After two solid table-setting episodes, the tension, humor and back-stabbing gets dialed all the way up much to our delight.
- - Jeremy Strong's face and body language as he walks down that TV studio corridor
- - Kendall remains the undisputed King of Cringe
- - A fallible and flappable Shiv
- - Logan struggling to hold onto power
- - Greg and Tom together again
After two episodes of the Roy siblings negotiating the broad matters at hand, the time for civil conversation has passed. Shots are fired after Kendall Roy’s (Jeremy Strong) desire to plant a flag in his family’s business takes on a public display of humiliation with swift retaliation from his target. No one thought this was going to be pretty, but the speed at which below the belt jabs (and press releases) are executed indicates how messy the power struggle is going to get.
After the well-crafted table setters successfully pulled the audience back into this world, “The Disruption” cranks up the heat to revel in Succession at its finest. However, victors are in short supply this week — unless you count the viewers at home watching this all unfold.
Kendall’s media offensive to win support while signaling he has no quarrel with his siblings continues in earnest with a display that taps into all of his worst impulses at second-guessing everything. In an attempt to sound casual about details the reporter might include in the piece for added color (ie. how he eats his salad) it only draws attention to his concern regarding his appearance and image. He tries to laugh this off referencing the nickname he has earned from comedian Sophie Iwobi (the perfectly cast Ziwe Fumudoh) on her late-night show “The Disruption.” She has been calling him “Oedipussy,” which he claims to find hilarious and this only adds to the forced nature of everything that exits his mouth. The King of Cringe title is impossible to shake in an episode that doubles down on his try-hard behavior. He uses rehearsed phrases and when the reporter brings up his siblings he semi-shrugs it off and claims he is happy with the headspace he is currently in. In private we know the last time they parted was fraught and peppered with insults.
The person who earned Kendall’s most pointed (and tragically awkward) comments last week was Shiv, and he apologizes for the “ugly rocks” he threw. A public function means plastering on fake smiles for this interaction, which sees both siblings lean into their agendas — it also gives Shiv a brief window to catch some snark from her ex Nate (Ashley Zukerman). Shiv is still playing mediator as she attempts to bring him back to the fold by appealing to his noble sense of bringing change to the company from the inside. Shiv’s choice of buzzwords like “acknowledge and rebuild” coupled with “truth and reconciliation” has Kendall seeing her as a mouthpiece for Logan. “It’s you now,” he cryptically says about this role she has undertaken. She might be wearing a stunning backless blue velvet dress but she is still doing Logan’s bidding. Kendall is, of course, no saint, and his urge to yell things like “f*** the patriarchy” has little to do with dismantling the system.
What makes the Shiv versus Kendall battle so fraught is they are both insecure and prone to impulsive actions in a bid to reassert a feeling of control. Roman (Kieran Culkin) smartly stays out of Shiv’s newly developing feud and won’t sink to the depths of the letter she has drafted against their older brother. Her fury is a result of the public embarrassment she experienced at the hands of Kendall’s stunt at the Waystar Royco town hall meeting. Shiv has recently been handed her first official role within the company as domestic president and she is meant to be the face of “accountability.” It doesn’t help that the questions she will be answering from the employees aren’t even ones submitted — those were too “question-y questions” — and Shiv’s attitude toward this event is to stick to pre-prepared statements without fear of a curveball.
The curveball has already entered the building, though. After staying away from the Waystar HQ, Kendall can’t help but stir matters up. The desire to enter his workplace has been bubbling since the first episode and he can’t be talked down from his desire to put the cat among the pigeons. When he rings Greg (Nicholas Braun) to give him the heads up, he has to know Greg will spill and so by the time he arrives everyone is attempting to keep a calm face on the fraught visit. Logan has already threatened to punch him or shove a Mont Blanc pen down his throat but the two men never cross paths. Instead, Tom is sent out to run interference before Kendall steps into his own office — he queries whether someone has messed with his A/C settings and he cannot sign into his computer.
Perhaps the most unsettling moment is when Logan’s main bodyguard Colin (Scott Nicholson) enters the room and eyeballs Kendall before telling him “I know you.” If this sounds like a threat then it might bear repeating that Colin knows everything that happened between Kendall and the waiter in the season 1 finale (and the subsequent coverup), right down to the shoplifting habit Kendall had at the start of the second season.
Kendall doesn’t let this ruin his fun and leaves Shiv a gift rather than attend the town hall. It isn’t surprising that someone disrupted this meeting but Shiv probably didn’t expect Kendall to stoop as low as blasting “Rape Me” by Nirvana from speakers he purposefully bought for this occasion. It is rare for Shiv to look so flustered; for all the power she projects, the self-doubt she harbors about her image within the business is rooted in her inexperience. It should be noted that Roman is doing his best to hide how funny he finds the whole thing (a little like Ryan Gosling on stage at the Oscars when La La Land didn’t win) and while the song choice is on the nose, this is one of Kendall’s most effective bits.
With every smart maneuver comes an equally ill-advised choice, and his decision to go on “The Disruption” after Sophie Iwobi has been eviscerating him all week is fueled by his ego. Earlier after the gala, he puts her latest takedown on the big screen for everyone to watch — he gives them permission to laugh — and the stink of desperation is overwhelming. During the limo ride, a game of Good Tweet/Bad Tweet portrays a version of Kendall who is taking the praise and scorn in his stride, but this is another case of wearing a mask to project an image of thick skin he does not possess. This is all an extension of him wanting to get the Bojack guys to write his tweets and from the moment he enters the TV studio it has disaster written all over it.
However, it isn’t even the cringe-fest I came to expect because Shiv is the one to deal a death blow. Riding high on his “Rape Me” prank he approaches the writers (I need a gif of him saying “clickety-clack” while tapping away on an invisible typewriter) with the request for them to destroy him. In one press release targeting every single personal flaw, Shiv does exactly that.
“But it’s private,” is Kendall’s initial response before it hits him that there is no way Sophie will not bring up the open letter. For how awful Kendall has been behaving since Succession has returned, Strong instantly makes me feel for this character who has been indulging his worst habits. As he slowly walks down the studio corridor to a private server room he goes from projecting bluster to looking like a tiny broken version of himself. His notecards are still in his hand, however, there is no swift irreverent comeback to Shiv turning the knife like this. It is a dog-eat-dog world and she is returning his message in kind, but oh boy did she twist the blade. Roman’s refusal to sign the letter is as emotionally driven; for his brash DGAF attitude, he projects he is also the most sympathetic, whereas Connor (Alan Ruck) won’t give his signature away for free.
Earlier, Logan was questioning the level Shiv cared for him, but he pulls out the Pinky nickname after the town hall to draw his daughter further into his web. He brings up Roman staying out of it while playfully mocking the interview he did for being too emotional (and he calls him a homophobic slur). The personal story Roman told was one that Logan doesn’t remember and the reason being is that it was Connor who took his brother fishing and not a father/son bonding trip — because those have never happened. Logan is getting all of his kids on the same Team Logan page and he also knows how important image is, which is why his concern is centered on the White House and stopping any sort of legal proceedings.
The reason he put Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) in charge was due to optics, but he is already complaining about the hands-on approach she is taking. His temper flares up when he perceives she is hovering, but Gerri is also one of the only people looking at matters rationally. She thinks they should ignore Kendall when he comes to the office because he is looking for a reaction and there is the matter of the subpoena Logan thinks he can tell to “f*** off” into submission. Sure, that works the first time but by the end of the episode Gerri explains that “these are the ones who don’t f*** off.” Kendall has suffered a public humiliation but the events going on at Waystar Royco are more pressing in the big picture of it all and even this raid puts a little smile on his crushed face.
In the past, Logan has managed to forgo any major threats because he knows how to wield the right people in positions of power. This is something that comes up during his conversation with Shiv regarding his claimed lack of knowledge regarding the scandalous antics and he still seems unconcerned by what is coming down the pipe. However, the White House isn’t playing ball and his friendly chat with Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Linda Emond) had the opposite effect that he hoped. An election year is approaching and Logan’s friendship is now detrimental to optics, so this FBI raid is a result of not wanting to look too friendly with this brewing legal action.
Suddenly, Tom’s offer to fall on his sword and go to prison for the family seems like it could become a reality. He has been getting outside advice and it isn’t looking good for him, even if Shiv thinks he is going to be okay. By offering himself up to Logan he is earning son-in-law points but at what cost? Even with the weight of the world on his shoulders he still has time to mess with Greg — after two episodes apart it is good to see this dynamic is still strong. Greg is still working at Waystar, even though he was with Kendall, and it's a surprise he hasn’t been ousted. Although his loyalty does seem flexible, and having to shell out $40,000 for a watch he thought Kendall was going to buy for him isn’t the best way to keep him close. As with Connor, underestimating someone is the quickest way for them to screw you over — particularly in this world.
The new Waystar Royco slogan is "We Get It" and it is more ubiquitous than they probably hoped it would be when Hugo (Fisher Stevens) signed off on it. Considering the sorry state of each major player contending with humiliation, jail time and reduced power, the previously untouchables will finally get how it is to live in a world with consequences.
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