Succession Season 2 Episode 8 Review: Dundee

A surprise party for Logan in his Scottish hometown (w)raps up many loose ends in the latest episode of Succession.

succession season 2 episode 8

This Succession review contains spoilers.

Succession Season 2 Episode 8

When it comes to “cringe” entertainment, be it in comedy or drama, audiences either love it unconditionally or detest it with the fire of a thousand suns. In “Dundee,” the latest episode of HBO’s Succession, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and the rest of the Roy clan seemingly put their full, collective might into producing one of the most cringe-worthy surprise parties (and episodes of television) for their father, Logan (Brian Cox). It’s the worst.

But this is Succession we’re talking about, so it’s also the best.

With “Vaulter,” Kendall’s transformation from a rebellious would-be successor to a completely subservient drone seemed complete. The man who was once preferred by his father, and who tried unsuccessfully to use that to his advantage in a bungled hostile takeover, was now doing whatever Logan wanted. He was a shell of a person whose guilt regarding the wrongful death of an employee (and the ensuing coverup) was turning him into putty in his father’s controlling hands. By the end of “Dundee,” however, Kendall is essentially a blank slate — one that anyone, even the conniving Rhea (Holly Hunter), can manipulate.

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Hence the surprise party she organizes for Logan and his Waystar Royco allies in the patriarch’s Scottish hometown of Dundee. Despite the fact that Logan doesn’t actually like surprise parties (or surprises of any kind), the family and their connections go along with the task of duping their father into the trip, which is tied to a journalism school’s sudden decision to slap Logan’s name on a building. This includes Kendall’s rap, during which he dons an oversized custom baseball jersey and repeatedly tries to get the partygoers to sing along during the chorus. It’s awful. It’s wonderful. It’s something that’s sure to drive the zeitgeist off and on for the next year or two.

read more: check out our review of the previous episode of Succession here

It’s also a canary in the coal mine, of sorts. If Kendall is this broken, this willing to do and say whatever is suggested to him by anyone with a powerful position in his father’s business — even an outsider looking in like Rhea — then what’s everyone else up to? Sure, as the recording booth scene earlier in the episode reveals, the ex-CEO of Waystar Royco rival PMG has looped Kendall’s siblings into various supporting tasks. Yet, while Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck) begrudgingly go along with the sing-and-dance routine, Shiv (Sarah Snook) starts asking questions.

Or, rather, she continues asking them, as Logan’s youngest daughter has been questioning just about everything her father — and especially his new favorite, Rhea — have been up to all season. Ever since he named her his successor in the season premiere, then subsequently began interrogating and undermining her at every turn, Shiv has been pondering and planning her next move. So, when Rhea enlists their help for the big shindig in Dundee, it’s Shiv — and not Connor or Roman or Kendall — who keeps asking the kind of questions that viewers have come to expect of all the Roys. This is a family of people who, for the most part, despise one another with a level of distrust that is unrivaled. Why are they just letting Rhea get away with this?

We’ll come back to this point (and Shiv’s plans regarding it) in a moment, but first, it’s important to step aside and let Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) enter the limelight for a moment. During the latter half of the first season and much of the second, he and Shiv’s husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) have been operating as a sort of supporting comedic duo. Their back-and-forths over Waystar Royco’s media arm and the brewing crisis with the cruise ship company have provided plenty of side fodder, but now that the latter’s sexual misconduct scandals are raging out of control, their time in the spotlight is now.

And then there’s Logan’s estranged brother Ewan (James Cromwell), who splits his time between berating Logan for his “kingdom of sh*t” and demanding that his grandson sever all ties with the Waystar Royco business. “There is a very persuasive argument to be made that he’s worse than Hitler,” he says, “and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop working for him.” Greg balks at the suggestion but Ewan doesn’t falter, especially when he suggests that he will remove the kid from his will should be keep working for Logan. It is, as Greg phrases it, “quite a pickle.”

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Add to this Tom’s growing frustration with Shiv over her obvious use of him for her own power gains and voilà! We’ve got the makings of several internal conflicts to add to the already massive pile of similar familial conflicts. Though as great as a series of plot foils as Greg and Tom’s problems have been (and will continue to be), they pail in comparison to Rhea’s manipulations regarding the surprise party, Kendall’s hilariously awkward rap, and Logan’s finally making a decision about who his actualy successor will be.

read more: Why Succession Deserves More Attention

Because that’s the rub. As “Return” demonstrated last weekend, Rhea was inserting herself into the equation and the Roy children were seemingly ill-equipped to do anything about it. Hence their apparent reluctance in “Dundee” — at least, everyone else but Shiv’s reluctance to do or say anything about Rhea. From the recording booth scene to her final “move” with her father at the party, Shiv has been monitoring the situation and now thinks she knows what to do. She encourages Logan to name Rhea his successor in the CEO spot, and though he balks at her suggestion initially, he confesses that such a prospect has been on his mind.

So, when Logan finally takes the stage following Kendall’s disastrous performance and declares to one and all that Rhea will be the new CEO of Waystar Royco, Shiv knows that it probably won’t last. It won’t last because of Logan’s long-proven inability to make or stick to a decision about anything. It also won’t last because of the cruise ship industry controversy and the many other morally bankrupt fiascos that the company has, thus far, managed to largely avoid. As the new CEO, Rhea will be saddled with these and many other problems — too many, in fact. And Shiv is counting on it.

The thing is, Rhea just might be counting on it too.

Rating:

4 out of 5