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Monday, 8 November 2021

Succession Recap: "Lion in the Meadow" is Logan losing his grip?

Contributed by Jackson Maher.

Is he losing his grip? But like, with a question mark at the end.

Since his stroke in the first episode, Logan Roy’s mortality has loomed over Succession. It is a looming existential dread that backgrounds every character’s decision. Hell, it’s right there in the title of the show: Succession. This is a show about what happens when Logan dies.

That mortality is a metaphor for a number of things: the end of the American Century, the decay of late-stage capitalism, and the impending catastrophe that is climate change.

For most of the show since that pilot episode, Logan has slowly been regaining his strength (often as Kendall’s confidence withers), which reached a climax when he offered Kendall up as a blood sacrifice. But, at best, Logan was only going to be able to delay the inevitable.

“Lion in the Meadow” offers the biggest health scare since that very first episode, but everywhere you look, there’s a changing of the guard and explorations of the relationships between mentors and mentees. 

Greg finds himself in a position of power, being courted by Logan himself. He’s new to this kind of a negotiation, thinking he can just ask, “What can I get?” But he learns quickly. When Tom shows up to help him game out his negotiation, he finds that Greg already has a really solid understanding of how to use his leverage and convert that into a better position at Waystar. Even when Tom tries to return to their original dynamic, where he bullies and gaslights Greg, he finds that Greg has outgrown him.

The dynamic of Tom’s relationship with Shiv is also rapidly pivoting. Whereas he used to be her eyes on the inside of Waystar, he now finds himself completely at her mercy, a mere “minion wrangler.” Shiv has real power now, and it’s through her use of that power that we can most clearly see the nuances of the new/old guard dynamic. While she can make Tom do whatever she wants, she struggles to control Connor and Karl, and she has to use her dad to legitimize her power to get a win over Mark Ravenhead (the slightly more Nazi version of Tucker Carlson). 

Shiv is a new face but she’s really just a representative for the old guard, reliant on her father, in much the same way Kendall was back in that first episode (“No, do you want to call your dad?”). In contrast, Roman is learning from Gerri, who has been slowly distancing herself from Logan loyalism this season. Roman’s story of hunting down Tattoo Man is mostly played for laughs in this episode, but it also provides a teachable moment for Gerri. She urges Roman not to think of being a good little boy for daddy but instead to constantly ask himself, “How does this advance my personal position?” 

Of course, the most central mentor/mentee relationship in Succession is that of Logan and Kendall, the king and his heir-apparent. The two head to Josh Aaronson’s compound in order to secure his 4% vote in the shareholder meeting—their first face to face meeting since Logan told him to fall on the sword and also told him that he wasn’t a killer. Adrien Brody submits a fantastic performance as the smiley but slimy Josh, a man who, unlike most characters on this show, will accompany his “fuck off’s” with a figurative “please and thank you.”

Josh is trying to figure out if Logan and Kendall are a team he can bet on, and it’s through his line of questioning that we explore the tension at the heart of this power struggle. If Kendall is mostly just acting out like a spoiled brat, then he’s fake but if his accusations have real merit, then Logan is implicated and Josh should walk away. There is no way in which Logan and Kendall can co-exist, there is no way in which the changing of the guard can be peaceful here.

It’s a tension we feel in both of the incredibly awkward silences when Josh leaves Logan and Kendall alone. It’s a palpable conflict where they need to appear united but know deep down that there can be only one. And whether he’s killed by Kendall or not, Logan’s time on top is short. His body is failing infrastructure, and as Kendall notes, “You’ve lied so much, you don’t even fucking know anymore.”

In some ways, the conflict between Logan and Kendall isn’t just for power but about a very vision of reality. Both spin the current power balance as being in their favor, and the weird thing is that they’re both right. Kendall and Logan are both on the ropes, and it’s something that’s summed up perfectly through Logan’s collapse. Kendall is right that Logan is stubborn and needs a rest, but Logan is also right that resting would spook Josh.

This is the true genius of the episode’s most powerful moment, when Logan tells Josh that everything will be okay and that Kendall is “a good kid.” As with everything Logan says, it is both the truth and a lie. We know that he does respect Kendall’s move and he might even think that Kendall is the best suited for the job out of his three (sorry Connor, four) children. But we also know that this is total bullshit. The rosy picture Logan paints is never going to come to pass, because it’s a paradox. He’ll only fully respect Kendall when he’s dead, which might be sooner rather than later.

The mentor/mentee dynamic is a fascinating center to “Lion in the Meadow” and what makes it another great episode of Succession despite some clunky mechanics. Our main characters remain separate from each other for most of the episode, with Kendall, Roman, and Shiv each having siloed storylines, something that is most apparent at the end of the episode when Roman calls Kendall. That call essentially serves as a set up for next week—something Succession generally avoids, opting for more self-contained episodes—but luckily that episode looks to be a promising ending to this same story. Was that Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd I spied??

BEST LINES

Every week I make note of a metric ton of brilliant lines that I’m not able to finagle into the main review, but I still want to highlight the standouts.

  • Greg, while talking about the story of Nero and Sporus: “This is not IP I’m familiar with...whoa plot twist didn’t see that coming”

  • Logan: ““CAN WE BRING GREG SOME COCA-COLA”

  • Greg: “Shall I chug this? I can chug it...I don’t know how you did it back in the 60s. Different times, different times indeed. Better times? Not for all.”

  • Shiv: “In a sense this conversation’s already over, it’s just a question of how many times we scream the word fuck at each other before you do what we want”

  • Roman, when Gerri tells him to put on his shoes and not masturbate in her office: “You are building a police state here Gerri”

  • Roman, while discussing Kendall’s fetish for nearly killing their dad: “Like just the tip but for like killing dad.”

POWER RANKINGS

Each recap, we’ll countdown where each character stands. This list is based on who is in the best position to accomplish their goals, whatever those may be, and just my general and totally objective view of who had the best episode.

14. Carts (Last week: N/A) - Where the hell were those carts? Josh kept saying that carts were available and/or coming but they never showed up! I’ve watched this episode three times now, and I’ve never even noticed them in the background. Were they ever real? Are they metaphorical carts??

13. Kendall’s children (Last week: N/A) - They got the small win of getting a rabbit, and the major loss of only seeing it through an iPad as their dad deals with his own daddy issues. The cycle continues.

12. The Raisin (Last week: N/A) - The President got a lot of mentions this week, but mostly from people talking shit about him. Logan got him to lose his temper on the phone and he got dragged on ATN by a Nazi. Not great Bob. 

11. Tattoo Man (Last week: N/A) - He might have been a homeless man who had Kendall’s initials tattooed on his forehead, but he’s also a million dollars richer and the photos aren’t even public. That’s what I call turning lemons into lemonade, but like for someone who doesn’t like lemonade that much.

10. Tom (Last week: 4) - Terminal Tom has cancer of the career. He’s losing juice with Shiv, ATN, and even Greg! There’s a part of me that thinks that he’s playing up his terror about prison in order to see if anyone will come to his aid before he switches teams, but he really did seem sad with Greg. I mean, you know things are bleak when castrating and marrying your best friend seems like the best move.

9. Mark Ravenhead (Last week: N/A) - It is editorial. At least he likes the new segment he was working on when Shiv entered the room, “I like pedo-daycare, it’s strong”

8. Roman (Last week: 1) - Roman takes a big old tumble this week in the power rankings not because he misstepped but mostly because he didn’t do anything that interesting or funny. He even had to be put in his place by Gerri to stop him from shooting himself in the foot. Come on, Roman, I thought we were past this!

7. Shiv (Last week: 5) - Last week was a rollercoaster of wins and losses for Shiv, and so is this week! She got to order around Tom and Ravenhead, but she also got yelled at by her dad over Karl of all people. And she couldn’t even win her negotiation with...

6. Connor (Last week: 9) - Wow! A rare winning episode for the Conheads out there! Connor’s postponing his campaign another four years, but that’s because he’s building out a better resume. You go Connor, don’t settle for a wine tasting show, you don’t need to share your hyperdecanting secrets with the world.

5. Logan (Last week: 3) - Bad week for Logan, just straight up. Never good when you are defeated by the sun. At least he got some leverage on The Raisin, and impressed his assistant.

4. Greg (Last week: 6) - I’m not sure it’s the smartest move to side with Logan given the fact that he’s provided damning evidence to the Department of Justice, or that it’s a great move to return to parks since the last time he worked in parks he projectile vomited out of his eyehole, but whatever Greg wants, Greg gets. His entire scene with Logan was peak Greg, from chugging his rum and coke to mentioning that his lawyer is “often unavailable during daytime.”

3. Kendall (Last week: 8) - “Wokahontas” took a lot of shit for his press conference from both his father and from Josh. But he also definitely proved, at least metaphorically, that he can win a war of attrition with Logan. Plus he got a soft maybe from Josh for his 40th birthday party and it looks like he’s primed to save the day next week. Knowing Kendall, he’ll fail miserably, but right now, at this very moment, he looks like the only person who can save the company and that’s a major improvement from last week.

2. Gerri (Last week: 5) - Gerri just keeps grinding behind the scenes. She’s working backchannels with the DOJ, she’s dating again, grooming one of the Roy children as her personal ally, and even setting healthy work/life boundaries. You’ve got to wear your footwear in Gerri’s office!

1. Josh (Last week: N/A) - What a tour-de-force by Josh Aaronson, just flexing on the Roys all episode. This guy gets Logan and Kendall to come grovel to him on his own private island. He owns a postmodern house and calls it a compound like a freaking supervillain. He shames Logan into going on a hike that he really doesn’t want to go on. He tells Kendall he’s full of shit. He puts Logan in his place. Then he leads Kendall and Logan on some kind of crazy endurance test. I’m convinced that the walk back was a test meant to see if Kendall and Logan would implode on each other since he kept saying absolutely preposterous things like, “This is the quick way but sometimes it takes longer” and saying he was going to run up ahead but never leaving eyesight. And then after all that, he still says no! That’s the kind of sleaze you’ve got to respect.

 Succession Continues Sunday on HBO and Monday on Sky Atlantic & NOW.

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