In advance of the second season of HBO’s Succession, we’ve decided to revisit the first season episode-by-episode. Yes, we shared some thoughts ahead of its season one premiere and also wrote up the finale, but we’re big fans of Jesse Armstrong’s wickedly funny exploration of the ultra-rich and want to dig a bit deeper as we gear up for the new season’s August 11 premiere. Expect new reviews on Tuesdays and Fridays. See a review of the fourth episode, “Sad Sack Wasp Trap,” here.
It’s fun to consider how Succession serves as a portrait of American monopolization and our country’s plague of economic imbalance, but, deep down, the show is really a story of family, money, and how the latter inevitably corrupts the former. There’s plenty to chew over in “I Went To Market,” from Logan’s assault of Iverson to Greg’s adventures in shredding, but what rises above all of it is the transactional texture of these relationships, some explicit and others masked behind a veneer of authenticity. As much as Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), for example, might like to think money isn’t a factor in his relationship with Shiv (Sarah Snook), that doesn’t stop him from bristling at some of the language in their pre-nuptial agreement. It matters that the agreement is so heavily in her favor, and, though he believes his love is ironclad enough to ensure it will never be brought to the fore, he knows it also matters that he fight for himself. On the other end is Ewan (James Cromwell), who isn’t afraid to say that Logan’s wealth and power is bad not just for the country, but for the family as well. “This whole family is a nest of vipers,” he declares, having seen firsthand how business seems to always come before blood. “You’re all liars.”
He’s not wrong, and what better place to make such a claim than at Thanksgiving dinner, which sets the stage for the majority of “I Went To Market.” As the usual suspects head to casa del Logan (Brian Cox), so, too, do a pair of new characters: Canadian rancher Ewan, Logan’s brother and Greg’s grandfather, and Amir (Darius Homayoun), Marcia’s son and, to the surprise of the Roy siblings, Waystar’s new European head of animation. Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv immediately raise a collective eyebrow at the news, as this is perhaps the first explicit sign of Marcia (Hiam Abbass) potentially leveraging Logan’s illness to her own benefit.
It makes some amount of sense that they’d be suspicious. The question of authenticity in a relationship is inevitably muddled when there’s this much cash in play. This theme is made quite literal when Connor (Alan Ruck) proposes that he and Willa (Justine Lupe) go “exclusive” with their relationship, meaning that she stop seeing other clients and essentially be his paid girlfriend. In exchange, he says, he’ll fund her theatrical work. The prospect is exciting for here, but, as she lies awake in his bed at night, she can’t help but wonder whether a fake relationship is worth professional success. Connor is convenient, but there’s nothing romantic to their arrangement. She’s just an object to be purchased.
Tom’s relationship with Greg (Nicholas Braun) isn’t all that different. Like Connor, though, he underestimates his counterpart. Greg acts clueless and beholden to Tom as his employer, but he’s well aware of just how much he’s being used. To help eradicate the “virus” that first surfaced last week, Tom needs someone who can sign out the offending documents, shred them, and hand them off to a special clean-up crew who can ensure they’re never seen again. As a consultant tells him, though, whoever signs out the documents needs to be “someone you can trust, who’s not expendable, but...” Cut to: Tom calling Greg. Tom, of course, tells him that it’s not a big deal: “A chimp could do it! A little chimpanzee!” So, sure, Greg does it, but not without making copies of his own. “This saves the day, this goes away,” he sings while copying and shredding. Consider these papers the “Chekhov’s gun” of Succession.
If there’s one relationship that’s truly hollow, though, it’s Roman and Grace (Molly Griggs). We know nothing about what brought them together, nor what keeps them together; the only time they seem on the same page is when they’re shit-talking Shiv’s Democrat client—now a senator—for being “unlikable” and “kind of a bitch.” “She wanted to take all my lovely money,” Roman adds. This episode marks the end of their union, however. Perhaps it was Ewan’s blistering honesty about how fucked the family is (or Roman’s anger over the box office success of The Biggest Turkey In The World), but she leaves that evening as Roman scrolls through his phone, never once glancing up. Chilling.
As for Ewan, he wants an apology. He feels he was promised one by Marcia, who made the effort to invite him. Though the details are unclear, Ewan clearly feels as if Logan screwed him for his own benefit, and uses his own resentment as fuel to attack Waystar and, by extension, ATN’s pro-war, anti-climate change agenda. This leads Kendall, who’s in the process of planning a hostile takeover of Waystar, to try and secure Ewan’s vote. Ewan, who still resides on the board of directors despite wanting no part in Waystar’s day-to-day operations, turns him down. “He’s still my brother,” he says, then retreats back upstairs, where Kendall fears he’ll tell Logan about his plan. Tellingly, for being the only person in the room who isn’t afraid to speak their truth, he keeps Kendall’s subterfuge to himself. He just forgot his “stick,” is all. Back to Canada he goes.
His presence is felt, though. The Roys aren’t accustomed to being seen, as they tend to surround themselves with sycophants and hired help. When Ewan calls out Logan for buying military medals he didn’t earn, he’s pointing out the cash-fueled hollowness at the center of all of these relationships. The thing is, Logan gets it. That shows in how he criticizes Kendall and Rava’s parenting. When ‘lil Iverson won’t come to dinner due to an unsaid bout of anxiety or some other such reason, Logan angrily demands he come to dining room. Later, during a game of “I Went To Market,” Logan can’t recall the list of items, resulting in Iverson trying to yank the totemic can away and, in the process, getting smacked in the face. It’s a deliberate hit by Logan, too, and one that may or may not have been motivated by his condition. Later, when he perfectly recites the list of items to Marcia, one wonders how in control Logan truly is. His concern for how Iverson is being raised feels to be a fairly clear-eyed one, and is spurred no doubt by his own insecurities over how he raised Kendall, who, to him at least, grew up to be a disappointment. With Kendall angling for control, he’s worried about the dilution of his name.
- Sorry this one’s a day late, y’all.
- Didn’t touch too much on Kendall’s vote of no confidence, but there will be plenty in the next recap. Right now, things are looking in Kendall’s favor, what with both Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) and Frank (Peter Friedmann) on his side.
- Kendall’s vote has some added urgency, too, as Logan makes it clear he wants to send him overseas and out of the way. “I am not going back to Shanghai,” Kendall asserts.
- Logan’s vision of Waystar’s future? News. Local news. He wants to scoop up a handful of stations, a decision nobody is all that excited about. “Why shouldn’t we do all the news?” Logan wonders, channeling our own shitty president and, of course, the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Roman responds by calling him “Kim Jong-Pop.” “It’s old man shit,” Kendall tells Frank.
- I love that Tom’s lawyer is his mom. I also love the pre-nup being described as “a little unconscionable.”
- Shiv would rather Tom not worry about there being no clause about infidelities. “The point is, shit happens,” she says. “Let’s just be adults about it.” Yeah, I’d be worried, too.
- Today in Greg-isms: “I gots the ‘ol rumblin’ tum.”
- “You’re on speakerphone, Tom.” “...Well, I shouldn’t be, Greg.”
- Greg on Tom: “I call him a dickie, too. He’s pretty lonely and afraid.”
- Weirdest bit I couldn’t stop laughing at: Tom being impressed by Amir’s handshake and calling them “handshake buddies.”
- “This is by no means our worst Thanksgiving.”