Succession’s central theme is toxic family dysfunction, and the penultimate episode of the third season was basically a walking Philip Larkin poem. Nihilistic pillow talk, unsolicited dick pics, ‘cry for help’ haircuts: the Roy siblings wore their emotional neglect on their sleeves. Naturally, the backdrop for this was their mother’s Tuscan wedding to a gold-digging care home tycoon.
Another big theme for the season has been Waystar’s fight to survive in a disordered, digital media landscape. We began with a reminder of how precarious Waystar’s position really is, and how many people they need to schmooze to survive. Before a board meeting with new partners Sandy and Stewy, Logan (Brian Cox) ambushed them with the news that the company would be acquiring Go Jo, Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard)’s streaming platform. “How will you feel if he starts microdosing and tweeting about angels again?” asked Sandy.
But forget business! It’s time to jet off to their mother Caroline (Harriet Walter, so so splendid)’s nuptials. Except, obviously, the Roys will continue to try and do business deals throughout the wedding. Roman (Kieran Culkin) is worried Caroline has no pre-nup set with Peter Munion, who she met about five months ago, while a post-birthday party Kendall (Jeremy Strong) arrives looking chastened, sporting a new shaven look. “Goodness me! Have you just come back from the front?” asks his mother. She then informs him that Logan has banned him from attending most of the events this weekend, and he will need to leave soon. Correct, he’s been banned from his mother’s wedding day by his father, who is her ex-husband. Normal.
Oh, there’s all sorts going on at this bash. Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) asks Roman to stop sending ‘the items’ aka rude pictures. Greg is having doubts about his burgeoning relationship with Comfry – does she have “depth”? Matsson has gone AWOL and is posting some very hectic tweets, throwing the whole deal into doubt. And Connor, having learned that a wife might make him more electable, proposes to Willa. Her response: “Can I have a little think on it?”
Comfry informs Kendall that a true crime podcast is digging into his family – including the mystery of a waiter who disappeared at Shiv and Tom’s wedding. Kendall’s eye bags seem to almost take over his face at this point. Next, because he now has minus dignity, he refuses to be thrown out of his mother’s wedding and confronts his dad, asking to see him for dinner to sort everything out. “We’ll get back to him,” Logan says, through Roman.
Caroline heads into town for a hen do, where she and Shiv (Sarah Snook) have a savage heart to heart. Shiv expresses her pain at how absent her mum was after divorcing Logan; Caroline tells Shiv she was “quite a piece of work” and says she should probably never have had children. “I should have had dogs,” she sighs. It’s like a sad reverse Mamma Mia.
Elsewhere, Logan does in fact take Kendall up on his dinner invitation. It’s such an eviscerating scene that afterwards I just wandered about looking for someone to hug me. The tone is set by Logan checking his dinner hasn’t been poisoned by getting Kendall’s son to try it first – just normal family stuff. Kendall tells Logan that he wants out – he will take him up on his offer to be bought out of the company. He’s utterly broken, and now only wants to disappear. Seeing his desperation, Logan naturally snatches the offer away, and the conversation turns into a struggle for moral goodness. Kendall says he can’t be like his dad, because he’s a good guy and Logan is corrupt: “I hate to say this because I love you, but you’re kind of... evil.” Logan reminds him, as he likes to do when it’s convenient, about the waiter’s death and how Logan covered it up for him. It’s the one thing he knows Kendall has no answer to, that has left him forever in his dad’s debt; as Logan walks out - “f*** off kiddo,” he snarls – Kendall’s face wobbles on the brink of tears.
All fired up by the home truths of her mum’s chaotic hen do, Shiv tells Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) she wants to fight for her position (“we can’t let the dirty little pixie become king”) and that they should have a baby. The sexy talk that commences from Shiv is... of an acquired taste. “You’re not good enough for me” and “I don’t love you,” she tells Tom. He brings it up with Shiv the morning after, who says she was “just being horrible for fun”. To which he responds, “should I listen to the things you say in my face when we’re at our most intimate?”
Roman roars off on a dinky little speedboat to see Matsson, find out why he’s writing such weird tweets and see if he’s still into the deal. He discovers that Matsson was in fact trying to maximise his leverage and would like to be an equal partner with Waystar, rather than have his company acquired. Roman reports back the news, and Logan – proud but pragmatic – seems to realise that it’s not a deal he can afford to walk away from.
So, another big win for Romulus. Gerri texts him to say well done, and he responds in the only way he knows how: with a dick pic. Except... he accidentally sends it to Logan, who marches out of the meeting room and explodes quicker than you can say ‘accidental pocket dial’. Shiv immediately clambers to use her brother’s mistake to bring him down, encouraging/pressuring Gerri to report him to HR. “If you can’t deal with your own sexual harassment it’s not a good look,” she purrs.
While things are going loudly wrong at Waystar, things are going quietly wrong with Kendall. Floating on a lilo in a swimming pool, holding a beer, he’s almost catatonic. In the final shot, he drops the bottle and his face falls into the water. It’s a tragic Gatsby-like image, fitting for a man whose attempt to be reborn as his own entity has failed so spectacularly.
THE ROY INDEX
GOING UP – Shiv, possibly
Logan gains his power from giving and withholding attention to his kids, switching up allegiances so quickly they get whiplash. After being queen bee in the early part of the season, Shiv saw herself out-manoeuvred by Roman, even after brutally excommunicating Kendall with the press release of death. But now that Roman has dick pic-ed his way into dishonour, she’s ruthlessly spotted another way to win – by being, at least on the surface, her father’s least chaotic child.
GOING UP – Matsson
He may be a very rich man with many houses who feels no joy, but Lukas Matsson knows how to play the Roy family. This week he flexed his muscles and strengthened his position, showing Waystar that he’s the one who holds the cards.
GOING DOWN – Roman
I said last week that I feared things might get a bit Icarus for Roman. The prophecy, my friends, has come true in toe curling style. It’s simply utterly perfect that his extreme over-confidence would manifest itself as him accidentally sending his dad a dick pic that was meant for Gerri. Kieran Culkin played this whole scene superbly, as Roman’s mistake gradually dawned on him and his face turned into a barely suppressed panic attack.
HARDEST TWEET TO DECIPHER
Matsson left the Roys baffled when he tweeted three emojis: a games controller, crossed fingers and an aubergine. “Maybe he’s trying to f*** a gaming site... something?” wondered Tom.
THING I HOPE TOM AND SHIV’S POTENTIAL FUTURE CHILD NEVER HEARS
After Shiv’s sweet nothings gave Tom “afterburn” the morning after, he brought the conversation back round to her suggestion that they try for a baby. She responded that “it’s important that the host chamber is willing.” I can’t see ‘happy host chamber day’ catching on at Clinton’s Cards, but we’ll see.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Everyone has great lines, but I increasingly believe Tom Wambsgans has the best lines, specifically when he is talking to Greg. When our favourite cousin started to have doubts about Comfry, Tom incredulously asked, “A man dying of thirst is suddenly a mineral water critic?”