The four Roy family siblings—Connor, Kendall, Roman, and Siobhan—all clamor for one-on-one attention from their father, Logan.
These conversations with the Roy patriarch in HBO’s Succession are a pivotal ritual. Typically, Logan’s children meet with him to renegotiate their standing in the family hierarchy. In Season 1, Logan’s failing health brought him to death’s door, and so inheritance became an urgent concern among his children. For the Roy family, a brush with death is a time for negotiation. In Season 2, Logan is recovered, reinvigorated, and enthusiastically resuming his role as the CEO at Waystar Royco, the media and entertainment conglomerate he founded. So Logan’s children must step into his office, one by one, and kiss the ring. Kendall and Roman plead for power within the family business; Kendall as a worrisome apprentice, Roman as a heedless dipshit. Connor and Siobhan, known as Shiv, seek political credibility; Connor as a clueless Randian who plans to run for president, Shiv as a rich and half-assed leftist who manages the presidential campaign of the long-shot socialist candidate Gil Eavis. The four siblings struggle to overcome the old man’s worst impulses, but ultimately—tragically—they all take after their father.
Shiv once pleaded for distance from the Roy family business to launch her own progressive political career. Logan’s media empire includes ATN, the dominant right-wing cable news network written to resemble Fox News. Shiv originally brought her left-wing politics to bear against her family’s right-wing assets. In Season 2, Logan makes Shiv a promise to be fulfilled in secret for now: Logan will groom Shiv to be his successor in three to four years. Shiv regards Logan’s promise with skepticism but also excitement. Suddenly, and effortlessly, Shiv has come much closer to gaining Logan’s favor than the desperate Kendall—once the natural heir to his father’s empire—ever did. In the meantime, Logan has reassigned Shiv’s husband, Tom, from the parks division to the right-wing ATN, thus rendering Shiv’s commitment to a left-wing political campaign unsustainable. So Shiv quits the Eavis campaign and begins her leap of faith into corporate leadership. Given how Logan manipulated Kendall throughout Season 1, however, Shiv’s covert promotion seems to be a trap—the same trap which ensnared Kendall only a season ago.
In Season 1, Kendall schemed against his father, botched a coup, and reverted to hard drugs in his lowest moment. In Season 2, Kendall, humiliated by blackmail, has complied with Logan’s blurry, furious corporate vision.
In Season 2, Shiv approaches Logan’s throne with far less hostility. Accordingly, Logan manipulates Shiv in much subtler ways. Logan has debased Eavis with campaign contributions, including a private jet, which makes Shiv doubt Eavis’s principles as well as his judgment. Shiv’s fellow campaign aide and former lover, Nate, clings to Eavis despite seeming even less principled than Shiv, who looks upon the campaign with terminal condescension. She’s demoted her husband, Tom, too: He’s a cuckold and, worse yet, a subordinate. Their wedding was, essentially, a merger. Tom married into the Roy family to promote himself, not his wife, and Shiv now struggles to preserve even the pretense of equality in their marriage. The Season 1 finale presented a new, unruly marriage that Tom comes to regret. By insisting on polyamorous terms only after the wedding reception, Shiv reasserts her superiority, by dint of the Roy family name, over Tom Wambsgans. In Season 2, Shiv may well overcome her brothers, too.
Shiv, more than any of the Roy children, once embodied the potential for rebellion against their father’s mind games. Even Roman, the meritless libertine, clamors for Logan’s validation. Shiv couldn’t have cared less about her place in Logan’s family rankings; his favor shifted, often strategically, sometimes capriciously, throughout the first season. But the lure of presidential politics proves too frivolous to sustain Shiv’s idealism about the Eavis campaign. Gil Eavis once resembled Bernie Sanders, but the most recent episodes relaunch his socialist campaign, backed Logan Roy’s money, as sparse comic relief. Having struck a deal with her father, Shiv abandons Eavis to affirm her succession pact with Logan, though the viewer can hardly fault Shiv given Eavis’s shameless capitulation to Logan (not to mention Nate’s petulance about his affair with Shiv). So Shiv hasn’t sold out so much as she’s decided to sell for a higher price. In turn, Logan cultivates an alternative heir as much as he’s cultivating an asset in his larger conflict with Kendall, who can sulk through only so many more episodes before reasserting himself against his dad.
It’s a bleak and disastrous rebellion whenever these kids get going against Logan Roy. But collusion with Logan proves isolating, too. In Manhattan, Shiv and Tom share a new, wide-open apartment where Shiv struggles, again, to find privacy, peace, and intimacy with a husband who increasingly regards Shiv as his handler. While they’re together at home, they’re also at work. The apartment has quickly become a Waystar Royco satellite office where the newlyweds’ sex life has gone to die. Shiv waltzed into her father’s office with modest expectations and minimal resistance to her father’s promise to appoint Waystar Royco’s first female CEO. But Kendall and Shiv are bound to learn the same dark lesson about Logan Roy’s executive suite: There’s no graceful way out.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.