What do you call a heel turn for a villain? Succession has always been driven forward by the cruelty and vindictiveness of Brian Cox’s Logan Roy, but on Sunday’s episode, “Hunting,” he took it to heights that surprised even the other characters. It was a descent into madness for the ages, a crumbling into anger and paranoia featuring the invention of a new, incoherent game: Boar on the Floor.
Last week, the show dove deep into the state of digital media, deploying scarily spot-on commentary on industry trends, complete with tired insider jargon. The result of that dedication to accuracy is that the show feels credible even when it’s portraying the outrageous lives and times of the One Percent. Apparently “hyperdecanting” wine by putting it in a blender is actually a thing. And do rich people really decamp to Hungary to shoot boar at point-blank range, like it’s a slaughterhouse with a Barbour-clad staff? Who knows, but assume that the company retreat for Waystar Royco is likely close to real-world corporate marauders’ experience. It’s also the show at its best; Succession has perfected the art of the location-specific episode, opting to sequester its characters in new, strange situations and watch them begin to break.
In this case, it’s very clear where Logan got the idea for Boar on the Floor, the sadistic game he invents on the spot after spending the day hunting boar and having other people cook it. Logan wants to purchase another, more serious media company called PGM (likely loosely based on the New York Times) — apparently a long-running obsession of his, despite everyone’s skepticism of its business sense — to stave off the looming takeover bid. He’s also incensed that an unauthorized biography is underway, and that someone close to him has spoken to the writer. In his eyes, he’s surrounded by snakes.
So, he opts to do what he does best: bully. Over the course of the episode, everyone invited to the retreat begins to turn on each other startlingly quickly, each trying to halt Logan’s pursuit of another purchase and ferret out who’s talked to the biographer. They don’t fare well, and over the course of dinner Logan becomes increasingly furious, eventually exercising his power in a disturbing scene in which three grown men oink like pigs while crawling on the floor before fighting over sausages. “There are rules? There are no fucking rules,” he says. “It’s fun.”
There’s no winning or losing in Boar on the Floor, just debasement. And while the characters grumble, clearly recognizing and commenting on the absurdity of the situation, they all eventually respond with the same word: “OK.” Logan holds all the power, and even when the players recognize that the game, as it were, is nonsensical, they still go along with it. Everyone breaks eventually.
While Roman is never summoned to play, he is efficiently laid low during the course of the episode. In an attempt to prove to his father that he is, essentially, a functional human being, he tries to broker the deal for PGM in a back-channel deal. It doesn’t work, and Logan calls him a moron. He asks Gerri, the firm’s lawyer and steadiest hand, how he might gain his father’s respect. Her advice essentially comes down to “do some actual work,” which he dismisses immediately. It’s possible there are more blows to his ego yet to come.
It’s Tom, though, Logan’s hapless son-in-law, who earns the most humiliation per minute on screen. While he’s rolling around in front of a massive Hungarian fireplace, fighting for a sausage, his wife Shiv is hooking up with a very hot, very dumb (“I don’t follow the news; these days the real news comes from comedians”) actor. She sent Tom to Hungary to do her bidding — something he’s incapable of pulling off — but he ends up only being denigrated by her father. While some of the appeal of Succession is seeing how thoroughly humiliated the characters can be, it does seem like Tom is closing in on a breaking point. He gets so low, in fact, that he finds something of a conscience during Boar on the Floor, opting not to rat out the bumbling Cousin Greg for talking to Logan’s biographer. It’s a kind gesture in a show devoid of them. I’m still not sure why he did it.
Previously: My Dad Told Me To