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‘Succession’ Precap: One Burning Question Ahead of Episode 2

Every Friday, Ringer staffers will gather to answer one key question ahead of Sunday’s ‘Succession’ episode. This week’s topic: ulterior motives.

HBO/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

It’s Friday, which means Succession’s newest installment is around the corner. What can we expect from Episode 2? Read along as we examine one burning question heading into the next chapter of Succession’s final season.

The burning question heading into Episode 2: After the season premiere, which Succession character do you most suspect of having ulterior motives, and what might they be?

Katie Baker: Naomi Pierce. “Fuck your people, and fuck your peace pipe,” Naomi told Kendall during my favorite episode of Succession, Season 2’s “Tern Haven.” During the rock bottom of her life, she explained, it was the Waystar Royco tabloids that harassed her and that published photos of her after a car crash. What better way to carry out revenge on the Roys (while simultaneously enriching oneself) than further driving a wedge between the family members in the form of a multibillion-dollar bidding war for what may well turn out to be an overrated asset? Such a plot pairs nicely with Naomi’s post-breakup (?) hair cut: thin and vinegary, just the way the whole Piercefam likes it.

Austin Gayle: The obvious answer here is Kerry, Logan’s self-anointed “friend, assistant, and adviser.” She’s been playing Rhea Jarrell’s music at quieter volumes, but the kids can hear it now. They find out that Dad’s “working on his baby batter” in the Season 3 finale, and immediately identify Kerry as a stepmom-in-waiting. Fast-forward to the Season 4 premiere and Kerry is calling Logan “Loge” and wading through serious insults from the kids to convince them to wish their dad a happy birthday.

Kerry is filling an oft-rewarded role in Logan’s kingdom. The crux of the series’ pilot episode is Logan’s efforts to convince the kids to give Marcia a bigger seat at the table. Jarrell jumped from Pierce CEO to Waystar Royco CEO by climbing the Logan tree in Season 2. Now, Jarrell is out of the picture and Marcia is “in Milan, shopping, forever.” Kerry is filling the gaps with the hope that she’ll get a bit more than just Logan’s “potent gloop” before the world spits her out, too.

Julianna Ress: History leads us to believe that the Kendall-Roman-Shiv alliance will not last long. As for who will turn first, my money’s on Roman. I don’t know if he’s devised a clear plan yet, but his hesitancy to bid for PGM against Logan made it clear that he’s not quite free of his daddy issues. Plus, Roman still has Gerri in the Waystar inner circle (though their relationship might be tainted by whatever fallout came from his dick pic faux pas at the end of Season 3) and he hasn’t been burned by Logan quite as many times as Shiv or Kendall. Roman was basically Logan’s attack dog last season, and is still the one most obviously intimidated by the Roy patriarch’s looming presence. Logan also seems to want to get his kids back in the Waystar fold in some form, and he might see Roman as a weak link in the siblings’ partnership. And if Roman doesn’t completely flip, I could see him leaking any of Shiv and Kendall’s future plans to the Waystar crew in an attempt to play both sides.

Alan Siegel: It’s kind of hard to say, mainly because damn near everyone of consequence on the show has ulterior motives. (Probably even Mondale.) But if I have to pick one character, it’s Shiv. Even though the Roy kids apparently managed to best their father last week—we’ll see whether the $10 billion deal actually holds up—to me it still seems like she hasn’t fully committed to their joint venture. I’m admittedly lukewarm on this choice. Shiv can’t be the only one with something very sharp up her sleeve. It wouldn’t be Succession without multiple people backstabbing each other all the time.

Ben Lindbergh: This is Succession, so I suspect every character of ulterior motives (on the rare occasions when they aren’t transparently lusting after money and power, that is). I hope this doesn’t sound too conspiracy-minded of me, but are we sure Nan Pierce really finds it so disgusting to be the object of a multibillion-dollar bidding war? I have my doubts!

My main question after Episode 1 is when did everyone decide to start calling Logan “Loge”—maybe it was at the same meeting where “Disgusting Brothers” was born?—but my question about character motivations, specifically, concerns Tom’s call to Shiv, which tipped off the junior Roys to Loge’s planned PGM acquisition. (Though the other Disgusting Brother indirectly let it slip too—which just goes to show how alike the two are, as much as Tom wants to see himself as superior.) Unlike Greg, Tom clearly planned to give the game away, without Logan learning that he’s a rat, too, but to what end? Because he wanted to toss a match and watch the family’s billions burn on an old-media overpay? Because he didn’t want PGM to jeopardize his ATN fiefdom? Because he knows he’s more valuable to Loge if the old man is at war with his kids (whom he won’t admit to missing)? Because, however “heartened” Tom claims to be, he knows Loge will drop him when he’s no longer a wife guy, and he wants to maintain ties to Shiv to preserve his position? Because he’s still sad-puppy pining for his wife and wanted to say sorry for shivving her last season, using the love language of fucking over her dad?

The answer, most likely, is a messy stew of some or all of the above. On Succession, self-worth and net worth are so tightly intertwined that personal desires are inseparable from business ambitions—and the show’s closed-off characters are too tightly wound, and too wounded, to want to know what drives them.

Kai Grady: I have to agree with Austin: Kerry is the obvious choice here. While she hasn’t done anything outright devious or manipulative quite yet, her ascension to the top was as deft as it was rapid, and it’s no coincidence that she reached her current position of influence in such a short period of time. Kerry started as a low-level assistant at the end of Season 2 and, thanks to an expertly plotted character arc in the third season, has now gained Logan’s full trust and become his closest confidant. All without raising too much suspicion or coming off as a major threat to the family—something that few characters, if any, have been able to accomplish throughout the show’s four-season run. The “New-Gen Roys” seem pretty convinced that Kerry is little more than their father’s assistant who he’s also sleeping with on the side. While I’m unsure what her endgame is, I can say confidently that she has her sights set on something much more than simply making calls to Logan’s kids to ask them to wish him happy birthday. Kerry is my heavy favorite to make a big move, and I think it’ll come sooner rather than later.

Jomi Adeniran: Roman. In the Season 3 finale, he is the last sibling to come aboard the coup ship, and in the Season 4 premiere, he’s also the last one holding on to The Hundred. All Roman wants is for his siblings and his dad to stop getting in each other’s way, which is probably the healthiest motive anyone in that family has ever had.

“But how can you say that when Roman and his siblings just bought Pierce?” you might ask. Well, if Logan has a last-minute change of heart and decides not to sell Waystar to GoJo, the siblings’ 5 percent share in Waystar wouldn’t cash out, and therefore they wouldn’t have the capital to complete the Pierce deal. If that were to happen, could Roman also have a change of heart and switch sides back to Logan? I can picture it. Who knows: Maybe Roman even agreed to buy Pierce in hopes of convincing Kendall and Shiv to keep Logan’s “decades-long obsession” under the control of all the Roy family—including Logan. The company is, after all, in Logan’s wheelhouse, given he’s the CEO of ATN, another legacy media organization. Just look into Roman’s eyes: We all can see he’ll do whatever it takes to fight for his father, even if it’s in secret.