Brian Cox
Photo: Peter Kramer (HBO)
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Vulture—no, not Vaulter—just published a great piece that aligns with a lot of what I’ve said about Succession since I started recapping it, which is that, despite its weighty score and stuffy aesthetic, it’s best to view it as a comedy first and a drama second. Not only are you more susceptible to the show’s barbed bon mots this way, but you’re also hyper-aware of how it highlights the absurdities inherent to its milieu—on Succession, spending thousands on bottle service isn’t extravagant so much as an illogical symbol of extravagance. Even the characters know it’s dumb, but to be rich is to act rich, no matter how stupid it seems. Why spit out a rare songbird’s bones with a napkin over your head when there’s a California Pizza Kitchen right there? Well, because anyone can eat at California Pizza Kitchen.

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But Succession’s absurdities aren’t audacious, couched as they are in the very real drama of its ensemble. That changes on “Hunting,” an episode that, more than any one before it, uproots decorum and plunges us into a feverish corporate nightmare. That’s not to say the show doesn’t earn Logan’s grotesque game of Boar On The Floor, which finds Karl (David Rasche), Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), and Greg (Nicholas Braun) scrounging for sausages on the planks of a Hungarian dining room as Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Waystar’s finest hoot and holler like this was Lord Of The Flies. It isn’t, however, how I thought this episode would end, even after Logan’s paranoia began oozing over the collar of his shirt.

Logan (Brian Cox) is paranoid over three things, specifically: First, a writer is penning a biography on him without his consent, and it appears someone in his inner circle spoke with them; second, he announces his intent to acquire Pierce, another media dynasty that owns a news organization more reputable than ATN; third, someone’s tipped Pierce off about his interest, thus jeopardizing the deal. “I got snakes in the fucking basket!” he bellows.

Combined, they deliver Logan to a state of mania unmatched even by Kendall’s vote of no confidence last season. It doesn’t help that Tom’s been tasked with telling Logan that nobody thinks acquiring Pierce is a good idea, or that Frank (Peter Friedmann), who assisted Kendall (Jeremy Strong) in his effort to take over the company, is back in the fold, solely due to his coziness with the Pierce brass.

Photo: Peter Kramer (HBO)

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Everything culminates on a corporate retreat in Hungary, where a dining room adorned with mounted animal heads finds Logan transforming into something bloodthirsty and animalistic. It begins when Ray (Patch Darragh) tries to take a piss and Logan tells him that nobody leaves the room—he can piss in a bucket. Ray begins to do so, and Logan calls him a “disgusting bastard.” But soon he’s calling Frank a creep, demanding everyone set their personal and business phones on the table, and pointedly asking who supports his Pierce endeavor. When Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) admits she has doubts, Logan lets her off the hook. When Greg tries to do the same, Logan tells him to get on the floor. “The rules are that you’re spared if you tell the truth and I told the truth,” Greg says, to which Logan screams, “There are no fucking rules!” I know it’s lame to point out Logan’s Trumpian tendencies, but they’re hard to ignore here—one way to retain power is to change the rules, to readjust the goalposts every chance you get. Instability creates fealty. Grown men are oinking on the fucking floor, for Christ’s sake. (As unnerving as this is, I rewound at least three times to laugh at Karl’s oinks. I could also hear Tom scream “That’s my fucking sausage!” all day.)

But Logan is desperate. He came so close to losing Waystar last season that he’s losing confidence. He clings to Kendall because he not only bested him, he domesticated him. It’s chilling how he grips Kendall’s shoulders while dressing down the others. He’ll tame them, too. And that means using Kendall, who’s more than happy to continue serving as a kind of hatchet man. Here, Kendall outs Roman, who, by asking Tabitha (Caitlin Fitzgerald) to contact Naomi Pierce, jeopardized the deal. That’s one mystery solved, and Logan’s intimidated anyone who doubted the Pierce deal. So who talked to the biographer?

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Two people, actually, though Greg, who we see meeting with the biographer in the intro, didn’t actually say anything. It turned out to be Mo, a terminally ill, unseen executive who’s dead by episode’s end. Greg, though, made the mistake of telling Tom about the meeting, leading Tom to tell him that he just handed him “a valuable piece of capital.” But Tom never rats on him. That’s telling, a sign of his affection for the kid who he’s relentlessly bullied since the pilot. Still, between that and the cruise ship business last season, these two have a lot of sensitive information between them.

Photo: Peter Kramer (HBO)

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Tom also gets some sensitive information when he arrives home to Shiv (Sarah Snook), whose dad, he tells her, was “a little peppery” on the retreat. She makes it clear to him that she had a tryst in his absence, and he made it clear to the audience that he’s only cool with this open marriage thing because it’s what she wants. He doesn’t want to hear about the young actor she fucked. I, however, loved seeing her slum it with this hunk, who lives in a shitty apartment and only gets his news from comedians. “I’m not sure I wanna hear the next thing you have to say,” Shiv says before kissing him.

The actor was a bit of consolation after Logan diverts her from the Pierce situation to damage control for Connor (Alan Ruck), who’s on the verge of uploading his campaign announcement video to Instagram so he can “enter the ideas primary” and, presumably, join the ranks of the “Intellectual Dark Web.” A chill runs through Shiv’s spine when she says the consultants he’s hired, who are both “serious guys” and “fucking pieces of shit.” He wants her to run his campaign, though, an offer she refuses. He realizes she’s there on Logan’s bequest. “Dad wants to stop me.,” Connor says. “Tell him to get in line behind Bezos and the Clintons.” Oh, dear.

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“I ranch, I ride, I earn, and I give, just like you,” he says in a pre-recorded video. “But ding-dong, who’s there? Uncle Sam, And where’s his hand? In my pants.” Connor wants “a fair flat tax, the same for all Americans,” and he’s decided he won’t pay taxes, even if that means going to jail. “You know what they do to rich people in jail?” Shiv asks. “Yes, they let them out early to mitigate the risk of litigation,” Connor responds, and, folks, he’s not wrong. He’s going to be president, isn’t he?

Photo: Peter Kramer (HBO)

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Shiv hangs out with Willa (Justine Lupe) to get her read on it. Interestingly, Willa, who’s happy to have her sugar daddy funding her play, thought it “looked okay.” “We support each other’s dreams,” she says. Connor’s video drops as they drink. It’s real now. She also tells the hot actor that Tom is “a guy who works for me.” Tom is an asshole, yes, but my heart nevertheless bleeds for him in moments like that.

But Shiv isn’t concerned with Tom right now. She’s thinking about Waystar. She doesn’t want to be babysitting her idiot brother. The episode ends, though, with a phone call from Logan. “It’s time to bring you in,” he says. Considering she’s no fan of the Pierce deal, that could be a good thing or a bad one.

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Stray observations

  • Every moment in this episode is either important or hilarious. As such, it was very, very hard to write about. There are like a million more things I want to talk about. A few below.
  • The Waystar guys killing pigs released from a pen and then posing with the dead bodies is almost too heavy-handed for me, even if it undoubtedly is something that actually happens.
  • I didn’t get to talk about him much, but a great episode for Roman. Culkin’s slowly easing into the emotional core of his character, who’s starting to realize that his lack of seriousness has caused his dad to overlook him as a true successor. His cry that he’s “not a moron” to Logan might be his most earnest beat of the entire series so far. Gerri tells him he needs to humble himself and enroll in the management training program if he wants to be taken seriously. If he does, that would allow us to see him in an entirely new light.
  • “How much is a gallon of milk?” Logan asks Roman, another sign of his resentment for the privileged “silk stocking fucks” who he both raised and hired.
  • Shout to Friedmann, too, who makes Frank really fucking sad in this episode. “Moth to a flame,” he says to Gerri about why he’s considering coming back to work for Waystar. Oh, god.
  • The biographer is played by the great Jessica Hecht, who you probably remember as Walt’s ex on Breaking Bad. We’re going to assume her resemblance to New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman wasn’t a coincidence.
  • I love that Logan’s way of burying the biography is to get her “writing on some movie for the next decade.”
  • “That’s chunky!” says Tom of the Pierce deal. What a goon.
  • The Pierce deal is interesting, as the news they apparently produce is respected across the board. They previously rebuffed Logan’s acquisition efforts due to ATN being “poison in the well of public discourse.” Logan claims Stewy and Sandy’s takeover will fail if they acquire Pierce, but Karl and others note that Logan has personal reasons for wanting the company. For one, he was maligned once in one of their papers and wants revenge. Also, as Roman points out, Pierce’s PGM is Ewan’s favorite station. Petty, petty shit fueling what Karl calls a “20 billion dollar crapshoot.”
  • Shiv makes a good point, too: “If we own all the news I do actually wonder where I’ll get my fucking news. Because at some point someone actually needs to keep track of what’s going on in the world, who went where and who...wore a hat.” Timely!
  • Tabitha apparently had a tryst with Naomi Pierce. “Is there anybody you haven’t fucked?” Roman asks. “You!” she replies. Roman’s sexual issues are going to be confronted shortly, I assume.
  • This was a small moment, but the three-line exchange between Connor and Shiv when she gives him a bottle of wine kills me. “What’s this?” he asks, looking at the bottle. “Um, ya know,” she replies. “Okay, thank you,” he says, moving on. That was probably an $800 bottle of wine.
  • Connor, though, is a wine aficionado. He hyper-decants!
  • He’s also drinking a Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale during his campaign video. That’s a very good beer from a very good Michigan brewery.
  • Connor talking about how the “elites” are scared is pure Trump. Shiv’s response is perfect: “Do you think if you’re looking down on the elites from this penthouse that’s indicative of something?”
  • “Your flirt got all over my pants,” Shiv says to the actor, which is somehow both gross and hot.
  • Gregism of the week: “I can’t believe I’m on a private plane. It’s like I’m in a band. A very white, very wealthy band. It’s like I’m in U2.” Braun’s delivery here is indelible.
  • Rhea, the CEO of Pierce, wants to talk to Logan. Y’all should be very excited about who plays her when you find out next week.

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