clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Time for War: Breaking Down the Season 3 Premiere of ‘Succession’

As Kendall basks in the righteousness of his press conference, the rest of the Roy family preps for the charged aftermath of it

HBO/Ringer illustration

It’s been more than two years since the Roys and their power-hungry subordinates last graced our screens, but the wait for a new season of Succession is finally over. Television’s most miserable wealthy family are back to fight over control of Waystar Royco, and The Ringer will be following their scheming every step of the way. Each week, we’ll break down the biggest developments, track who’s leading the literal line of succession, and catalog each episode’s most savage burns, best Cousin Greg–isms, and more. Let’s get started with the Season 3 premiere, “Secession.”

Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 1

It has been 735 days—but hey, who’s counting?—since Kendall Roy’s bombshell press conference when he implicated his father Logan in Waystar Royco’s cruise lines scandal. But while a lot of time has passed in the real world—to say nothing of significant events like a pandemic and a presidential election—the Season 3 premiere, “Secession,” picks up almost immediately where the show left off. Logan and the majority of the ensemble are still in Europe scrambling to respond to the allegations; meanwhile, back in New York, it dawns on Kendall that he’s reached a point of no return. He reacts appropriately:

I could say “the characters are anxiously jockeying for power,” but that would describe literally every episode of Succession. What makes “Secession” so significant is the palpable sense that Logan might actually be unable to dig himself out of this massive hole. Between a publicized congressional hearing, Kendall’s even more publicized backstabbing (he’s the no. 1 trending topic on Twitter, ahead of tater tots), Cousin Greg’s cruise lines documents, and the (still!) looming takeover bid from Sandy and Stewy, it feels like the walls are closing in. In fact, it’s so bad that Shiv and Roman are quietly contemplating their next moves if Logan were to go down.

Given the severity of the situation, Logan is willing to make an unprecedented concession by—yes, really—stepping down as Waystar CEO. Of course, much like when Logan dangled the position to Shiv at the start of the second season, the offer comes with a catch: He expects to have “informal input” on operational matters at Waystar. Translation: Logan will still run the show, just as a shadow ruler pulling the strings of a puppet. (This is all assuming that he isn’t just ousted from the company by Kendall’s takeover, anyway.) But even the prospect of being Waystar’s CEO in name only is undeniably appealing to the power-hungry underlings: Karl and Frank both make half-assed cases for themselves before being shot down with the traditional fuck-offs. In Logan’s view, there are only three sensible options. “Now I’d like a kid, obviously, so Shiv or Roman,” he says. “But we’d love a woman, so Shiv or Gerri. But I’d like experience, so Roman or Gerri.”

In the three-horse race, Roman knocks himself out of the running after a panicky phone call to his dad during which he explains why he’d be right for the job, but also commits the cardinal sin of making a case for someone who is technically his competition: Gerri. (Logan seems to take “supporting others” as a sign of weakness.) And having failed to get Logan a hotshot lawyer for the upcoming legal battle against Kendall, Shiv squanders her own opportunity at taking the reins. (Could she be thinking that teaming up with Kendall is suddenly the more appealing option?) That leaves Gerri who, by the end of the episode, gets a call from Logan confirming that she’s got the gig.

It’s only fitting that Gerri secured the bag through a combination of inaction and two of Logan’s children shooting themselves in the foot. As Roman once put it in Season 2, Gerri is a “competent kind of clever filing cabinet that everyone seems content to have around.” But whether she would make for a capable CEO should be a moot point. She’s a stopgap—she’d be the first to admit it—and it’s hard to imagine that she’ll have any real say on corporate matters if Logan is pulling the strings. Instead, her appointment feels most like a win for Roman, considering the rest of the characters are unaware that he and Gerri have formed an [clears throat] interesting partnership. It might be temporary, but one week into the new season, Waystar is partially in the hands of Rock Star and the Mole Woman.

Takeaway of the Week: Kendall Is the Number One Jerk (Again)

Previewing the arc of my beloved failson ahead of Season 3, I wondered whether Kendall getting his mojo back would prove to be a double-edged sword—that by escaping his father’s grip, he’d revert to becoming an insufferable business bro. Unfortunately, Kendall answered that question in record time after hopping into an SUV with Greg and his trusty, seen-it-all assistant Jess. He makes strategic moves on the go, calling Frank and Shiv to see whether they want to hop aboard Team Kendall, and securing a meeting with the aforementioned hotshot lawyer, Lisa Arthur (played by Sanaa Lathan). Then, when Kendall gets a call from his girlfriend Naomi Pierce, who (sorta jokingly) calls him the “best man in the world,” he can’t resist sporting a smug—and, it should be noted, extremely punchable—grin.

(We are all Jess, silently judging in the back seat.)

As with all things Kendall, there is a bottomless pit of cringe. When Greg compares their SUV escapades to the infamous O.J. Simpson chase before correcting that they never killed anybody, Kendall quips, “Who said I never killed anyone?” (Involuntary manslaughter is no laughing matter, even if it’s a bizarre coping mechanism for all of Kendall’s internalized pain and guilt.) Finally, having been denied access to Waystar HQ, and with his own place swarmed by the press, Kendall essentially hijacks his ex-wife Rava’s apartment as a base of operations. Being in the presence of his ex makes Kendall behave more insecurely while at the same time yearning for her validation. He repeatedly stresses to Rava that she should check out his super badass press conference, and, in the same breath as inviting his new girlfriend over to the apartment, he presses her about the male razors he found in her bathroom. (“I’m not giving you enough money for gender-appropriate razors now?”) I just watched Halloween Kills, and Michael Myers pursuing his victims was honestly a more comforting experience than Kendall making a fool (and a tool) of himself.

Succession went to such lengths to torture Kendall in its second season that his suffering was compared to Game of Thrones’ Theon Greyjoy, another tragic failson with serious daddy issues. (Somehow, Kendall’s constant psychological tormenting by Logan felt like it belonged in the same league as a person who literally had his penis cut off by a psychopath.) But while the character’s miserable ordeal in Season 2 might’ve elicited some sympathy from the audience, within one episode we’re reminded that the only thing more excruciating than Kendall cowering under his father’s thumb is when he perceives that he’s the “best man in the world.”

Granted, as the episode’s opening moments in the bathtub underlined, Kendall’s shtick is a lot of cocky posturing attempting to hide the same wounded, insecure individual lurking under the surface who just wants a kiss from daddy. (Perhaps, like Logan, the easiest way to love Kendall is when he’s at his most broken and vulnerable.) Just because he had enough of a backbone to stand up to his dad in the press conference doesn’t mean that Kendall will be able to keep it together for the grueling corporate-cum–familial battle ahead. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Team Logan is counting on. “Kendall will self-destruct, because it’s his favorite,” Roman tells Logan during a brainstorming session. Given everything we’ve seen from Kendall—not just in “Secession,” but the series as a whole—there are no lies detected.

The Most Callous Display of Wealth

For Succession’s glitzy standards, “Secession” appeared to be light on 1-percenter flexing, instead focusing on the nitty-gritty of the battle lines being drawn between Logan and Kendall. But it’s within this corporate maneuvering that Succession reminds the average viewer just how removed our daily lives are from the über-wealthy. Fearing that he could face legal action stateside, Logan elects to travel to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that doesn’t have any extradition laws. He brings Karl, Frank, Tom, and PR lackey Hugo with him, while Gerri, Shiv, and Roman hitch another ride back to New York. (Connor and Willa, meanwhile, hold the fort in Croatia. I almost forgot Connor was there, so I basically pulled a Logan.)

What’s ridiculous about this scenario isn’t so much the actual traveling, but just how mundane it seems when Logan is firing up multiple private jets the same way that a group of friends might arrange an UberPool. If that’s not frustrating enough, the Roys don’t even know how to maximize the exorbitant wealth at their disposal. No disrespect to Sarajevo, but if a country with no extradition treaty with the United States is what Logan is after, why not travel to the Maldives? Wouldn’t you want to conspire to destroy your traitorous son with this as your backdrop?

If Waystar Royco is in need of a new travel agent, hit me up on LinkedIn.

The Most Brutal Insults of the Week

5. When Tom is taking too long in the bathroom: “Have a problem in there buddy? Can’t find a vein?” —Hugo

4. On how to turn Willa’s disastrous play Sands into a profitable Broadway production: “The whole hate-watch angle, you know like pick out all the worst reviews like ‘Kill yourself if you got a ticket’ or the one about brain poisoning … Jump on the irono-cycle, make it into a thing for the hipsters and the dipshits. We could make a nice little return.” —Connor

3. On Karl’s feasibility as Waystar’s next CEO: “Karl, if your hands are clean, it’s only because your whore house also does manicures.” —Logan

2. After Greg accidentally opens a bottle of wine gifted by Rava’s godfather: “It’s fine, it’s good, it’s like when someone breaks something beautiful and it reminds you that nothing lasts. Enjoy it.” —Rava, who also deserves a Nobel Peace Prize

1. When Shiv says she loves him: “Uh huh, thanks. Thank you.” —Tom

The Cousin Greg Corner

While almost all of the Roys are—for now, at least—siding with Logan, Cousin Greg stands out from the pack on Team Kendall. The cruise line documents he saved from being destroyed could prove to be Logan’s undoing, which makes Greg one of the biggest X factors going into Season 3. In the meantime, though, he opens “Secession” by struggling to get Kendall to leave the bathroom. “Hey Ken, if you’re OK will you just say ‘OK’ so that I know you’re OK?” he says. “Otherwise I’ll have to break the door down and I don’t really want—I don’t know if I’ll be able to.” (Some things never change.)

Thankfully, Kendall leaves the bathroom of his own volition, but if Greg thought that trying to break down a door would be difficult, it’s nothing compared to taking Kendall’s “cultural temperature” online. As fate would have it, Greg’s short stint as Kendall’s social media monitor is kind of a mess. He mistakes a Twitter account with “pope” in the title as the actual pope, and instead of giving Kendall a detailed report of which way the discourse is swinging, he concludes that “the internet is big, obviously, and I couldn’t read it all.” Later, when Kendall locks down actual PR consultants in Rava’s apartment, Greg has a wordless exchange with one of the women that feels like a lifetime’s worth of uncomfortable interactions bottled into a single moment. In the hands of actor Nicholas Braun, this is a work of painfully relatable art:

Things don’t get any better when he starts talking, letting her know that he “wrote down some tweets” that could be useful and that he was just on the phone with his mom’s credit card company because she’s panic-buying after Kendall’s press conference. (TMI, Greg!)

Being off the air for two years has done nothing to dilute Greg’s impeccable awkwardness, and while I wouldn’t have it any other way, it hasn’t seemed to dawn on Greg that that he’s the linchpin in the very public implosion of one of the biggest companies on the planet

(If Kendall is overwhelmed, at least that means he’s self-aware; conversely, Greg is completely in over his head.) But that doesn’t mean the character isn’t capable of some growth. With Tom stuck in Sarajevo and very much on Team Logan, the bromance between Greg and Kendall continues to blossom. Just look at these two lovebirds:

While most viewers will understandably be fixated on the battle brewing over control of Waystar, it’s important that we also don’t lose sight of the battle brewing over control of Greg’s bromantic affections. If Greg invites Kendall out to dinner at the nearest California Pizza Kitchen, we’ll know things are getting serious between them—and that Tom’s days could be numbered.