billion.
Shiv and Roman learn that Matsson is in the treehouse room, which just so happens to be a replica of their childhood treehouse. Kendall blocks them from entering the treehouse, telling the staff they need a rainbow wristband to enter. It’s a bigger brother keeping younger siblings out of his treehouse, but in this case, he’s also blocking a multi-million-dollar deal from going through. Kendall doesn’t care, what with this billion-dollar buyout from Logan and Roman.
The buyout is news to Shiv, who’s upset she wasn’t part of the decision-making process. She takes out her frustration on the dance floor, aggressively dancing the night away. The sibs are now more divided than ever, their family crumbling while Waystar grows stronger. The Roy kids are trapped in a loop. They always choose to save the company to the detriment of their family.
This week’s episode of Succession plays out like Dante’s Inferno, with Kendall and his family taking a journey through different levels of hell via his birthday party…
Roman finally gets a rainbow wristband and meets with Matsson. Things get off to an awkward start with Matsson bluntly asking “When will your father die?” He doesn’t want an old guy like Logan mucking up the deal. Roman, hoping to convince Matsson that Logan will not be an issue, suggests they take their phones into the bathroom and piss on the StarGo app.
While it lacks the sexual, flirtatious chemistry of Roman and Mencken’s bathroom banter in the previous episode, there is a fratty bros “breaking the rules” charm that Roman pulls from Matsson. Skarsgård’s an excellent choice to play the enigmatic tech CEO, an intimidating rich guy with a layer of mystery.
Outside the treehouse, Ken ends up spiraling after learning Rava dropped off a present from their kids. Upset that no one told him, he runs down to the present station, tearing through expensive gifts, unable to find the present from his kids. Naomi (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) tries to smooth things over by handing him her present: an expensive watch. It’s not engraved. It’s impersonal, obligatory.
Then the truth hits Kendall—his party is an asshole’s birthday—empty and void of anything that matters. Kendall aborts his big song and crucifixion entrance and heads to his cold apartment in the sky.
Kendall looks upon his works from his high-rise apartment balcony, wrapped in a child’s sleeping bag. Unlike the famous J. Lo’s “Climb into my fur” scene from Scafaria’s Hustlers, Kendall doesn’t welcome anyone into his world. Rather it’s Naomi who pulls him into hers, guiding him away from the edge, caressing his head as they sit on the balcony. They both recognize the strong pull of the Roy family and wonder if they can rise above it, or if they’ll have to descend and join them in hell again soon.
- Most Iconic Line: this week it goes to Matsson with his simple request at Kendall’s party: “Privacy, pussy, pasta.”
- MVP of the Episode: Comfry, who has had it with Kendall’s demands, and agrees to go out with Greg. Is she interested in Greg? Or just wanting to get back at her horrible client, Kendall? Perhaps their first date can be reselling the 80s lunchboxes that Kendall made her purchase for the party.
- Best Kiss: In the mood to celebrate his freedom from prison, Tom hops down to Greg’s office, flips the desk, basically ransacks the whole place. The final touch? Tom places a sweet lil’ kiss on Greg’s forehead. While Macfadyen is no stranger to romantic kisses (he was Mr. Darcy after all), his kiss with Greg will be talked about for ages, a moment in television that will send the Tom/Greg shippers into a flurry.
- Best Couple: Roman may have been bro-ing out with Matsson in a bathroom, and Greg may have landed a date with Comfry, but this week it’s Willa and Connor. When Kendall pushes his staff to remove Connor’s coat, it’s Willa who rushes in for the defense, telling them to treat this presidential candidate with respect. She’s a regular Wendi Murdoch deflecting a pie from Rupert!