This article contains spoilers for Succession.
While Succession is rife with satirical dark humor, narcissism, nepotism, and Shakespearean family betrayal, the show certainly isn’t going to draw many viewers in through the use of warm and cozy relationships. Perhaps only Connor (Alan Ruck) and Willa (Justine Lupe) serve as the exception there. Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is an abusive father who hit Roman (Kieran Culkin) and toyed with Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) ego and pride. Shiv (Sarah Snook) shanked her brother in the back in the series finale. Roman took a low blow at Kendall’s ability to be a hereditary father. The list goes on and on. The millionaires and billionaires that make up creator Jesse Armstrong’s critical darling are people seemingly incapable of love or genuine affection.
That’s where the dynamic duo of Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) come into the fold. These two outsiders have been snaking their way through the Roy family drama for the entirety of the show’s run, often teaming together for a mutually beneficial relationship. What fans love about the Disgusting Brothers goes far beyond their playful banter or slapstick physical interactions, though. TomGreg is a unique pairing that features equal parts obvious sexual tension and abuse. We as fans have to grapple with the many different facets of their growing union: romantic themes, workplace power struggles, and empathetic soulmates.
Neither Tom nor Greg are ever even hinted to be attracted to the same sex (although Succession writers did think about making Greg gay). Tom is married to Shiv for the entirety of the series. Greg is a bachelor with limited romantic success, but he does pursue women throughout the show, most explicitly when he sleeps with Bridget (Francesca Root-Dodson) in the first episode of the fourth season. Now this doesn’t mean either character is restricted to heteronormativity; either Tom or Greg could be closeted. Greg’s father is hinted several times as being gay, but there is no proof that sexuality is passed on genetically, therefore Greg’s attractions are completely unrelated.
Despite all of these explicit signs that both characters identify as straight, there is absolutely no denying that a lot of the conversations between Tom and Greg are intimate, exciting, spicy, and include physical play, touching, and flirting. Tom is often in the dominant position, asking Greg to kiss him, pulling on Greg’s necktie, or trying to wrestle him in his office. The writers seem to want viewers to understand that Tom and Greg have a tangible, kinetic energy about them. When these two men are around one another, they have a fondness and adoration that needs to manifest somehow.
The large age gap also needs to be addressed in the relationship. From the very first scene the two meet, Tom identifies Greg as someone he can bully, harass, joke with, and roast. The peculiar way in which Tom does this is certainly not in a big brother, little brother way. No, Tom has his eyes on Greg the same way an older male suitor locks in on a young, vulnerable woman. Tom lords over Greg because he can. Both men want to work their way to the top of the Roy family food chain, but Tom has more built-in advantages working in his favor, and this gives him power over Greg. Tom’s age and marriage to Shiv wins the rock-paper-scissors bout of power with Greg, who’s only connection to Waystar is that his grandfather is Logan’s brother. Tom sees himself in Greg, or at least a shoddy, primitive version of him. When he lovingly abuses Greg, he’s trying to get in touch with his past self in all the worst ways, honing in on his insecurities. Calling Greg names, physically assaulting him, and diminishing Greg’s worth helps to build Tom up while also showing Greg that Tom views Greg as being able to take it.
Tom is a completely different version of himself around Greg, perhaps even his most authentic self. When Tom is around any of the Roy kids, Logan, or even GoJo CEO Lukas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård) in the series finale, he is the purest form of meekness. Submissive doesn’t even begin to describe the full extent of Tom’s servitude. As Shiv tells Mattson, “Tom will suck the biggest dick in the room.” This sexually explicit homoerotic metaphor subverts what we know about Tom’s personality when he’s around Greg. When paired with his empathetic soulmate, Tom is able to wield overt dominance. He won’t be the one giving the oral sex in this scenario. His vision of a life with Greg is one of him being the daddy and Greg being the pup (context clues should help you comprehend the queer slang here, but there’s always Urban dictionary!)
And despite all of the domineering undertones we’ve discussed here, there is a tenderness between the men that exhibits how much Tom actually seems to care deeply for Greg. From using Roman analogies (Tom is Emperor Nero and Greg is Sporus, the slave that Nero castrates and marries), to promising Greg that he’ll always have his back, the unhealthy relationship recipe certainly includes ingredients that resemble unbridled admiration.
Power and dominance are arguably the two main themes of Succession right until the end. As Tom and Greg trudge ever so close to the sun, they risk being burned alive if they don’t evolve. Tom’s hunger for power is rewarded in the series finale when he is given the reins to Waystar, and Greg is left potentially on the outside of Tom’s newfound kingdom. Greg is able to symbolically consummate his union with Tom when he finally stands up for himself and fights back in the Roy family bathroom, slapping Tom right in the face.
This was surely a moment that let Tom know Greg has come along for the ride with him, that his mentorship/lusting/loathing of Greg has morphed into the final stage. Greg is worthy of all of Tom’s affection and abuse, as warped as that may seem to say out loud. When Tom is anointed CEO, he marks Greg with a sticker, claiming Greg and telling him “I got you.”
Tom and Greg’s final interaction is juxtaposed by the deep emptiness of Shiv, Kendall, and Roman. The three siblings never were able to lay bare all of their contempt for one another until it climaxed during the vote to sell Waystar. Because Tom had been grooming Greg in a way for years, the two men were both able to get what they desired in the end. They didn’t betray each other, they kept their word, and they won the corporate lottery. Even if the scale is uneven in favor of Tom, Greg knows that his friend is tenderly loyal. Tom is keeping Greg at Waystar simply because he likes him. He likes him a lot, and he wants Greg in his life.
This is certainly the opposite of what Shiv said to Kendall: “I love you. I fucking love you, but I cannot stomach you.” Tom can stomach Greg. For what it’s worth, this is the highest compliment you can receive in the world of Succession.