Going back to the office has been a touchy subject this year. And it’s extra touchy in the world of Succession when Kendall turns up to work in season 3, episode 3. His return marks a powder-keg moment for HBO’s poison-tongued drama.
Helmed by Birds of Prey Director Cathy Yan, the episode, titled The Disruption, is on HBO Max now. Let’s see if Kendall plants a flag. Spoilers ahead.
How’s your headspace?
The question remains: Is Kendall serious? He shows up to a gala dinner for journalists wearing an Ai Weiwei lapel pin and yelling “Fuck the patriarchy,” so maybe he genuinely wants to cleanse the sins of his father’s “rotten cabal” (and by extension, the “declining empire” of Western patriarchal culture). He even apologizes to Shiv for his outburst in episode 2, though she thinks he’s just attention-seeking. But Shiv may still be stung by Kendall claiming the moral high ground she staked out for years. He certainly saw right through her mealymouthed talk of changing things from the inside.
At the same time, he just can’t get away from who he is. The comedy show is right: He’s a rich white guy, and it may simply be that his only contribution to fixing a broken world is to get out of the way. He’s certainly still as uncomprehendingly callous as only a rich person can be, jokingly-but-not-really trying to order up a police raid, blowing past a TV show floor manager, and failing to recognize Greg’s distress at being lumbered with a $40K watch (though that one was pretty funny).
Perhaps most unfeeling is Kendall’s stunt to blast the song ‘Rape me’ by Nirvana during the Town Hall. Not only does it humiliate his sister, but it makes a mockery of the suffering of the sexual abuse survivors he claims to champion.
We know he’s obsessed with how he looks. From the opening interview, where he feeds a journalist suggestions about his shaved fennel sandwich, to the game of Good Tweet/Bad Tweet he plays with a rowdy limo of obnoxious rich young things, Kendall constantly casts needy sidelong glances at what other people think about him. He’s an experienced media mini-mogul and knows the importance of image, but it clearly cuts deeper than that for “bootleg Ross.” There’s an edge of self-loathing in his pathologically cheerful embrace of the satire/abuse flung at him, and it clearly isn’t just media maneuvering. The facade fully cracks when it’s Shiv dealing out home truths in a bile-soaked open letter, and he’s reduced to hiding in a server room like a hurt child.
Speaking of Kendall, Shiv and Roman disparage the kicker of his interview, wherein he discussed his kids. In a show so concerned about family dysfunction, Succession rarely examines how these wounded children are doing as parents themselves. Kendall unthinkingly deploys his assistant to film some rabbits for his children, but what kind of father is he? And what will the next generation of Roys be like?
Succession: The Next Generation — now there’s a thought.
The FBI is downstairs
The Department of Justice’s response has hung over the beginning of the season, and Logan’s repeated exhortation to “Tell ’em to fuck off!” finally runs into “The ones who don’t fuck off.” His brinkmanship has failed as the immovable object encounters an unstoppable force in shiny jackets with yellow letters on the back. The episode’s climactic raid is a rare moment of defeat for Logan, even if it’s just a battle and not the war.
The raid also gives rise to a delicious moment of superrich schadenfreude: Tom’s plaintive announcement to advertisers (“So if you see them, that’s what that is…”) had me cackling.
Tom has actually made a pretty major chess move by offering himself up as the family’s blood sacrifice. Then again, he also pulled some underwear out of a dog’s ass. Having begun the episode needling Greg about cyanide pills, by the end it’s Tom facing the reality of swallowing a bitter pill.
The Roys call a town hall meeting for their employees, the people whose labor pays for their penthouses and helicopters. But there’s no hiding their disdain for the peons. Logan’s hand gesture at the thought of even talking to his employees says it all. The fears and concerns of the people who rely on WayStar to pay their rent and bills are nothing to the Roys and their C-level stooges, who toss aside very real worries for fake news made-up questions. Even the people employed by the superrich aren’t safe from the elite’s utter contempt.
It turns out there are some depths to which the Roys won’t sink (or at least some of them, as Roman and Conor refuse to sign Shiv’s searing open letter character assassination of Kendall). But Logan is another matter. “I don’t want anything from anyone!” Logan snaps, and he probably believes it when he tells himself that. He genuinely thinks he’s a self-made man, instead of a bully and a manipulator who demands everything from everyone.
His discussion of the cruise line’s “salty moves” around the world reveals not only his casual racism, but also that his disdain for the law is truly global. And when he ambushes White House aide Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven, he also shows his willingness to gamble the country’s future on his own troubles. Threatening the President with negative media coverage, this media baron essentially horse-trades elections and governments over his own misdeeds. “The law is people,” Logan tells Shiv, “and people is politics. And I can handle the people.”
Just checking in…
In episode 2, Logan balked at Marsha’s suggestion of bringing up the fact that Kendall pretty much killed a kid in Scotland. He and Kendall both believe some secrets are best kept buried, but then Kendall raises the stakes with his office stunt. Kendall can handle being locked out of Windows desktop, but then Logan’s bagman Colin looms. “Just checking in,” Colin says, the menace palpable, before leaning in. “I know you,” Colin whispers to Kendall, and the young iconoclast is shaken. There are skeletons in lakes on both sides, and they may yet rise up.
Season 3, episode 4, Lion in the Meadow, airs next Sunday, Nov. 7.
- Gerri wants to sell WayStar’s Israeli machine-learning operation, something that stirs up Logan and Karl. What nefariousness lurks in that particular business interest, you have to wonder.
- For all his scatalogically creative bluster, Roman is still the youngest and pretty easily wounded. Unable to think of a single fond memory of his dad, he storms from yet another room. No wonder, however, when his own father abuses him for forcing even a modicum of affection.
- This season is set to introduce Adrien Brody and Alexander Skarsgard as new characters, but so far there haven’t been many major new faces. Lisa Arthur, played by Sanaa Lathan, will hopefully play a decisive role. And of course the show is focused on the key players, all of whom are a devilish delight to watch. But the lack of major stars has added to the feeling it’s a little slow to get going.
- Greg moment of the week: either his watch not working, or when he actually, just for a second, reaches for the sky.
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