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Thursday, 5 September 2019

REVIEW: Succession tops itself!

Succession season two seems to be going from strength to strength with each episode topping the one before. 'Safe Room' had a LOT going on, but it was all brilliantly brutal, and brutally funny.


A defiant Logan (Brian Cox) ups the ante in his bid to acquire rival news outlet PMG (Pearce Media Group).  Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) attempts to repair his ego following last episode’s humiliating defeat during Logan’s game of piggy at the corporate retreat.  Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) first day at Waystar Royco leads to an unexpected emotional encounter with a family member, while Conner (Alan Ruck) gets a donner boner at a funeral.

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) conducts a clandestine rooftop call to PMG’s CEO, Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter), in an effort to lure the Pearce family to the negotiating table.  Power couple (Shiv and Tom) witness a clash between protesters and supporters of ATN’s, potentially fascist leaning, anchor Mark Ravenhead (Zack Robidas).  Logan and Shiv’s briefing is interrupted by Kendall; he proceeds to dispense their father’s medications.  Each sibling subtly questions the other’s current standing with Logan.  Suspicion turns to sniping when Kendall scoulds Shiv for attempting to coach Tom during an ATN executives meeting. Logan, who is tired of the Ravenhead controversy, tasks Tom with vetting the anchor.  Tom delegates a portion of the assignment to Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun).  The pair hold a debriefing in the presence of Tom’s new morale boosting accessory, a human footstool.  

Tom was not the only person seeking positive affirmation following the retreat.  Heeding Gerri’s (J. Smith-Cameron) advise, Roman (Kieran Culkin) embarks upon Waystar Royco’s 6-week management training program at the Brightstar Amusement Park.  The Co-Chief Operating Officer’s enthusiasm plummets after viewing his limited role in the corporate introductory video.  However Roman’s patronizing parental figure, Gerri, is able to encourage him to push forward.  Disguised as a park mascot, Roman is able to move amongst the ‘normos’.  Instead of asking about the price of milk he insults a couple’s sex life while posing for a photo.  Fortunately Roman’s tenure as a mascot does not result in him vomiting inside the costume, unlike Greg in series 1.

Frank’s (Peter Friedman) coaching helps Kendall land the meeting with Rhea.  Rhea repays the Roys’ hospitality with polite but scathing comments about editorial differences between ATN and PMG before ending the meeting.  Tom’s conversation with Ravenhead became bleaker with each new question; Ravenhead’s answers appeared to confirm the rumor that he sympathized with fascists.  Their discussion is disrupted by a gunshot that sent employees scurrying.  Tom, who fears that Antifa is after him, push employees out of the way while Greg trails behind.  They were taken to an office stocked with cheap snacks and plastic bottles of water.  Logan, Shiv, Gerri, Rhea, and eventually Kendall are placed in a fortified panic room complete with couches. 

Tom and Greg are horrified after realizing they got sent to the wrong panic room.  Greg kept identifying access points that would-be attackers could use. Tom grew angry over being separated from Logan and Shiv; he is also concerned that Cyd (Jeannie Berlin) would use this opportunity to undermine him.  This anger boils over once Greg suggests a trial separation, working at ATN was too stressful.  Tom starts pelting Greg with water bottles.  Greg attempts to ‘break-up’ again after the lockdown is lifted.  He tries to blackmail Tom using the saved documents from their stint in the resorts division.  Tom responds by offering Greg a promotion and raise.

Kendall decides to press forward with the pitch once the bond between Rhea and Shiv becomes apparent.  Rhea argues that ATN views news through an entertainment lense but PMG stresses facts and information.  She also asserts that differing company cultures also present a challenge.  This is highlighted in Logan and Rhea’s reactions once they learn the shooter is an ATN executive producer who committed suicide due to workplace bullying.  Logan decides to take control of the meeting and offer the Pearces $24 billion dollars plus guaranteed independence.  Before departing the building Rhea leaves Logan with a final suggestion that will help negotiations - dump Ravenhead.

Following his stint as a mascot Roman becomes acquainted with Brian (Zach Cherry), “a dormant lurking virus from the Fort Myers’ resort who is being stymied by colleagues envious of his talents.”  They partner-up during a session on pitching and develop an attraction that exploits Americans’ love of violence.  Before Brian is able to present, Roman is whisked away to a snackless/couchless make-shift safe room after learning about the shooting.  Greg would probably be horrified if he witnessed the ease in which Brian was able to access the safe room.  The pair bond while discussing whether or not Roman’s family name resulted in them developing the winning pitch.

Conner decides to fully embrace representing the Roy family since the lockdown prevented others from attending Mo’s funeral.  Plus Conner’s longing for a few big money campaign donor boners.  An unfortunate interaction between Willa (Justine Lupe) and the grieving family leads to a stunning confession; Mo’s real name was Lester but he was also called ‘Mr. Fiddlesticks’.  Conner’s donor boner went soft due to revelations about Logan’s old compatriots the ‘Wolf Pack’, and the unexpected arrival of hated biographer Michelle (Jessica Hecht).  Michelle’s efforts to engage Conner in conversation are repelled by his repetition of a one-liner.  Willa attempts to help Conner get back on track by providing some notes he can use to eulogize Mo - Lester.  However Conner’s ill-suited childish limerick stuns the crowd.  He is in clear need of better speech writers and an injection of empathy.

Roman attempts to unwind following a stressful day amongst the normos by engaging in a bit of phone sex with Tabitha (Caitlin FitzGerald).  Dissatisfied Roman decides to unload his frustrations on Gerri.  Gerri’s unsympathetic comments causes Roman to become aroused resulting in him masturbating while being called ‘slime puppy’.  Kendall and Shiv’s late night conversation was vastly different than Roman’s, but it also led to some new revelations. Kendall is clearly aware of their father’s current succession plan.  Shiv is able to deduce that her brother has been contemplaing suicide, but he refuses to reveal the entire truth.  Instead Kendall asks in a circuitous manner that he be kept around.     


Topping the delightfully hellish corporate retreat, the cornerstone of Succession’s previous episode would be a tough act to follow.  However, episode 4 was able to meet and exceed that challenge.  This episode is a stunning masterpiece that holds up over repeat viewings.  In the Peak TV era, very few episodes warrant that honour in this viewer’s household.   

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