Succession is all about power—who has the most, who can wield it the best, and who is disastrously blinded by it. So every week during Season 3, The Ringer will check in on how the hierarchy at Waystar Royco shifts with each passing episode. It’s safe to say everything is in disarray—and to steal a line from another HBO series, chaos can be a ladder.
1. No One
Despite Kendall’s blockbuster power move at the end of Season 2, I’d just like to make it clear that no one is winning as of now. No one is the number one boy. Everyone is losing; everyone is compromised; everyone is unsuccessful, in a deeply existential sense.
2. Lisa Arthur
Based on her Season 3 introduction, we can deduce a few things about the attorney played by Sanaa Lathan:
- She apparently works all hours of the day, never needing a nap or, like, a 5-hour Energy.
- She can really pull off thick-rimmed glasses.
- She is one of the only people in the world who can make Shiv Roy feel small.
- She “did the hookers,” according to Logan. (He means she represented trafficked sex workers in a high-profile case.)
- She is, apparently, the only viable high-level female lawyer in existence.
- Like, seriously—both Kendall and Logan are extremely desperate to put her on retainer, as if she is their only option.
- We’re talking billionaires, in the middle of a highly public corporate controversy, who can think of only one lawyer sharp and experienced enough for the task at hand.
- Surely there are Harvard Law grads out there charging $10,000 an hour who could effectively take this on?
- The implication that there are not other available lawyers to handle this, however, suggests that Lisa Arthur is the Michael Jordan of corporate attorneys.
Oh, and one other thing: She is resolutely not implicated in Waystar Royco’s decades-long efforts to cover up a litany of sexual assaults, wrongful deaths, and other miscellaneous crimes. Obviously she doesn’t have the moral clarity of, say, the Lincoln Lawyer (fantastic film, by the way), but the fact that she can’t be brought up on federal charges gives her a bit of a leg up on everyone else.
It’s true that Kendall’s ex-wife Rava spends much of the aptly named “Secession” getting dumped on. (More on that below.) But at the same time, it’s hard to watch the episode and not come away thinking that Rava holds Kendall’s entire well-being in the palm of her hand. Not only does he need her from a purely logistical standpoint—her apartment is the only safe space where he can conduct business—but he needs her on an emotional level. The extent to which he wants her approval is transparent and vast, and could potentially be weaponized. For now, at least, that makes Rava one of the show’s most powerful players.
Within this ranking, let’s do a ranking of the cringiest things Kendall did in the Season 3 premiere of Succession:
10. He got legitimately excited about the pope following him on Twitter before finding out it was “a different pope.”
9. He actually asked Karolina, “Are you in for this fucking revolution?”
7. He responded to his dad saying that he was going to “grind his fucking bones to make my bread” with, “Yeah, well, tell him that I’m going to run up off the fucking beanstalk.”
6. I mean, the entire meeting with the image consultants, but especially this:
5. And this:
4. He brought his traveling circus to his ex-wife’s doorstep and was like, “Is it cool if I invade your personal space while I go on a bender of self-aggrandizing?”
3. With the desperation of a toddler, he repeatedly told Rava that she should watch his press conference.
2. After usurping Rava’s apartment, HE THEN INVITED HIS CURRENT GIRLFRIEND OVER.
1. Finally, this. By far this:
At the end of Season 2, Kendall made a move that was both morally just and cynically savvy. He found a way out from under his father’s thumb and also put a much deserved spotlight on Waystar’s rampant corruption. But the beginning of Season 3 makes it clear that Kendall is neither virtuous nor astute. It doesn’t even seem like he put much thought into that monumental press conference. He’s just a boy with no plan beyond fighting his father and projecting a likable image to the world, and even though Lisa Arthur chose him over Logan, he still seems to be eternally fated to destroy himself.
Logan is scrambling: he’s out here getting ghosted by the president and holing up in an airport hotel in Sarajevo. He also lost to Kendall in the Battle for the One Good Lawyer. But the world still revolves around him. Everything Kendall does is a reaction to an action by Logan, while everyone from Shiv to Roman to the sandwich guy (Karl) is simply waiting for Logan to tell them what to do. Maybe he can’t win this fight; maybe he’ll end up in prison, like Kendall says. But he still has control. He still has power.
After multiple seasons of characters jockeying to be named the next CEO of Waystar, Gerri Kellman has officially earned the title. There are caveats of course: It’s basically a figurehead position with Logan pulling the strings in the shadows. Plus, considering, ya know, everything, the face of Waystar isn’t exactly a desirable position at the moment. This is less a promotion and more the hand off of a live grenade.
But Gerri is smart—smart enough to know why she’s only now getting a title bump. She should be able to thwart whatever sabotage will almost definitely come her way. She’s also smart enough to realize that actually having sex with Roman would kill the wonderfully twisted romance they have.
Specifically, Roman’s out because he made the grave mistake of advocating for someone else. People supporting other people is a big no-no for ol’ Logan.
I don’t think Kendall’s assistant, Jess Jordan, has any actual power here—nor do I think she’s biding her time to play a killer move. But I do think she’s one of the unsung heroes of Succession, and her silent reactions to Kendall’s vainglorious spiraling and Cousin Greg’s ongoing ineptitude throughout the premiere are invaluable.
Plus, she spoke to Logan on the phone without crying, and she turned a massive Manhattan apartment into a functioning crisis center in under a day. I don’t know what Kendall’s paying her, but I know it’s not enough.
Tom is still dropping thank-yous when Shiv says “I love you.” He still holds the power in their partnership, although their partnership hardly holds any larger sway at the moment.
“Your friend doesn’t like you, boo-hoo boo-hoo / And dad wants to fire you, woo-hoo! Woo-hoo!”
11. Cousin Greg
A rough episode for my guy: He can’t flirt, he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into, he can’t cancel his mom’s American Express gold card, he opens a bottle of wine that has serious sentimental value for Rava … Cousin Greg isn’t even good at Twitter. Cousin Greg should be good at Twitter! All incompetent, useless millennials and Gen Zers are good at Twitter! I am speaking from personal experience!
Karolina is not on board for the “fucking revolution.” Instead, she is getting kicked out of SUVs and immediately accosted by TMZ-like reporters yelling, “Why did you get kicked out of the car?!” Tough beat.
13. Hugo, Karl, and Frank
Obviously the shitfuckers are still at the bottom of the heap, but I will say the ordering between them has shifted slightly. Hugo, for one, is really good at acquiring massive private jets. You’ve gotta give him props for that. As for the other two, here’s Logan’s summation of Karl:
(Karl just nods at this.)
Frank is in an even worse spot: kept close at the big man’s side because Logan can’t trust him. Getting out of that particular prison is going to take more than one surreptitious phone call from Kendall.
For the umpteenth episode in a row, someone has forgotten that Connor exists.
A central tenet of Succession is that abuse trickles down—look no further than Tom’s relationship with Greg. We also see it in action in “Secession,” when Connor transitions from being mistreated and disrespected by his family to having no regard whatsoever for Willa’s feelings. “Oh, listen, my guy made contact and they wanna know if we wanna do a marketing push with the play,” he says, talking about Willa’s thoroughly panned Broadway debut Sands. “The whole hate-watch angle. You know, like, pick out all the worst reviews—like, you know, ‘Kill yourself if you got a ticket’ or the one about brain poison … Jump on the irono-cycle and, uh, make it into a thing for the hipsters and the dipshits. We could make a nice little return.”
I don’t know the particulars of Connor and Willa’s contractual agreement, but surely there’s an exit clause she could enact.