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The Roys are ready to fight in Succession's gripping season 2 premiere

Jeremy Strong and Hiam Abbass
Photo: Peter Kramer (Getty Images)
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“A sweaty corpse.”

“An unshaven candle.”

“Neutered hound dog.”

“Elvis on a toilet.”

Yeah, as his siblings and colleagues don’t hesitate to declare, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is not looking so good these days. You can’t blame him. It was only a few days ago that his addiction led to the death of an innocent kid. It was only a few days ago that Logan (Brian Cox) used it to ensure his son bail on his plan to wrest away control of Waystar. It was only a few days ago that Kendall’s father actually acted like a father. All it took was fealty, induced by equal parts fear, blackmail, and, of course, a deep, abiding need.

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The episode begins with a moment of rest. Kendall, in rehab, sits in a spring, eyes closed. Within mere seconds, he’s being beckoned. Even without Kendall, Stewy (Arian Moayed) and Sandy (Larry Pine) have gone public with their takeover, and, to ensure the stock price doesn’t completely plummet, Kendall’s been summoned away from rehab to do damage control. He must make “a public and personal declaration of withdrawal.” Kendall, who makes it clear he’s far from clean, is told he has no choice. “If my dad wants me to do it, I’ll do it,” he says. His nose bleeds. He sweats. He delivers his talking points anyway. “I saw their plan, but Dad’s plan was better,” he tells an anchor at PGM. “Ladies and gentlemen, the first fucking thing my son’s ever done right in his life,” Logan declares. There will be no more rest, I’d guess, for Kendall this season. He’s flown back to New York. Logan has questions, Kendall’s sobriety be damned.

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Kendall’s perspective, after all, is necessary for Logan, who knows that the bear hug could succeed even without his son’s influence. Enter Danny Huston’s banker, who lays out all the cards for Logan: “Culturally, structurally, and financially, you’re in the toilet,” he warns. “There’s blood in the water, your price is edging down, and tech is coming. Tech is here. Tech has its hands around your throat.” He says sell. Logan takes the note, and organizes a gathering at the Roys’ oddly stinky “Summer Palace” to discuss the future. The possibility of a sale hangs in the air.

Dagmara Dominczyk and Jeremy Strong
Photo: Craig Blankenhorn (HBO)
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There, no one but Logan and Marcia (Hiam Abbass) seem happy to see Kendall. Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) see him as an empty vessel, a traitor gutted by hubris and humiliation. “You realize how fucked you’re going to be once you’re no longer of any use to him,” Shiv says. He just repeats the line he was fed: “I saw their plan, but Dad’s was better.” Consider their surprise, then, when Logan appoints Kendall a co-COO alongside Roman.

In my previous reviews, I echoed Shiv and Roman’s appraisals: Kendall is finished. His story had a natural endpoint, and to keep him around in a major role would be unnecessary. I have to say, though, I like what they’re doing here. As we see here—and in subsequent episodes that we’ll discuss in the coming weeks—Kendall is content to serve as an outgrowth of Logan, a blunt instrument. As his payment, he gets a father who speaks with him, invites him into the inner sanctum, touches his shoulder tenderly. He gets a father. Logan can only be one, after all, once he knows you pose no threat. Kendall’s secret is Logan’s weapon, but at least now they can be a family. Or something like one.

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That said, Logan doesn’t want a yes man as his successor. Impressed, no doubt, by the way Shiv navigated the Gil Eavis situation last season, he coaxes ideas out of her, ones that, despite her having pursued her own career in the political realm, reveal she’s been thinking about this for a long time. We knew that to a degree last season, when Shiv pointedly asked Logan why he “tried out” Kendall and Roman before her. Here, though, tears brim in her eyes when he tells her, “You are the one,” threatening to sell if she doesn’t step up. Sarah Snook, a reservoir of restrained exuberance, breaks my heart: “Why did you never ask me?” As played, it’s a question that’s been boiling in the ventricles of her heart for years.

J. Smith Cameron and Kieran Culkin
Photo: Peter Kramer (Getty Images)
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Her integration, though, is going to set up its own complications. Roman, it appears, wants to get serious about taking power, outlining a vision that doubles down on scooping up news outlets and “playing the markets” with everything else. Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), meanwhile, has been urging Shiv to lobby for his own ascent to power. He gets one—the new chair of global broadcast news—but how’s he going to take it once his wife becomes his boss? And what of Gil (Eric Bogosian)? How would he feel about his campaign strategist taking the reins of the object of his fury?

One wonders, though, how Shiv’s vision for the company will ultimately align with Logan. He didn’t blink when she said she wanted to ditch news and papers and expand in parks, which is odd considering last season he said he wanted to be Proctor & Gamble of news. More on that to come, I suppose.

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Kendall, meanwhile, haunts the fringes like a ghost. He’s still using and seems to be increasingly lonely—he sold his house because it “smelled of Rava”—traits that position him as something of a wild card. The episode ends with Kendall cementing his opposition to Stewy and Sandy, telling them that he and his father intend to fight them every step of the way. “Maybe you’ll kill him, but if you don’t he aims to kill you,” he says, his voice cold and emotionless. “He will go bankrupt or go to jail before he lets you beat him. He will kill you on the business and if that doesn’t work he will send people around. He will send men to kill your pets and fuck your wives and it will never be over.”

Welcome to Succession’s second season!

Stray observations

  • Glad to be here with weekly recaps! Just about every frame of this show has something to discuss and I’ll never touch on all of it so I hope you guys touch on what I don’t in the comments.
  • Colin (Scott Nicholson) coldly explaining the aftermath of the crash to Kendall is a chilling scene. You can practically see Kendall willing a callous over his heart as Colin explains how the kid was still alive underwater. Kendall could’ve saved him. Still, it looks like he’s in the clear: “There’s no indication of another individual.”
  • Before the accident, Kendall dished to Stewy and Sandy’s PR people about Logan, telling them his medication, as well as his ill-timed pissings and that deeply unpleasant smack to Iverson’s face. That will no doubt be put to use as the battle unfolds.
  • Greg (Nicholas Braun) insisting he had a “connection” before revealing he just bought cocaine off of a guy in the park was hilarious. “Park coke,” Kendall laments. “If my septum falls out I’m going to make you eat my septum.”
  • Connor (Alan Ruck) is still interested in the presidency it seems. For now, though, he’s still into Napoleon, being on the verge of purchasing some of the general’s letters and, oh yeah, his preserved penis. “It’s obviously not an item of interest to serious scholars, but as a curio, sure,” he says.
  • Willa thinks selling the company “seems cool.”
  • Didn’t get a chance to elaborate on Roman much above, but he and Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) are in Japan dealing with the aftermath of the satellite explosion. Last we heard, nobody died, but an investigation is nevertheless underway into the origins of the accident. Roman’s not out of the woods yet.
  • Roman on Kendall: “He just walked around the New York Stock Exchange with a severed dick in his hand, asking if it was good for free soup.”
  • Roman on Kendall, pt. 2: “He’s like a sex robot for Dad to fuck.”
  • Still, the funniest moment of the episode to me was Logan demanding all the expensive food prepared for the meeting be thrown out. “It sat around in the stink!”
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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.