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Last night's premiere of "Succession" was the first time I made an actual appointment for scripted adult TV since "The Sopranos" ended. This is not because I'm lazy — although I very much am — but because I had long since grown accustomed to the binge TV economy, where the "managed dissatisfaction," as Netflix founder Reed Hastings called it, of arranging your time around a show instead of the other way around no longer exists. No show should ever dictate the terms of your life to you and, thanks to streaming, it can't.
But hey, if one current show was ever gonna make that demand and curtly tell you to F—K OFF if you didn't obey… well now, "Succession" is the one. Fail to keep up and it will be a CRISIS. Your handlers will cautiously deliver the news to you in hushed, understated terms, praying you don't blow a gasket. Cousin Greg will monitor Twitter to gauge the public's perception of your TV watching habits in real time. You may have to lay low in Sarajevo —like the Roys — for a few months until the whole thing blows over.
That said, if you wanna cheat and pretend you watched the premiere last night, or if you did watch and wanna participate in some of the ol' water cooler chat, allow me to be your Prestige TV concierge this morning. I'm here to answer all of your questions about last night. And by "your" questions I mean questions that I'm about to put in your mouth right now. So let's get to that.
Wait, will there be spoilers in this bad boy?
You know there will be. Although Logan Roy's ATN News would tell you that revealing spoilers is a personal choice, not a political one. My freedoms must be respected.
Was it a good episode?
It was. In fact, last night's premiere was one of the best episodes of the show I'd ever seen. And that's not Recency Bias talking, because I had only finished the second season the day before. This was my first venture joining the "Succession" discourse in real time. My timing was impeccable.
Anyway, this episode was probably the fastest paced one in the series' relatively short lifespan. And even though there are still a handful of mandatory scenes where all of the main characters tensely gather together to say horrible s—t about one another and pretend they're not psychologically devastated in the process, those scenes also breeze by in a wink. The show is a page turner.
Are there lots of gratuitous shots of motorcades slowly rumbling through downtown Manhattan?
Hell yes. Love those.
After Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) betrayed his father (Brian Cox) at the end of season two by holding a press conference to implicate him in a panoply of ocean sex crimes, did he go groveling back to him in the premiere like some pathetic loser?
He did not. I'm proud of my boy. Instead of the "broken you" Kendall of season two, we've got a reinvigorated, quite possibly coked-up Kendall again openly scheming to destroy his old man and dragooning every last friend and potentially worthy business ally within eyeshot to help make it happen. Including Sanaa Lathan, who plays a Gloria Allred-style A-list lawyer. Big, big win for the Kenman.
There's always a danger that showrunners will repeat Kendall's boom/bust character arc from the first two seasons, where he rebels against his father and then is coerced back into line. But this time, ol' Kenny doesn't crash his car into a river and accidentally drown the stoner sitting in his passenger seat, thereby handing Logan the ultimate bargaining chip. In fact, the episode's best moment comes when Kendall, for the very first time, alludes to that killing WITHOUT regret.
When they're in the car being chased by the paparazzi, Cousin Greg goes, "This is like OJ. Except, I mean, if OJ never killed anyone." And then Kendall goes, "Who said I never killed anyone? JUICE IS LOOSE, BABY!!" Then, he smiles broadly. In the broader context, it's chilling. These are monstrous people, after all. But in the "Succession" context, it's EXTREMELY F—KING METAL. It brings us right back to the very first scene in the show's history, when Kendall was singing along to the Beasties and then trying, feebly, to pass himself off as a cold-blooded killer in the boardroom. Maybe, after literally killing a man and then killing off his own identity to protect a father who'll never regard him as an equal, he's finally ready to become one.
Kendall is the heart of the show. I know every "Succession" viewer has their favorites — which change episode by episode — and I'm sure I'll be apprised of those favorites every time I open up Twitter. But the central conflict of the show is the relationship between Kendall and his bastard of an old man. That's where the Shakespeare energy kicks in.
Does Kendall rap this time?
But he still could.
There's always that danger, yes. K to the E-N-D.
Does Kendall, you know, "succeed" his old man in this episode?
Gerri, as played by the terrific J. Smith-Cameron. Gerri gets the title of interim CEO essentially by default, mostly because Logan Roy so thoroughly despises his own children that he wouldn't dare please any of them. The old man is still in charge of his empire and will be until his brain explodes a second time.
One of the main, and fairest, criticisms of "Succession" is that none of its characters are likable. Not even Roman (Kieran Culkin). But just because that's true doesn't mean these characters are uninteresting. This is a show about a family where blood and money are hopelessly intertwined, living at such a far remove from the rest of humanity that they can barely recognize it. So it's fun to watch them maneuver, fail, and then suffer.
As such, the central plotline of the show — who will take over daddy's company? — is of the utmost concern to them. But you and I know that Logan Roy's only plan for succession is for someone to do it by force. So the series' chief story arc is really about which Roy child, or some other third party, will realize this, instead of HOPING they get the call.
Oh, hoping! You're talking about Shiv (Sarah Snook), aren't you?
Daddy leaves her hanging yet again, doesn't he?
He does. Although there's a hint at the end of the episode that Shiv has finally wised up and may join Kendall on the other side of this family blood war. All she had to do to achieve clarity was jettison every last bit of her integrity for a job that she secretly doesn't even want.
What about her husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen)? Is he still a complete tool?
He is, but a strangely vulnerable one.
Hey, what about the girl that blew Tom at his bachelor party and then became Roman's (Kieran Culkin) girlfriend, in a fun little twist that quickly morphed into dead-end subplot?
I guess she's gone. Now we can finally sit back and see if Roman and Gerri finally do it.
No. That would be lame. Much more fun for them to keep doing the weird thing where Gerri debases Roman and he gets wildly hard for it.
What about Logan's wife, Marcia (Hiam Abbass)? Is she gone now?
It certainly appears that way. Kendall hints in the premiere that he has Marcia on his side to take over his father's company, but we never see her on camera. That doesn't mean showrunners aren't scheming to bring her back with a surprising and dramatic flourish. This is a soap opera, after all.
Who else isn't in this episode?
Oscar winner Adrien Brody, who was added to the cast for this season but has yet to appear. I love Adrien Brody, so the sooner his character pops up, the better for me and my TV-watching needs. Also, we don't get any Stewy (Arian Moayed). I love Stewy. He's my kind of s—tbag. I hope he comes back, and I hope he's wearing those nice shoes he always wears.
What about Connor (Alan Ruck)? Is he in this episode? OR DO WE GET A WEEK OFF FROM HIS BULLS—T?
No, he's in this one.
Ugh, indeed. You know how I said fans of "Succession" go back and forth between their favorite characters? That's not the case with Connor Roy, because Connor Roy absolutely sucks. I hope he falls down a storm drain and dies. No offense to Alan Ruck, of course. But I want Connor to die.
Does Brian Cox soberly ask an aide to get him the president in this episode?
Does he get the president?
Nope. Always fun to watch Logan get his s—t ruined. I don't care who defeats him in the end for lifetime rights to The Iron Aeron Chair. I just want the f—ker to get what's been coming to him.
Maybe Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) will be The One!
Everything about "Succession" has hinted at that being the case: the punchline to a very long joke and a wholly appropriate final statement on how corporate America is run. But no, that's not gonna happen. The people in charge of "Succession" are too smart to be that obvious. Much better to watch Cousin Greg fumble his way around while somehow avoiding getting thrown out a window. That's the exact right amount of victory for our man. He's the only consistently lovable character on "Succession," and I'd prefer he stay that way throughout its run.
Is everyone on this show still bad at talking?
I'm sure the "Succession" writers love that so much can be conveyed in such a basic utterance. I remember reading something David Chase (I think!?) once said about how effective TV writing often is about the spaces in between the lines, that people don't actually talk elegantly.
— Jason Gay (@jasongay) October 17, 2021
The fun of "Succession" is watching rich and powerful people consistently fail to articulate even their most basic thoughts and desires. It's like "The Office," but if a gaffe resulted in people far away dying en masse instead of John Krasinski making a WOMP WOMP face to the camera. The reason Logan Roy maintains a stranglehold over his family is because he's the only one who understands that silence is a profoundly useful weapon. And when Logan Roy does talk, it's always gruff, cruel and effective. That's why Cox won himself a Golden Globe. He's got the language of power down cold. A simple "f—k off" lifts a hundred times more weight than any soliloquy ever could, and it's nice (kinda?) to have him and his awful family back for another round. The show's as good as it's ever been.
But I still need Logan to go down at the end. With Connor.
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