Obscenely rich and richly obscene, the Roy family of HBO’s darkly comedic family drama Succession is back for Season 2, and more deplorable than ever. Why do we love watching awful people behave badly on television? If you encountered a family as awful as the Roys live in person, you’d be appalled by their sniping, vulgarity, and general lack of regard for anything other than their massive egos and bank accounts, but somehow this band of contemptable buffoons has us enthralled. It’s the guiltiest of TV pleasures, like bingeing on ortolan every Sunday night.
After a failed coup, a Chappaquiddick-like incident, and an ill-advised marriage, the Roys enter Succession Season 2 more strained, yet dependent on one another to stave off the slings and arrows of their many powerful adversaries. Follow along with Den of Geek this season as we chart who’s leading the line of succession, determine who’s behaving the worst, and sing the praises of the series’ one pure soul, Cousin Greg.
This is the Keeping Up With the Roys for Succession Season 2 Episode 7: Return.
“Are your nips hard? Because you are so out in the cold.” That’s how Roman greets Shiv toward the top of the episode, and like Succession’s best burns, it hurts because it’s true. Shiv is no longer Logan’s Plan A, partly because she won’t stop getting out of her own way. Her lack of interest in the Waystar job is what made her appealing to Logan, and now her desperation to be tapped for the job is what’s turning him off. She already got on the old man’s bad side with her speech at Argestes and now a company-wide memo that is both pretentious and naïve alienates her from Logan even further. Rhea Jarrell, the newly outed CEO of Pierce, has got Logan’s ear and is sharing his pillow, and her estimation of the Roy children is brutally honest, especially when she declares Shiv as being not as smart as she thinks she is. Eager to inch her way even closer to the inner circle, she tells Logan that she’ll help him get rid of Shiv as a pestering option.
Rhea calls for a lunch with Shiv in London where she plays dumb and, under the guise of “girl power,” tells Shiv that she should throw her hat in the ring for the open PMG CEO job to leverage Logan. In reality, she knows that’s a surefire way to piss Logan off, and she’s correct. Once Shiv finally corners an elusive Logan to discuss whether she’s still his top choice, he berates her for “going against the family,” as if this “family” isn’t constantly working against each other. Rhea set a trap and Shiv walked right into it. The episode ends with Shiv alerting Kendall that they may have a new dangerous contender in line for CEO. For the first time since we’ve met these characters, it looks like the Roy kids are going to have to band together.
After a takedown video is circulated amongst shareholders, two London-based shareholders look to be swaying to Sandy and Stewie’s side in the proxy battle. One of the wavering parties happens to be Ken, Roman, and Shiv’s mother Caroline, so the Roy clan heads to London together to reaffirm loyalty. While in London, the family of the victim of Kendall’s Chappaquiddick incident starts accusing Logan in the press of causing the emotional distress that led to their son crashing his car. The story resurfacing immediately sends Kendall into a tailspin, just as he was beginning to lighten up. It appears his fling with Naomi Pierce has blossomed into a genuine, dick pic-sharing relationship. She flies to London so they can go on a cute zoo date like they’re in a Simon and Garfunkel song, but after Kendall appears smitten with Naomi and then has the gall to tactfully warn his father about Rhea, Logan just has to bring him down a peg.
Logan insists that Kendall joins him on a trip to apologize to the family of his victim. Then once they arrive at the family’s house, he takes it a step further and forces his son to enter the house with him. Kendall looks truly haunted as he takes in the photos of his victim in the young man’s childhood home, barely keeping it together. Later, a drunken Ken returns to the house and slides what appears to be thousands of dollars through their letter drop, offering them the only comfort that he’s ever found solace in. That same night, he tries to confess his sins to his mother, but the passive aggressive monster can’t be bothered with something “difficult” so late at night, then ducks her son in the morning. It’s heartbreaking. Kendall shouldn’t be absolved of his involvement in the young man’s death, but he’s clearly carrying the weight of guilt on his shoulders and is unable to share pain with any of the self-involved gremlins in his family. On the same night that the Emmys aired, it’s a masterful, devastating performance that could lead to a win for Jeremy Strong next year.
Is Roman the leading CEO candidate in the Roy family? After getting a tooth knocked out last week by his dear old Dad, it’s now looking like Roman could be a dark horse for the Waystar job. Gerri is taking early measures to ensure there are no hiccups by looking into his past, and instead of confronting his father during Logan’s half-assed non-apology, he pretends the Argestes incident just never happened. Roman is then tasked by Logan to bring Caroline back into the fold, with Logan telling him he has about $50 million to butter her up with.
Though Caroline, who’s just as belittling and cutting as Logan, is able to see through his negotiation tactics, Roman gets out of the UK with both wavering share-holders back on Logan’s side: Caroline agrees to talk the other shaky shareholder back in line for $20 million and Christmases with her kids (she tells her kids to offer Logan the choice between that or his home in the Hamptons, but they don’t even bother asking Logan about something that he truly values). Roman comes home like a conquering hero, getting a “good job” from his dad, basking in it like it’s a Nobel Prize. If Rhea Jarrell is displaced in a timely fashion, Roman could be sitting as the frontrunner in the line of succession.
Absent once again. Caroline’s kids only this week. Will we ever meet Connor’s mother?
It sure looks like Tom is being set up to take the fall in the Brightstar incident. Brought into a meeting with a legal team to speak about his knowledge of the historic sexual assault allegations, Tom stutters and flounders like a guilty man, knowing that he’s lying and that the documents that Cousin Greg holds as a fail-safe could be his downfall. Tom is truly stressed about his state of affairs, but Shiv is so consumed by her pursuit of the Waystar throne that she can’t be bothered with Tom’s problems. Taking a hard stance, Tom threatens Greg into handing over the “secret” documents, belittling Greg every step of the way. Tom may think that he’s burned the remaining evidence tying him to this shit storm, but he’s got another thing coming.
This Machiavellian fuck continues to be simultaneously bumbling and sly. Though it’s not wise to tape yourself basically admitting your role in a corporate cover-up, Greg gets his phone out to record he and Tom destroying evidence of the Brightstar scandal, and even manages to swipe a few stray papers while Tom is distracted. Greg refuses to take the fall for Tom and is taking every measure to ensure that he doesn’t have to. Honestly, a season with Tom and Greg as cellmates in a white collar facility sounds like fanfiction that I write in my spare time.
Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.