Recap: Season 2 of ‘Succession’ Ends With Not a Blood Sacrifice, But With Kendall Starting a War Against the Roys in ‘This is Not for Tears’
Let’s begin with a juxtaposition, shall we? First there’s this, from Daddy Logan Roy: “I trust you … You’re not a killer. You have to be a killer.”
And then there’s this from Kendall Roy, who Gerri mistakenly identifies as Logan’s first-born son but come on, for all intents and purposes, he basically is:
And we have ourselves a WAR. Was there a better way Succession could have ended its phenomenal second season? No, I don’t think so. The finale “This is Not for Tears” (one of the only episodes this season not named for a specific location, but more for a feeling) blows apart relationships throughout the entire Roy family: Kendall and Logan, of course, but also Kendall and his siblings; Shiv and Tom, their marriage basically over; Roman and Shiv, now that Roman has the full COO job and Shiv has nothing official within Waystar Royco; and Greg and Tom, since Greg flipped onto Kendall’s side, providing him with the documents that he copied instead of fully destroying. Those had been Greg’s insurance policy, but now they’re Kendall’s too, what he’ll use to prove to the entire world that his father is, well, an asshole.
Let’s back it up to before that revelation, before Kendall throws a Molotov cocktail into what should have been a perfectly normal, perfectly boring press conference in which he would willingly take the fall for something his father spent decades knowing about and ignoring. Before all that, the Roy family and their highest-up employees meet on the family yacht (which Marcia has had garishly refitted as a parting shot against Logan; it’s not clear if they’re getting a divorce, but they’re certainly living separately at this point) to determine who will take the fall for the cruises scandal. It’s a very faux-nice way of doing an awful thing. Remember how Gwyneth Paltrow bragged about how her divorce from Coldplay’s Chris Martin was “conscious uncoupling,” as if that was some very polite way of disentangling yourselves from each other’s lives? This is basically Waystar Royco’s version of that, but everyone is on fucking edge, everyone is terrified for their job, and everyone is ready to stab each other in the back.
Let’s briefly cycle through all the kids, and where they stand. Connor is delighted that his Con-Heads have made his fist-pump from Kendall’s testimony into a viral meme, but he’s also bleeding money and trying to hide negative reviews of Sands from Willa (SHOCKING that the play is being panned, truly shocking). Sands is costing him $500,000 a week, and the campaign costs are adding up, and so he asks Logan for “a little $100 mil,” to which Logan nearly laughs in his face. Logan’s “You’re fucking embarrassing me” is a perfect response, and a reminder that Logan doesn’t want his life in the spotlight. He wants to operate behind the scenes, and Connor is making that very difficult—and so if Connor quits his campaign, Logan will give him the money. Before then, though? No chance.
Next up is Roman, who after being taken hostage almost seems like an entirely different person? Gentler, nicer, and a better businessman? He urges Logan away from doing business with Eduard and the Azeri contingent, and his rejection of getting into bed with them as a way to go private cuts banker Jaime Laird (finally, we learn Danny Huston’s full name!) out of the deal. That’s a trusted adviser out the door, but also a redeeming moment for Roman, whose only other major move this year was shutting down Vaulter, which felt less like a decision based on real business acumen and more just a way to fuck over Kendall. But after Kendall’s defense of Roman post-Logan’s slap, there’s a different relationship between the two—they keep asking each other if they’re OK this episode, they have each other’s backs. During the circle jerk of who should be thrown under the bus, neither of them says the other. And so it kind of breaks my heart a little bit to wonder how much of Kendall’s concern for Roman was a performance, if any. I don’t know! But Kendall had to know he would be hurting Roman too as he goes for Logan’s jugular, and that’s a little emotionally shattering.
Where is Shiv in all this? Well, Shiv goes full Logan’s Daughter in this episode; I’m not sure she has any emotions left to give. You remember in It’s Always Sunny when Dennis admits he doesn’t have any feelings? That’s basically the vibe I got from Shiv last night, who keeps herself close to Daddy at all times, following up on the conversation she had with him last week about Kendall and beckoning Kendall to his fate. And when she’s not spending all the time on the boat with Logan, she’s basically watching her relationship with Tom blow up in her face. She tries to sell him on a threesome in the same way she kept Kira quiet: “I want you to see the benefits of the arrangement” is not really sexy talk, you know? She tries to tamp down his admission that he’s not happy in the marriage. And when she begs Logan not to make Tom the blood sacrifice, it feels like a parting gift, not a way to keep the marriage together. Shiv went full Icharus this season, flying far too close to the sun, and I’m not sure what her role is moving forward—especially now that the Logans are in all-out war.
What was most fascinating about this finale was the way everyone on that yacht traded blame around, and not even one person acknowledged that the shareholders’ demand that it be Logan who step down should be entertained. Instead, they knew Logan’s line about them all being a family, and that sometimes family takes the fall for each other, was bullshit, but they went along with it anyway. They’ve always gone along with it anyway. And for what? I think Stewy—my GOD, was Arian Moayed handsome last night in that blue suit—puts it best when he very blandly says that none of this is personal. It’s just about the slight possibility of making slightly more money. That’s what has Kendall suggesting Gerri, Roman defending Gerri (aww!) and gunning for Frank, Frank going for Karl, Karl going back to Gerri, Roman jumping back in to defend Gerri (“We take out a senior woman … Haven’t we killed enough women already?” is a very astute point, actually), Roman pivoting to Tom, Kendall and Karl jumping in for Tom too, Shiv sort of defending Tom but not really, Tom going for Shiv, Gerri going for Shiv (!!!), Roman suggesting Tom and Greg, Greg parrying that Roman is “widely known as a horrible person,” and Shiv laughing at Connor offering to take the fall if he gets a big-enough payoff.
Phew! That is a lot of backstabbing, and it’s amazing that the only people who really defend each other are Gerri and Roman! Excuse me, I’m sorry, they belong together.
And yet. And yet! How many of those people stay on Logan’s side once they learn what Kendall knows? What Greg has in his possession? Does Tom flip, too, since his marriage to Shiv is basically over? Does Gerri stay by Roman’s side, once she sees the ship going down? Would Logan consider leaking Kendall’s involvement in that young man’s death? Or would that just make Logan look awful, too, that he basically blackmailed Kendall back into the family fold about this? What is Marcia’s role? DOES Marcia have a role? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS. And I KNOW Roman said, “You don’t answer the questions. That’s like, rule one,” BUT I NEED THEM ANSWERED. Goddammit, we have to wait a a whole year at least for the next chapter in the Roy family war? THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.
ODDS AND ENDS
+ LOVE that the fake Napoleon dick came up again, and that Logan shamed Connor for spending $500,000 on it, and that Connor’s reply was, “That’s irrelevant!” Excuse me, is it really irrelevant when you’re asking your dad for $100 million, though?
+ Cousin Gregory had some laughs this episode for sure (“What if I said, ‘No woman, no cry’ to every single question?”), and I smirked at the possibility that neither the Roy family yacht nor the champagne was good enough for him, but maybe Uncle Ewan’s disgust at Waystar Royco got to him after all. I’m curious to see what a Kendall/Greg alliance looks like in real time.
+ As always, leave it to Roman to say one true thing (“It was actually fucking scary and we thought that they might kill us”) and one fake thing (“You know, they raped me a little, but I’m not a hero”).
+ Is it poetic justice that Tom mocked Greg for his “benign fungus,” saying that it should be title of his memoir, when given how things played out with those hidden documents, GREG WOULD PROBABLY TOTALLY WRITE A BEST-SELLING MEMOIR? I MEAN!
+ Connor’s long pause after Willa’s “Read me one good one” was TOO LONG. That was your downfall, my man!
+ Not surprised that Shiv would be the first one to mock Roman’s “Is there a thing where we like, talk to each other about stuff, normally?” They’ve always had an amusingly oppositional relationship, but I’m curious how that changes—if at all—now that Kendall is totally out.
+ Don’t you feel like Logan’s defense of himself with his “I never did anything really” is totally how some men feel about sexism and the patriarchy? Sure, they KNEW about bad shit, but they were never directly involved, so what’s the harm? My take on that: Fuck all y’all.
+ “Roman, we’re real people!” “You are not”—I will be laughing about that exchange for a while.
+ Did you know that the actress who plays Karolina, Dagmara Domińczyk, is a published author, and Gerri is reading her book The Lullaby of Polish Girls: A Novel on the Roy family yacht? She is, and she is!
+ Shiv’s creamy jumpsuit with the wrap-around detail is her best outfit of the episode. EXCEPTIONAL. But the backless turtleneck gown from a few episodes ago is still the all-time best.
+ Let us all show some respect to Matthew Macfadyen, who was hilariously tragic as Tom this episode, from his “Next cove please, Julius” to “I’m not a hippie, Shiv. I don’t want to stuff a dildo up my…” to his final excellent moment: eating Logan’s chicken.
If we never see Tom again, may this be his legacy.
+ While running on the treadmill, Kendall is listening to “North American Scum” by LCD Soundsystem, which is very on brand for his self-loathing.
+ EVERY REFERENCE TO THE GODFATHER SERIES IS A GOOD REFERENCE, AND I LOVED THIS MOMENT SO MUCH. We should have known Kendall was going to double-cross Logan when he went all Michael Corleone vs. Fredo. PERFECTON.
+ Naomi Pierce reads Logan Roy better than nearly anyone else, I think: “Ken, he loves the broken you. That’s what he loves.” I was more affected by her leaving the yacht (after Logan’s “I’m not sure we have enough provisions!” LOL) than I anticipated, I’ll be honest.
+ Arian Moayed, ladies and gentlemen. WHEW. I will be revisiting this scene for a long time, thank you.
+ Do I think that Logan actually loved Marcia? Yes. WHY did he think it would work out with Rhea? Because he’s such an egomaniacal insane person? Also yes.
+ If you want to read Kendall’s entire statement before the press, here you go:
“I have been asked to explain my own role in the managing of illegality at the firm and associated cover ups. And it has been suggested I would be a suitable figure to absorb the anger and concern. But the truth is that my father is a malignant presence, a bully, and a liar. And he was fully personally aware of these events for many years, and made efforts to hide and cover up. He had a twisted sense of loyalty to bad actors like Lester McClintock and a disregard for the safety of migrant workers, nonunion and union workers, and for vulnerable performers and guests. My father keeps a watchful eye over every inch of his whole empire. And the notion that he would have allowed millions of dollars in settlements and compensations to be paid without his explicit approval is utterly fanciful. I have with me today copies of records that show his personal sign off. How much those of us who executed his wishes bear responsibility is for another day, but I think this is the day his reign ends. I’ll be providing the documents and can answer any questions you may have in the coming days. Thank you very much.”
Image sources (in order of posting): HBO Media Relations, HBO/Succession