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 5, “Tern Haven.”
Despite the fact that the Roy family ends the episode securing the Pierce deal, they spend the episode shitting the bed figuratively and literally, and no one comes out looking worse than Shiv. During dinner at the Pierce family home of Tern Haven, Shiv’s desperation to be acknowledged as Logan’s successor, at least by her family, boils over. After a moment away from the table where she confides in Tom just how desperately she’s come to want the job, Shiv returns to the table and over plays her hand. Matriarch Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones) lets Logan know that his choice of successor will be a major factor in whether the Pierce family will hand over their media conglomerate, and when Logan plays elusive and coy, Shiv blurts out “Tell them it’s going to be me.” The ensuing silence and look of utter disgust from Logan is the year’s most cringe-worthy TV moment.
Things become even worse for Shiv when she has to sit and witness Logan jeopardize the entire deal by refusing to publicly name Shiv as his successor, the final condition for the potential sale. It was becoming obvious that Logan was having second thoughts about naming his daughter heir to the throne, but his look at the end of this episode, a look to Shiv that essentially says “You blew it,” feels like confirmation. After putting all of her chips into the Waystar basket, it has to be a terrible revelation for Shiv that she was played. When Shiv couldn’t care less about Waystar, she coolly exuded the confidence it would take to run the empire, but now that she covets it, she’s becoming more like her failure siblings. Shiv still is the most competent member of the family, so perhaps she’ll find a way back into her father’s good graces, but at the moment, she’s looking just as foolish as the Pierce blowhard with the two vanity PhDs.
“Keep clean this weekend, eh killer?” Logan says to Kendall before their visit to Tern Haven, which is an insanely savage thing to say to your number one boy. On their weekend visit with the Pierces, each Roy is tasked with wooing their liberal doppelganger, and the only person that has any sort of success is Kendall, and he does so by disobeying his Dad’s orders. Kendall hits it off with Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), a fellow recovering addict who hates the Roy family for the way that their papers covered her most personal tragedies.
Kendall and Naomi drink and drug together, narrowly avoid an ill-fated helicopter excursion (something tells me he was fully committed to flying and crashing that bird), makeout a bit, but most importantly, Kendall frames the Pierce deal as an escape for Naomi, and his pitch is so enticing that Naomi convinces Nan that the $25 billion-dollar deal should go through. If only Kendall could find his own escape from his own suffocating family.
Back from hanging with the Johnny Lunchpails in the heart of America, Roman heads to Tern Haven and completely botches his assignments. He tries to sound smart to one of the smarmy “frilly clit flicker” Pierces by inventing a book, then immediately gets called out on his bullshit. Next, he’s shamed at the table for his lack of sexual appetite when Tabitha spells out the weird realities of their arrangement. Finally, he sits dumbstruck as he hears his sister claim herself to be the next CEO of Waystar. All of the shame and humiliation inevitably gets Roman hot and bothered, so he tries to initiate sex with Tabitaha, but qualifies to her that it has to feel “wrong.” That apparently means role-playing that he’s having sex with a dead body! Um, I always thought Roman’s character defects were a combination of extreme wealth and an emotionally withholding father, but maybe he’s just a plain sociopath and budding serial killer!
Seriously, I can just see the detectives from Mindhunter probing Roman in a cell now! When his sick fantasy turns Tabitha off, Roman heads for Gerri’s room and they act out part two of their weird, kinky shame game. I would ship these two, but I don’t want Gerri to end up dead.
Every Roy is given strict instructions to play nice with their respective Pierce equal, but this family of poisonous, inept idiots are so bad at playing nice (even Marcia screws up by drinking too much and shit talking Logan) that they have to have a half-time locker room meeting to refocus their energies on appealing to their WASPy hosts. No one struggles more with their assignment than Connor, who can’t help but bloviate his half-baked Libertarian ideals with a Brookings Institute member of the Pierce clan. After two passive aggressive swipes at Connor’s “platform,” Connor is ready to draw blood. Fortunately, he’s able to hash it out with the Pierce family member off-screen, in fact so thoroughly that he ends up offering him the entire State Department if he’s elected. Hmm, where have we seen this sort of cronyism before?
Rounding Out the Family
Another week, another devastating showing for Tom. Before the trip to Tern Haven, he’s briefed that he’ll have to play the right-wing scapegoat for the weekend, but the actual trip goes worse than he could have imagined. Despite appearing genial and accepting of different viewpoints, the Pierce clan goes after Tom hard and no one, including Shiv, comes to his defense. I mean, when you’re the head of a news station protecting a literal neo-Nazi you’re probably not due too much sympathy, but Tom really is forced to eat shit alongside his spinach.
When Shiv can sense the tide turning and they slip out for a little pow-wow, Tom actually does a great job of offering his wife support and advice, but when he asks for a little help in return, Shiv cannot be bothered. The episode ends with the Pierce family demanding Tom’s head as a condition of the deal, and Logan nor Shiv do anything to help the poor guy. Tom just took a nose dive off of the corporate ladder.
EXCUSE ME, BUT HE GOES BY GREGORY NOW, OK?! Just when we thought this episode would come and go without an appearance by Succession’s version of Poochie, Greg, that beautiful, Ichabod Crane-fuck struts in like a beam of sunshine, declares his fancy new professional name, and proceeds to ask each miserable Roy about how “awesome” their weekend was. Logan is thrilled to see him. Perhaps we have a new heir apparent.
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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.