Normally, when a family member days, their children will take some time to grieve. In Succession, Shiv Roy schedules her grief, booking an empty meeting room somewhere in the bowels of one of Waystar RoyCo’s Los Angeles properties to cry for a few minutes. Roman Roy fires anyone who wakes the dragon (sorry, that’s a different successor to a very different throne) and listens to a voice-edited video of his dead dad insulting him over and over and over again, just to hear his voice, his name on his father’s lips.
And Kendall, well, he brings his father up onstage with him at the Investor’s Day presentation and has a ghoulish, gimmicky conversation with Logan for all the world to see. He’s still trying to blow up the deal with Lukas Mattson, and even though nobody has faith in his harebrained schemes, he actually knocks this one out of the park.
Gated communities. Infinite freedom.
The idea is Living+ and Mattson hates it. Kendall cynically describes it as a plan to “warehouse the elderly and keep them drunk on content while we suck ’em dollar-dry.” By the end of the episode, it’s a visionary killer app that could turn the company around.
Living+ is the gated community of the future, an all-in-one, high-tech real estate venture that promises state-of-the-art security, entertainment and—most importantly—eternal life. Sort of. “If not forever,” Kendall says at one point, “live … more forever.”
Baby steps. For now, Living+ promises a future with all the best creature comforts technology has to offer, and medical care that only billionaires can currently receive. It’s a pipe-dream, but not actually that implausible. We’ve all been raised on promises of a techno-future, whether it’s the marvelous medicine of Star Trek or the gadgety houses of The Jetsons. In that show, the Skypad Apartments in Orbit City could even be raised up above the bad weather.
And why not? Why not make up fake numbers to drive the price of Waystar RoyCo up above the bad weather, too? Onscreen, the ghost of Logan Roy promises “double” the profits, but it’s all fake. It’s all a lie, a not-so-subtle editing of what the Roy patriarch actually said, edited together by a beleaguered worker that Greg strong-arms into the task.
This is all grief. All resentment. All love. All hate. The whole play to sink the deal. Roman wants to honor his father’s legacy and Kendall wants to destroy it and both think that they can achieve these goals through the same foolish, selfish, brash play to scuttle the GoJo deal. And you know what? I’m all for it. The senior leadership is terrified and for that reason alone, the joker in me just wants to watch the whole thing burn. Kendall and Roman and Shiv may all be jerks, but they’re our jerks at this point. And I think by now we’d all like to see that smirk wiped right off Lukas Mattson’s handsome Swedish face.
Like Kendall with the investors and markets, Jeremy Strong pulls this speech off with the kind of deft skill we’ve come to expect. It’s a tightrope he’s walking. He has to convey two separate things: First, the cringe factor of what he’s saying to everyone behind the scenes who knows how full of crap he is; but also a convincing, moving enough presentation that the markets eat it up. Strong manages to walk the line, even tearing up a little when he says that if he could have just one more year with his dad, he’d take it.
Shiv’s grief leads her into both verbal and literal biting contests with her ex, the dopey Tom Wambsgans. They sip wine and trade barbs. Then Shiv asks him to “play bitey” with her. It’s not the weirdest Roy family tradition we’ve seen, but it’s up there. The idea is you each get hold of one another’s forearms and bite down. Whoever gives up first loses. Tom actually wins, surprisingly enough, and it all ends up just being foreplay.
Later, we see them buttoning back up after a romp in the sheets, and Tom tells her he wants her back. He says, if he’s being honest he’s always had a thing for money. “I like nice things. I do,” he says. “If you think that’s shallow, why don’t you throw out all your stuff for love? Throw out your necklaces and your jewels for a date at a three-star Italian. Come and live with me in a trailer park. Yeah?” he says. “Are you coming?”
“I’d follow you anywhere for love, Tom Wambsgans,” Shiv replies. They chortle hideously, but at least they’re finally being honest. Maybe they are perfect for one another, after all. Both Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook are riveting throughout all these darkly comic rom-com moments.
- Roman and Gerri’s scene was terrific, with both Kieran Culkin and J. Smith-Cameron knocking a tense verbal sparring out of the park. We’ve come a long ways from their weird sexual tension to him demanding her respect and fake-firing her. Since when does Roman want anything but shame?
- Karl perhaps unwittingly gives Kendall just the boost he needs moments before he goes on stage, when he tells him that if he says anything that isn’t true, he’ll “squeal.” I can only imagine Kendall thought to himself, “Like a pig.” This was moments after double letdowns: Roman urging his brother to reconsider the plan (after Shiv planted seeds of doubt) and the disaster with the fake stage house and clouds. Kendall’s look of dejection after both these events made me think for a second that he’d capsize, but Karl gave him a reason to go for the kill.
- No Connor this episode and very little Tom and Greg banter. Logan’s absence is also certainly felt, even if we got a few lines from the old bastard. But I think in his absence we feel his presence even more, if that makes any sense. The sheer weight of his legacy, of his children’s grief and uncertainty, of the way everything hinges on what happens next now that the king is dead, all hangs like a great shadow above all the events as they unfold, as though in death he’s become, Jedi-like, even stronger and more powerful. You cannot kill what’s already dead.
- Mattson’s tweet is “Doderick Macht Frei” which is a play on the Nazi phrase “Arbeit macht frei” which appeared on the entrances to Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz. The Nazi phrase translates to “work sets you free” (which is awfully grim) and Mattson’s (deeply inappropriate) tweet is a play on this. Doderick, you may recall, is the goofy dog mascot that Greg was originally dressed up in at the Waystar-owned theme-park, and Mattson’s tweet has Doderick not at a theme park but at a concentration camp. This is a play on Shiv’s own words to Mattson: “Prison camps for grannies.” He deletes the tweet.
All told, another terrific episode of Succession with some pretty unsettling implications when you think about what the Roys are actually pitching with Living+. Mattson was largely a bee buzzing about the room this episode, but judging by the trailer for next week’s episode, that won’t last long:
I really do want to know what “reverse-Viking” means. Can’t wait.
Read my past Succession reviews below:
Also, here’s my discussion of the show’s characters ranking them from least to most deplorable. Who are your favorites?