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 premiere, “Celebration,” here.
Not every show benefits from a rewatch. Succession does. “Shit Show At The Fuck Factory” is an overwhelming episode, not just for the characters, but the viewer, too. The pace is frantic, the stakes high, the dialogue dizzying, and the legalese abundant. We’re also meeting a slew of new characters, from Waystar Royco general counsel Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) to the rest of the Waystar suits—Eva, Karl, Karolina—to Willa (Justine Lupe), the woman Connor (Alan Ruck) brings to the hospital that may or may not be some kind of escort (it’s heavily implied, but never explicitly stated here). These characters aren’t introduced so much as they are thrust upon us—Gerri and the suits, specifically, immediately construct a “war room” in a hospital conference room to both plan for Waystar’s future and mitigate the damage that Logan’s potential death will inevitably have on the company’s stock.
That’s a lot, so let’s start at the beginning. “Celebration” ended with Logan (Brian Cox) having a stroke just as he was laying out his Kendall-less vision for the future of Waystar. “Shit Show At The Fuck Factory” begins with the family swarming the doctors, demanding answers, and seething at Marcia (Hiam Abbass), who, as Logan’s wife, is asserting her dominance in the situation. As Kendall (Jeremy Strong) tells the doctors that “the socioeconomic health of multiple continents is dependent on his well being,” the rest of the family calls up the best brain doctors they know, all while bemoaning being corralled in the same part of the hospital as the regular folk. “What is this part of the hospital?” Kendall yells in the ICU. “Is this the best section?” Later, he hilariously refers to the on-call doctor as “Dr. fucking SUNY Purchase medical school.” They’re eventually moved to a private room, where Kendall angles his way into the leadership position his father denied him as Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) do everything in their power to ensure he doesn’t attain it.
Greg (Nicholas Braun), meanwhile, is sent on a mission to Logan’s apartment to retrieve his “checked slippers”—Marcia likens him to a bug in her face—and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) misreads the situation multiple times by first asking Marcia if he should ask an unconscious Logan for permission to propose to his daughter before just doing it anyway. “What is it about my dad dying in a sterile environment that screams big romantic gesture to you?” Shiv says in response, but tells him that, when the time is right, she’ll say yes. Aw. (Their relationship is one of the most complicated on this series; we’ll discuss more in future weeks.) As for Connor, well, have you heard about cryogenics?
The episode’s running joke is that, though it would be uncouth to discuss Waystar Royco’s leadership during this time—“I don’t wanna be talking about this shit when he dies,” Shiv scolds Kendall—it’s literally all anybody can talk about. That includes Shiv, who brainstorms leadership options with Roman the first moment they’re alone, as well as Gerri, who repeatedly tells Kendall he’s “in no state” to discuss the transition while simultaneously urging him to discuss it. In the end, it turns out nobody really wants to be CEO or COO—not Shiv, not Gerri, not Frank (Peter Friedmann)—aside from Kendall and Roman, who make an uneasy alliance as the sun rises. Kendall will be CEO, Roman COO. It’s soon abundantly clear why Gerri and Frank were so disinterested—Waystar has roughly $3 billion in debt, thanks to a loan Logan made when expanding into parks. Meanwhile, Vaulter’s cocky Lawrence (Rob Yang), despite now being owned by Waystar Royco, can’t resist his desire to smite Kendall, publishing a scathing article that gives the episode its title. That also won’t be good for the stock price.
For all its myriad machinations, though, the episode is a trove of barbed bon mots, fascinating asides, and clever character beats that contextualize the relationships that much more. Just watch the way Roman and Shiv wrestle, instantly turning each other into the pre-teen shits they were once upon a time. Greg’s quiet manipulations resound louder on rewatch—that he chooses to just lounge in Logan’s bed for as long as he does speaks volumes about his own fetishization of wealth and power. His awkwardness isn’t a total put-on, but it’s nevertheless a mask. Just look at the way he drops hints about the “job” Logan “offered” him as he comforts Marcia And then there’s Kendall’s sweaty faux-confidence, which you can pretty much see Jeremy Strong conjuring from thin air with every line.
I’m appreciating Strong’s performance so much more this time around; in the wrong mouths, Armstrong’s profane, razor-edged dialogue could come across as performative and overwritten. Strong contemplates every word, making the verboseness of his insults feel like the character’s own way of play-acting, as if he’s simply imitating his father. Not even he sounds convinced when he dubs Lawrence “Dickless Dickleby.” It’s thrilling, then, when he really does grip the reins: “Words are nothing. Complicated air flow. What happened today was nothing,” he says of his unconscious father’s succession plans. Damn.
I could go on and on, so for now I’ll just end by saying Logan’s eyes open at the end of this episode. Nobody really expected that, did they?
- Roman’s complete indifference to the ATN obituary video for Logan is so telling. “Is it nice?” he asks. Kendall replies, “I mean, it was made by his own news division. It doesn’t say he was a prick. You want to watch it?” Roman, without looking up from his phone: “No.”
- Of course, Roman is too busy browsing Twitter reactions to Logan’s ailing health. “Can we find out who these fuckers are and report them?” he asks, echoing every person who’s ever scrolled a Twitter timeline.
- Greg is “respectfully, somberly willing” to get Logan’s slippers.
- “We need to control the narrative,” Kendall says. “You probably yell that when you cum,” replies Roman.
- “Come on, I’m not the same as her!” Tom yells after being asked to leave alongside Willa.
- Kudos also to Tom casually snacking at every opportunity.
- Oh, and Tom’s bullying of Greg takes on another dimension this week. “I’ll look after you,” he says. Boy, does he.
- Everything Tom does is perfect. I named Matthew Macfadyen one of 2018's best TV performers for a reason. Granted, anyone on this show could’ve made the list.
- “I apologize if my bell summoned you” has to be an ad-lib from Nicholas Braun. Brilliant. Completely missed that my first time around.
- “Me and my homey Romey.”