Every week, The Ringer will break down Succession’s 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 continue with the sixth episode of Season 2, “Argestes.”
Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 6
If there is a secret sauce to Succession’s sustained brilliance, it might be how the show constantly finds new ways to bring a bunch of its characters together under one roof and let them bounce off one another. From Thanksgiving dinner and Tom’s bachelor party in the first season to the Roys’ summer home in the Hamptons, the boar-filled trip to Hungary, and meeting the Pierces at Tern Haven, the series is on an exemplary hot streak with episodes full of shit-talking, awkward silences, and Logan telling someone to fuck off; the good stuff.
Add “Argestes” to this increasingly crowded canon. The episode’s title refers to the name of an annual summit where business leaders and other assorted persons of power converge to share their ideas and spend upward of $70 on Cobb salads. (So, yes, it’s Fictional Davos.) The Roys are attending because, well, of course they are—but the summit also arrives at the same time Logan is frantically trying to finalize the Pierce deal, a transaction made even more complicated when Waystar Royco is hit with a New York magazine exposé detailing the sexual misconduct and malpractice on the company’s cruise line division, Brightstar (more on that later). As a result, Logan hands all of his children—sans Connor, who’s absent this week and presumably working on his presidential campaign ahead of the “ideas primary”—responsibilities to deal with the PR fallout and mitigate the damage. Roman pokes around at potential investment from the private sector, which doesn’t go all that swimmingly since a Middle Eastern mogul plainly suggests he’d only invest if ATN became a propaganda wing for his region. Kendall continues his depressing duties as Logan’s right-hand man while strategizing about how to control the cruise line narrative. And Shiv, who wasn’t originally invited to Argestes, is summoned from the bullpen because of her experience in PR and because, frankly, the optics of a public-facing woman are much better.
In terms of demonstrating the best business acumen in the midst of a legit PR crisis, Shiv is, unsurprisingly, the most competent of the three. Kendall’s idea to threaten New York into not publishing the story ends with the magazine publishing the piece even sooner than initially planned, and Roman was way too chill about the possibility of turning ATN into a propaganda machine; even if it kind of already is one, it’s safe to say that ATN’s politics don’t currently align with “independent” and “objective” reporting in the Middle East. Worse yet, Roman and Kendall believe it’s better that they still lead a scheduled panel at the summit—one where the host will inevitably bring up questions about the cruise lines stuff—without Shiv, even though, again, the optics on that would be awful. (Surely, Roman and Kendall know this, but their desire to be the public faces of the company outweighs their rationality.) When Logan cosigns on all three of them doing the panel, Shiv shines the brightest—and also uses the platform as an opportunity to take some very unsubtle digs at her father. “Sometimes companies develop bad habits, and you need fresh eyes, clean hands, and new ideas to address those,” she says. “Sometimes you just need a good, old-fashioned dinosaur cull.” Shiv assures the room that she’s referring to dinosaur “values” instead of her father, but, like, c’mon.
Given that Shiv’s stock hit rock bottom last week when she blurted out that she was in line to take over for her dad—a condition Logan refused to agree on with Nan, even if it meant he couldn’t acquire Pierce—going for the jugular isn’t as foolhardy as it would’ve seemed had they been on better terms. But she had leverage—they needed a public-facing female presence—and she used it to her advantage, in a way that was ruthless and very Logan-esque. Logan may still be in denial about theoretically appointing Shiv, if only because he wants to inflate his own self-importance up until he literally dies, but time and again she’s proved herself capable of taking over Waystar and, perhaps, instilling some genuinely better company values along the way. Nevertheless, Logan was not pleased about the public shellacking—and poor Roman became the outlet for his frustrations.
What’s really striking about this sequence isn’t that Logan hits his son, but how quickly Kendall reacts. There’s no pause to let the shock of the violence sink in—Kendall instinctually springs to protect his little brother and get in between the two of them because, as it’s been implied in previous episodes, Roman has been abused by his father in the past. It’s just another layer in the noxious Roy family dynamic, that also partially explains Roman’s dysfunctional sexual preferences.
To put it mildly, Argestes does not go well, and in the end, Nan decides she’s going to back out of the deal—putting Logan back to square one, once again opening up the possibility of a future in which Stewy and Sandy take the company from under the Roys. There might not be a tangible solution to this latest setback, but time and again it’s become obvious that if Logan wants the Roys to survive this corporate takeover, he might need to consider letting Shiv cook.
Theme of the Week: Brightstar Cruises Floats to the Surface
It had to happen. Ever since Tom took over the parks and cruises division in the first season—and was told about decades of criminal activity ranging from sexual misconduct to, yes, murder that the company had covered up—a corporate comeuppance has felt inevitable. Tom might have covered his own tracks with Greg’s help, but the cruise stuff has been brought up so many times—including this season’s fourth episode, when Greg casually blackmailed Tom into a promotion—that you just knew the series was going to do something with it.
We don’t get all the details behind the exposé, but it appears one woman—a former dancer who performed on the ships—came forward and revealed that she was solicited by dearly departed Uncle “Mo” Lester in exchange for extending her contract. On account of many NDAs, it seems none of the other dancers who might’ve been solicited spoke on the record. Beyond that, the piece calls into question whether one woman’s accidental death from falling off a ship wasn’t so accidental. While I certainly wouldn’t come to the cruise line’s defense on the matter—mostly because Tom has already alluded to Brightstar covering up murders—it is kind of wild how many people die on cruise ships each year by simply falling overboard and getting swept out to sea. (Sorry, I’m more than a little obsessed with #OceanFacts.)
Ultimately, the most fascinating—and depressing, considering the time we live in—part of the Brightstar exposé was seeing how the Waystar brain trust attempted to frame the narrative in real time. Gerri looks on the bright side: “It’s one woman in the 1990s, not, like, 20 women four years ago.” “Call me sociopathic, but doesn’t this all seem a tiny bit quaint in comparison to the past few years?” Roman adds. The discussions are entirely about how to spin the piece—rather than considering, say, how to prevent stuff like this happening going forward. And while Kendall argues for the company line to be about repentance and responsibility, the rest of the group agrees that they ought to condemn the story as false, and just … move on. Of course, it’s naive to think that the first thing a multibillion-dollar company would do in these circumstances is self-reflect. But off the heels of a distraught ATN employee shooting himself in the newsroom—which the Roys mistook for a mass shooter, a false assumption they then propagated on their news channel—it speaks volumes about the toxic corporate culture that pervades all areas of the Waystar empire.
As for Logan? He likens the exposé to “cultural splashback” and believes that the cruise lines dirt is only coming to light because people have an agenda against him. The narcissism isn’t surprising either, but it’s yet another reminder that Waystar’s moral rot begins at the very top. The Roys continue to be destructive people—not just to the American public with the dangerous agendas fueling their media empire, but to their own employees.
Most Callous Display of Wealth
The entirety of Argestes—the IRL equivalent of which reportedly costs $40,000 to attend—is a hilarious display of excess, but one of my favorite morsels from the summit is courtesy of a highly coveted “culture and leadership walk” sponsored by, of all companies, Airbus. Tom is ecstatic to secure one of the spots, which the guide describes to the group as “place-based learning” during which poncho-clad participants will focus on having a “commitment to sustainability and stewardship” while, I guess, gawking at this dope waterfall that looks like it eventually leads to the Great Northern in Twin Peaks.
I would very much like to trek this thing sans “place-based learning,” but the fact that this event is just an excuse to smash a bunch of corporate buzzwords together on a group hike is truly emblematic of Argestes’ uselessness. The summit simply insulates the 1 percent from the rest of the world and allows them to hang out uninterrupted—a place where, true to life, partying is just as essential to attendees as the panels and group meditation sessions. On the bright side: Cousin Greg thinks he might’ve touched Bill Gates, so that’s pretty cool!
The Most Brutal Insults of the Week
5. On Logan’s, uh, whole deal: “I hear the culture hike’s the hot ticket, but I’m not sure you’re crazy about either one of those things.” —Rhea
4. On the Waystar cruise line exposé affecting the Pierce deal: “Some of the cousins are still reading, which is surprising because they have views on the new Jonathan Franzen three days before it fucking hits the shelf.” —Rhea
3. On Kendall’s ill-fated promise that Waystar was about to secure a big acquisition: “I guess if you did have something going on, you know, like, deal-wise, it’s kind of dead in the water now, right? Like some of the women that went on those cruises.” —Stewy
2. On his PR guy’s indecisiveness: “It’s difficult? Oh I’m sorry buddy, would you like a handjob and an Advil? Fuck off, then.” —Logan
1. On the horrible optics of a Kendall and Roman–led panel: “Send out the two cover stars for Toxic Male Monthly, and why don’t we get Ted Bundy up there and make it a threeway?” —Shiv
The Cousin Greg Corner
Beyond Bill Gates probably being unaware he brushed shoulders with a living god, the week in Greg was mostly in service of Tom at the summit. You see, Tom was in the midst of rebranding ATN with a new slogan—ATN: We’re Listening—that he was going to present at a panel, and Greg had to inform him that the Waystar legal team shot it down. Mostly this is because the slogan could get the company in legal trouble, on account of it hewing a little too close to the truth. “There’s a gray area in terms of our data collection so that we are kind of, like, we actually are listening,” Greg explains. “It seems we are sometimes listening quite aggressively … it’s just to maximize the user experience.” The Office-type zoom on Tom’s reaction is worthy of its own Emmy:
Thankfully, Greg helps Tom brainstorm a new, last-minute slogan, one that, per Greg, will be less “we put a spy cam in your shower” and more “I couldn’t help glimpse you changing;” the kind of perfect, vague corporate-speak that can avoid them legal complications. And while it’s not clear whether or not the duo was attempting a bad play on words with a slogan of “ATN: We Hear For You,” the way it was presented to the Argestes panel is arguably worse, and even more beautiful.
I love this inept company and its minions so much.
Since his decision to try to blackmail his way into a promotion and out of ATN, Greg has adjusted to the news division nicely—to the extent he’s partially responsible for its new, stupid-ass branding. It also appears that his own attempts at rebranding as “Gregory” have already failed, since nobody ever calls him that in the episode. Plus, at one point, Roman uses Greg’s suit to dry his hands in the bathroom; some things never change. But don’t worry Greg, we here for you.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.