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Succession searches for a lifeline in “DC”

Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong
Photo: Zach Dilgard (HBO)
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Connor (Alan Ruck) compared Logan (Brian Cox) to a superhero in his video message last week, but it’s in “DC” that someone articulates the unvarnished truth of his powers. “It’s kind of a superpower, isn’t it? If you can lie to someone like that to their face,” Rhea (Holly Hunter) says, bruised by the pitch-smeared cranks and gears of the Roy machine. “I mean, I know you’re lying, but I still find you very plausible and appealing.” It wasn’t so long ago that he told her to trust him, and she did, so much so that she forgot who, exactly, she was dealing with. “You knew,” he spits. “You know who I am.”

“I think it’s changed. In the details,” she replies. “I can’t see the bottom of the pool. I don’t know if you care about anything, and that scares me.”

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Is she wrong? Has anything changed? Or has the curtain just fallen away, as it does for everyone in Logan’s orbit? Everyone knows Logan lies. Shiv (Sarah Snook) calls him a “serial liar” to Kira (Sally Murphy) this week. Connor laughs when he realizes Greg (Nicholas Braun) trusts Logan to take care of him in lieu of Ewan’s inheritance. But his charm is in making you think that, this time, he’s not lying to you. “This is real,” he told Shiv in the season premiere. “Remember this, the slant of light.” She believed him. She knows she shouldn’t have, but this is his power: making you believe.

But building an empire on lies is catching up to him. Wiesel, the Brightstar whistleblower who wouldn’t take their money last week, is on TV naming Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Gerri (J. Smith Cameron), and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) in the sexual exploitation scandal that first surfaced with the New York exposé. With Lagunitas IPAs in hand, the family tries to laugh it off—“Oh, he doesn’t know everything now!” cracks Greg—but this is bad, especially considering Wiesel is discussing Incident NRPI (“No Real Person Involved”). “Just from a PR perspective, I wouldn’t want anyone to underplay how bad it is,” Hugo (Fisher Stevens) warns. Things get exponentially worse when Gil Eavis compels Waystar to testify at a congressional hearing related to the scandal. The shareholder meeting looms, and Sandy and Stewy are waiting in the wings.

Brian Cox, Sarah Snook
Photo: Zach Dilgard (HBO)
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“It might not be okay,” he tells Roman (Kieran Culkin), as vulnerable as we’ve ever seen him. “Ten bad minutes on camera in DC... that could be it. The end.” Eduard’s Central Asian money, Logan tells his youngest son, can help them go private. “That’s a fucking life line.” Roman, the residual sting of Logan’s “Argestes” backhand pulsing, still melts into a puddle of goo when his father tells him he can do it. “People like you,” he says.

But, as Roman ventures to Bursa, the rest of the Roys head to DC. Tom and Gerri will testify first, followed by Logan and Kendall. The plan? Throw Uncle Mo overboard and offer up Bill, Tom’s retired predecessor, as a sacrificial lamb. “He should’ve told us,” Gerri says, conveniently forgetting to note how Logan’s favorite employees were the ones “who ate the shit for him and he never even knew it.” It’s all narrative, of course, but, unfortunately, not everyone can get the narrative straight. Oh, Tom.

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Tom’s fucked, isn’t he? More on what “fucked” means in this context later, but, Jesus, his exchange with Gil (Eric Bogosian) was as punishing as it was funny. Confronted with his rampant use of the “Mo-Lester” nickname, Tom says, “He just seemed a bit like one, maybe.” Moments later, he says he doesn’t know Greg, which leads Gil to bring up an email chain entitled, “You can’t make a Tomlette without breaking some Gregs.” He’s broken by the time “foot-stooling” is brought up: “I use a variety of target-oriented incentives to enhance optimal performance.” As hilarious as it all was, though, Macfadyen’s meltdown in the war room is genuinely distressing: “I’m the patsy!” he screams, the paranoia he’s been feeling for weeks finally boiling over. Greg, too, is terrified: “I just turned down a quarter of a billion and now I’m going to jail forever because of this fucking guy!”

Matthew Macfadyen, J. Smith Cameron
Photo: Zach Dilgard (HBO)
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But Logan’s ready to throw somebody else under the bus once he hits the stand: Kendall. After stumbling through his response to Gil’s first question—dancing dangerously close to that “10 bad minutes”—he pivots to Kendall, declaring that everything happened under his son’s watch. After a season spent forcing Kendall to depend on him and, by extension, defend his every decision, it’s abundantly cruel, a moment that no doubt led Rhea to ponder whether just what, exactly, he actually cares about. But Kendall, broken and deeply aware of what his father is capable of, is prepared, readily spinning the discussion away from facts to make it about Gil’s “personal dislike of Logan” and “ideological hatred of his newspapers and news channels.” That Gil’s appeared on ATN 14 times in the last four months is the cherry on top. When Logan apologizes to Kendall later, Kendall shrugs it off. He knows he’s a foot soldier, as useful as he is expendable. He’s his only ally.

It’s a win for Waystar, but Gil’s not done. He and Nate (Ashley Zukerman)—Nate is the worst, y’all—have another witness, Kira, an ex-entertainment manager who worked directly with Mo and knows the victims personally. Shiv brings this to the team, and Kira, we learn, came to Gil through a senator that Rhea is cozy with. Despite her protestations, Waystar’s new CEO is forced to reveal the woman’s identity so Waystar can meet with her before she testifies. It’s some deeply unethical shit, and it’s fascinating to see Rhea, who can get up to some dirty tricks of her own, blanch in the grip of the Roy’s tactics. She sits out the actual conversation, and tries to get Shiv to do the same. But, as Shiv makes clear, business isn’t just business for a Roy. And, for perhaps the first time, we can see why the company might never succeed without a Roy as CEO. They’re calibrated differently.

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Eric Bogosian
Photo: Zach Dilgard (HBO)

But Shiv’s meeting with Kira turns out to be her most audacious play yet, a gamble that benefits her own vision for Waystar as much as it does the company itself. Kira, who’s shocked that it’s Shiv, not Rhea, visiting her, is prepared to be strong-armed into not testifying, but Shiv’s approach is subtle. Kira can testify, destroy the company, and become a pariah, or she can help Shiv exterminate the dinosaurs. “I want to clean up,” she says. “I will destroy the men who ran that dirty operation. I will kill them for what they’ve done. And I want you to help me. It will be the best, cleanest operation in the world because of you. If you help me do this.”

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It’s easy to be cynical. Shiv is no saint, and as guilty as any billionaire in living in a world comprised only of “real people.” But she’s been consistent in her politics and her desire to slough off Waystar’s problematic rust, and she boldly breaks from Logan’s shadow when Kira asks if she can trust her. “No,” she says, betraying her dad’s example. “You’re in a shit-storm of conflicting interests here. You can’t trust anyone. You just have to be smart. So listen to everyone and make an assessment.”

But Shiv’s clever, too, because she’s got Kira thinking about her legacy. Does she want to be defined as one thing her whole life? To be a tool of those who pretend to care in service of their own agendas? Or does she want to carve her own path? Legacy always looms in the distance on this show, whether it be in the Roy kids wanting to be something more than a Roy kid, or in Logan fearing that, despite everything, he’s somehow lost control of his narrative. Shiv makes it clear to Kira that she wants what’s best for herself, but what she makes even clearer is that she’s not lying to her, while everyone else is. It sounds nice. And it works. Kira withdraws her testimony. But can Shiv follow through? To paraphrase Rhea, it’s easy to be idealistic when you’ve got no experience in the board room.

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Danny Huston, Kieran Culkin, David Rasche, Babak Tafti
Photo: Zach Dilgard (HBO)

Because, though she helped Waystar avoid sure doom, it’s Roman who Logan’s going to lift up as the company’s savior. Because Roman got the money, and as Logan has made clear time and again, money always wins. His pitch to Eduard (Babak Tafti) goes well, despite he, Laird (Danny Huston), and Karl (David Rasche)—“a dipshit, a sex pest, and a grand ol’ duke of dork,” in Roman’s words—getting taken as hostages by an anti-corruption militia during the meeting. It’s a wonderfully tense sequence, with Culkin, Huston, and Rasche all embodying different forms of anxiety as their security guard is ushered away and their phones plucked from their hands. But questions remain: Will the investment be blocked by the government? Roman assures them it won’t be an issue, but Waystar’s not really on solid ground right now. And, as for the “other bid,” well, is going private going to be as easy as Logan seems to think it’ll be? If it does, is a propaganda news outlet for Eduard’s family all that they’ll be asking for? And how will that fit into Waystar’s portfolio?

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In the end, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv all saved the day, while Logan floundered, both on the stand and with Rhea, who’s officially out as CEO. Ominously, he ends the episode by saying that Bill won’t be enough. “We need something big,” he says. “Time for the blood sacrifice.”

Kendall? Tom? I can’t see who else.


Stray observations

  • Of course a bunch of rich DC dipshits love Connor’s anti-tax campaign. Thinking we’re gonna see more “Con-Heads” in the future.
  • I could rewatch the family’s Wiesel commentary all day—“Book deal! Book deal!” Also loved the hard cut from Logan saying he’s got 50 people paid to watch the report to, um, 50 people watching the report while taking notes.
  • “Who’s backing you, Weasel?” Logan mumbles. Sandy and Stewy? Or Ewan?
  • Eduard repeatedly insisting that “This is all normal” while Roman and co. were getting pulled from the hotel room with no explanation was giving me so much anxiety.
  • I loved watching Laird amusedly play “marry, fuck, kill” with Roman, and, of course, Roman’s schoolyard taunting when Laird says he’d marry Gerri.
  • Logan, when Roman asks if, in lieu of Marcia, he has anybody to speak to. “You may wanna screw your mother, but I am okay in that department.” That’s not quite it, Loges.
  • Logan to Rhea: “Oh yeah. Fucking words. Fuh-king words. You’re fungible. You’re as fungible as fuck.” Brutal, and just an incredible delivery from Cox.
  • “If we’re gonna kill Bill I don’t wanna see Bill,” Tom whines. He, Gerri, Shiv, and Hugo mournfully watching him walk away was so perfect: “Rest in peace, Billy Boy.”
  • “Do we say fuck em?” “Fuck Congress?”
  • I’d still like $5 million, even if it makes me “the world’s tallest dwarf.”
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