Every year, some of the richest and worst people in the world descend upon the Alpine town of Davos for the World Economic Forum, where they all basically make business deals and complain about the poor and mock Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and essentially jerk each other off. Aren’t you so glad Succession tackled Davos this week with “Argestes”?
Argestes, which the show describes as a “media and banking retreat,” stands in for Davos here, and many of the details sync up with stories that come out of that annual event. The absurdity of the badges, the pretension of the panels, the faux-in-touch-with-nature guided walks and hikes, the $75 cobb salads. It’s literally all bad, and it’s infecting the Roy family, too. There was a touch of mania in everyone’s interactions this week after what ostensibly was a win at Tern Haven, with the Pierces eventually caving to Logan’s demands. We’re now some weeks later, and the two sides are still ironing out the details, but the Roys are getting antsy—and Kendall the Killer is still being sent out to clean up after Logan. Look at how quickly Kendall can morph into a person he clearly hates being when he speaks to the lawyers in the back of the private jet: “You’re making me look like a hack and I will not have it! Stop sucking each other off back here! Crack the fucking whip! Everything you’re doing is fucking bullshit, and I’m very disappointed in you! I will fucking fire you! Put the fucking snacks away!” It is a barrage, and clearly one influenced by the way Papa Roy speaks to his minions, and when Kendall knocked the bag of pretzels or chips or whatever out of that guy’s hands, it felt like violence. (Speaking of violence—we’ll get back to that.)
While Kendall, Roman, and Gerri remain in Logan’s tight inner circle, they’re joined by Hugo Baker (Fisher Stevens!!), senior vice president of communications for parks and cruises, and his presence should pique your interest. An executive involved in cruises should jog your memory. And while the circle has expanded to include Hugo, Shiv is initially on the outs, and I must say, she seems very much like a petulant child here, whining to Frank (“You know what he promised me” was positively pouty) before being invited to Argestes to help the family figure out a maneuver to counteract the expose New York Magazine is working on about the cruise indiscretions—you know, those papers Greg and Tom destroyed, but that Greg kept some of to leverage his career? Take a look at the New York magazine headline: “Lost at Sea: At Waystar Royco, A Culture of Abuse and Cover-Ups: What Lies Beneath? Unexplained Deaths, Sexual Exploitation and Cover-Ups at Waystar Cruises.”
Now, would a good headline writer actually use the word “cover-ups” twice, both in the main headline and the subhead? I do not think so! But no matter, because the piece sends everyone into a tizzy. First, Shiv’s advice is once again ignored, as Logan prefers Kendall’s method of “kill, kill, kill”—and the magazine balks at being bullied, publishing the piece anyway. “Tom, the piece is not about you!” Shiv reassures him, but come on! This cannot be good for Tom and also cannot be good for Greg, who is doing cocaine now? That’s bad! As is the realization that ATN is spying on people (like we know the Alexa can!), which results in the terrible new slogan “We here for you,” which makes no sense! Watching Tom try to sell it on the Argestes stage made me very uncomfortable! Things are not looking good for Wamsgans!
Second, the New York Magazine piece breaks online just as Rhea and Nan Pierce are sitting down for breakfast with Kendall and Logan, resulting in two things: Nan realizing that something is up with how hard Rhea is gunning for this merger between PMG and Waystar Royco, and Rhea realizing that the Roys just made her job advocating for this takeover much, much harder.
And third, the possibility that the Pierce deal doesn’t go through—news flash, of course it doesn’t—leads Gerri to recommend to Logan that Roman reach out to Eduard Asgarov (Babak Tafti), an Azerbaijani heir to another familial fortune, who potentially could buy Waystar Royco itself. That would allow the company to go private, meaning that the shareholders no longer matter, meaning that the takeover bid by Stewy and Sandy (um, did you hear he might have syphilis? LOL) would no longer matter, meaning that the buying of PMG no longer matters. And so Roman does his whole failson charm thing with Eduard, who rightfully mocks Roman for knowing nothing about him (“Borat the fucking pipeline”) and who makes a counteroffer: If the Roys help Eduard’s family set up what would essentially be a propaganda network in Azerbaijan, they’ll buy the company. “News with a positive agenda, a positive agenda for my region … 100% independent, but from our point of view” of course means that the Asgarovs want their own version of ATN, and why would Roman say no to that? Not even Gerri says no that! The lines of communication are open, and maybe the Asgarovs can be an ally that the Pierces aren’t.
But on their own, when they’re all alone, who are the Roys? That’s a question the episode answers after the three Roy children appear on a panel at Argestes, speaking over each other and counteracting each other, with Shiv landing a major blow on Logan by calling her father an “old dinosaur.” During the post-panel debrief, there’s a shocking moment that I thought hinted at years of backstory for Logan and his children: the backhanded slap he delivers to Roman when he’s angry at Shiv, and the way everyone responded. Remember last season, when he hit Kendall’s son Iverson? That seemed, at the time, like a one-off incident, a result from Logan not being fully together after his stroke. But this abuse of Roman feels normal, like a routine everyone has seen before. Kendall jumps into action (“Don’t fucking touch him!”), but Shiv doesn’t seem that surprised. Gerri and Tom are aghast, but Marcia isn’t. And Roman himself defuses the situation, refuses to make a big deal of it, spits out blood and a tooth (“I’ll get another one”) and walks away. Children who are used to being abused do that. And so all of the weird shit we mock Roman about—his sexual shit, his shame kink, the way he mimics Logan’s racism and sexism as a way to curry favor—seems to make a little bit more sense now. When you don’t want to get hit again, you’ll do whatever it takes. And the fear that you live with as a result of that? That fear is toxic.
ODDS AND ENDS
+ Marcia swears to stand by Logan’s side (“When I am with someone, I am with them … I know who you are”), but I’m not so sure about that. She’s spent years balancing a tricky relationship with Shiv, and the fact that Shiv knew something Marcia didn’t about the future of the company hurt. How does she respond to Rhea knowing more, too?
+ Some solid Greg this episode, from him telling Eduard he was a “big fan, of all your money” to his worry about the comedian at the roast: “Oh shit, I hope he doesn’t know me!” Greg, buddy, no one knows you.
+ I love Frank and his approach to working at Waystar Royco: “I like to recite Prufrock internally, to numb the pain.”
+ Shiv’s fashion dominance continues. Who else is out here with these exceptional turtleneck/high-waisted-slacks combinations? NO ONE.
+ So many anti-Kendall faces at Argestes! Sandy! Lawrence, from Vaulter! And Stewy, who looked very handsome and who reveled in the New York Magazine story. Of the Pierce deal, he mocks Kendall: “Dead in the water now, right, like some of the women that went on those cruises!” I’m sorry, I laughed.
+ Speaking of Stewy: He’s played by actor Arian Moayed, who has Iranian ancestry, and Babak Tafti, who plays Eduard, ALSO has Iranian ancestry. I love this show for many reasons, but honestly, having two cast members with this kind of ethnic heritage who aren’t automatically playing terrorists is another benefit. Sure, Eduard’s shoes might be made from the “the skin … of human rights activists”! But I love seeing two Iranian actors getting this kind of glow-up and on a show this hyped. Color me pleased.
+ Rhea certainly flirted with Logan a lot before she was fired by the Pierces: “You’re an old rhino, I’m just a flighty little sparrow” is practically sexting. But now that she’s fired as CEO of PMG, does that relationship change?
+ Tom really wanted the champagne and paperweight gift box in his chalet, but I personally would prefer the nut and fruit box. Um, “the cashews are the size of boomerangs”! Also speaking of Tom, love his continued jealousy over Shiv sleeping with other people. This open marriage is not going to work out.
+ Seeing Shiv vacillate between downplaying the impact of the article to her family and performing the role of outraged woman on the panel was fascinating, wasn’t it? I’m honestly surprised by the different reactions to the New York Magazine piece: Of course Roman didn’t get it (“Is this one of those things I need a woman to explain to me why it’s bad?” was very on brand) and of course Gerri was figuring out ways to spin it, but Kendall being shocked by the story and Shiv just rolling with it was not the dichotomy I expected. Gerri’s analysis of “It’s one woman in the 1990s, not like 20 women four years ago” was perfectly countered with Kendall’s “I’m glad we’re able to do such good victim math,” but of course none of it matters because Logan makes it all about himself: “They don’t give a flying fuck for those poor bitches, they hate me.” His narcissism and megalomania will not be contained—and now we see, again, why the family called the deceased Waystar Royco executive “Mo” instead of his given name “Lester.” Most everyone in the highest Waystar Royco circles knew about what was going on at cruises, and I’m curious how much of their common knowledges becomes common knowledge.
+ Loved Nan Pierce’s performative shock at the Argestes prices and just ordering tap water. Woman, you have billions. Pretty sure you could have ordered one of those $75 Cobb salads and expensed it.
+ No Roman Roy masturbation this episode, but he did propose to Gerri, which was so bizarre that I almost consider it genuine? Of course, it was surrounded in his usual bullshit: Calling himself a “rockstar moron” and “Jagger Tarzan” while dubbing Gerri a “mole woman,” “wallpaper,” and a “boring old sort of nothing” before deciding “clever filing cabinet” was a compliment. He absolutely sucks at this! But I do think there is some sort of sincerity in his wanting Gerri to be “properly fuck you I don’t even care about climate change I’m in New Zealand with my own private army rich, not like some pathetic asshole beach house on the Vineyard rich,” and of course, it’s good for Roman too to have her as an ally. I just also think he might be a little bit in love with her.
Image sources (in order of posting): HBO Media Relations, HBO/Succession