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Raccoon in the Chimney: Breaking Down the Season 2 Premiere of ‘Succession’

As we rejoin the Roys, Kendall is a shell of a man, Shiv is on the come-up, and Logan smells a rodent

HBO/Ringer illustration

HBO’s most dysfunctional and obscenely rich family this side of the Lannisters has returned. After Succession went supernova in the back half of its first season—improving upon each excellent episode to a hilarious and devastating degree—it became one of the best dramas on television, which made its hiatus all the more excruciating. Well, no more! The Roys and their slimy subordinates are back, and rest assured they’re still the same bunch of power-hungry, incandescent messes we love to hate and hate to love. Every week, The Ringer will break down the biggest developments, track who’s leading the literal line of succession, and catalog each episode’s most savage burns, Cousin Greg–isms, and more. Let’s begin with the Season 2 premiere, “The Summer Palace.”

Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 1

While Kendall’s latest attempt to wrestle Waystar Royco away from his father failed in spectacular fashion—thanks to the Roy family’s version of the Chappaquiddick incident—it did kickstart a takeover attempt by Stewy Hosseini and Sandy Furness. They might not have Kendall’s backing/company shares anymore, but the bid is still large enough that Logan has to publicly posture as if he’s weighing the deal for the sake of company shareholders. (Moneywise, it’s that good.) Even Logan’s financial adviser (played by newcomer Danny Huston) tells him in plain terms: You might as well take the money and walk away from what you built before some of the failing ventures—such as local news, which Logan is bizarrely committed to—eat up the remaining profits.

So Logan takes a measured stance and agrees to sell the company, thereby securing his family’s financial well-being for the foreseeable—LOL, just kidding, it’s Logan Roy. He’d rather suffer through another brain hemorrhage than sell his media empire to one of his biggest rivals. But to keep shareholders satisfied, he does have to figure out a successor, and obviously, he wants to keep Waystar in-house. That presents a tremendous problem because, well, you’ve seen his children. Connor is so untethered from reality that he believes he has a genuine shot at winning the presidency (OK, in this climate, maybe he does); any responsibility handed to Roman tends to blow up in his face—sometimes, in the case of last season’s rocket launch, quite literally; and Kendall is a shell of a man after what happened in England.

That leaves Shiv. And when the Roys convene at their palatial summer abode in the Hamptons (hence the episode title), Logan privately tells her that he wants her to take over Waystar in his stead, or else he’d prefer the family cash out. Logan goes over the broad strokes: He wants to fast-track her corporate training, get her up to speed, and then announce to the board and shareholders. For the time being, Shiv’s appointment will remain a secret between the two of them, while Roman and Kendall will act as co-chief officers—much to Roman’s dismay, considering Kendall just plotted a damn takeover—and Logan deals with Stewy and Sandy.

Though Shiv initially believes that Logan is messing with her and acts like she wouldn’t care either way, it doesn’t take long for her to drop the pretenses: It’s obvious she really wants the gig, and cares more about Waystar than she’s tried to let on. And picking Shiv is a smart play. Kendall notwithstanding—half the time the poor dude is either snorting coke or failing to overthrow his dad, anyway—Shiv is the only Roy child whom you can actually imagine functioning at a regular human job. Not only that, she’s the only character who’s brave enough to occasionally speak candidly with Logan, something that seems possible specifically because she hasn’t been working at Waystar and has thus earned her independence. (Plus, for what we’ve learned about her work as a political consultant, she’s apparently quite good.)

Shiv, then, is clearly the most sensible choice to succeed her father—which is exactly why this feels destined to blow up in her face. Her rise is unlikely to come to fruition, whether it’s because Logan doesn’t really intend to hand her the reins or because some external influence(s) will mess up the plan. Besides, Shiv is legitimately happy and excited about the possibility, and people don’t stay happy and excited for long on Succession. Just as Logan’s agreeing to sell the company would render most of Succession’s drama meaningless, so would Shiv’s coming in and being—compared to her siblings, at least—the most put-together CEO. More than anything, the early introduction of the Shiv-as-Waystar-Successor plan really means there’s ample time for shit to hit the fan. So, uh, congrats to her?

Theme of the Week: The Depressing Depths of Kendall’s Demoralized Soul (or, Come at the King, You Best Not Miss)

I don’t use this word lightly, but good lord is Kendall cucked. Whereas he spent the majority of last season in a never-ending cycle—or as Tom might call it, a closed-loop system—of attempting to snatch the company from his dad and getting totally owned by him, Kendall enters Season 2 at rock bottom. He’s completely under Logan’s control, knowing that if he doesn’t do what his father tells him, he could find himself in prison for involuntary manslaughter. The way that Kendall fell apart in his father’s arms at the end of Season 1, knowing he was trapped, was as devastating as any gory death in Game of Thrones. Now Kendall is psychologically decimated, and to keep things in Westerosi parlance, my guy is effectively Reek.

That’s apparent from the very first scene, when Kendall is trying to decompress at a lavish European spa, only to get summoned by one of his father’s henchman, who tells him that he’ll need to appear on television to explain the failed takeover. “I’ve only been here, like, 48 hours and I’m meant to have a … silica mud treatment,” is the best he can muster as a response—but sure enough, he soon finds himself on TV as his father’s proxy. Throughout the episode, he repeats his spoon-fed talking point like a tragicomic mantra: “I saw their plan. Dad’s plan was better.”

For a character who’s spent so much of his time trying to earn his father’s respect, it’s a pathetic sight, and the rest of the episode piles on the little indignities. Once he’s back in the States, Kendall discovers that the motorbike he requested comes with a catch: He has to have a driver, per daddy’s orders. To be fair, the last time he was in control of a moving vehicle someone died, but also, THIS IS A GROWN-ASS MAN:

Kendall came at the king—multiple times—and he missed—multiple times. And aside from emphasizing just how depraved a childhood under Logan Roy must’ve been, Kendall’s predicament is a depressing sign of what can happen when a man as insidious as Logan has complete dominion over you. Imagine the Kendall of last season—the one who opened the pilot insufferably jamming to the Beastie Boys in the back of his car with wireless headphones—holding the door for nameless Waystar goons while barely making eye contact, giving off serious “my parents caught me masturbating last night” energy:

It seems inevitable that Kendall will eventually find a way to free himself of Logan’s grip—it would get pretty boring if the character was a timid loser over the course of multiple seasons—but for the time being, he’s being paraded around like a warning to his siblings and Waystar higher-ups. Jeremy Strong is giving a tremendous, insular performance as Thoroughly Owned Kendall, but I look forward to the eventual return of Business Bro Kendall and all his cringey declarations of “Yo,” “Dude,” and “Sup, bro?”

Most Callous Display of Wealth

Once the Roys arrive in the Hamptons for that fateful meeting, they discover a foul stench has pervaded the mansion. (I smell a metaphor!) It takes a while to find the culprit, but the palace staff eventually uncover a rotting raccoon that found itself stuck in the living room chimney. As a result, Logan declares that all the food prepared for the family—a buffet composed of steak, lobster, shrimp, the works—must be tossed out because it all sat out with the stench in the adjacent room. Instead, they’re just gonna order some pizza.

It’s not particularly subtle, but watching the workers throw out what’s sure to be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of food without a second thought is a hilarious encapsulation of the Roys as people—as well as the poor staffers, who react like they’ve all been here before:

Why not provide the food to a homeless shelter, or maybe just ask the workers if they don’t mind eating some very expensive, maybe only mildly tainted food? Clearly, neither option even crossed Logan’s mind, which ought to tell you plenty about his character.

Just so everyone knows where I stand: You can rip a gross fart right in front of a medium-rare filet mignon or a buttered lobster tail, and I’ll still eat every bite.

The Most Brutal Insults of the Week

5. On Kendall’s predicament: “Ah, how the mighty are fallen. He was a king once, now look at him: Eating shit like a fucking neutered hound dog.” —Roman

4. On the Hamptons mansion stench: “Open the doors! It smells like the cheesemonger died and left his dick in the brie.” —Logan

3. To the contractor who is (rather unfairly!) blamed for the dead raccoon in the chimney: “My lawyer used to work for the Justice Department. Who’s your lawyer, Mr. Fucking Magoo?” —Logan

2. On Logan’s message to Sandy and Stewy on their prospective takeover: “He wanted me to say, yeah, obviously our public line will be that we are considering the offer, but it doesn’t matter what you offer. He’ll never recommend this to the board. You’re gonna bleed cash, he’s gonna bleed cash. It will never end. And maybe you’ll kill him, but if you don’t he aims to kill you. He will go bankrupt or go to jail before he lets you beat him. He will kill you on the business and if that doesn’t work, he will send people around—he will send men to kill your pets and fuck your wives and it will never be over. So, that’s the message.” —Kendall

1. On Kendall’s television appearance: “Ladies and gentlemen, the first fucking thing my son’s ever done right in his life.” —Logan

The Cousin Greg Corner

Dearly beloved Cousin Greg, the only somewhat pure thing on this putrid series, was relegated to a single scene in “The Summer Palace,” but like all things Cousin Greg, it was a rich text. He meets Kendall at Kendall’s new penthouse apartment—Kendall claims he moved because his old place smelled too much like his estranged wife, Rava—to score him some cocaine. (You see, Kendall’s assistant Jess is out of town, and she normally provides the powder, but also he’s trying to go clean and just needs something to take the edge off!)

Naturally, Greg makes things uncomfortable from the moment he greets him:

Worse yet, he says he got the coke from a dude in the park. Now, I don’t know much about acquiring hard drugs, but I imagine getting some from a stranger in a park is … not the best way to go about it. Kendall agrees before he snorts a line: “If my septum falls out I’m going to make you eat my septum.”

While Kendall says it’s the worst cocaine he’s ever had, at least it doesn’t make his septum fall out, so (I guess?) Cousin Greg can take the W for not having to eat his relative’s septum. Cousin Greg is savvier than most characters give him credit for—though Kendall does know he’s a “little Machiavellian fuck”—but we’re going to have to give him a failing grade as the middleman for a coke deal. Here’s hoping he moves out of that youth hostel?

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.