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Succession recap: season two, episode one – TV’s most vicious family are back! – The Guardian

Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Succession season two, which airs on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK. Do not read on unless you have watched episode one

‘You’re going to bleed cash, he will bleed cash … it will never be over’

Featuring clear nods to the long-lasting Murdoch dynasty and with lashings of King Lear to boot, Succession returns with Brian Cox’s ageing patriarch Logan Roy rejuvenated and at the top of his form. Following the tragic, Chappaquiddick-style events that concluded series one, Logan has his son Kendall exactly where he wants him – he knows he walked away from the accident that left his co-passenger dead.

We begin, ironically, with Kendall immersed in a body of water, taking a spa treatment in Iceland. He’s abruptly summoned, however, by one Magnusson, who informs him he that since Stewy and Sandy have gone public with their “bear hug” deal, he must appear on TV at once to make a public declaration that he himself is withdrawing from it. At once dripping wet and drying out, the wretched Kendall agrees. In the car to the studio he’s handed his idiot card, whose mantra he repeats dully throughout this episode; “I saw their plan but Dad’s plan was better.”

Surviving a last-minute nose bleed, he just about manages to do as instructed; “Ladies and gentlemen, the first fucking thing my son’s ever done right in his life,” declares Logan, looking on with approval from his board room.

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Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron).

Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron). Photograph: HBO

Also looking on from around the world are the rest of Logan’s brood. Roman Roy, currently in Japan cleaning up his mess with the rocket, condemns his brother’s TV appearance as his “Elvis on the toilet” moment – no coming back from that. Tom and Shiv, meanwhile, watching from their honeymoon boat, can’t help but notice what a sweaty, unshaven shambles Kendall looks. Seeing that things are about to get interesting on the business front, however, both ask the other if they mind abandoning the honeymoon. Both quickly agree; it’s a hint of how much they’re invested in themselves, as opposed to each other.

‘You’re giving me park coke?!’

Back in New York, Logan welcoes back Kendall as his reluctantly prodigal son shuffles cadaverously into his office. “Here he is, Mr Potato Head, my plastic adversary.” He seeks to debrief his son, a word which carries hints of double meanings as he laces his queries with taunts at Kendall for his would-be betrayal. Kendall eventually tells Logan that Stewy and Sandy consider Logan unstable, not entirely logic-driven, aware of his history of erratic incidents and likely to crack. At this moment, however, Logan has never looked more composed. Near-broken, Kendall discreetly inquires of Karolina, one of Waystar Royco’s legal team, if, despite his intention to detoxify, she could put out a contact for some drugs; “I need a straightener.” Eventually, it’s Greg who stops by with a pitiful bag of cocaine he has acquired from the park; “you’re giving me park coke?” groans Kendall, vowing to make Greg eat his septum if it falls off.

Logan holds a meeting with his banker, and in a recurring motif in this episode, complains about his lack of forthrightness. “How much do I have to fucking pay you to say something?” All right, advises the banker; sell. Or face a vicious fight lasting years, that will drain all your resources. Tech has him by the throat; his beloved old media are on the decline. “In five years you’ll be in the mega-toilet.”

What now? A gathering at the big old family house. There, Kendall is taken aside by Colin, Logan’s man, and assured that the UK coroner will return a verdict of death by misadventure on the accident, with “no indicators of any other individual”. So that’s him in the clear, it seems. But Kendall faces an awkward meeting with Roman and Shiv, who verbally tear what’s left of him to pieces for pulling out of the deal; they have no idea why he did it and all he can offer in return is the line handed to him about hjs dad’s plan being better.

A rare touching moment ... Logan (Brian Cox) and Kendall.

A rare touching moment … Logan (Brian Cox) and Kendall. Photograph: HBO

Everyone complains about the dreadful smell in the house – the stink of metaphor, perhaps. “Like the cheesemonger died and left his dick in the brie”, says Logan. Eventually, its traced to the chimney, from which workmen recover rotting raccoons stuffed up there. Logan summons the contractor, who he believes placed those racoons there out of pique at him putting a cap on his price for works on the house. In a display of virile rage that shows he’s far from done in this world, Logan busts down the contractor’s price, inviting him to sue.

Unable to elicit their views at the dinner table, Logan summons first Roman then Shiv to hear their thoughts on whether he should cash in. Roman makes a pitch advising Logan to do a “Scooby Doo” on his rivals – scare them off, by whatever means necessary. Shiv follows. She’s bristling with hostility at her Dad but also ideas about moving the business forward. She also says she wishes soon to be free of the Roy name. However, when he formally invites her to become new chief executive of the company, she accepts like a shot. Moreover, when Tom quizzes her on how the meeting went, particularly with regards to his own career prospects, she’s not entirely honest with him.

Back at the table, Logan declares he’s made his decision; he wants Waystar Royco to be the “last man standing”, the number one media conglomerate in the world. Bring Big Tech on. He and Kendall head out for a meeting with Stewy and Sandy – but he hangs back and sends in Kendall first, who must endure yet another round of abuse from Stewy for pulling out of the deal. Kendall tells Sandy that his father intends to fight, and all that it will involve; total war and, if not the spilling of human blood, that even more precious commodity – cash. It will never end.

“Good,” says Sandy. “Well, let’s move ahead with that process, shall we?”

The heir apparent?

Shiv surveys her empire.

Shiv surveys her empire. Photograph: HBO

Without a doubt, Shiv, following her father’s surprise offer to have her head up the company. It’s not an undeserved offer: Connor is distracted by his whimsical bid for the presidency; Roman is more effective as a hackler than a doer; while Kendall is a broken man. But it’s not an immediate offer and you feel there will be many rivers to cross yet for all concerned; the series has only just begun.

Notes and observations

  • Tom’s sucking up to his father in law plumbs particularly sick-making, sycophantic depths this week, not least his remark about Logan being in the prime of his life.

  • This episode was scripted by series creator Jesse Armstrong and really benefits from the crackle of his caustic style, quite British in flavour, with lines such as “is now moment to cash in and fuck off out of the casino?”

  • Jeremy Strong’s performance as the dumb, halting Kendall seems to have channelled that of the late Fred Gwynne in The Phil Silvers show, as the private Bilko persuades to enter an eating contest.

  • The scenes with the servants at the house are telling; conspicuous by their presence, carrying toilet rolls in and out the door, laying out an elaborate meal eventually swept aside by Logan in favour of pizza, following the stink. But there’s no Downtown Abbey-style pretence that the Roys give a damn about these underlings.

  • The scene in which Connor is revealed to have bought Napoleon’s penis as part of an antiques collection is a wonderful head-scratcher. Does he hope that the dried-out item might have some osmosis-like effect on his Presidential bid?


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