This Succession review contains spoilers.
Succession Season 2 Episode 7
Things are getting downright hostile on Succession.
Let’s consider the case of Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), perhaps the most beleaguered of Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) psychologically and socially abused adult children. They’re all vying for a piece of the Waystar Royco pie. Especially Kendall, who attempted a coup last season that, after the accidental death of an employee, came to nothing and put him squarely in his father’s pocket.
At the beginning of “Return,” Kendall is chatting with Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), the rival media family’s own version of him. Ever since the pair first met and bonded in “Tern Haven,” they’ve maintained a flirtatiously combative relationship. The latest evidence of this? Naomi wants Kendall to send her a dick pic “for my records.” They go back and forth, debating the merits and demerits of sending one’s junk across the cloud, but Kendall — who actually looks the happiest he’s ever looked in some time — finally caves and complies with the request.
Later on, however, whatever happiness he’s managed to cobble together this season vanishes in a flurry of family photos and memorials in rural England, at the family home of the man whose death he caused last season. During the Roys’ visit to London to meet with Logan’s ex-wife (and Kendall’s mother), Lady Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter), the victim’s family raises hell and blames Logan for the incident. Wanting to save face and avoid any discovery of the coverup he enacted to save Kendall, the patriarch agrees to meet with the family for an apology and a photo up.
Cue the latest scene in Logan’s “Father of the Year Award” montage.
“Actually, Ken, why don’t you come on in with me?” he asks his son in the car. They’ve just pulled up to the house after passing a small memorial at the scene of the crime, and Kendall is barely holding it together. But now, his father is demanding that he undergo further psychological and emotional torture. And why? “It looks a little weird, you know, bringing you all this way and then you sit in the car like a labrador.”
It’s a harrowing moment, both for the seemingly benign-yet-malignant manner in which Logan decides to inflict such torture on his on, and the dutiful way Kendall obeys his father despite knowing that whatever happens is going to make his situation even worse. And it does. He makes it a few steps into the home before he absconds to the kitchen where, surrounded by photos of the deceased, he sits by himself, wallowing in the corrosive pity and shame that’s been building all season.
As amazing as Strong’s performance is throughout these moments, however, “Return” is about far more than his increasingly fraught relationship with Logan. It’s also about, as hinted at earlier, the need for Logan and company to meet with Caroline. Following the dissolution of the PMG deal and Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) “dinosaur-gate,” Logan decides to go to London with Kendall, Roman (Kieran Culkin), and — surprisingly — Rhea (Holly Hunter), PMG’s former CEO. It turns out the ex-rival now has their father’s ear, and throughout the episode, she works him to her advantage at every turn.
Roman and Kendall briefly joke about Logan cheating on Marcia (Hiam Abbass), his third wife, with Rhea, but it’s one of the only times the brothers seem to be on the same page. For that matter, it’s near impossible for any of the Roy children to agree with each other, much like their disastrous panel appearance at the end of “Argestes.” Seeing as how Logan’s had them all vying to be his successor, this should come as no surprise, but it’s also cemented this time around since he refuses to bring Shiv along for the London trip. Instead, he orders Kendall and Roman to appease their mother, who’s thinking about using his Waystar Royco stock leverage to oust them with the other shareholders.
Shiv, unsurprisingly, is pissed off that her father, who initially picked her as his successor in the season premiere, continues to cut her out. So, much like last week’s episode, she takes the initiative and flies to London to catch up with everyone and try to make an impact. But at every turn, Rhea is there running interference. Not just on Shiv, but on everyone. Be it during individual meetings or group pow-wows, the ex-CEO switches between dispensing advice to Logan that Logan is usually agreeing with and blocking his children.
It’s almost as if she’s gunning for something. A hostile takeover from the inside out, of sorts. Some, like Shiv, are highly suspicious of Rhea’s presence in this way. The former confronts her father, asking him openly if she’s still “it” in terms of his chosen heir apparent, but he comes back with information about her keeping her “options” open at rival outfits, like PMG, just in case things don’t work out. “We’re a family,” he berates her. “If you can’t understand that, then f*ck off.”
Kendall, however, is too broken to think or say or do anything. His forced confrontation with the family of the man whose death he caused sends him into a tailspin, and when he attempts to discuss his feelings with Caroline in what was almost a touching moment, she berates him — much like her ex-husband does. Shiv manages to get through to him and warn him about Rhea in the final scene, but it’s difficult to tell if he got the message. Or, for that matter, if he even cares at this point.
Are you keeping up with the Roys? Check out our weekly column breaking down all the family hijinks.