'Succession' Recap: There Will Be Blood - Rolling Stone
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‘Succession’ Recap: There Will Be Blood

The Roys go to Washington (and Turkey) to try to save the company from existential threats. For the first time, the family is forced to reckon with forces outside their control

Brian Cox and Sarah Snook in Season 2, episode 9 of Succession.

Brian Cox and Sarah Snook in 'D.C.', this week's episode of 'Succession.'

Zach Dilgard/HBO

After last week’s sojourn to Logan’s hometown, it’s time for a two-season storyline to finally, officially, unravel. The prior episode’s “existential threat” — a whistleblower from the company’s cruise division stepping forward — is now on a 60 Minutes-style news show, alleging that Brightstar, the Roys’ cruise division, was a “cesspool of mismanagement.” Implicated on national television are Gerri, Kendall, and Tom, but that doesn’t stop the Roys watching at home from jeering at the screen as if they’re watching a bad episode of Saturday Night Live — until Logan decides he can’t handle it, and they change the channel to baseball. 

Shiv gets a tip: The cruise scandal will lead to a Congressional hearing investigating the matters. The prospect finally seems to get to Logan, who begins bellowing. “I can’t have this now!” he shouts. “Can we just say, ‘Fuck ’em?’” Roman asks, while the group starts to brainstorm ways to get Logan out of testifying. “Fuck… Congress?” Shiv asks, incredulously. 

Everyone agrees: “This is bad,” though they cannot decide exactly how bad. While a cadre of PR professionals watch the broadcast in an adjacent room, Gerri makes a cruel suggestion: that they throw Bill, the executive who attempted to clean up the cruise division, albeit quietly, under the bus. Immediately, Logan perks up: The bloodthirsty option is always the right one for him, and no good deed — at least in Succession — goes unpunished. Bill later shows up to support the family at the hearing. “That’s nice,” Tom, Shiv, and Gerri all agree. It’s not nice enough, though, for them to halt their plan to make sure the buck stops at Bill. 

Outside of the decision center, Connor, Tom, and Greg are talking economics. Greg is attempting to celebrate potentially divesting himself from his grandfather’s will at Logan’s behest — “These drinks for people, right?” he asks, at the family’s well-appointed bar — and the two ineffectual millionaires are lecturing him about his decision to walk away from a quarter of a billion dollars to stick with Logan “Uncle Fun” Roy. “You can’t do anything with five [million], Greg,” Connor tells the hapless Greg. “Five’s a nightmare: You can’t retire. Not worth it to work.” “Poorest rich person in America,” Tom agrees. 

Meanwhile, Logan is putting together a last-minute contingency plan. “I’m on a knife’s edge,” Logan says to Roman. “Ten bad minutes on camera in D.C… that could be it. The end.” He gives Roman a mission: Track down the sovereign money necessary to take the company private. It’s an unexpected vote of confidence, though Roman certainly doesn’t have that same confidence in himself. His first duty overseas as a newly minted member of the grown-up’s table is to give a speech to the Scottish soccer team he just bought. He stammers through some uninspiring patter about how they’re a team, and that fact will magically keep them from defeat. His money play is more successful; the Saudi prince is interested, and wants Roman to pitch the Waystar Royco takeover at a meeting in Turkey the next day. 

Initially, the presentation goes shockingly well. Roman seems to genuinely understand the business, and is selling it with a charming spin. All of a sudden, he’s living up to Logan’s (and Gerri’s) bizarre belief in his capabilities. It falls apart, though, through no fault of his own: Armed men show up and escort out Roman’s security guard. The prince tells Roman that it’s time to “go with these gentlemen now.” “This isn’t business, is it?” Roman realizes as he’s whisked to a hotel lobby filled with assault rifle-toting men. “It’s the kind of party where you have to go,” the prince explains.

Roman is a hostage now, playing Marry, Fuck, Kill, to pass the time, until he’s approached again. The hostage situation is murkily explained as both an “anticorruption” matter, and as a “power grab,” but there is still interest in Roman’s deal. So, he’s forced to make the pitch again, with more details, surrounded by gunmen. He performs admirably, but it’s unclear what will happen next. 

Back in the States, Rhea, the new CEO, feels blindsided by the whistleblower accusations — she’s been set up, essentially, to take the helm of a company that may very well have too many bodies buried to continue operating. She expresses her concerns to Logan, but when she enters a room full of Waystar Royco operatives, she gives a glimpse at what a public-facing corporate officer is meant to do: lie, convincingly. “It’s a mountain out of a molehill, everyone’s saying it,” she says. “Hearings happen every day, and we have nothing to be guilty about.”

The next day, Tom takes the stand first alongside Gerri, facing off against Shiv’s old employer, Senator Gil Eavis (who Shiv’s old lover is conspicuously advising). Very quickly, it becomes clear that whatever preparation Waystar’s formidably staffed PR team put Tom through was woefully inadequate. The plan to throw Bill under the bus is immediately put to bed, and instead, taking center stage is the family’s use of the nickname “Uncle Mo” — which, as it was explained earlier in the season, stands for “molester.” Tom tries to explain it away as a joke, but Eavis goes straight for the throat. Greg, who Tom sent to check out incriminatory documents to destroy, is named on the stand. But Tom, mind-blowingly, claims not to know who Greg is for a second. Next, Eavis brings up Tom’s penchant for using his employees as furniture; Tom claims it’s a management technique. He is screwed, and leaves the stand close to tears. 

Kendall, sitting next to his father before the committee, fares much better under Eavis’ scrutiny. He’s not afraid to punch back, hard, accusing the senator of ideological bias and misunderstanding free speech, and throwing it in his face that he appears on the Roys’ TV channels, despite his grandstanding against them. It’s a strong performance that plays directly to the ATN conservative base, but Logan later muses to Shiv that it’s not going to help him on the corporate battlefield, just on the political one.

Shiv attempts to backchannel with Eavis, and finds out that there’s another person set to come forward. This time it’s a victim, who would fully sink the company if she testifies. Rhea is immediately recruited to try to make contact with the woman. It’s a request she does not appreciate — it pairs her up with Shiv, who engineered her entrance into the morass — and, eventually, declines to go through with. It seems that even for the most talented operator in the mix, there’s a moral limit to how far she’ll go. Shiv does not share her compunctions. Her attempt to convince the woman to not come forward is among the most difficult-to-watch scenes the show has deployed, as uncomfortable as the Roys’ dinner with the Pierces, as brutal as Logan’s game of “boar on the floor.” Shiv shakes off her humanity easily in an attempt to save her family’s company. 

Shiv’s play works, on two fronts. The victim agrees not to testify, and Rhea realizes that this is not a company she wants to work for. In a conversation with Logan about her supposed fungibility, she expresses her real concerns, and abdicates her new CEO position. “I don’t know if you care about anything,” she says, “and that scares me.” 

“Fucking words,” Logan replies. 

Nursing his wounds over a drink later that night, he turns back to his first choice for his successor: Shiv. His words to her, though, are ominous. To get out of this mess, he muses, they need a “blood sacrifice.”

Previously: You Can Never Go Home Again

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