Cards are laid on the table as Connor’s big day draws near.
Succession loves a wedding, but it loves the night before the wedding just as much. The latest episode, “Rehearsal,” is similar to season one’s “Pre-Nuptial” and last season’s “Chiantishire,” not only because they center around a wedding that no one wants to be at (especially the people actually getting married) but also perfectly sets the table to get us salivating for the full buffet ahead.
We begin with the first cold open of the season. The Roy kids are watching PGM, their newest toy, and not enjoying all the boring NATO content. While Kendall (Jeremy Strong) semi-pitches that they program the network with “hardcore international news,” Shiv (Sarah Snook) gets a troubling phone call and learns that Tom (Matthew MacFadyen) has pulled a move from the old Logan handbook. He squeezes her out of getting any top divorce lawyer in New York by making sure they all have conflicts of interest.
Shiv goes into panicked animal mode. She knows she overpaid for PGM (by several billion), and she has a nasty divorce coming her way. She calls up Sandi Furness (Hope Davis) (who’s still definitely a “no” for Connor’s wedding by the way) to try to combine votes in the upcoming board meeting to block the sale of GoJo and negotiate for more money.
Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is also interested in one of his toys all of a sudden, and that’s ATN, a fake Fox News that’s somehow not as ridiculous as the real life counterpart. He plans on rebuilding ATN from the ground up after selling the rest of Waystar (similar to Rupert Murdoch keeping Fox News but selling that silly little 20th Century Fox studios to Disney). Greg gives Tom a call to warn him about Logan stalking the floor of ATN like, “Jaws, if everyone worked for Jaws.”
Tom arrives to get a first-hand lesson on leadership from the big man. Brian Cox has been putting on a clinic so far this season. After his remarkably quiet and sad speech last episode in the diner, he goes back to full King Lear in front of his ATN minions, busy with election season coverage. Tom gives a soft, limp speech that you would expect from a “little bitch boy” before he introduces Logan. The big guy stands in the middle of the room and instantly grabs everyone’s attention. You can see how this guy became a titan of media by the way he bellows inspiration and rouses these “fucking pirates” as he calls them. They erupt in applause when he finishes.
Logan also wants Tom to do a big favor for his “friend, assistant, and advisor.” He wants Kerry to have her own ATN show. After a disastrous practice taping where she smiles while reading a story about child abduction, Logan can read the room and immediately reverses his idea. But since one of the major themes of this show is passing hard work and tough conversations to those under you in order to avoid any feelings or ickiness, Logan makes Tom do it. Tom knows the minefield that would walk him through, so like any good Succession character, he finds the one person lower in status than himself to do the job, and that’s Greg (Nicholas Braun).
Greg sits Kerry down for the talk, and Braun and Zoe Winters begin a masterclass of cringe comedy scene work. Kerry, already not the biggest Greg fan, instantly sees through Greg’s bullshit when he starts blaming a focus group on why she can’t be on TV. When pressed on what this made up focus group said about her, Greg can only spit up, “The arms aren’t right.” After she leaves in a fury, Greg whispers, “I did the job.” Greg, buddy, you did not do the job.
Meanwhile, the Roy children are late to Connor and Willa’s rehearsal dinner. It doesn’t help that their dad takes away their private helicopter at the last moment to mess with them. Once they finally get to the dinner they have two interesting run-ins, first with Stewy and Sandi who try to convince Kendall and Roman to renegotiate the GoJo deal, and then with Willa, who like Logan last week, is leaving her own party.
They find Connor sitting all alone at a table. Willa began a speech earlier in the evening by saying she couldn’t go through with this, then went to the bathroom and never came back. Not a great start to the wedding weekend! Connor wants to do something fun and asks to go to a dive bar where the people are real and “have blood in their hair” (I always forget Connor is the biggest weirdo out of all of them).
They walk into a typical New York City bar and immediately react like they just walked into a mosh pit at Woodstock ‘99. While the rest of the kids are afraid to touch any surfaces, Kendall gets a call from GoJo owner Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), who warns Kenny if they try to push the price any higher, he’ll walk away from the deal. This puts thoughts of patricide back in Kendall’s head when he realizes tanking this deal would severely hurt his father. He returns to the bar and joins up with Shiv to convince Roman they need to join forces with Stewy and Sandi and renegotiate.
It’s expert writing because it creates a combustible scenario where everyone wants the same thing, but for very different and selfish reasons. Shiv wants to go back to the negotiating table because she needs more money for the divorce. Kendall wants it because he’s still determined to kill his dad, and Roman wants it because his siblings want it, because as Connor proclaims later in the episode, he’s just a “needy love sponge”.
Now that they’re all sorta on the same page, they take Connor to a karaoke bar to cheer him up some more. Unfortunately for them, Connor just wants to sing sad Leonard Cohen songs and he ratted them out to their dad about the negotiation.
Logan, along with Kerry, corners them in the karaoke room. They try to pitch a family “reset” by making sure the kids let him sell Waystar and then he can keep playing with ATN and the kids can play with PGM some more. Logan even does the unthinkable and apologies for his actions! (It’s just for taking away the helicopter though) The kids don’t budge, and Logan sums up his children in one brutal line with, “I love you, but you are not serious people.” This is one of the few moments where I buy that Logan genuinely loves his kids, and that makes the line even more vicious.
The episode ends with Roman, who still has a soft spot for Pops, visiting Logan. They sit down and Logan gives him an offer that’s hard to refuse- he wants to replace the current head of ATN, Cyd, with someone with more fire and fury. Someone with Roman’s temperament. He tells Romulus he doesn’t just want him for the job, he needs him. It’s that word that gets Roman’s eyes off the ground. Logan knows his son is a “needy love sponge” and acts accordingly.
Boars on the Floor:
- “You’re my number one boy!”: This is a show about people who refuse to change or grow in any way, but Roman has sneakily evolved over 4 seasons, and it’s been a pleasure to watch Kieran Culkin evolve as an actor at the same time. Roman’s gone from a guy who does gross things like jizzing on a high rise window to someone who says gross things, but also is the only Roy that shows real affection and emotional intelligence. He first showed signs when he rescued Kendall from those wolf loving meth heads in season one’s “Austerlitz,” but the pivot point may have been in season two’s “DC.” Roman is taken hostage in a Turkish hotel and has to deal with real life or death stakes for the first time in his life. Culkin’s performance becomes noticeably more subdued in episodes and seasons after this.
In “Rehearsal,” the hard exterior “fuck you” shell that was in place the first two seasons has a few of holes in it now. He treats his siblings better, like in the season premiere when he stopped the selling of the great “The Hundred” in order to check in with Shiv who was upset about Tom. This episode he seems legit concerned about Connor, who’s having a depressing wedding rehearsal dinner. By the time we get to the episode’s final moment when Logan offers him the ATN gig, it’s the first time he seems mature enough as a character to actually do the job.
- When Logan stands on a stack of boxes in the middle of the ATN floor, Tom comes in close and whispers, “I could give you a kiss up here.” Never stop being yourself, Tom!
- The scene where Logan walks in on Hugo and Geri laughing at Kerry’s audition video is incredible. Give Fisher Stevens an Emmy just for the way he plugs in his laptop and cringes when Logan immediately sees Kerry’s footage
- “The Beatles…good band.” In the dive bar, Roman calls Shiv “Ringo” and Kendall “Yoko.” In a post Get Back world, are those even insults at this point?
- After Kendall says some vague Buddhist quote, Roman replies with an absolutely cutting,“Hey Buddha, nice Tom Fords.”
At the karaoke place, I was hoping for some awkward Kendall rapping, or at least see what Shiv and Romans’ go-to songs are (my guesses are “You Oughta Know” and “Chop Suey!” respectively). What do you think the Roys’ karaoke choices would be?