The truly agonising wait for the third season of Succession is over. The Roys are going to war and we couldn’t be happier.
Contributed by Jackson Maher.
Season 3 of Succession, the dramedy following the wealthy, powerful, and despicable Roy family picks up right where season 2 ended — just moments after Kendall’s bombshell press conference — where he stuck a full-sized broadsword in his father Logan’s back. The family company, Waystar Royco, is embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal. The company has been accused of covering up hush payments and keeping shadow logs about the rampant pattern of heinous crimes on their cruise line. Kendall was supposed to take the fall but, at the last possible moment, threw his father under the bus.
The usually in-control Logan (Brian Cox) is sent into a full-out tailspin, hiring and firing his inner circle several times on a single helicopter ride before asking his youngest son Roman (Kieran Culkin) if he wants to “suck his dick”, which Roman notes might not be the best look for a man currently accused of what Logan is accused of. Logan calls Kendall to congratulate him on the play he made and offers to bring him back into the fold. To Logan, truth only exists as a means to an end. It has no inherent value by itself. But for Kendall (Jeremy Strong), telling the truth is liberating. Kendall might be a junkie, but he’s never tasted a high like this before.
Team Logan attempts a scorched earth strategy, strong-arming the US Attorney General and refusing to cooperate while Logan hides out in Sarajevo, where he can’t be extradited. However, he admits that he might need to step down as CEO (in title only, of course), setting up the season premiere tradition of successor musical chairs. In season 1, Kendall seemed primed to be named before Logan pulled the chair on him.
Last season, Shiv (Sarah Snook) seemed to win out, but that turned out to just be a play for Logan to slowly back away from his promise. Now it’s Roman’s turn. Well, kind of. Roman technically doesn’t get the title (he self-eliminates by showing the smallest sign of weakness on a call with his dad) but his number one ally, Gerri, does.
Why anyone might want the title of CEO at the moment is a bit of a mystery. Yes, Waystar has survived other catastrophes, but as Karl (David Rasche) notes in one of the episode’s best lines: “This is the full Baskin-Robbins — 31 flavors of f**k right there.” But the title of CEO has never just been about the money or even the power for Kendall, Shiv, and Roman. Being named successor has meant finally earning their father’s restrained respect, something that these hopelessly broken characters desperately need in order to feel like real people.
Team Kendall is doing better on paper than Team Logan. They secure star attorney Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan) and a cadre of PR specialists who have faith that Kendall can “win this thing.” Crucially, they have Greg (Nicholas Braun). He might be an afterthought for most of the episode aside from some classic Gregisms (“No comment”, “Great memeage”, and “Headline the internet is big” are easily the standouts), but Greg is playing the game here. It is his evidence that made this whole coup d’etat even possible. Even Karolina (Dagmara Dominczyk) isn’t buying that Greg had no idea that Kendall’s big play was coming.
But, things still don’t feel steady for this side by any means. It isn’t the truth that Kendall is smoking, but his own ego. It’s hard not to compare this season-opening episode to the polar opposite of season 2’s. There, Kendall was dragged on camera to support his father by mindlessly repeating, “I saw their plan, and my dad’s plan was better.” Logan, watching in a boardroom thousands of miles away, turns off the TV and bellows to the room, “Ladies and gentlemen, the first f*cking thing my son’s ever done right in his life.”
Kendall spent the rest of that episode, and much of the second season, in a zombie-like daze, submitting himself to the will of his father. Flashforward to the present and Kendall is near peak energy level (rivaled only by his cringe-worthy pitch to the art app, Dust, in season 1), and feeling like he might actually be “the best man in the world.”
Manic Kendall is somehow more unsettling than depressed Kendall. He interrupts every woman he brings on, in order to mansplain to them how to handle his situation, juggling dozens of half-baked ideas at the same time. Ironically, on the heels of standing up for the women victimized by Waystar, Kendall has never seemed to respect the women in his life less than he does here. He invades his ex-wife Rava’s home and sets it up as his base of operations, taking non-stop meetings, inviting his junkie girlfriend Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) over, and cracking open a bottle of Rava’s prized wine — all while claiming that he did what he did for Rava (Natalie Gold) and his children, which Rava sees right through.
Everyone who knows Kendall knows that he’s on the verge of an epic self-destruction. Roman notes that “it’s his favourite,” and we get multiple reminders to the big skeleton in Kendall’s closet, that he Chappaquiddick’d a boy in England while high on cocaine. Greg marvels that this is, “like OJ if he didn’t kill anyone” to which Kendall chillingly responds, “Who says I never killed anyone? The Juice is Loose BABYYY.” Later, Shiv unknowingly does the same, telling Lisa that she shouldn’t hitch her wagon to Kendall because “a lot of wagons are going in the ditch.”
This is the first time Logan has ever truly seemed on the ropes. Everything seems remarkably dicey. He’s holed up in an airport hotel that almost seems recognizable to normal people, as opposed to an ostentatious villa or castle. Where he had so much power in season one, he could make the president wait for him, he finds himself groveling to Michelle-Ann, a White House aide. Hell, he even notes that they need to be running on purely saliva and adrenaline because if he gets the shits, they’re f***ed.
Each recap, we’ll countdown where each character stands.
8. Connor – The eldest son got forgotten by his own dad again, he’s been left in the Balkans, and his only way to salvage his girlfriend-for-hire’s play is to lean into the “hatewatch angle.”
7. Shiv – Lisa Arthur turned her down as a representative for either herself or her dad, she got passed over for CEO, and couldn’t even get an “I love you, too” from her lapdog Tom. Tough day for Shiv.
6. Tom – Look at the spine on this guy! After his fight with Shiv, he does absolutely nothing to help her win the top spot and has managed to stay close to Logan while he goes into exile.
5. Logan – It’s honestly a testament to my fear of this man that he’s still this high despite being the face of a sexual abuse scandal and currently hiding from the US government. Now f**k off.
4. Greg – Tom once called Greg a benign fungus, and he’s living up to his namesake. Nobody ever notices him, but he’s in the “Righteous Vehicle,” holding crucial evidence, all while avoiding any accountability because…well, he’s Greg. Now if only he can get his mom to stop panic-buying Nutribullets.
3. Gerri – Despite being the “the first to admit that she couldn’t really do the job” (well, maybe second), she finds herself as CEO in a more permanent way. Gerri always finds a way to use her power without anyone noticing, and now she has as much power as arguably anyone.
2. Roman – Romulus has turned into quite the savvy businessman, he’s moved up the corporate ladder while avoiding making himself the face of anything and having his number one ally as CEO. Plus, he might even get laid for once.
1. Kendall – Look, we know he’s not going to stay in the top spot for long, but let’s hand it to Kendall for this brief amount of time. He landed a great team and even talked some great trash to his dad on the phone. I mean, “I’m gonna run up off the f***ing beanstalk” gave me chills.
Succession Continues Sunday on HBO and Monday on Sky Atlantic & NOW.