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. Logan Roy
The UTI incident at the shareholders meeting feels like eons ago. The lion has roared back—for the time being, at least, dispensing of Stewy and the Sandies is no longer Logan’s priority. Right now, there’s a more important task at hand: Logan needs to pick the new president of the United States.
With the Raisin officially shutting down his reelection bid—thanks to the smear campaign about his mental health started by ATN—there’s a power vacuum in the GOP. Super Tuesday has already passed, so there’s no need to get pesky voters involved. Instead, the consortium at the Future Freedom Summit—a.k.a. Clown Town, a.k.a. the ATN Primary—will make the decision and pass it off to the public. And there is no greater stakeholder at the event than Logan, the belle of the aspiring-fascist ball from the moment he arrives at CPAC Lite.
Logan basks in the attention. Outside the walls of the Virginia hotel, his media empire may be ceding influence to big tech (until Waystar buys GoJo, whatever it does), but inside, he’s the most important man in the world. Throughout “What It Takes,” he swaggers through rooms of influential GOP donors, wields his “uh-huhs” like daggers, and demands everyone bend to his will. (The vice president—the front-runner for the nomination heading into the summit—is reduced to an errand boy given the choice between two tasks: Fetch Logan a Coke or fire the deputy AG.)
Ultimately, Logan opts for Jeryd Mencken, the riskiest option of all the viable contenders—he’s a firebrand who plays well on camera, but he’s more than just a little racist. Logan has plenty of reasons to go with Mencken: He’ll be good for ATN ratings, he knows when to kiss an ass and when to shove a boot up one, but most importantly, he excites Logan. Getting lost in the details risks losing the forest for the trees, and the climate-denier has no time to worry about green spaces. The kingmaker has made his decision. Now it’s time for everyone else to fall in line.
2. Kerry, Logan’s Assistant
We’ve known since last season that romantic proximity to Logan grants a certain level of influence in the Waystar Royco realm—hell, he was ready to hand the reins of the whole operation to Rhea until the cruise line debacle became too radioactive for her. In “What It Takes,” we learn that Logan’s newest flame is doing more than charting the course for Waystar—she’s helping decide the fate of the free world.
At some point this season, while Marcia’s been negotiating the conditions of her return to Logan’s life but receding to the background, Logan has apparently sparked a relationship with Kerry, his assistant roughly four decades his junior. And, shockingly, he’s even sorta sweet to her, speaking her internet language.
But this May-December romance appears to be more than just a fling: Logan values Kerry’s input. Take the marathon family meeting in the hotel, as Shiv and Roman bicker over whether to endorse Mencken. As Roman states his case for the fascist—rather convincingly, if one considers the proposition from the ATN perspective—Kerry flashes her new beau this look ...
... and Logan fires back with this:
And just like that, Logan has the approval he needs to make his boldest political decision in years. You know what they say: Behind every great man is a strong, too-young-for-him executive assistant willing to enable his worst instincts.
3. Congressman Jeryd Mencken
I’d guess that the overwhelming majority of real-life Succession viewers would have Mencken ranked last on their ballots, but he makes for the best TV of all the candidates, even in this semi-fictional world. The dark horse is essentially an evolutionary Proud Boy, one who’s willing to shout “Read Plato” at his perceived intellectual inferiors or borrow ideas from Thomas Aquinas, Travis Bickle, or even “H” (which stands for the exact historical figure you’re thinking of). He rants in coded language about the changing nature of the country and half-jokes about sending his enemies to the gulag. (Though “S” may be a little too communist for him to cite as an inspiration.) In short: This is not a nice person! But he’s loud and brash—his gambit of negging ATN within earshot of Logan effectively red-pilled the Roy patriarch into endorsing him—and Mencken has suddenly found himself the front-runner for the White House. As Roman says to Logan at the close of the penthouse straw poll: “I know we came to market to buy you a nice milk cow, but we found ourselves a fucking T. rex, OK?”
4. Roman Roy
Speaking of Roman, our boy is on a roll (even if he had to learn from the Brexit Pervert that his mom was getting remarried). Roman may have botched the call with the Raisin last week, but with the rise of his new alt-right bestie Mencken, that mishap is looking more and more like a happy accident. Suddenly, Roman’s the most influential family member in Logan’s sphere—at episode’s close, his dad even congratulates him for bringing him Mencken. Roman also has ideas for how to run ATN in the future and fight off the network’s new-media competitors: E-girls with guns and Juul pods, ads for bone broth and dick pills, and a spotlight on a charismatic tyrant. It’s quite the come-up for someone whose biggest accomplishment not too long ago was producing Dr. Honk, the movie about the man who could talk to cars.
5. Connor Roy
But we shouldn’t overlook that the Roy family, on Logan’s request, seriously debated whether they should push Connor for the GOP nomination. And for a moment, despite Greg the Hamilton lover’s protests, it seemed plausible. As Logan says, Connor’s good looking, he’s smart (“in his way”), he can walk and chew gum, and he can piss straight. As Shiv says, he’s got no track record—which Connor points out isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the past is often just a political liability. But beyond the bullet points, he does have an undeniable appeal: “In a roomful of Timothy McVeighs, Connor suddenly looks like a Roosevelt,” Shiv says as she watches her oldest brother mingle at the Future Freedom Summit. Mencken may have earned Logan’s support for now, but we haven’t heard the last of Connor Roy and his Beltway Buddah, Maxim Pierce.
6. Panhandle Pete
He got to meet his hero! King shit!
She had to meet Panhandle Pete when she could’ve been working on her play! Connor said, to her face, that the free market determined her dislike for commercial-aspiring plays! What a terrible weekend for Connor’s Leggy Mary Todd!
8. Lisa Arthur
On the downside, the so-called “best lawyer in town” was continually berated by a petulant client whose entire fight is nothing more than a faux-woke cover for his deep-seated daddy issues. But on the upside, Kendall let her go, so now she’s free. She may be a “toxic person” in his eyes for daring to tell him the truth about his weak case and poor bedside manners, but at least she got off the Kendall Roy ride before it crashed and burned. As Lisa reminds Ken, she’s not a DJ, and now she no longer has to take his requests.
9. The Paper People
POV: You’re trying to jigsaw together 80,000 scraps of paper documenting the cover-up of decades of sexual assaults and various other corporate crimes, and this fuckin’ guy walks in. Do you quit immediately or wait till he leaves?
10. Ron Petkus
Admittedly, this entry is mostly an opportunity to shout out actor Stephen Root, best known as Milton from Office Space and most recently his work as Monroe Fuches on Barry. Root is one of those guys you can’t help but like even as he’s playing an asshole. Take Ron Petkus, the character he plays here, who creeps Willa out while still managing to come across as one of the more normal people at the Future Freedom Summit. That’s a testament to both Root’s charm and the awfulness of the figures who populate the conference.
11. Shiv Roy
Two-thirds of the way through Season 3, we have to ask: Where is Siobhan’s arc headed? The opening episodes of this season saw her toying with the idea of joining Kendall before her father brought her in as the company’s president of domestic operations. Since then, she’s been repeatedly undermined and sidelined. The disrespect peaked last week following the shareholders meeting: With Logan incapacitated, Shiv negotiated a deal that kept Waystar Royco in the family in exchange for a few board seats and some private-jet use, only to have her father come back to consciousness and tell her to fuck off, as only he can.
She fares no better in “What It Takes.” She takes a liking to Rick Salgado, a Romney-style Reagan-worshipping Republican who wink-winks to her that if she can get ATN to endorse him for the nomination, he’ll send her dad to prison and pave the way for her to take over. (A Nathan for You–ass path to the presidency, but nonetheless: a path.) Whether Shiv believes him or not, she believes he’s the best of bad options: His policies may be pulled from a National Review issue from 2012, and he may be a neocon pretending to be a paleocon, but he’s got a great narrative and, unlike Mencken, he probably won’t put the country on a fast track to dictatorship. But Logan has no interest in narrative or anything his left-leaning daughter believes. He’s already made up his mind: Mencken is the guy. The greatest insult to Shiv comes when Logan forces her to pose in a photo with Mencken, whom she may actually loathe more personally than politically. When the photo is snapped, she’s leaning toward the edge of the frame. That’s by choice, but it’s also a tidy metaphor for her current standing.
Let’s see if this horse can run. pic.twitter.com/buFOmOcdi2— Succession (@succession) November 22, 2021
As we head into the final three episodes of Season 3, Shiv is weaker than ever. She has a title, but no power. Convictions, but no authority. Family, but no support. But something’s got to give: She’s too smart to allow herself to be treated like this in perpetuity, and she may be the “nice one,” but she’s still a Roy. The questions now are about her next move and whether it will take her back to where she was at the season’s beginning: debating whether to jump ship and join Kendall in his Quixotic crusade against his family.
12. Cousin Greg
Greg starts the episode being called a soyboy and ends it riding the shoulders of Proud Boys shouting “Fuck Greenpeace.” Hard to see which is a better position to be in, but at least in between, he talks Tom into catching a case for him. It’s hard to know how to feel about Greg’s trajectory until we know what’s up with Ken’s plan, but for another week, he’s still surviving in this fucked-up family without having to worry about anyone wiping their ass on his pillow.
13. Vice President Dave Boyer
A quick power-ranking of the worst things said to or about Dave Boyer in “What It Takes”:
5. “Martin Van Boring.”
4. “I heard his daughter has made him go vegetarian. … Secret herbivore, right here.”
3. “I think he’s been waiting there for me for the last 10 fucking minutes.”
2. “I don’t suppose you could run me over a Coke.”
1. “Guy must have the wettest lips in North America.”
14. Tom Wambsgans
A few weeks ago in this spot, I argued that by volunteering to go to prison, Tom was taking some control over his life for once. Boy, was I wrong. Our guy has spiraled this season: He’s begged to impregnate Shiv to make sure she’s around when he gets out of prison. He’s offered to castrate Greg and take him as a new bride. And now, he’s eating diner food daily and comparing it to Rasputin ingesting arsenic, except instead of building a tolerance to a poisonous chemical element, he’s simply lowering his culinary standards to reach a point where he can stomach his prison meals.
As Tom tells Greg, pretty much all he does is think about prison. It’s OK, though—it makes those fleeting moments when he he feels like “someone’s loosened their icy grip on [his] innards” so sweet. When Greg and Tom cross paths with a white-collar ex-con at the Future Freedom Summit, Tom listens closely as the man preaches about the importance of forming a relationship with one’s jail toilet. It can be your refrigerator, your brother, your priest, your lover. It can also be a bastard, he says. Tom takes mental notes; it’s a wonder he hadn’t already learned these things on the prison blogs he’s been reading.
Tom has also earned another new nickname: the Christmas Tree, because whatever you want to hang on him, you can. What started out looking like a one-year sentence and parole for Tom is looking like it could avalanche into a litany of charges. This is what happens when you volunteer to go to prison as part of a decades-long corporate cover-up—people looking for a life raft will find you.
But Tom’s offered a life raft of his own in “What It Takes”: Kendall’s case needs a boost, so he’s looking to flip someone up the ladder. He meets Tom, of course, at a diner—Tom’s order includes a “plain waffle and a large cup of room-temperature water”—and Ken extends an olive branch to his brother-in-law: Testify that Logan ordered the cover-ups and Kendall can get Tom immunity. But Tom can’t do that—either he’s too loyal or too weak. If it’s the former, fine, good for Tom, he’s always seemed to be a little better than the rest of his adopted family, even at his worst. The worry, however, is that it’s the latter and he doesn’t have the guts for this. To that, I’d just point out that it took more than a little bit of poison to take down Rasputin, and Tom’s just building up his tolerance.
15. Kendall Roy
No character on Succession has done more shitty things in the name of self-perceived righteousness than Kendall. This week’s greatest transgression: taking a picture of Tom as evidence they met after Tom turns down Ken’s overtures to change teams. The scary thing is that photo may have been the only thing Kendall did throughout “What It Takes” that could potentially help his cause. Blocked and reported by his dad after last week’s shareholders meeting, Kendall has less leverage than ever. Before he fires Lisa Arthur, she tells him his case is not as strong as he originally believed. (The Greg papers “lack some of the explosiveness it was suggested they might have,” she says. Pour another out for the Paper People.) We see his practice testimony to the DOJ; he flubs his way through that. We see the aftermath of his actual testimony; it may have gone even worse than the pretend one. But now, he’s got new lawyers, and he’s as steadfast in his conviction as ever. He just needs one or two people to flip on Logan, and even in the absence of that, he’s behaving as though he can still pull this off. Of course, as it stands right now, he can’t: To quote another of my favorite HBO dramas, “Some people are so far behind in a race they actually believe they’re leading.”
“My hunch is that you’re going to get fucked, because I’ve seen you get fucked a lot and I’ve never seen Logan get fucked once,” Tom tells him before they separate. It’s sage advice. Maybe it’ll get through to him. Probably not, though: He seems pretty distracted planning his “Weimar meets Carthage meets Dante meets A.I. and antibiotic super-resistance bugs” birthday party.
16. The “Shit Slaps” Guy
The only thing worse than being Kendall is being one of Kendall’s nameless hangers-on. No, that birthday party does not sound like it slaps, and no, Chuck D and Zadie Smith aren’t coming.