I don’t know about you, but when I casually talk about Succession with anyone who doesn’t watch the series, my shorthand way of describing it is something along the lines of, “Awful rich people doing awful rich people things.” And that’s so deeply true in last night’s episode, “DC,” in which every single person involved with Waystar Royco thoroughly demonstrates their unrelentingly ceaseless awfulness.
The Roy children? They are really very much like the Trumps here. Kendall acts as Donald Trump Jr., going on the attack to defend Daddy; Roman, encouraged by his father for possibly the first time ever, goes full Eric Trump by stumbling into success with the Eduard deal …
… and Shiv. My god, Shiv. She Ivankas the hell out of that female whistleblower, Kira (or as Logan calls her, “the supposed victim”), weaponizing the reality of our patriarchal sexist world to her benefit. The way Shiv positioned herself in that scene was exceptional, and horrifying, and is meant to unsettle us. Shiv leveraged all of her family’s power and resources into threatening this woman and making it seem like mercy, and I’m not surprised that woman dropped out of testifying before Congress. Shiv pretended she’s this woman …
But we know that’s not the case. She’s more this:
There are no good kids in the Roy family, not really. Kendall plays the self-righteous journalist, a hilarious take for a man who just gutted a startup media company at the behest of his father. Roman makes moves to align Waystar Royco with a group of corrupt Central Asian moneymen who treat being taken hostage by competing interests as everyday life. Shiv saves the Congressional hearings from spiraling further out of control. And it’s impressive that all the kids are successful in this episode, and they all gain Daddy’s affection, and yet. Who will be the “blood sacrifice”?
Let’s back up to why a “blood sacrifice” is needed in the first place: The airing of an interview on 60 Minutes with cruises whistleblower James Weissel, who is on hand to talk about the “millions and millions of dollars paid out over decades to cover up sexual exploitation and harassment by Brightstar employees.” I loved how the viewing of this interview was set up in Logan’s penthouse, with the all-male inner circle viewing in one room—Logan, Kendall, Roman, Frank, Tom, Connor, and Greg—and another room packed full of the company’s support staff, including Gerri, Hugo, and Karolina. Where was Shiv before she arrives at the penthouse? I’m not sure (although I think people who think Shiv is bankrolling James, or partnered with Stewy and Sandy, could argue that she was meeting with any of them), but when Shiv arrives, she tries to play the whole thing off. Hubby Tom, who was featured heavily in the segment, is breezily called “famous”—but he’s not the only one. Uncle “Mo” Lester, Gerri, Kendall, and former head of cruises Bill Lockhart (Tom’s predecessor) all get airtime, too, and they all come off looking fucking terrible when James describes how many of the incidents on the cruises were written off as “no real person involved.” A sex worker or a migrant worker, or an incident at a foreign port, or a situation not involving a guest or permanent member of the staff, all got classified as “no real person involved,” which really makes you wonder who Waystar Royco considers “real people.”
Shiv is also there to share the news that Congress, led by her former employer and presidential candidate Democratic senator Gil Eaves, is calling for tourism regulatory hearings. And as Hugo says, “I wouldn’t want anyone to underplay how bad it was,” because the segment was awful, and they need to do some damage control. So, led by Gerri (who is ruthlessly efficient this episode, in a way that makes you realize why she was Logan’s new favorite once), they come up with a strategy: Blame everything on Bill. Say Bill tried to clean up Lester’s messes, Bill went rogue in handling this all himself, and Bill didn’t let anyone above him know. Listen to how persuasively Gerri delivers her argument of totally ruining a man’s life:
“I think we say the truth. That the senior cadre here, and the family, knew nothing of this. So we throw Mo overboard. Mo, bad apple. … And in terms of historic shit? I’m afraid we give up Bill. Because he should have let us know what he discovered rather than clean it up. … I don’t think there’s gonna be paper that shows anything beyond Bill. … It seems like Bill is where the buck stops.”
And so that’s the play: Kill Bill, blame Mo. But um, maybe sending out Tom Wambsgans as the face of your company isn’t the right kind of damage control? Because Tom totally chokes in front of Congress, and Gil eats him alive. Now, here is what I can’t figure out: Why was it OK for Gil to question Tom, when he had attended his engagement party and had been invited to his wedding? Why didn’t any of Gil’s opponents in Congress, and therefore Logan’s cronies, bring up that maybe it was a conflict of interest for Gil, for whom Shiv used to work, to question her husband? I remain a little puzzled by that.
But yes! Gil tears Tom apart, bringing up that boxes of cruises evidence that have since gone missing were signed out by Greg—who Tom pretends not to know! You idiots! You’re not even good at doing crimes! Rhea was trying to assuage everyone by calling the hearings “C-Span filler,” but honestly, Tom comes off looking THOROUGHLY out of his depth here. Hugo’s aghast expression at the “man with two assholes” is all of us! And so it falls to Kendall and Logan to take charge of the conversation again, and Logan feeds Kendall to the wolves by giving him up as the head of the entertainment division when all of this was happening, and Kendall knocks it out of the park. He delivers what ATN later spins as a “takedown for the ages,” basically insinuating that Gil is operating under political bias and would rather have state-run media than a free one, and painting himself and Logan and the rest of the Roy family as victims. It’s masterful stuff that has Gerri practically cheering in appreciation, especially when Kendall rightfully points out that Gil keeps appearing on ATN despite railing against it, and Kendall’s great performance makes Tom look even more weak.
And then there’s Shiv, who is sent out for “soft skills, lady-duty shit work” in meeting Kira, and who presents herself as a do-gooder vigilante who will reinvent Waystar Royco: “I wanna clean up. I need it all out there. I wanna fire those bastards. And I want you to help me.” Does Kira fall for it? Not really. But when Shiv lays bare all of the ways Kira’s life will be torn apart—bringing to mind the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, which my friend Jen Chaney at Vulture wrote about—that’s when Kira’s mind begins to change. Out of fear, sure, but cynicism too. Because what is the point of reliving your trauma if it doesn’t change anything? Is there a point at all?
“Kira, you’re in a shitstorm of conflicting interests here. You can’t trust anyone. You just have to be smart. So listen to everyone and make an assessment. ‘Cause frankly, I want what’s best for me. But the other people, the folks who want you to get up there tomorrow and get pulled apart? They want what’s best for them. You need to think about what’s best for you.”
“What’s best for you” is the guiding motivation for most everyone by the end of “DC,” honestly. What’s good for Gerri is to throw Bill under the bus—and even though he threatens Logan at the end with the mention of his “diaries,” they’re still moving forward with it. What’s good for Shiv is to shut up Kira, and she does, restoring herself back in Logan’s good graces. What’s good for Rhea’s conscience, if not her bank account, is to walk away from the CEO of Waystar Royco job, walk away from Logan, who calls her “fungible as fuck,” walk away from a company in which she’ll never truly know what’s going on. What’s good for Kendall, in the moment, is to support his father. What’s good for Roman is to secure the promise from Eduard and his father that they’ll consider buying the company. And what’s good for Logan? Here we are again at the “blood sacrifice,” and I’m pretty sure whatever Logan wants, Logan gets.
ODDS AND ENDS
+ Tom is nearing the end of his rope, right? He looked like a fool before Congress. He let seeing Nate rattle him (although, LOL at Nate’s very smug description of Tom as “a smirking block of domestic feta,” as coined by The Atlantic), and he let Gil rip him apart. Everyone now knows that Greg, his possibly only friend, was involved in the disappearance of evidence—at Tom’s behest. Shit is looking dire! And when he starts accusing Shiv of betraying him, too, it got me wondering. Will Greg turn on Tom? Will Tom turn on Greg? Why would you put anything about using human furniture in work emails? I MEAN. COME ON.
+ Speaking of Greg, my man really needs to stop talking about missing out on the $250 million that Grandpa Ewan would have left him. He’s going to get $5 million anyway! Don’t let Connor get away with calling you the “poorest rich person in America”! In Greg’s own words, “Maybe just try to enjoy it!”
+ I love Frank’s wordiness (“We are unusually subject to the vicissitudes of public opinion”) and Karl’s translation (“That’s Frank for, ‘We’re fucked’”). I also sympathized very deeply with Karl’s panic attack during the hostage situation in Turkey. HOW WAS LAIRD SO CALM?
+ Speaking of Roman, Eduard, and Turkey: Loved Eduard calling Karl and Frank Roman’s “bum-boys,” because who cares about them? They’re replaceable. Roman, as one of Logan’s heirs, isn’t. And so I understood his fear (“Are these terrorists?”) and yet also liked that the show didn’t make this a scene about terrorism or America hatred, but just about the only currencies that matter in this world: money and power. Oh, and the anticorruption protesters with guns eventually allowing international corruption to happen right under their noses? Very unsurprising. “Should we see if any of the other hostages want to cut a deal? This could be a bumper time for us” was the exactly correct glib way to have Roman blow off what just happened.
+ This exchange between Shiv and Roman was perfect:
“Fuck … Congress, Roman?”
“Yes, Shiv. Fuck Congress. Have I shocked you?”
+ Gerri’s “Adios, Bill” was so succinct, so cruel, so excellent.
+ If any of you go as as a Con-Head for Halloween, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED.
+ Marcia is gone—but forever? MARCIA, PLEASE JOIN FORCES WITH SANDY AND STEWY. DO NOT LEAVE ME, HIAM ABBASS.
+ Related: I’M SORRY YOU ARE LEAVING ME, HOLLY HUNTER. Hunter was so exceptional this season, and I am so sad to see her go, but I think her arc played out just right. Through Rhea, we got another side of Logan, and an introduction to other media dynasty families like the Pierces, and a demonstration that Waystar Royco will really do whatever to stay on top. She catches Logan in a lie, and she calls Waystar Royco “a dumpster fire pirate death ship,” and she walks out on him, but people like Rhea will always be OK. Even if Logan is joking about her new “lily-white chicken-flesh conscience working for a fucking phone company,” Rhea will land on her feet. She’s still wealthy as fuck. She’s still at the highest echelons of business. She’ll get over Logan Roy. And maybe she’ll find Sally Ann and get all the details about that harp! I NEED TO KNOW!
+ Finally, let us all revel in Shiv’s double-breasted gray plaid dress. GIVE IT TO ME.
Image sources (in order of posting): HBO Media Relations, HBO Media Relations, HBO Media Relations, HBO Media Relations, HBO Media Relations