By Kaleena Rivera | TV | May 10, 2023 |
By Kaleena Rivera | TV | May 10, 2023 |
(spoilers for episode 7, season 4)
For a series frequently labeled as “that show where horrible people do horrible things,” this assortment of characters are, with very few exceptions, terrible at putting on an act. No matter what’s on the line, whether it’s a major corporate acquisition or a marriage, it’s damn near impossible for these people to maintain any sort of subterfuge. On the surface, it seems counterintuitive for a bunch of liars and bullsh*tters (“new money” or otherwise, Kendall) to be bad at feigning sincerity for more than five minutes, but such is the double-edged sword of being rich: once you become accustomed to the freedom it provides, you eventually forget how to get what you want by any other means.
At the risk of coming off as materialistic, when Tom opened that gift box to reveal that lucite-encased scorpion, all I could think about was the fact that Tom (before he legally became “Tom of Shiv”) once gifted Logan a watch that cost as much as my home. Jokes about gift-giving aside, it’s almost tragic how poorly Tom has misread their relationship dynamic. Their relationship flourished when their mutual toxicity granted a more equal power distribution, but Tom positioning himself as victim in the obvious “Scorpion and the Frog” allegory puts Shiv right back on the defensive. I knew their partnership was unsustainable, but I had no idea that it would fall apart in a day’s time, or how spectacularly it would do so. But before that particular firework show, there’s a grand party to get through that by the end of which sees either the breakdown of every alliance or a complete unmasking to reveal the shattered selves that lie beneath those insincere smiles.
In a completely fitting turn for the show, it’s revealed that Lukas Matsson is a fraud. Though it makes for a surprising bit of news in the moment—on reflection, it explains quite a few things, particularly his rush to close the Waystar deal—after witnessing his treatment of Ebba firsthand (her “Oh, I’m, you know, who cares?” is so bleak), his status as a fraud almost comes off as innocuous in comparison. The signs were always there, of course, but the series has thoughtfully disrobed him over a number of episodes, from the initial meeting at Kendall’s birthday party to the gathering in Norway, rendering the savvy but aloof tech giant into little more than a misogynistic social misfit whose sole talent is collecting gullible hangers-on (nothing topical to see here, folks). His ugliness is on full display, though I admit that the stunning timing of the GoJo team’s grand entrance during the moment of silence forced a horrified guffaw out of me.
The good news for Matsson is that his odious nature isn’t a dealbreaker in both the literal and figurative sense of the word (not until he runs afoul of the United States alphabet soup’s worth of agencies); with his acquisition of Waystar appearing to be a done deal, the sycophantic parade begins. Greg, declaring himself as a dedicated member of “Team KenRo,” makes a huge show of displaying his bloody hands for Matsson and his distasteful right-hand man, Oskar (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson). Looking back on Greg’s time over the series’ run, he’s certainly come a long way from that broke doofus spewing through the eyeholes of his mascot costume to, well, a financially comfortable doofus spewing what passes off as cool. Some are of the belief that Greg has been corrupted by his Roy cousins. The reality is, however, that opportunity needed only to present itself to him, as evidenced by his willingness to embrace his role as corporate executioner via mass layoffs (his, “Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, ‘Final day of employment,’” is the cherry on top of the morally unsound sundae). The Egg has graduated into The Butcher, and it’s possible that he could manage to secure a place within the new iteration of Waystar through sheer ridiculousness.
Despite performing an equal level of brown-nosing, Tom’s luck is far worse, though it did provide us with Skarsgärd’s incredible delivery of “coq au vin” (that Outstanding Guest Actor Emmy nomination is surely a lock at this point). The big talk of the party, the one he’s hosting in his home, no less, is that he’s on his way out. If that wasn’t bad enough, Shiv’s public pot shots, subconsciously fueled by that terrible gift, are exacting a toll (“I can assure you, Mr. Mild here is a one-pepper menu item”) on an increasingly agitated Tom. The resulting explosion is uncomfortably public and, above all, exceedingly painful as the couple verbally brawls it out on their balcony in full view. When you have a relationship that runs on dripping poison back and forth into one another’s mouths, death will never be far off.
The scorpion description isn’t wrong, as we all know that Shiv has few problems living up to her shortened moniker. But just as it’s possible to pity a scorpion with its tail cruelly yanked off, feeling awful for Shiv as she’s told that not only is she, “incapable of love,” but that she’s, “maybe not a good person to have children,” isn’t the least bit surprising, such is the brilliance of the writing on this show. It would be heartbreaking to hear in any condition, but the pregnancy adds an additional sting (you’re not much of a frog after all, Tom). Shiv is out at sea without a life vest. Matsson is a “time bomb,” her marriage beyond recovering, and siblings that are so self-involved that they can’t connect the dots to figure out that Shiv is the one scuttling their efforts to scuttle the deal, she has no one to turn to. Even scorpions require shelter.
Those aforementioned siblings are floundering as always. One of the bigger surprises of the season is that Connor’s joke of a presidential campaign has not juice per se, but definite droplets. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be enough for anyone to care, but things are far from normal at the moment; with the presidential election coming down to the wire, where a tiny percentage can make the difference between victory and defeat, Connor has managed to siphon votes away from extreme right-winger Jeryed Mencken. The offer of an ambassadorship is tempting, even if it isn’t a country in the top ten GDP—Connor, of course, brushing off various countries with nasty little riffs (“Little bit car-bomby”).
Roman is tasked with brokering that deal, but he loses control (an increasingly common scenario since Logan’s death), after experiencing his own version of heartbreak. If it’s awkward seeing your ex at a party, what do you call it when you see your former handler-mentor, masturbation-facilitator, object of your sort-of affection that you abruptly fired the day before? Diplomacy has never been his strong suit—the dual approach with Ebba was inelegant, to say the least—but when he’s staunchly rejected by Gerri, he also publicly loses it on Connor, speaking aloud what’s been suspected by everyone, Connor included. I’m unsure what’s worse, yelling, “Everyone in this room thinks you’re a fucking joke,” in front of a crowd of big wigs, or referring to Willa as his “wife” with air quotes.
It’s hard not to believe that we’re seeing the slow crash landing of the Roys. With Kendall—he of the dazzling dual lies that his vicious climb for CEO is for the sake of his children as well as to “make the world safe”—not being satisfied with merely running Waystar on his own (siblings be damned) but now hellbent on gobbling up GoJo, disaster appears to be imminent. There is no price Kendall won’t pay for his lifelong mission to become, “bigger than Dad ever was.” Though there’s still a funeral to be had (what fun that will be), Logan has been gone for days now. Despite his departure from this earthly realm, he continues to haunt the little scorpions he left behind.
Shiv: “No, he doesn’t want to ‘swim around my dad’s bullsh*t, pre-election, brain-dead, AOL-era legacy media, putrid, stuffed-mushroom f*ckfest.’”
Tom: “Ooh, and I thought it was gonna be fun.”
Kendall: “And they want what? ATN to go full ‘we’re coming to give your guns hormone therapy, all your guns are gonna be ladies?’”
Roman: “Con, they’re not gonna put you anywhere with nukes.”
Connor: “Well, that’s insulting. I don’t think I wanna go anywhere that doesn’t have nukes.”
Greg: “HR says I’m the right guy for the job, because it looks like I care but I don’t.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t recalling how hard her heart beat when it looked, just for a moment, that Tom was going to throw himself over that balcony rail, she can be found on Twitter here.