‘Succession’ Recap: Logan Roy Finally Names His Successor … Sort Of
THIS POST CONTAINS spoilers for this week’s episode of Succession, “Honeymoon States.”
“For some of us, it’s a sad day,” Shiv tells her brothers early in this episode. “But for others, it’s coronation demolition derby.”
“Honeymoon States,” as you might expect, trends more toward the latter. It’s not that everyone’s grief about Logan already got fully expressed in the incredible previous installment. This one opens with Kendall once again sitting sadly on a floor, unshaven, emotionally wrecked by the loss of the man who consumed his every waking thought. And we see periodically throughout that Roman and, especially, Shiv are also struggling with the death of their father.
But when you play the game of Succession, you win or … well, Logan always won, and then he died. And “Honeymoon States” serves as a reminder that none of the would-be heirs to his throne are made of his stern and indomitable stuff. It’s coronation demolition derby, only everyone’s driving a clown car.
There are raw moments, like Kendall in his apartment, or Shiv pulling away from the temptation of Tom — not long after we have learned that she’s pregnant, presumably with his baby(*). Mostly, though, the hour trends back toward black comedy, a mode in which this series operates spectacularly well. Logan is gone, but no one can afford to properly grieve him, because too much is at stake in terms of money, power, and legacy.
(*) This should be worth discussing more later in the season, especially given how anti-children Shiv was previously. But the show is somewhat vague about how much time has passed since the kids’ mom married Peter Munion at the end of last season. So it’s possible — if not likely — that Shiv has been with other men, or gone to a sperm bank, between seasons.
Almost everyone of note has come out to both pay homage and stake some kind of claim to Logan’s financial or spiritual fortune. Marcia (Hiam Abbass) is back, asserting that she and Logan continued to talk every day even after she moved out and he took up with Kerry. Is she telling the truth? It doesn’t matter, because she’s such an effective operator in this world, quickly talking Connor into paying a massive price to buy the apartment from her, and rightly sneering at Willa’s suggestion that the two of them are peers because they both married Roy men. Jeryd Mencken — repeatedly discussed this season as the inevitable winner of the upcoming presidential election — is said to be on his way, and while we don’t see him, Stephen Root reprises his role as libertarian gasbag Ron Petkus, attempting to paper his own ideology over Logan’s. Sandy brings her father, and there’s a macabre running gag about whether he’s smiling over the death of his blood rival, or if this is just how his face looks all the time post-stroke.
Even players who have been around all along are clearly thrown off by Logan’s sudden demise. Logan’s “best pal” Colin shows up wearing jeans, and with a son in tow. (Kendall, who has been on the receiving end of Colin’s threats, is startled to realize this monster, like Logan, has a kid.) And Kerry is, of course, the hottest of messes. One minute, she was on the verge of a lucrative marriage and/or a lucrative television career; the next, she is worth nothing — less than nothing, really, because word of her having been Logan’s mistress will no doubt follow her even if she decides to pursue another executive-assistant job. Marcia and Colin won’t even let Kerry go upstairs, and when the bag Marcia has prepared of her possessions spills out, Cousin Greg is looming right there to laugh at her. It’s strange to think that, when the series began, Greg was almost the point-of-view character, vaguely sympathetic if only because he hadn’t been around Logan enough to be corrupted by him. Now, though, he’s just a craven sociopath like all the others, and it’s Roman who once again demonstrates that he can, at least briefly and on the smallest of scales, demonstrate empathy for another human being.
Kerry’s state of desperation and shock is reflected in so many of the other people jockeying for position at the wake. Tom briefly attempts to pitch himself to Frank and the others as the obvious choice to assume control of the company. But like Kerry, his only real asset to the organization was the support he had from Logan, and as Karl bluntly puts it, Tom is “well and truly fucked” with Logan gone.
And Kerry’s belief that Logan had something written down that would in some way give their relationship legal standing — perhaps a delusion of Kerry’s, perhaps something he really did(*) — is also echoed by the penciled addendum Frank finds among Logan’s estate papers. It is Schrodinger’s Addendum, with Kendall written in as Logan’s successor, but with his name either underlined or crossed out, with no real way to tell. Given Kendall’s long history of screw-ups, along with their own desire to seize control of the company, it’s not surprising — and is very, very funny — that Frank, Karl, and Gerri all begin talking about the idea of flushing the addendum down the toilet, all the while framing it as something they’re joking about, despite it obviously being a serious consideration.
(*) Marcia did, after all, have the apartment to herself before all the guests arrived. Odds are there was no Kerry-related paperwork, but if there was, it would not be the least bit surprising that Marcia would find and dispose of it.
The ambiguity of the underline/strikethrough is almost certainly just a mistake by an old man in poor health who rarely had cause to write anything. But it’s hard not to wonder if it is one last fuck you gesture aimed at his most rebellious and disappointing child. And certainly, everything we know about Kendall suggests that he will be forever haunted by not knowing what Logan intended, or why, even if he is able to function right now.
And he very much is able to function in the moment. Rather than stick with the sibling triumverate that served them so well in stealing Pierce out from under Logan, Kendall decides the best play for him is teaming up with Roman as co-CEOs. Shiv is once again left out of the loop, now feeling estranged from her brothers as well as her husband. And after Roman dismisses Hugo and Karolina’s suggestion that they try painting Logan as a man who was out of touch at the time of his death, Kendall goes behind his back to have Hugo arrange that exact smear campaign — and leverages Hugo to do it because he knows Hugo accidentally committed insider trading. It’s ruthless on multiple levels, and, as Kendall acknowledges, “It’s what he” — meaning Logan — “would do.” Frank has previously wondered why Kendall would want to take over the company where he did so much damage to himself: “You seem so well. Do you really want back in?” This will almost certainly end badly for Kendall, but he can’t stop himself from trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or prove a dead man wrong.
Earlier, Shiv suggests that Kendall taking over the company would be the worst of both worlds: “Different, but the same.” Kendall chooses to see this as a positive: continuity at a time of extreme instability, but with another kind of temperament at the helm. “Honeymoon States” is sharp and funny — and, at times, sad — enough to suggest that this post-Logan version of Succession will be different but the same in a very, very good way.
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