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Town Hall Nirvana: Breaking Down Episode 3 of ‘Succession’

The battle lines have been drawn. Now it’s time for everyone to cross them.

HBO/Ringer illustration

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 continue with the third episode, “The Disruption.”

Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 3

A third of the way through Succession’s third season, we finally get to see Waystar’s acting CEO on the job—which only confirms how little power Gerri actually has. The corporate underlings still look to Logan for the final say on any moves during “strategy meetings”; at one point, Logan barks at Gerri for hovering near him, as if the person theoretically in charge of the company is a nuisance for trying to stay engaged. Granted, none of this is breaking news to Gerri, who’s worked alongside Logan long enough to know that he’ll never cede his throne. But she also knows it’s better to be in the orbit of power than wielding that power herself.

You know who else should know that Logan uses people as pawns and nothing else? Maybe the person who already spent an entire season being dragged around by the false promise of the top job. Nevertheless, Shiv feels emboldened by her new position at Waystar—president of domestic operations, a rung below Gerri—and is willing to play along with Logan’s latest schemes. After learning that Kendall is mulling a dramatic return to the Waystar offices, Shiv tries to talk him out of it at a Committee for the Protection and Welfare of Journalists dinner. (Side note: That’s just an incredible venue for the Roys to draw attention to themselves, since Waystar is clearly a paragon of journalistic integrity.) She tells Kendall that their interests are aligned, and that she wants to fix Waystar from the inside, which is the only way that meaningful change can happen. But Kendall sees the seeming peace-making gesture for what it really is—an attempt to censor him. As if there were any lingering doubts after she convinced a cruise line victim not to testify in front of Congress last season, Shiv has sold her soul to win over their father. “Look at this,” Kendall says to her. “It’s you now. I’m so sorry for you, Siobhan.”

The irony of the exchange is that it comes just after Kendall apologizes for the harsh words he hurled at her after she refused to take his side in the previous episode. Even as the Roy kids stab each other in the back for sport, they all recognize that there are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed. When Kendall interrupts Waystar’s company-wide town hall and undermines Shiv’s first major speech as president by blasting Nirvana’s “Rape Me,” that was fair game. It wasn’t personal. But to further ingratiate herself to Logan, Shiv does something unforgivable, publishing an open letter condemning Kendall for being a drug addict, an absentee father, and a misogynist. It’s not that the contents of the letter are false—we have the entire show as evidence that Kendall is guilty of these things—but it’s the kind of move that reverberates outside of boardrooms and penthouses. It’s more than another chess move—it’s a personal attack on Kendall’s character for all the world to see.

It’s telling that Roman and Connor refused to sign the letter; even they have enough empathy for Kendall to not stoop this low. (In fairness, they also did it to protect their own interests.) At the end of Season 2, Logan told Kendall that he had reservations about his son ever becoming CEO because he wasn’t a killer—a vicious statement given all the guilt Kendall has harbored over accidentally killing someone. By airing out Kendall’s dirty laundry for the entire world to see, Shiv has delivered a significant body blow, and looks every bit the killer that Logan’s been searching for in his children.

Takeaway of the Week: Cultivating an Image

“You’re quite concerned with how you’re going to come across,” a reporter tells Kendall over lunch at the beginning of “The Disruption,” which might be the understatement of the year. Even taking Kendall’s fragile ego out of the equation, the Roys are in the business of image-making, and do care about how the public perceives them. It’s why Kendall agrees to be interviewed by the reporter to begin with, and why he becomes fixated on the fictional comedian Sophie Iwobi (played by real-life late-night host Ziwe Fumudoh), whose late-night show, The Disruption, gives this week’s episode its title.

Of course, it’s one thing for Kendall to be aware of his public image—it’s another to know that Iwobi repeatedly referring to him as “Oedipussy” isn’t a good look. (Kendall is stoked that Iwobi is giving him this much attention because it means he’s “part of the conversation.”) Kendall’s forced obliviousness to being roasted, and the hypocrisy of his savior complex (as pointed out by Iwobi), is a painful thing to witness. Just look at the faces of the partygoers he forces to watch a clip from the show:

Screenshots via HBO

His irrational confidence—or his unwillingness to wrestle with the true weight of his actions—is so deep that he actually reaches out to Iwobi’s team and agrees to an interview on her show.

Meanwhile, there’s a multi-pronged image rehabilitation attack plan underway at Waystar. Kendall’s press conference betrayal has, unsurprisingly, led the public to wonder, “Hey, maybe Logan Roy’s kids hate him?” so the PR lackeys want the other kids to go on a “We love Dad” press blitz and share heartwarming anecdotes about him. (LOL.) Roman has to settle for a memory of fly fishing that actually happened with Connor, which tells us everything we need to know about the Roys’ depressing family dynamics.

And on an employee-facing front, Waystar workers are demanding transparency after the company’s reputation has been dragged through the mud. People are asking very understandable yet very hard-to-answer questions like, “I’m embarrassed to say to my mother that I work at Waystar—any advice?” (Roman’s response: “Yeah: Fuck your mother.”) So Shiv leads a company-wide town hall—albeit one with PR-approved questions, of course.

But as much as cultivating an image is the theme of “The Disruption,” so is the point that doing it isn’t that easy. Both Kendall and Shiv struggle to hide behind PR-approved corporate buzzwords and professionally written jokes, crumbling in the face of their true selves. Kendall’s Nirvana-themed interruption is vicious and over the top—just one of those JBL speakers costs $1,300—but it’s also touching on a truth that no one can quite deny. And Shiv’s letter cuts right through Kendall: Upon seeing the letter minutes before his interview with Iwobi, he drops his Techno Gatsby swagger and cowers in the studio’s server room like a scared little boy:

But as bad as chickening out of a late-night interview at the last minute looks for Kendall, it’s nothing compared to FBI agents arriving at Waystar’s doorstep by the end of the episode. (Amazingly, the FBI raid happens at the same time that Tom is hosting a dinner for ATN advertisers.) For a family as image-conscious as the Roys, the perception of the FBI barging in with a subpoena feels just as worrying as the attendant legal ramifications.

The Most Callous Display of Wealth

We’ve got a little crossover with the Cousin Greg Corner this week: You see, our gangly king is stoked about being rewarded by Kendall for his loyalty (and cruise documents). Per Greg, Kendall is going to gift him a watch. And since he isn’t footing the bill, Greg has his eye on a swanky timepiece that costs [deep breath] $40,000. Even most of the men’s watches currently on the Rolex website don’t go for that much.

But Greg’s wannabe 1-percenter vibes don’t last long—for starters, he mistakes Kendall agreeing to “hook him up” with a high-end watch merchant as an agreement to pay for it. “Don’t get weird on me, I’m not your fucking sugar daddy,” Kendall says. Then, after eating the enormous cost himself, Greg finds out that the watch doesn’t even work. He makes such a fuss over it that a PA on Sophie Iwobi’s show wonders whether there’s something wrong with Greg when he starts flailing his wrist around—which, as Kendall points out, makes it look like he’s jerking off a ghost:

Poor Greg, who now has to check what time it is the old-fashioned way: by pulling his phone out of his pocket.

The Most Brutal Insults of the Week

5. On Waystar’s new corporate tagline: “‘We Get It.’ A bit like those ladies on the cruise ship got it?” —Roman

4. On Greg seeking outside counsel: “I hear you have a really great lawyer. Is it true you can find him anytime, day or night, because he has one of those bow ties that lights up and spins around?” —Tom

3. After Roman displayed a modicum of affection for his dad in an interview: “I never figured you for a faggot.” —Logan

2. On Kendall suffering from Caucasian Rich Brain: “What happens is genetically inherited wealth and whiteness can cause neural pathways in the brain to constrict and make the patient believe he’s woke when he’s just a total fucking jackass.” —Sophie Iwobi

1. A tweet-length review of Kendall Roy’s character arc: “He clearly has mental health issues and crazy guilt coupled with addiction, that’s all this is and it’s sad.” —Someone, very accurately, on Twitter

The Cousin Greg Corner

We’ve already touched on the tragicomic journey of Greg trying to score a luxury watch, but one interesting subplot within the subplot is his flirty behavior with Kendall’s PR manager, Comfry—which, in essence, means that he’s hitting on Dasha from the Red Scare podcast. This would seem to confirm what New York’s hottest bachelor, Nicholas Braun, teased to The Wall Street Journal in June about Greg’s personal life being “rounded out” in Season 3. In any case, let’s hope that Greg is better at handling his love life than he is at juggling loyalty between Team Kendall and Team Logan.

For one, it appears that Greg has made no effort to hide the fact that he still socializes with Kendall, since Tom calls him out on it before moving (read: demoting) him to a different office. The disheveled state of the new digs makes Tom’s feelings about Greg at the moment very clear. “I mean, it’s not, uh, very nice,” Greg helpfully adds.

To mend his strained relationship with Tom—and, thus, Logan—Greg gives him a heads-up about Kendall’s plan to storm the Waystar premises. (Not that it made any difference during the catastrophic town hall.) But while that did take some heat off Greg for the time being, this all feels liable to blow up in his face. He’s trying to stay in the good graces of Kendall, Logan, and Tom—all while his grandfather Ewan plans to use him as a pawn in his own scheme to take Waystar down.

If he isn’t careful about his moves in the coming weeks, Greg is going to end up like his new watch: broken and expendable.