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Pick a Side: Breaking Down Episode 2 of ‘Succession’

The Roy siblings stage a conclave, Logan strikes a deal with Marcia, and Cousin Greg becomes a weapon against ​​the structural contradictions of capitalism

HBO/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Television’s most miserable wealthy family are 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 second episode, “Mass in Time of War.”


Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 2

After the Roy siblings spent the better part of two seasons fighting for a chance to sit atop the Waystar throne, it was Gerri who came out of the Season 3 premiere as the company’s new CEO. It’s a position that remains enticing, even if it comes with an asterisk that Waystar is in the middle of a PR and legal shitstorm and Logan expects to be running the show from the shadows. As with anything Logan dangles in front of his children or corporate underlings, the promotion already seems like a poisoned chalice—look no further than Gerri spending most of “Mass in Time of War” isolated from the rest of the characters in a gloomy office that might as well be a prison. But hey, at least Gerri got to snap a photo of the chyron announcing her (definitely temporary and probably doomed) new position to send to her daughters.

Screenshots via HBO

With Gerri in place, Logan and Kendall assemble their respective chess pieces. Logan looks to tie down his estranged wife, Marcia, while Kendall sets up an informal meeting with his siblings to give them the opportunity to join forces against their dad. Kendall’s pitch to his siblings comprises the bulk of the episode, which is a good thing: Succession is at its most entertaining when it puts a bunch of characters in a room and lets them argue. Using many of the corporate buzzwords he’s so fond of, Kendall presents his siblings with a future where Waystar becomes an “omni-national” news and information hub, an industry titan comparable to the tech empires built by the likes of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. He says that the only way the company can move forward is by “detoxifying” the Waystar brand—which, LOL, good luck with that—and removing Logan from the company.

As they’re deliberating, Shiv admits to Roman that if they allied with Kendall, this power play—combined with further support from turncoat Frank and sandwich lover Karl—would be enough to take down their dad. While Roman exhibits more loyalty to Logan—and in turn, his partner in crime Gerri—Shiv keeps her cards close to her chest. It’s genuinely unclear which way she’ll swing until Kendall says that he’d have to become Waystar’s temporary CEO as a “necessary part of a transformational process.” (There go those buzzwords again!) Shiv responds that she’d need to be tapped as CEO—shocker—but Kendall isn’t having it on account of her inexperience and the market supposedly deeming her a “token woman wonk woke snowflake.” (Try saying that five times fast.)

And so, with the CEO position out of her grasp, Shiv declines Kendall’s offer, while Roman and Connor do the same. (Yes, Connor was present; no, he still doesn’t matter.) But Kendall’s work this episode wasn’t a total waste of time, as he once again formed an alliance with Sandy and Stewy, who are willing to back down on the proxy battle if Logan is ousted from the company. As for Logan, he and Marcia come to an arrangement—more on that shortly—and fly back to the United States to reunite with the rest of the gang. Most telling, though, is how Logan gives Gerri the cold shoulder on the tarmac:

Hitching a ride with Shiv and Tom, Logan cryptically offers his only daughter a seat at the table. “My eyes and ears, Shiv, at the heart of everything through the shitstorm,” he promises her. “But wearing a full and chemical and biological suit going by the name of Gerri Kellman.” Shiv smirks at the offer, and by not even trying to hide her delight, she sets herself up for the same kind of emotional manipulation that Logan employed on her last season. The legitimacy of these assurances from Logan should come with an ocean’s worth of salt. What’s more apparent is how he’s setting up Gerri to fail—or worse yet, be a scapegoat for the corporate culling that could be around the corner. “It just had to be Gerri—for right now, for today,” Logan told Roman at the beginning of the episode. Unfortunately for Gerri, that asterisk next to her new title might as well be replaced with a skull and crossbones.

Takeaway of the Week: Family Transactions

Ever since Logan became flirty with Rhea Jarrell at the end of Season 2, an irate Marcia has been out of the picture. But there was always the sense that Marcia wouldn’t be gone for long. (She seems like the type of person who might have literal skeletons in the closet.) Now, with his children back in the States and unreachable for most of the episode, Logan’s top priority is getting Marcia back into the fold. Given the chaos caused by Kendall’s backstabbing and the proxy battle, the last thing he needs on his plate is a messy, public divorce. Marcia’s initial greeting to Logan—“Those fucking kids of yours”—would suggest she’s willing to play ball and keep the marriage intact. But her loyalty comes at a price. She and her lawyer—who has the energy of a Replicant from the Blade Runner franchise—explain that Marcia will play the dutiful wife so long as her role in the family’s trust is finalized, her own children are taken care of, and improvements are made in her financial position.

The cold, calculated way that Logan and Marcia approach their marriage might be off-putting to, well, any normal person who treats their significant other like a human being instead of a manageable asset. But it’s almost more comforting that Logan and Marcia understand that their relationship is also a business transaction rather than pretend that their behavior is solely driven by romantic affections.

On the other end of the Roy spectrum, Kendall’s plea to his siblings has an emotional tie-in: that teaming up with him is a moral responsibility to the cruise line victims. But while Kendall is right to point out that they were all complicit in how Waystar’s cruise division treated its workers and migrants, it’s obvious that his advocacy for these victims is half-hearted at best. (Hell, last week he cracked an inside joke about committing involuntary manslaughter.) Kendall’s betrayal of Logan isn’t driven by a higher sense of morality, but his own self-interest and perpetual daddy issues.

The closest that Kendall gets to showing his hand—that getting his siblings on board is more of a chess move than an act of virtue—is when they individually decline his offer and he erupts into a temper tantrum. “Well, fine, you’re irrelevant,” he (accurately) barks at Connor before calling Shiv a “fucking twat.” (Kendall must’ve picked up that extremely British barb from his mom.) To make matters worse, Kendall lets out his frustrations on his poor assistant Jess, who could really use a raise:

Kendall might be framing himself in the public’s eye as a whistleblower standing up against corporate tyranny, but like the rest of his family, every move he makes is strategic. When Kendall was pitching the Waystar takeover to his siblings, at least Shiv had the decency to drop all pretenses and get to the only thing that anyone in the show cares about: Who gets to be CEO? More than anything—family, money, publicity, morality—all that matters on Succession is power, and how to acquire more of it.

The Most Callous Display of Wealth

While the Season 3 premiere made the business of corralling multiple private jets for a trip to the Balkans seem shockingly mundane, Succession went to even more nauseating heights (pun intended) in showcasing the 1-percenter lifestyle this week. Having successfully held down the fort in Croatia, Logan calls Connor, who’s returned to the States with Willa, to make sure he isn’t going to side with Kendall. During their conversation, Connor makes sure his dad knows just how much they suffered on his behalf: “We flew back scheduled.”

Let that sink in: Connor is so spoiled that the idea of flying on a plane with other passengers—never mind the fact that he and Willa were absolutely living it up in first class—is considered beneath him. “It was fine, they had movies and a selection of heavily refrigerated cheeses,” Connor continues, acting like he just observed the rituals of an alien species.

I can’t even begin to describe how much I loathe Connor, or how badly I want to shove his ass on a Greyhound headed to Binghamton, New York, in the dead of night so he can find out what middle-class suffering looks like.

The Most Brutal Insults of the Week

5. Shiv having a photo of Saddam Hussein saved on her phone for when her dad calls her:

An image worth a thousand words, really.

4. When Shiv says she loves Tom and asks whether he loves her too: “I do, thank you. It’s good to know we don’t have an unbalanced love portfolio.” —Tom

3. On Logan and Rhea Jarrell’s flirty behavior last season: “He was led by his prick. … She’s a whore, and it’s not my problem if she wouldn’t finish him.” —Marcia

2. On Roman’s whole, uh, deal: “You love showing your peepee to everyone, but someday, you know, you’re actually going to have to fuck something.” —Shiv

1. After Kendall repeatedly tells Connor he’s not wanted: “It’s like he hasn’t heard that enough in his life.” —Roman


The Cousin Greg Corner

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but good lord Cousin Greg is out of his depth. Somehow, only after Kendall has turned control over their family’s company into an all-out war does Greg realize that this might also have serious ramifications for him. “I don’t really wanna go to Congress again. I’m kinda too young to be in Congress so much, you know?” he tells Kendall, who assures Greg that he’s going to find him a good lawyer. Of course, Kendall isn’t the only one keeping tabs on Greg, who gets an unexpected visitor to his—well, technically Ken’s—swanky apartment. A lawyer—the type of lawyer who seems like he’d do a scary good job working on behalf of a cartel—from a firm on the Waystar payroll wants to represent him, and since Kendall isn’t even allowed on the company premises anymore, Greg can at least surmise that this legal outreach is really coming from Logan’s team.

Rather than choose between Kendall’s or Waystar’s legal representation, Greg seeks out advice from his grandfather Ewan, who says he’s in town to settle some affairs. Their dynamic might be one of the most underappreciated elements of Succession, mostly because it’s evident how many of Ewan’s fancy words go right over Greg’s head. Take this highfalutin exchange about Kendall’s press conference:

Ewan: I found his performance histrionic and meretricious.

Greg: Well, tell me about it.

Ewan: The man is a self-regarding popinjay.

Greg: No, sure.

The good news: Ewan does hook Greg up with a lawyer. The bad news: The lawyer isn’t so much interested in protecting Greg as using him to “expose the structural contradictions of capitalism as reified in the architecture of corporate America.” Given that Ewan should have some sway in the Waystar shareholder meeting, it looks like he’ll be acting as a chaos agent in Season 3, and using his grandson as both a shield and a secret weapon. Not that Greg is up to speed. Once again, he’s nearly at a loss for words, and the face he makes while muttering “I like it” makes it clear that he does not, in fact, like it.

It’s hard to say where Greg’s story line is headed this season, since his self-preservation is about as choreographed as a headless chicken running around a farm. But with the character being pulled in several different directions between Kendall, Logan, Ewan, and, as per usual, Tom, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see Greg standing before Congress again. And that would suck, because he’s kinda too young to be in front of Congress so much, you know?