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'Succession' Season 3, Episode 1 Recap: 'Game of Thrones'

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | October 18, 2021 |

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | October 18, 2021 |


succesion-got.jpeg

(spoilers for the third season premiere of Succession)

It’s been over two years since the HBO smash hit Succession aired its second season. After what felt like an endless amount of waiting, due to pandemic delays, a premiere date was finally announced for the highly anticipated third season. This past Sunday marks the first time we’ve looked in on the embattled Roy clan since then. So let’s do this.

The season premiere opens almost immediately after Kendall’s explosive press conference where, rather than taking responsibility for the company’s criminal mishandling of their cruise scandal (the “blood sacrifice”), he threw his father, the mighty Logan Roy, under the bus. Where there was once a tenuous peace among the Roy clan, there is now only division. Huddled beneath the looming structure that is Logan is Shiv, Gerri, and Roman, along with Frank, Hugo, Karl, and everyone else wishing to keep as close to the throne as possible. On the other side is Kendall, who we see is quietly freaking out in a luxurious bathroom while Cousin Greg frets in the bedroom suite. But there’s no time for mental processing, Kendall has too many plans to set into motion, so it’s time to strap on his tinfoil shield of confidence and get moving. Once Kendall, Greg, and PR Head Karolina are in the back of an SUV, she advises him about the potential trappings of pouring kerosene on the Waystar Royco investigation, such as his contractual obligations to protect the company. In lieu of pondering her words (what will become a running theme for him this episode), he demands she declare loyalty to his “revolution,” but her hesitance gets her expelled from the vehicle.

Karolina’s literal seat is immediately filled by stalwart assistant Jess. As he spouts edgy, cocaine-addled, marketing-speak to Greg (who, as always, does a terrible impression of someone who understands anything that’s happening at any given moment), Kendall receives a call and briefly freezes when “Dad” appears on the screen. To maintain an air of professionalism, he hands Jess the cell. Logan offers an unspecified deal in exchange for Kendall disavowing everything that he said at the press conference and to chalk it up to mental illness. Kendall volleys back, promising to go to the government if Logan doesn’t step down. That’s when Logan delivers his line from the trailer that left us all agog: “Then I’m going to grind his f—king bones to make my bread.” After Kendall delivers a laughably weak rejoinder, Logan declares himself finished with him, as though that wasn’t already the case.

Logan’s sector is also tightening up the ranks. As unshakeable as Logan seems to be, everyone knows that the company, and Logan in particular, is in serious trouble. Logan wonders if the other Roy siblings knew that Kendall was going to go so wildly off-script at the press conference. They rush to distance themselves from him (Roman: “Dad, Kendall’s mentally ill, he’s insane.”). Team Logan gathers to discuss. Gerri is primed and ready with the savvy suggestion to beat Kendall to the pass and go to the Department of Justice on their own while claiming no knowledge of any criminal wrongdoing yet willing to undertake their own lengthy investigation into the matter. Roman diverges from her, proposing a “F—k you, come get us,” approach for the government instead, leaving Kendall’s proverbial corpse for the sharks to feast on. The others, Shiv included, argue for caution, while Roman, in typical Roman fashion, is cavalier about the situation, believing that waiting out the presidential election will be sufficient enough to allow the waters to calm once more. The tactic appeals to Logan, especially since any admission of wrongdoing would open themselves up to dearly expensive class-action lawsuits, though he’s cautious enough to see about getting a word with the President himself for a better idea on how to proceed.

Kendall’s move now. His current priority is widening his circle of supporters, and what better play than to obtain someone inside the Logan camp. First, he tries Frank. Although Frank doesn’t dare speak while in the midst of the viper’s nest he’s in (Logan less than a foot from him), he certainly gives off the impression that he’s not not interested. Next is Gerri, though there’s no luck getting her on the phone. He then tries Shiv, who answers, only to hang up the moment Kendall volleys the idea of her coming to his side. Although she strongly suspects Logan is going to fail, she has little taste for chaos and would rather position herself to pick up the pieces instead. In any case, Shiv’s radio silence is the least of Kendall’s problems at the moment (although having “your mom, Greg’s mom” among his short inventory of supporters is a pretty sizable issue), as Jess alerts him to the fact that his access to the Waystar Royco building is being canceled. With Waystar Royco closed off to him and press swarming his home, Kendall has to think of an alternative location to make into his headquarters for corporate domination.

Orders received, there’s a small sliver of time for personal talk. Conner, all but forgotten in these discussions, talks to Willa about her play, which was ravaged by critics. Meanwhile, Tom takes the chance to talk to Shiv. Last we saw, their marriage was on the verge of total collapse, but with all the chaos happening soon thereafter, there’s been no time to ruminate on matters further. Tom is unhappy, but like many unhappy people he can’t quite decide how he wants to proceed, stuck with an impassable rift (Shiv: “You know, ‘cause I love you.” Tom: “Uh-huh, thanks. Thank you.”) made more complicated by the various political and corporate machinations they’re mired in.

Kendall needs to set up a war room, so where better than the home of your ex-wife? Rava is weirdly amiable to her home being invaded by various strangers. The first order of business is to lock down superpower public relations consultant Berry Schneider (Jihae), who has come fully prepared. Unfortunately, Kendall keeps stumbling into one of his greatest flaws, namely his compulsion to act as though he’s the most clever guy in the room. Despite his constant talking over her (which manages to be more painful to watch than Greg’s torturous small talk inflicted on Schneider’s colleague earlier), she’s more than willing to work with him. “Well, we think you’re going to win this, and we like winners!” It’s almost surely a lie, but it’s a well-delivered one.

Kendall’s situation may be tenuous, but not any more so than the Logan camp. En route to Sarajevo, Frank and Karl, much like Shiv and Roman earlier, discuss the depths of trouble Logan is currently in. As Karl points out, even though Logan’s made it to the other side of plenty of scandals, this situation has garnered the attention of a veritable alphabet soup of government entities, which almost certainly makes this a game-changer. Logan calls a meeting to deliver a series of orders along with a bombshell: he’s going to step down as CEO. It comes as a shock to everyone, but Logan views it as yet another way to run the company while being hidden even further in the shadows. Karl and Frank, ambitious bastards that they are, offer themselves up before being mercilessly shot down. Logan wavers back and forth between his successor being a woman and/or one of his own. It’s between Shiv, Roman, and Gerri. Tom, with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, races to the bathroom to call Shiv, partly out of loyalty, though his role in the scandal means he can use as much protection as possible, and if that means his wife sitting on the throne, so be it. It’s an opportunity that has been dangled in front of her for so long, only to have circumstances (along with her own ambition) get in the way, Shiv can’t help but try to reach out and grab it. She encourages him to scheme on her behalf, not noticing Gerri showing Roman something on her phone. Turns out, Frank has tipped off Gerri, leaving the three sizing one another up as they travel to New York.

Now landed in Sarajevo, the CEO debate continues. Logan is experiencing a rare moment of indecision. Tom attempts to feign support for Gerri, a reverse psychology ploy that Logan spots the instant it comes out of his mouth. Now Roman is calling. He makes his desire to be CEO known to his father, but waffles by throwing his support behind Gerri (“an older hen”). There’s a faint bemusement on Logan’s face—possibly due to a passing curiosity over why Roman would show such deference to Gerri—as he finishes their conversation. But as we well know, Logan despises anything that may be perceived as weakness, which is why the moment the two hang up, he declares Roman to be out of the running. It’s now Gerri versus Shiv. As they land, Shiv receives a call from Logan. “I can do it,” she says as she hangs up, leaving Gerri and Roman sure that she’s been crowned. Come to find out, he’s only called for her to get in touch with Lisa Arthur. Upon meeting, Lisa turns down Shiv’s dual offers to represent Logan and then herself, which is when it finally dawns on Shiv that Kendall has managed to secure her as counsel. Shiv is furious (“Be careful who you hitch your wagon to, honey, because a lot of wagons are going in the ditch”) not only because of sibling rivalry but because she knows that her already ill-tempered father will be none too pleased by this development.

In New York, Gerri tries to get a bead on Roman’s viability as CEO, while Roman tries to get Gerri into bed with him. His sexual overture is interrupted by a phone call from Logan. It’s been decided: Gerri will act as interim CEO. There’s a faint disappointment coming off of Roman (hope springs eternal), but it’s soon replaced by the gleeful notion of telling his sister the news. As Shiv is riding in the back of a car, the news crashing into her like a wrecking ball wielded by a child (such is Roman’s bedside manner), she hangs up. After taking a moment to digest the news, along with the realization that the wind almost certainly shifted when Lisa turned her down, Shiv says the sort of thing that often alters the course of destiny: “You know what? Change of plan.”

Back at the apartment, Kendall asks Rava if Naomi can come by. If Kendall feels any discomfort about asking his ex-wife if his new girlfriend can come to his slumber party, he doesn’t show it. Lisa and her team arrive for preliminary talk regarding the case, which is interrupted by tension between Rava and Naomi about five minutes after the latter’s arrival. Feeling good about things despite all evidence to the contrary, Kendall takes a moment to gloat to Logan’s camp that he’s secured Lisa as counsel (a detail that Shiv undoubtedly left out when she relayed Lisa’s refusal). Logan is unaccustomed to not getting what he wants and upon hearing the news roars, “we’ll go full f—king beast,” before going out into the night air. But as we get a close-up on his face, we see that, in what may be the first time ever, Logan Roy may very well be just a tiny bit scared.

Considering how much of the episode had to operate as an audience orientation (two years is quite a long gap between seasons, especially in a series with this many moving pieces), the hour went by in a flash. From the looks of things, people are going to grow increasingly more desperate this season. The ability to be flexible and cut losses may be the only real difference between who’s left standing and who goes down. His life as a businessman (unethical though he may be) has granted Logan a willingness to pivot, even if begrudgingly so. It’s how he’s stayed alive for so long—though his “I don’t give a f—k, it’s nameplates” attitude toward the matter of CEO is a bitter example of just how petty he can really be, especially considering this is how this entire saga began—which is something Kendall should take note of, especially with his terrible habit of not listening to the professionals he tries to surround himself with. He may succeed in his mission to take down Logan, but doing so without implicating himself is going to be the real trick. Whether or not that’s a possibility remains to be seen.

A Moment of Zen With Cousin Greg:
“Super positive…yeah. The negative stuff does tend to stick in the mind a little, just ‘cause it’s quite visceral but yeah, basically very good. Nice memes. Good memeage and so on.”

The Biggest Lie:
“Can I remind you, Roman, that so far as I’m concerned, nothing has ever happened between us other than of a professional nature.”

The Biggest Truth:
“I’d lay you badly, but I’d lay you gladly.”

Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t firmly Team Rava, she can be found on Twitter here.

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