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Sucking in Water: Breaking Down Episode 8 of ‘Succession’

Somehow, Roman sending a dick pic to his own dad is not the most shocking moment of the eighth installment of Season 3

HBO/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Television’s most miserable wealthy family is 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 eighth episode, “Chiantishire.”

Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 8

Heading into the last two episodes of Succession’s third season—time sure flies when characters are constantly stabbing each other in the back—we had a breakaway front-runner in the race for the Waystar throne. Roman had proved himself to be a worthy candidate in his father’s eyes: He’s business savvy, knows how to talk to sociopathic presidential candidates and tech moguls, and there appears to be no line he isn’t willing to cross if it means getting a leg up on his siblings. (See: being cool with goons spying on his niece and nephew to mess with Kendall.) Roman is in such good standing with Logan that, at the start of “Chiantishire,” Shiv doesn’t even bother to attend a company board meeting in person, which may as well be a waving of the white flag. “This is just inner circle,” Roman “jokes” to Sandi and Stewy about his sister’s absence, further twisting the knife.

But on Succession, the Roy children never ride a wave of positive momentum for long—all it takes is one misstep for the tides to shift in another character’s favor. And this week, Roman commits his biggest act of self-sabotage since that time a rocket literally exploded under his supervision in Season 1. First, let’s add some context for Roman’s latest screwup: Despite having a productive, piss-fueled meeting at Kendall’s tragicomic birthday party, GoJo founder Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard) is sending out cryptic tweets that are boosting his company’s stock. (Like IRL egomaniac Elon Musk, Matsson is apparently prone to tweeting inane things that have actual economic ramifications.) GoJo’s stock is soaring enough that Waystar might not be able to acquire the company at the originally agreed upon price.

As Roman intuits from meeting with Matsson in person again in this episode, the guy isn’t just dicking around on Twitter. Matsson understands that GoJo and its assets hold a lot of value—especially for a company like Waystar, which needs a leg up in the Streaming Wars—and that he can get more than the Roys are offering by maximizing his leverage against them. Rather than stick to the original terms of the acquisition, Matsson now wants a merger of equals. Normally, Logan would respond to such demands with the tried-and-tested “fuck off,” but Waystar has been backed into a corner: If the company misses out on GoJo, it could become the Blockbuster of media companies. A merger appears to be the only way forward.

It’s hard to overstate Roman’s importance to these negotiations: He’s the only person who can speak Matsson’s language, and without him Logan wouldn’t have been able to bring this seismic deal to the finish line. Gerri sends Roman a congratulatory text for his hard work, to which he, of course, decides to respond with a dick pic. (Roman has sent so many dick pics to Gerri that she’s politely asked him to stop, but of course he hasn’t.) However, as Roman prepares to send the text, he gets a ping from his dad also congratulating him—and then accidentally sends the dick pic to Logan instead. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to share Roman’s boner, but this wordless exchange between father and son is an absolute work of art:

Screenshots via HBO

And with that—specifically, a dick pic!—Roman has dug his own grave. “She’s a million years old, it’s fucking disgusting,” Logan tells Roman as all his recent wins evaporate into thin air. “You’re a laughingstock … fuck off.” But while Roman wants to die of embarrassment, Shiv sees a golden opportunity. Roman was her only familial competition in the race for CEO, and he’ll be hard-pressed to get the job now that his dad has seen his dick. But Shiv doesn’t want to take any chances, approaching Gerri about filing a formal complaint against Roman for sexual harassment. Given the bad PR that Waystar received over the cruise lines scandal, if news got out that Roman was texting dick pics to the company’s interim CEO, it would be terminal to him.

It remains to be seen what Gerri will do now that her weird fling with Roman has come to light, or what this means for the potential GoJo-Waystar merger. But after being on the ropes for most of the season, Shiv heads into the Season 3 finale once again in the driver’s seat—all because Roman couldn’t keep his dick in his expensive Calvin Klein boxer briefs.

Takeaway of the Week: Mother Knows Best

Succession is always looking for a reason to throw all of its characters in the same location so they can insult one another, and “Chiantishire” is a perfect example. The episode focuses on the upcoming nuptials of Roman, Shiv, and Kendall’s mother Caroline (Harriet Walter) and her British businessman fiancé Peter Munion (Pip Torrens) in Tuscany. With how much attention the show pays to Logan, it’s easy to forget Caroline’s role in shaping three of the Roy children—or perhaps more accurately, her lack of one.

Logan inflicts a lot of psychological and physical abuse on his children, but there’s also no denying that he’s a constant presence in their lives. (As Brian Cox has explained in interviews, in his own twisted way, Logan does love his kids.) Conversely, Caroline is so emotionally detached from Roman, Shiv, and Kendall that they treat her coldness as a punch line. “I suppose opposites attract,” Shiv snipes to her mom when she says Peter has a big heart. Look no further than Caroline’s lone appearance last season: When Kendall wanted to have a heart-to-heart with his mom about all the guilt he was harboring over the cater-waiter’s death, she chose to leave him hanging. (She doesn’t treat Kendall much better at the wedding, letting him know that he’ll have to miss out on some events because Logan refuses to be in the same room as him. Yes, she’s siding with her spiteful ex-husband over her son because Peter wants “all the important people” at the venue.)

Caroline isn’t oblivious to her own shortcomings as a parent, but her self-awareness is hardly comforting. “Truth is, I probably should’ve never had children,” she tells Shiv. “You made the right decision. Some people just aren’t made to be mothers. I should’ve had dogs.” Even by Succession’s standards, that’s one of the most brutal things that’s ever been said on the show. The only way Kendall, Roman, and Shiv were ever going to not be completely damaged by their father was if they had a mother who could nurture and love them. Instead they had Caroline, who was so disinterested that she allowed Logan to mold them in his image—delighted that they always come back to try to gain his affection no matter how many times he kicks them to the ground.

Of course, the big development of “Chiantishire” is that Kendall finally wants out of his father’s game. The two talk over dinner—a meeting Kendall forced in spite of Caroline trying to separate father and son at the wedding—as Logan gets called out on his bluff of buying Kendall out of the company. “Maybe I want you close,” Logan says. “You can do the mail, keep you rattling around.”

“I can’t,” Kendall replies. “I thought I could change things. But I’m not as—there’s things you’re able to do that I can’t, maybe.” The rest of the conversation devolves from there, as Kendall’s claims that Logan is corrupt and evil push Logan to twist the knife and bring up the waiter who died at the end of Season 1. “How long was that kid alive before he started sucking in water?” Logan asks. The dinner ends soon after, without resolution and with the divisions between father and son having only deepened.

Feeling unwanted by his mother at her own wedding and boxed in by his father refusing to let him leave the family business, a miserable Kendall later drinks himself into a catatonic state—one that leaves him “sucking in water” as the credits roll.

We’ll have to wait until the finale to see whether Kendall’s actually dead, but there’s ample reason to be worried. For one, Kendall is lying in the pool all alone: his neglected kids already had gone inside by the time he dozed off. Then there’s the layered meaning to the character possibly drowning himself, which would mirror the fate of that poor cater-waiter—the moment that Kendall’s life changed forever. If this is really the end for Kendall, well, I’m going to be inconsolable after losing my Number One Boy. But considering all the ways that Kendall is broken and after all the cries for help—from bouts of emotional vulnerability to a last-ditch effort to get out of the family business—his parents will have nobody to blame but themselves if the worst comes to fruition.

The Most Callous Display of Wealth

The pandemic has undoubtedly influenced Succession’s third season, which is ending with nine episodes instead of the usual 10, and has spent more time than usual with characters inside of executive suites and penthouse apartments. Thankfully, “Chiantishire” was one big flex for the series, which uprooted its ensemble to Italy for Caroline’s lavish wedding. (For the cast, filming in Italy is just a perk.)

But while the wedding venue was unquestionably gorgeous, the greatest Italian luxury was reserved for Matsson. For their second meeting, Roman met up with Matsson at the mogul’s villa in Civenna, Italy, which is nestled on Lake Como. That’s where the likes of Madonna, George Clooney, and Sir Richard Branson own properties in real life. No surprise, the locale is as stunning as its swanky reputation.

Even Roman, who has lived his entire life with a silver spoon in his mouth, can’t help but compliment Matsson’s fancy digs. But the Swede disagrees. “I don’t know, it kind of freaks me out to be honest,” Matsson says. “When I got it I wanted everything to be absolutely perfect, now I’m sleeping on a camping mat on the floor until I get a deep-dive on the best mattress in the world.” This is appalling from Matsson on so many levels. First of all, your inability to find the best mattress in the world isn’t related to the property. Second, if you don’t like this multimillion-dollar villa, why the hell do you still own it?! Finally, does anyone ever use this awesome pool? Because if not, that should be a criminal offense:

That Matsson is left unimpressed by one of the most gorgeous properties I’ve ever seen on a TV show speaks to how most, if not all, 1 percenters have broken brains. Any rational person who made millions of dollars would retire and never work another day in their life—just as they would appreciate a lakeside property where you get to be neighbors with George friggin’ Clooney.

The Most Brutal Insults of the Week

5. When Roman boards a private jet by himself: “You haven’t got a date? No one on Raya wanted to come to Italy and sit on your ricotta dick?” —Shiv

4. After Matsson sends out cryptic tweets: “Hey Lukas, call me. Are you high? I think you should put down the venti ayahuasca Big Gulp.” —Roman

3. Upon seeing Logan for what he really is and how he built his success: “You won because you’re corrupt and so is the world. I’m better than you. You’re—you know, I hate to say this ’cause I love you, but you’re kind of evil.” —Kendall

2. When Kendall goes searching for Sophie and Iverson at the welcome reception: “What a surprise, Ken doesn’t know where his kids are.” —Roman

1. After Tom asks for some dirty pillow talk: “You’re not good enough for me … I’m way out of your fucking league … That’s why you want me, that’s why you love me … even though I don’t love you.” —Shiv

The Cousin Greg Corner

With all the focus on Caroline’s wedding, Roman sending a dick pic to his dad, and Kendall MAYBE DYING, there was little room for Cousin Greg this week. But when Greg did appear onscreen, there were some interesting developments, including an attending Comfry planting a kiss on his cheek to seemingly confirm that things are going well between them. Against all odds, Greg and Comfry are an actual item.

But now that the two of them are getting more serious, Greg is starting to have doubts. “I do wonder: Is there depth there? Is there substance?” he tells Tom and Shiv. Worried that there’s an expiration date on their relationship, Greg is already setting his sights on using Comfry as a “date ladder.” I’ll let Shiv explain what that means: “People will see her with you and—no offense—but they’ll say: ‘What the fuck’s going on there?’”

Greg wastes little time trying to ascend the date ladder. He shoots his shot with an actual contessa, first failing to impress her with his fancy watch and then feigning interest in her work as an online brand ambassador for a fermented yogurt drink. The conversation is so cringe-worthy that Roman interrupting by telling Greg “hands off” felt like a mercy for both the character and the audience. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Greg and Comfry break things off in the season finale—it’s not like she’d have any reason to stick around if her boss died. But seeing how quickly he’s willing to ditch Comfry, like a spoiled child throwing away a new toy, maybe it’s for the best that she gets out after a few Greg sprinkles.