Succession Recap: Waystar Tackles #MeToo in “Argestes”

The Cruises bomb finally drops at the most inconvenient moment for the Roys on another acid-tongued episode.

How does the world of #MeToo work in the callous, cutthroat world of Succession – one where crimes as heavy as being an accessory to manslaughter can be swept away with buckets of money and quick quip? In “Argestes,” we get our answer, and it sure ain’t pretty, but it’s damn compelling either way.

One of Succession‘s greatest strengths is the episodic nature of its settings – the Roys are dealing with the same old problems of seeking Daddy’s approval and, to paraphrase Ellen Ripley, “fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage,” but each episode gives us a new glumly glitzy stage on which these familial spats can play out. This time around, the Roys go to Argestes, a media and banking retreat for the 1% to host panels, drink $100 cocktails, and do some back-door dealing along the way. For Waystar, Argestes represents a golden opportunity to strike while the iron’s hot with Pierce, hammering out a deal after their unexpected acceptance of the buyout deal last week.

But a few problems present themselves, the largest one being a tipoff that New York Magazine is about to drop the hammer on Waystar’s long-standing Cruises debacle. Cruises has long been a Chekov’s gun for Succession, ever since Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) learned of the skeletons in that department’s closet and Greg (Nicholas Braun) kept a few of them for safekeeping (and a touch of the old blackmail) purposes. Now we get to find out exactly Waystar’s hiding: turns out that, when he was in charge of Cruises, Uncle Mo (Lester, as in “Mo-Lester,” as Conner (Alan Ruck) helpfully informed us a couple weeks ago) got a little, let’s say, handsy with more than one employee, leaving a disgusting trail of sexual exploitation and assault in his wake.

Photo: Peter Kramer/HBO

And now that story’s dropping within a few hours, a PR nightmare especially as Waystar is set to host a panel at Argestes (and as Logan (Brian Cox) hopes to close a deal that will save the company from Stew’s hostile takeover.) And naturally, only at this critical juncture is Shiv (Sarah Snook) — previously uninvited to the retreat, and still pissed that her dad burned her for the CEO job at Tern Haven — called in for a woman’s perspective.

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in this development for Succession is the way it pinpoints the pragmatic callousness of the rich execs who are inconvenienced by this news: for the Roys, the Cruises news is just a tactical obstacle to overcome. The strategies are varied: Kendall (Jeremy Strong) wants to “condemn and move on,” Roman (Kieran Culkin) doesn’t think this is that big a deal — “no one real gives a fuck” — and Logan is just angry at the risks to this deal. (Logan’s remark that the press reporting on this “don’t give a flying fuck about these poor bitches, they just hate me!” contains so many pinballing layers of sympathy and callousness that it deserves an entire piece’s worth of breakdown.)

Which leads to Waystar’s scheduled panel, in which they have to deal with the fallout from the Cruises debacle by bringing all three favored Roy children onto the stage. Each addresses the issue in their own boneheaded way, sniping at each other for Daddy’s approval while also trying to navigate the muddy political waters of Waystar’s own #MeToo moment. While Kendall stammers through Logan’s talking points and Roman brushes it off in his prototypical Roman way, it’s Shiv who makes the biggest waves by heavily implying that the corporate culture of Waystar is ousting its old men, including Logan, to make way for a younger, more Shiv-shaped CEO.

How does the world of #MeToo work in the callous, cutthroat world of Succession?

In between all of the plot and character developments “Argestes” provides for Succession‘s on-the-surface story, there’s a lot to take in this week about the performative contrition of Big Business in the wake of scandal, especially something as politically and culturally-charged as sexual assault. For many, it’s not about whether the Thing happened under your watch, but how you react to it in the public eye.

“Argestes” takes us through the painstaking cycle of watching corporate interests cycle through cynical apology tactics rather than reckoning with their own corporate culture. Even Shiv’s revolutionary move to call for a “dinosaur cull” is just as much a power move as it is an initiative to ensure something like Cruises doesn’t happen again. Sure, it’ll be a good idea for the old men who let this happen to go away, even in our world; but will the young, hungry replacements do more to protect sexual assault victims? Or just sweep it under the rug as an inconvenience?

I guess it may not matter since, between the Cruises story and the chaotic nature of their Argestes panel, Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones) is out of the deal, and fires Rhea (Holly Hunter) for going behind her back. And thus, Waystar may be on the ropes, as Stewy et al’s buyout looms closer and closer. Television’s most unscrupulous family of rich louts may get the comeuppance they deserve. Whatever happens, we’ll be there to dance on the flames.

Random Thoughts:

  • What’s up with everyone else? Well, I for one was thoroughly delighted by Tom’s entire subplot about ATN’s new slogan – “We’re Listening” – which Greg says they’ll have to change in lieu of revelations that their virtual assistants may actually be listening in on their customers. Tom’s rhetorically clumsy solution – “We Here (sic) For You” is just *chef’s kiss* beautiful buffoonery.
  • As always, the best part of Succession is anything that comes out of Greg’s stupid, awkward mouth (“I’m a big fan of… all your money”, “I might have just touched Bill Gates”).
  • The hottest ticket at Argestes is the ‘culture hike,’ which is probably why the entire fest is a sea of puffy jackets, like an L.L. Bean catalog for Objectivists.
  • As for Roman and Gerri’s (J. Smith-Cameron) budding fucked-up relationship, Roman decides to pitch a tag-team partnership of the company in his own suitably scuzzy way. “Rock Star and the Mole Woman?” he pitches to her, Gerri responding with her typical mixture of revulsion and arousal. I’m really intrigued by this odd-power-couple concept, and I can’t wait to see where this all goes.
  • Marcia (Hiam Abbass) hasn’t gotten much to do so far this season, but when she speaks, it’s worth listening. See her reply to Logan’s warning that unflattering things might be said about him in the press post-scandal: “When I am with someone, I am with them. I know who you are.”
  • For as much as season two has been about Kendall and Roman’s fraternal pissing contest over who gets to run the show, one of my favorite moments of the season thus far was Kendall’s instinct to protect his brother after Logan’s full-faced slap. “DON’T YOU FUCKING TOUCH HIM!” That’s right Ken stick up for your brother!

Succession, “Argestes” Trailer:

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