(spoilers for episode 6, season 3 ahead)
Watching this week’s episode, I found myself thinking of the old saying, “adversity makes strange bedfellows.” With Succession being so adjacent to politics, especially this season, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the series brushed up against the more unhinged sector of the U.S. right wing, though I admit to not adequately anticipating the enthusiastic embrace of fascism by most members of the Roy family. But as it became clear exactly what lengths Logan is willing to go to secure a win, I found my opinion adapting that previous quote to the more accurate, “adversity makes for disappointing but weirdly unsurprising bedfellows.”
Despite a promising start as a destroyer of worlds, the evidence Kendall has on the cruise line cover up is not so much a bombshell as it is a whoopee cushion. Attorney Lisa Arthur, who already had her work cut out for her, is trying to keep Kendall’s expectations in check. But like a rude customer who argues over an expired coupon being rejected, Kendall refuses to believe there isn’t an angle that can be worked. Surely it must be the ace attorney with her name on a firm that must be overlooking something. He finishes his rant with a nice dollop of condescension (“I really value all the work you do, honestly, but let’s try harder”) as Lisa politely sees him out, no doubt imagining how satisfying it would be to punch him squarely in the throat.
With the shareholder meeting behind them, Logan’s team needs to look towards the future, which means using their considerable influence to help install a new stooge into the White House. The only qualifications the Roys are looking for is someone electable and sympathetic to Waystar’s interests, which explains why they wind up rubbing elbows with the hoi polloi at an ultra-right-wing political gathering, one that’s ideologically extreme enough that its attendees list is completely hush hush. It’s the sort of room where Connor’s political ambitions with its absence of any goals or policy besides, ‘Become President’ are considered a virtue (Shiv: “Is it just me or, in a room full of Timothy McVeighs, does Connor suddenly look like a Roosevelt?”). We do get the benefit of seeing Willa again, who’s been conspicuously absent for most of the season. But now that she’s finding herself to be the unwitting bait for potential major donors (Connor trying to fashion her as a “Leggy Mary Todd”), leaving again probably seems the more appealing option.
The most obvious Republican nominee is the sitting vice-president, Dave Boyer (Reed Birney), a middle-of-the-road, “steady old plow horse” of a candidate. With a scant six months before the election, the name recognition offers a distinct advantage. The one caveat is that his popularity is waning, as well as the matter of an unfortunate lip licking habit (Roman: “It’s like he’s a cartoon bear, and there’s always a picnic hamper nearby”). The second nominee is a younger, more center-right candidate, Rick Salgado (Yul Vazquez), who wants to bring more diversity into the Republican party. On the outwardly extreme end of the ideological spectrum is alt-right jerk Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). He’s of the increasingly common brand of sauntering fascist who try to retreat behind insincere displays of intelligence (I was pleased with Shiv scoffing, “I don’t want to,” when he patronizingly asks whether she’s read Plato) while pretending that giving equal merit to the scholarship of Thomas Aquinas to the ravings of Travis Bickle is a demonstration of their open-mindedness. He represents the worst of this country, which unfortunately means he’s likely to go far in the political realm.
Tom and Greg spend the episode commiserating over prison survival tips after Greg divulges that Kendall is threatening him. Tom is in a clingy mood and welcomes the chance to wallow in his sadness, especially once Shiv deprives him of any sort of outlet, though any pity for him is quickly swept away once he makes a demeaning reference to the possibility of them having nonreproductive sex (thanks for ruining the word “cake batter,” Tom). As Tom and Shiv deal with yet another rift, he finds himself drawn closer to Greg, the two men bonding over diner food intended to prepare them for subpar prison food, as well as the perils that await them behind bars (“I’ve read the prison blogs, Greg, I know”). It’s not only Tom that believes his prison sentence is a foregone conclusion; around the office, Tom has been granted the nickname “The Christmas Tree,” since all of the many Waystar crimes will be hung on him—Greg’s included now!—until he finally withers and is left on the curb destined for the trash heap.
Things aren’t looking much better for Kendall. The DOJ isn’t terribly excited by the evidence he’s brought forward. His obstinance is too much for Lisa, who finally confronts him. Kendall does a very Kendall thing, which is to unceremoniously fire her (“Turns out she’s a toxic person”) to the horror of his PR team. His display of confidence never falters (he’s just as comfortable delivering this news as he is discussing his upcoming birthday party), but deep down he knows that optimism won’t get him far. He decides to make use of the person who stands to lose the most. Kendall and Tom meet up at the same diner shown earlier, with Kendall intent on flipping Tom to give up Logan in exchange for immunity, never mind the fact that he himself doesn’t have the power to do so. Despite that, there’s undoubtedly a bit of temptation in the offer. This is not the same Tom from several weeks earlier that was ready to fall on the sword as the world’s mightiest favor. Present-day Tom has had enough time to consider the realities of prison, especially as it’s become less of an abstract notion and more of a certainty. But once Kendall is finished with his flailing pitch—his inability to accurately assess people trips him up every time—Tom’s answer is crystal clear:
“I don’t mean to be insulting, but having been around a bit…my hunch is that you’re going to get f—ked. Because I’ve seen you get f—ked. A lot. And I’ve never seen Logan get f—ked once.”
Defeated, Kendall takes Tom’s picture as a blackmail threat, but he’s unfazed. As a parting blow, Tom informs him that Logan and company are, at that moment, comfortably sitting in a luxury suite while debating who will be the next American President, a stark contrast to the sad desperate man who’s trying to scheme in the dark parking lot of an establishment that just earlier he deigned too lowbrow to even eat at.
“So, who do we like?” Logan asks, opening the floor to his family (and an increasingly confident Kerry, lending weight to the notion that she and Logan have a sexual relationship) to discuss who they plan on endorsing. Boyer is willing to look over Logan’s interests, but his eagerness for the “ATN stamp of approval” is a turnoff, along with his inability to not question Logan. The man who was once ahead of the pack has fallen by the wayside, and no one is pulling for him. Shiv is vocal about her support for Salgado, which probably only has a little bit to do with his promise to ensure she winds up as CEO by locking Logan up. Roman, on the other hand, is pulling strongly for Mencken. Connor is, as usual, pulling for Connor. But it’s Mencken who wins the pot after his gamble at the reception, where he loudly expressed his dismissal of ATN, while displaying a willingness to follow orders by providing Logan with a Coke. Roman may see a golden opportunity in Mencken (“…we found ourselves a f—king T-Rex, okay?”), but for Logan, he’s exactly the sort of man to have in his corner, terrible ideology be damned. Shiv is rightly horrified. The following morning, when a family photo with Mencken is proposed, she refuses to take part in it until Logan pulls his favorite card, one so terribly overused that it’s a wonder it hasn’t fallen into dust yet: “Siobhan, are you part of this family or not?” Shiv can’t kick this particular habit, especially when Logan gives Roman an ‘atta boy’ pat on the back. Now the only distance Shiv has created between her and fascist Mencken has been whittled down to mere feet, not to mention the fact that this image will likely forever affect her standing as a political consultant.
Besides Logan, the only Roy to come out of this week a winner is Roman. For Roman, his choice of Jeryd Mencken isn’t simply because he’s a firebrand for the party (disgusting as he is, his potential appeal to a specific U.S. demographic is very high); there’s also the fact that he vibes with all of Roman’s edgelord tendencies. The big loser is, of course, Shiv, despite the fact that Connor was left sulking on the couch after what he thought was a serious conversation regarding his candidacy. There may be an inevitability to the political turn in this season, but I confess it’s not my favorite plot development, which likely has more to do with how unsettlingly true-to-life it feels rather than any misfire on the writers’ part (the writing is, in fact, as sharp as ever). I prefer my drama more ‘dark night of the soul’ rather than ‘fascism is kinda trendy,’ but it does feel true to the characters we have come to know and, at times, even like and empathize with a bit. The sympathy we have may be complicated by each character’s flaws—such as the pity one may feel for Shiv for being so cruelly manipulated by her father, while also feeling distaste for her willingness to shove her already-flimsy liberal principles aside—but that’s precisely why so many of us keep coming back week after week.
A Moment of Zen With Cousin Greg:
“I just feel because of my physical length, I could be a target for all kinds of misadventures.”
The Biggest Lie:
“It’s not even, my opinion counts for more!” -Shiv
The Biggest Truth:
“You have a trophy husband and several fur coats, I think you’re going to be fine.” -Roman
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t also wishing for a safe (non-right wing) space to admit she doesn’t like Hamilton, she can be found on Twitter here.
Header Image Source: HBO/Warner Media