High drama about the ultra rich, Succession, is a truly wonderful show populated by truly terrible people – and that’s all part of the fun. Focusing on the Roy family, whose patriarch Logan Roy is the owner of a massive media conglomerate (he’s loosely based on Rupert Murdoch), it’s drenched in familial fighting, lies, corruption and political machinations. They’re all awful! We love them!
But who is the MOST awful? Now the third season is upon us, we’ve attempted to break down the contemptible behaviour and deep seated damage behind it, to work out exactly which Roy, and Roy-adjacent character is the actual worst. We’ve stuck to the main extended family here – anyone trying to argue that Gerri, Frank, Jamie or Rhea are as terrible as the Roys can, well, [insert Logan’s catch phrase here].
Let’s get the big daddy out of the way first. In many ways, yes, Logan is the worst. Without him and his abhorrent morals none of his family would be the way they are. His business is responsible for covering up horrific behaviour on Waystar’s cruise ships involving sexual harassment and even death – Logan knows and doesn’t care even slightly. He’s rude, volatile, untrustworthy, occasionally cruel and psychopathically arrogant (see the episode where he kicks off because he thinks the president has snubbed him during a national security alert). He is absolutely a beast of a man. But just saying: boom, Logan, there you go, feels like a cop out.
Logan grew up poor in Scotland, with his older brother Ewan (James Cromwell) and their widowed mother, who sent them to live with their Uncle in Canada. Ewan signed up and fought in Vietnam, while Logan opted not to serve. He’s a self-made man, corrupted by money and power, yes, but arguably it’s money and power that he achieved on his own. He provides for all of his family very handsomely, though he is of course, responsible for messing them up monumentally too. So yes, Logan is at the top of the tree for terribleness, but for the purposes of this, the fact that he wasn’t born into money and privilege gets him some points. He might still be the biggest bastard, but let’s take a look at the other contenders…
The eldest son of the Roy clan initially appears comparatively harmless, staying well away from Waystar business, preferring to hang around on his ranch in New Mexico, doing basically nothing. He’s the classic heir to a fortune – he thinks nothing of money and buys everything, including his ‘girlfriend’ Willa who is a paid escort, who Connor eventually bribes into exclusivity with him. Connor doesn’t understand money because he’s always had it. And he doesn’t understand lives other than his own, though he pretends to be interested in politics. While he claims to be generally peaceful and benevolent, we see he can be an absolute monster when he explodes at the staff at the charity event he manages.
When Connor decides to run for President with a political plan which will abolish all taxes we see just how awful he is and what a dangerous human being someone with that little clue and that much money can be. It’s Logan who eventually forces him (with more money) to abandon his presidential campaign – another point in Logan’s favour: at least he’s not an idiot like his eldest. But Connor has disadvantages in his life too. He’s not that smart. We don’t know who or where his mother is but we know he spent a certain amount of his childhood living with Logan and his half-siblings. And he’s just not as ingrained in the Roy family as Kendall, Roman and Shiv.
The most openly business-minded of his generation of Roys, the conflict between Kendall and Logan is the overarching narrative of the show. Will Kendall take over from his father, and if so, when? Season one includes Kendall’s move to secure a vote of no confidence against his father from the board of Waystar – a bold move which is ultimately unsuccessful essentially due to the force of Logan’s will. Logan refuses to leave the room for the vote, convincing certain board members to vote with him or abstain, including Roman. Kendall is ostracized and makes moves to wrestle Waystar from Logan in other ways, until something terrible happens, putting Kendall firmly back under his father’s command. Theirs is a love/hate relationship. Kendall is desperate for his father’s approval and when he can’t achieve that, feels compelled to burn their relationship to the ground. Logan rejects Kendall’s quest for approval and is betrayed by his son and yet in the final shot of season two, where Kendall gives a press conference absolutely throwing Logan under the bus for the cruise line cover up, Logan’s smile seems to indicate the tiniest level of pride in the ruthlessness Ken has finally shown. Kendall is a relapsed addict who is separated from his wife and children. He is clearly a very damaged man and it’s easy to have a level of sympathy for him – he does have a conscience, though he frequently compromises it.
But then there’s the aforementioned ‘terrible thing’. Kendall killed someone. At Tom and Shiv’s wedding, seeking narcotics, Kendall asks a member of the waiting staff (who had been fired by Logan) if he can sort him out. The young man, Andrew Dobbs, gets them ketamine, which they both take. Pushing Andrew to take them to another deal, an accident occurs and the car runs off the road into a lake. Kendall escapes but Andrew does not. Kendall leaves the scene of the crime. Unfortunately he accidentally drops his room key. Logan covers his son’s tracks, but now Kendall is completely under his dad’s control (until he’s not). So Kendall may be the only Roy who is directly responsible for someone’s death but other family members have been indirectly complicit. Kendall does, however, feel guilt. He may have been cowardly and fled the scene of Andrew’s death but he is eaten up by it. Which is more than can be said for Roman…
At a baseball game Roman offers a kid a million dollars if he can hit a home run. The kid tries and fails so he doesn’t get his money. This is Roman being a little shit, rubbing his privilege in the face of people who have less than him. It’s a move bordering on psychopathy. Roman is immature, he has a streak of cruelty to him and he’s the most crass of the Roy children. Lest we forget he also put absolutely loads of people’s lives in danger by ignoring safety concerns in relation to the Japanese space launch, moving it forward so that it would occur on the day of Shiv’s wedding. When the spaceship explodes he turns his phone off and ignores attempts to contact him. Roman is incredibly lucky – no one died as a result (although someone lost an arm and two people lost thumbs). Roman is overjoyed and feels no remorse.
Roman is awful. Irresponsible, spineless, amoral, yes, but he’s probably not evil. Also as the youngest male Roy, Roman was bullied as a child. He recalls being locked in a dog cage and forced to eat dog food which resulted in him wetting the bed. His brothers recall it differently – they say he loved the game and the food was chocolate cake. Even though Roman is overlooked constantly for the top spot at Waystar he does have some affection for his family. When Ken has truly fallen off the wagon after the failed vote of no confidence it’s Roman who goes to rescue him. Roman is clearly damaged, and this manifests in his dysfunctional relationships with his girlfriends. Later he forms a relationship with Gerri that has a dominant/submissive element that seems to work better for him and appears to be based on genuine affection. Roman also isn’t as dumb as he looks. After the hostage situation in Turkey where Jamie Laird thinks they negotiated a great deal, Roman is able to tell that the whole thing wasn’t real. Although he does buy his Dad the wrong football team…
On paper Shiv is the smallest bastard (of the Roys at least). She’s the most moderate, the least overtly cruel, she’s intelligent, and has a moral compass (of sorts). But look again. The youngest of the Roy kids and Logan’s only daughter is clearly her father’s favourite. She doesn’t get told to “Fuck Off!” as much as the others, although Logan does still screw her over after telling her that she would be his replacement at Waystar. Clever, beautiful, privileged, Shiv can afford to appear benevolent. But she should know better. Shiv is an absolute monster to her fiance and later husband, Tom Wambsgans. She casually cheats on him before they are married and tells him on their wedding night that she wants an open relationship. She teases him mercilessly at the double date that she and Tom have with Roman and Tabitha and it’s clear in their relationship she has all the power. She even forces Tom to tell her about the cruise ship scandal so she can use it as ammo against her father while she is working for Gil Eavis – her father’s political nemesis. Though Shiv does make various moves to protect Tom professionally, it’s very clear that she’s the boss in that relationship – not in itself a dick move but it’s hard not to pity Tom.
Shiv may claim to be more liberal than the family, but it is her who talks the witness out of going to trial about the cruise ship scandal, and she does this in an insidious way that would not be possible without her mild manner and were she a male. Shiv’s worst trait is that she knows better. She doesn’t have to be a bastard but sometimes she just is.
Tom is a tricky one. It would be very easy to conclude that, yep, it’s Tom. Tom is gross. He’s slimy and obsequious, he’s pathetic but he’s also a massive bully. The way he treats Greg from episode one is with the most objectionable intimidation tactics. He’s not related to Greg. Greg is nervous and young. While the other Roys generally ignore or exploit Greg, Tom’s behaviour is aggressively nasty even though Greg seems to have some kind of loyalty to him. When Greg resolves to tell Tom what he saw at the pre-wedding dinner – Shiv having an intimate conversation with Nate – Tom hits him and pushes him over. Tom punches down, hard. He has been told by the Roys to cover up the cruise liner scandal, he in turn recruits Greg to shred incriminating documents, putting him in the firing line.
Greg and Tom are both outsiders, they will never be in the true Roy inner circle. But either could walk away and both choose not to, drawn as they are to the money, glamour and power the family wields.
A key episode focusing on the two is when Tom takes Greg for a night out. They eat deep fried, whole, rare songbird under the cover of a napkin, they go to a nightclub and get bottle service so they are essentially in the club, but not in the club. Tom teaches Greg how to be filthy rich. It’s a step towards Greg’s undoing (more on that in a minute).
Tom humiliates and bullies Greg but needs him nonetheless. Meanwhile he sucks up to the Roys even as they repeatedly humiliate him. He may love Shiv but he also puts his own career ahead of hers – even when it looks like she might be in the frame to take over, he wants to talk about what is in it for him.
Tom is awful, and he’s possibly the easiest of the clan to hate – there’s something about his utter lack of dignity which is uncomfortable to watch. But then in the season two finale Tom delivers a line to Shiv, which is, for the show, unusually honest. Confronting her about the open-marriage that has been thrust upon him he tells her, “I wonder if the sad I’d be without you, would be less than the sad I get from being with you.” And in that moment, he probably isn’t the absolute worst afterall.
Greg is us. He’s the gangly relative who has no idea what he’s getting into, a man who arrives at his great Uncle Logan’s birthday party only to find that Logan thinks his name is ‘Craig’. He was a waster who worked as a costumed mascot at one of Logan’s theme parks until he got stoned and vomited out of his character’s eye hole. His grandfather is Logan’s estranged brother, Ewan, who Logan taunts and fights with and has a complex love/hate relationship with. At the start Greg ‘the egg’ is an innocent chancer.
But by the close of season 2 he is not. He’s got involved in the cover up of the cruise line scandal. He’s blackmailed Tom. He’s established which champagne is his favourite. He has sided with Logan over his own Grandfather. And by the end he has sided with Kendall over Logan. Greg is not the biggest bastard in Succession… yet. But he has potential. The first two seasons have been something of a descent into hell for The Egg. He’s been seduced by the money and power and is gradually learning what he needs to do to make sure he comes out on top. And he can see it isn’t via loyalty and a strong moral compass. Season three may see Greg come into his own even more. We can’t wait to see him sore to new abominable heights.
It’s a toughy then. But here is our “Succession Bastard Ranking” as it stands:
- Logan Roy
- Shiv Roy
- Tom Wambsgans
- Connor Roy
- Roman Roy
- Kendall Roy
- Greg Hirsh
Who do you think is Succession’s biggest bastard? Make your case in the comments!