This Succession review contains spoilers.
Succession Season 2 Episode 9
While last week’s “Dundee” took a far more fast-and-loose approach to Succession’s typical episode model (complete with a fawning “L to the OG” rap), the second season’s penultimate episode adopts a far darker, more sinister tone. There are plenty of examples to flesh out, but the most immediate one is the cold open, during which the Roys and their confidants watch a Waystar Royco whistleblower’s exclusive interview on a 60 Minutes-esque news program.
“It’s bullsh*t!” Logan (Brian Cox) declares after changing the channel. “Clearly [Sandy Furness is] backing him. Clearly. With his buddy and his six f*ckin shell companies. Sick bastards who’d f*cking do and say anything!”
Yet when Roman (Kieran Culkin) notes that they should probably be watching the whistleblower interview so they can “have a response,” Logan’s true colors shine their brightest: “I’ve got 50 f*cking people paid to watch this sh*t!” Sure enough, the next shot reveals dozens of the Roys’ lawyers, public relations consultants and other staffers — many of whom are all familiar faces by now — sitting in the next room. They’re all watching the whistleblower so that Logan doesn’t have to, and by the end of the cold open, they have all come to the same decision: this should all be pinned on someone. Somebody else, and not Waystar Royco at large or any of the Roy family members, should take the blame for the scandal.
That’s Logan Roy, the rest of the Roy family and all of Succession in a nutshell: blame everyone else. After all, it’s what they’re always trying to do to each other, especially when it comes to sussing out who’s actually going to be Logan’s successor — and who’s not.
Hence why, despite her many maneuvers throughout “Dundee” and “Return,” Waystar Royco’s newly-named CEO Rhea (Holly Hunter) is no longer keen on her prospects. “I’m worried I’ve agreed to be CEO of a dumpster fire pirate death ship,” she tells Logan after the interview broadcast. Logan insists he’s “not worried” and attempts to move on, but Rhea just can’t stomach it. “It’s fun to be the new bride,” she quips. “It’s just not nice to think you might find a corpse in the freezer.”
Logan feins further ignorance of the matter, telling Rhea “they kept this from me,” but she’s smart enough to see through the patriarch’s PR-fueled baloney. Toward the episode’s end, after various testimonies are given by the Roys during a congressional hearing (which we’ll get to shortly), she confronts him about his seemingly supernatural ability to lie and keep lying no matter how faulty his arguments are. “It’s kind of a superpower, isn’t it?” she says. “If you can lie to someone like that to their face. I mean, I know you’re lying, but I still find you plausible and appealing.” And with that, Rhea leaves the CEO gig and Logan’s circle altogether.
But first, there are the congressional testimonies given by the Waystar Royco rank and file. Like Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), a hilariously cartoonish combination that immediately implodes. In fact, Tom does so poorly — like when he lies about not knowing who Greg (Nicholas Braun) is — that he’s seemingly on the verge of tears when he leaves the table.
After them, Logan himself takes the stand alongside his son Kendall (Jeremy Strong), whose progression from a human shell to a human shell with obedient purpose nears its completion at this very moment. Earlier, his father tells his brother Roman that “10 bad minutes in D.C.” could be “the end” of them all. And sure enough, Logan does poorly throughout his testimony, stammering and stopping at random intervals, almost as if he’s unable to process everything that’s being asked of him. Cue Kendall, who comes to his father’s (and the company’s) rescue by turning the tables on the congressional committee members.
Sen. Gil Eavis (Eric Bogosian), the Bernie Sanders-ish Congressman for whom Shiv (Sarah Snook) previously worked, leads the charge throughout these hearings, and when Logan begins to stall, he pounces just as quickly as he did on Tom and Gerri. Before he can make the points he wants to make, though, Kendall swoops in to save the day. “As much as you like to accuse us of bias, today you’re the one with the bias,” he declares. “I say go ahead. Hit us as hard as you can. We can take it. We have nothing to hide.”
Shiv delivers, too, though outside the hearings when she and Rhea go to meet with another potential whistleblower who was planning to testify later during the proceedings. She doesn’t threaten the woman but rather plays to her desire to get her story out there and bring those who wronged her to justice. And she accomplishes this feat, questionable morality notwithstanding, by selling out her own father in order to bring the victim to her — and Waystar Royco’s — side. It’s an odd play, to be sure, but it’s also a highly manipulative one that, more than anything, solidifies Shiv’s place among the rest of the Roys.
Which brings us to Roman. He’s not at the hearings because, earlier in the episode, Logan sent him abroad to obtain some foreign money in order to ensure the company’s ability to go private for the time being. It’s an insurance policy against the worst possible outcome in Washington, and it works — Roman manages to get the money. Though not without having assault rifles pointed at him during a political power play of sorts between a Saudi prince and Turkish elements. He’s essentially a hostage, and an incredibly wealthy one, but the deal works nonetheless — though with some blatantly implied strings.
And that’s where Logan’s ominous closing line comes into play. “[Kendall] came out like a fighter but I’m hurt. We’re hurt. And Bill’s on maneuvers. He won’t go quietly. No, no, no — Bill’s not the answer. We need something big,” he tells Shiv. “Time for a blood sacrifice.”
So, which Roy child is about to be made a public scapegoat?