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Thursday, 10 October 2019

REVIEW: Succession puts Tom & Gerri on the stand.

Succession’s penultimate episode taps into the current American political zeitgeist when a whistleblower comes forward causing the Roys to testify before Congress.  And the stakes are raised when a pitch meeting takes an unexpected turn.


Logan (Brian Cox) circles a nearby park in order to mentally prepare, before joining other family members to watch the weasel (aka the whistleblower) spill his guts on television.  The former Waystar Royco employee provides a detailed list of Uncle Mo’s crimes including new allegations involving shadows logs.  These logs describe incidents involving individuals, such as sex workers, who were picked up along a cruise route and disposed of when they are no longer useful.  He also names several Waystar senior executives: former head of cruises Bill Lockhart (Mark Blum), Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen).  The name dropping draws applause from various family members.  Tom’s ire towards Bill ignites when his name is mentioned.  Tom blames Bill for forcing him to drink from the poisoned chalice known as cruises after taking over in Series One.

Though everyone agrees the situation is dire, no one is able to offer a strategy that Logan would enthusiastically support.  Karolina (Dagmara Dominczyk) suggests discrediting the whistleblower; Gerri argues for transparency while laying the blame on Uncle Mo and Bill since he cleaned up the scandal.  Logan seemingly ignores the suggestions instead focusing on blaming rival media mogul Sandy (Larry Pine) for this latest attack, and obsessing over the upcoming shareholders meeting. Ultimately he shows some enthusiasm for Gerri’s plan even though everyone (minus Tom) likes Bill.

Outside of the tribal council meeting, Gregory (Nicholas Braun) is grappling with only inheriting $5 million dollars instead of $250 million once his grandfather passes.  He is also trying to determine whether or not it was ‘okay’ to drink from the decanter on display.  Conner (Alan Ruck) and Tom each offer some financial advice.  Conner believes that $5 million will drive Gregory crazy because it is not enough to retire or do anything significant.  Tom notes that Gregory will be “the poorest rich person in America”.

Shiv (Sarah Snook) arrives and congratulates Tom for his newfound notoriety before announcing that Congress plans to hold a hearing about the scandal.  This news sends Logan into a tizzy, especially since he will be expected to testify.  Hugo (Fisher Stevens), who is worried about the whiff of this affair touching him, also suggests that Gerri and Tom appear before Congress.  As Shiv tries to impress upon Roman (Kiran Culkin) the seriousness of this situation, but he scoffs at the notion of a Congressional hearing and departs the war room.

In a moment of humility, Logan asks Roman to secure funding from Eduard (Babak Tafti) in order to take Waystar Royco private.  Logan believes this will be their lifeline if the hearing goes south.  Roman is uncertain about his ability to close the deal, but Logan (unexpectedly) imparts some fatherly advice. Roman attempts to reciprocate and asks about Logan’s emotional wellbeing, but the curmudgeon quickly raises his defences.  Rhea (Holly Hunter) makes an appearance to take stock of the situation and offer her support, even though she believes it’s a dumpster fire.

Protesters greet Logan while he is entering a Congressional building.  Gerri, Hugo, Shiv and Tom unexpectedly run into Bill inside the building.  Bill, who now lives nearby in Maryland, decided to attend and offer the ole’ team his support.  The Waystar Royco team attempt to exchange pleasantries keenly aware of the daggers they are about to place in Bill’s back.  Roman, Laird (Danny Huston), and Karl (David Rasche) fly to Scotland and meet with Eduard about financing. Their discussion occurs during a practice session for Eduard and Roman’s (wrongly purchased) soccer team.  Eduard’s father is open to providing funding, but he wants Roman to conduct the pitch in Turkey.  Before departing for Turkey, Roman shares a bit of half-hearted wisdom about teamwork to his players.

Gerri and Tom face the Congressional firing squad first.  Shiv’s former boss and presidential hopeful Senator Gil Eavis (Eric Bogosian) directs his questions towards Tom.  Eavis asks why Mo’s nickname was used in work correspondence but not any exchanges that occurred during his illness.  Tom’s lame answers causes Eavis to disclose the company’s moniker for Lester.  Initially, Tom tries to play down the situation but he slips up and acknowledges that Uncle Mo was a bit creepy (maybe).  Subsequent questions by Eavis focus on data dumping and zeros in on Tom coercing Gregory into destroying documents.  “After all you can’t make a Tomlett without breaking some Greggs.”  Tom is visibly shaken during the line of questioning and denies knowing Gregory several times, even though he is sitting right behind the witness area.

Gregory and Tom are both panic-stricken inside Waystar Royco’s prep room.  Tom directs his anger towards everyone present including Shiv.  Gregory fumes over giving up $250 million dollars to hang with his fun uncle.  Kendall asks Shiv to do some reconnaissance and figure out what else is in Eavis’ arsenal.  Shiv conducts a backchannel meeting with Eavis and her former beau Nate (Ashley Zukerman); she learns an ex-entertainment manager named Kira (Sally Murphy) is willing to testify.  Logan and Kendall implore Rhea and Shiv to meet with Kira.  Following the recess, Logan and Kendall take the stand.  Logan opens with a statement of contrition for not knowing about the scandal and pledges to compensate victims.  Eavis tries to push back against Logan’s testimony but Kendall takes the brunt of his questions.  Kendall states that Eavis is biased towards Logan and ATN.  He follows up by mentioning that Eavis has appeared on ATN 14 times even though the senator does not share the network’s ideology.

Roman takes the lead in the meeting with Eduard and his father; Laird and Karl perform backup vocals and chime in on cue. The pitch is interrupted by the arrival several gunmen who escort everyone to a ballroom area. Fearing for their lives, the three musketeers play the role of unassuming Americans.  Eduard calmly informs Roman and his entourage there was a crackdown on corruption by government officials, but things were being smoothed over. The musketeers doubt Eduard’s sincerity until they are released...seemingly under the condition the Turkish government also gets in on the Waystar Royco deal.


Rhea and Shiv proceed to meet with Kira, but once they arrive Rhea refuses to exit the vehicle.  Presumably, an attack of conscience mixed with self-preservation prevents Rhea from participating.  Shiv meets with Kira who is leery and initially refuses to discuss anything.  Eventually Shiv is able to weaken Kira’s defences.  Shiv discusses her desire to clean-up the company, and how testifying could inadvertently destroy Kira’s family.  Ultimately Kira decides to drop out due to personal reasons.  Logan holds a celebratory gathering since the danger has passed...for now.  Bill issues a veiled threat to Logan about writing a tell-all book.  In the midst of the celebration, Rhea informs Logan that she is stepping down.  Later Logan informs Shiv that sacrificing Bill is no longer viable, insinuating that it has to be someone from the inner circle.

A large portion of Series 2 has been devoted to illustrating why each of Logan’s children should or should not succeed him.  Episode 9 provides rationale to justify everyone’s claim to the mantle, except Conner.  After all who would put a conspiracy-driven narcissist in charge of a media empire, let alone a political office.  Logan’s ominous warning at the end of this episode also sets the stage for an explosive finale.  Series 2 has been a pressure cooker, building momentum throughout the previous 9 episodes.  It is time for things boil over!

Contributed by Mo Walker

Succession Concludes Monday at 9.00pm on Sky Atlantic

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