‘Succession’ Recap: Logan Roy Makes Shock Return, Shiv and Tom Get Kinky
This post contains spoilers for this week’s episode of Succession, “Living+.”
“Living+” opens with a startling image: Logan Roy, seemingly alive and relatively well — albeit in his usual foul mood — recording a pitch for the titular product, Waystar’s attempt to re-create a cruise-ship experience on dry land. It’s enough to make one think of a cinematic disaster from one of Waystar Studios’ rivals:
Logan is, of course, still dead. This is merely archival, extremely raw footage, which is being edited into something that will be usable for Kendall’s first presentation as CEO to the company’s shareholders. But Logan feels very much alive, and vital, and dyspeptic, as he objects to being given direction, to having his makeup retouched under hot lights, and everything about the experience, until he bellows out, “You’re as bad as my fucking idiot kids!” Kendall, watching the video, shrugs off the insult as “a Valentine’s card” relative to other paternal abuse, and addresses his father as if he’s in the room, saying in a half-triumphant, half-wistful tone, “Good to see you, Dad.”
This will not be the last time Kendall attempts to speak with this digital ghost of his nasty old man. At the presentation, he will mortify Gerri and the rest of the inner circle by staging a scripted conversation with the image of Logan on the giant screen behind him.
That Kendall keeps treating his father as a living, breathing, snarling person speaks to his ongoing grief, and his struggle to process the loss of a man he loved and hated with roughly equal measure. And it speaks to the fears of his own mortality that have bubbled up ever since Logan tried and failed to fly to Sweden. Never mind that Kendall is decades younger and in vastly better physical condition; if the unstoppable, invulnerable Logan Roy can die without warning, couldn’t the same happen to his cowardly, self-destructive son?
Enhancing this crippling cocktail of mourning and paranoia is the nature of Living+ itself(*), which is more about the opposite of the product’s name. It is a dressed-up retirement community, there to pacify ATN’s elderly core demographic and ease them without complaint into the imminent embrace of the Grim Reaper. The very idea of it bums out Lukas Matsson, and it depresses the hell out of Kendall and Roman, neither of whom can accept that Logan is gone. Kendall describes the sudden death as “very un-Dad,” while Roman admits he thought their father would live forever. And once that phrase is out there in the air, suddenly the brothers begin looking at Living+ not as a way station to the River Styx, but as a possible detour around everyone’s final destination — some kind of Black Mirror-esque way to cheat Death at a game of backgammon.
(*) Coming soon, to an app store near you: Rolling Stone+, Sepinwall+, and whatever other words and names we can add a plus sign to! Also? The idea of blending mega-corporation IP with real estate is not exclusive to the world of Succession. Disney is working on a similar idea, called Storyliving by Disney.
This is, like so much of what Kendall and Roman spin up over the course of the hour, utter flimflam, designed to artificially inflate both the share price and the brothers’ fragile self-esteem. But in a way, Logan does live on this week, as we see his two younger sons desperately try to embody him, even though each is ultimately just giving a poor Logan Roy cosplay performance. Despite knowing him all their lives, they still have only a superficial understanding of their father, and as a result keep giving the madness without the method.
For Roman, this translates into the recognition that he in theory has the power to capriciously fire anyone he wants, at any time. Logan did this so often that it seemed as natural as breathing. But more often than not, he did it for strategic reasons. Roman is doing it simply because he thinks he can. And, not coincidentally given all we know about his various pathologies, the first two employees he attempts this with are powerful older women who refuse to acquiesce to what he wants. The first is Joy (guest star Annabeth Gish), the head of Waystar Studios, who seems less interested in the firehose of cash Roman is promising to open for her than she is in getting assurances that her parent company will stop promoting fascism quite so enthusiastically. Roman assumes the world is full of hypocrites like himself, and sees no actual danger from Jeryd Mencken — whom he dismissively compares to the kind of IP that fuels Joy’s studio — and thus mostly sees Joy as ungrateful, pushy, annoying, and, worst of all, disrespectful. So he tells her she’s fired. Like Lukas Matsson with many of his “jokes,” Roman later half-heartedly attempts to walk this back, claiming that saying “you’re fired” is different from actually firing someone, but you can see the gleam in his eyes when he realizes that he has an easy way to end this conversation, and any other one that he’s not enjoying.
Later, he tries pulling the same stunt on Gerri, who has already dismissed him as “a weak monarch in a dangerous interregnum,” and whose general disdain for him was a lot more fun back when he was just Daddy’s Little Fuckup rather than the man kind of, sort of, taking Daddy’s place. She assumes she’s invulnerable, both because she has the receipts, and because she knows Matsson wants her on his team. So when Roman won’t back down, she finally puts two and two together about the brothers’ desperate and misguided attempt to hold onto the company at all costs. This is the second time this season that Roman has attempted to fire Gerri, and it seems likely that he’ll get more opportunities, because she’s not going quietly, even hanging with the other Grays in their VIP seating for Kendall’s presentation. But in the immediate aftermath of Roman telling her she’s out, we see a shockingly vulnerable Gerri Kellman, whose mouth trembles as she insists, “I am good at my job!” Roman probably can’t get rid of her, but he sure can hurt her. She used to be a semi-reluctant part of one of his kinks, and now she is a completely unwilling participant in another.
If Roman has latched onto his father’s fondness for making cruelty the whole point, then Kendall is aping Logan’s belief that he can simply bend reality to his will and manifest his whims as something tangible. He decides that the best way to wriggle out of Matsson’s latest generous offer is to pump up the stock price so high that even the Swede won’t be able to buy the company. It’s the sort of tactic that Kendall once upon a time would have found abhorrent. That was the Kendall who thought of himself as the noble and ethical son: the brother who was going to make the
Corleone Roy family completely legitimate within five years. That Kendall never really existed, though, as we’ve seen through the version he became the second he got a whiff of what real power feels like. He’s now the the Supreme Lord of Bullshit Mountain, doing or saying whatever he can to hang onto the throne. And while it doesn’t work in small ways, like his failed attempt to get an entire Living+ house built in the hours before the investor meeting, it sure seems to in the big ones. The presentation isn’t perfect, and the Grays and Tom mock some of Kendall’s more theatrical flourishes. But he handles a major curveball — a question about Matsson tweeting a concentration-camp meme in response to the very idea of Living+ — as gracefully as could be expected under the circumstance. More to the point, the lies he tells about Living+, eternal life, and Waystar in general get everyone excited, even pragmatists like Karl, who were prepared to scream if Kendall’s lies put the company at risk. None of this is true — including the words that Cousin Greg is able to get an engineer to make come out of Logan’s dead mouth — but everybody wants it to be, which for the moment is all that’s needed to make that stock price go soaring toward the moon. As Kendall puts it to Roman at one point, “It’s enough to make you lose your faith in capitalism. You can say anything.”
Yet on the outskirts of Kendall’s storm of untruths, there are Shiv and Tom at least temporarily finding their way back to each other by finally being frank. Shiv begins the episode seemingly allied with Matsson, having a clandestine meeting while their private jets are sharing the same tarmac(*). Whether or not she actually likes this creep, she very much enjoys the fact that he likes her, and wants to use her as his inside person on the Waystar deal. Her brothers promised her that their titles would just be a formality, and that they would remain an equal triumvirate. But that’s obviously not been the case, because there always has to be at least one Roy sibling on the outside looking in(**). So a team-up with Matsson would not only punish her brothers for misleading her, but also put Shiv back into a position of power that she’s craved.
(*) Don’t run across an airport runway in your bare feet, Matsson! Ugh.
(**) Well, there always has to be at least two, but nobody really counts Connor, who doesn’t even appear in this episode.
But dominance games aside, Shiv is also experiencing grief in somewhat more recognizable forms than what Kendall and Roman are going through. And while attempting to have some solitary, scheduled grief in a Waystar Studios conference room, Shiv is interrupted by Tom. As he was while Logan was dying in front of him on the plane, Tom is exceedingly kind and gentle with his estranged wife. The two even share a kiss that feels totally divorced from the artifice and mind games that have generally been baked into their marriage’s DNA. Even Shiv can tell it’s different, and it makes her nervous enough to try to walk things back when she sees Tom at an investors reception that night. But while she’s jokingly speculating about which women at the party he wants to have sex with, she somehow finds herself in a real conversation with him. The honesty proves an unexpected turn-on, which results in Shiv suggesting that they play “Bitey,” a game where each of them bites into the other’s arm, and the loser is the one who lets go first(*). Later, we see them post-coital, and Tom is even more candid, admitting that, whatever his feelings for her, he is always thinking a little bit about money, and that he likes the nice life he has gotten through marrying her. Shiv tries to turn it into a joke, but once again we can see that she likes this version of Tom, far more than she ever expected to.
(*) Expect many, many trend stories in the coming weeks about couples who wind up in the ER because they commit too hard to Bitey.
Earlier, Shiv calls out her brothers for the shenanigans they are trying to pull against Matsson, instantly seeing through every lie they try to tell her, recalling how bad they were at it as kids, and how bad they remain at it as slightly larger children. (“Boys, you are not good at this,” she scolds them.) But even though Matsson, Shiv, Gerri, Karl, and others know what’s up, the boys are getting away with it for at least a hot moment, and they can take pleasure in it.
Or so it seems at first. But toward the end of the episode, we see Roman listening over and over to a recut of the Logan video Kendall had made, where his father’s voice has been edited to mock him, simply because the sound of Logan means more to him than the insults — or, perhaps, because getting to hear his dad be mean to him again just feels right.
Kendall, meanwhile, heads to the beach and concludes the hour lying on his back in the Pacific Ocean. Drowning imagery often accompanies Kendall, but generally when his fortunes are poor. For this moment, life is seemingly good, and he is literally looking up, rather than floating face down in the pool of an Italian villa, in need of rescue by one of his employees. But he doesn’t look appreciably happier. Which is yet another aspect of his father that he hasn’t been able to bring back to life. Logan was in most ways a miserable bastard, but he knew how to enjoy his victories when they came. Kendall pulls off an improbable success with the investors, but the pleasure from it fades quickly. He can float, but even when he wears an aviator jacket, he can’t fly.
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