Succession might feel absurd at times until you realize how absurd the world really is. I’m starting to wonder if that’s the point of the show: to get us to look at the kind of people who are running the world, to get us thinking that in every boardroom of every major company there is a Kendall Roy. Kendall was once bright-eyed and eager to make his mark on the world until eventually those higher on the food chain began to own him. Now he’s nothing more than a skilled corporate assassin. And every business has a Roman Roy, too: clever but nowhere near qualified for the job and position in life that his last name got him. The list goes on and on until you reach Logan Roy himself. How many companies with a worldwide influence today are being run by people like Logan? And how many powerful people watched “Hunting” and wanted to go to work and play “Boar on the Floor” with those they hold power over? As absurd as Succession may feel, is the show holding up a mirror to our faces and showing us our reality?
Succession didn’t start off beating us over the head with its commentary on the state of the world but Season 2 sure is. Showrunner Jesse Armstrong is telling us a story about how absolute power corrupts absolutely; he is telling us that no matter how degrading Logan is to those who work for him, they come crawling back—like Frank did this week—because to be close to the power is the next best thing to having it, regardless of the price paid. This week picked up where last week left off in its commentary on news and how, to some networks, it’s nothing more than a propaganda machine. In a line that will stick with me forever, Shiv warns Tom about the dangers of her father buying a rival news company and says, “If we buy them, I’m worried about where I’ll get my actual news from.” In today’s world, cable news is both weaponized and demonized, and Succession isn’t shying away from bringing these facts into its world of fiction.
This week we got to see Connor release a ridiculous campaign video showing exactly how unqualified he is to be running for President of the United States, and it became crystal clear what that story is based on. In our world of modern excess, money and name recognition can buy you anything, including the job of the leader of the free world. As ridiculous as it is to see Connor running for president, it is another mirror being held up to this moment in history. This on-screen absurdity is our actual reality and Succession is shoving our faces in it.
“Hunting” was a Logan-centric outing and really cast a light on how paranoid he feels. Logan might have his kids back under his thumb but the pressure from Kendall’s former partners in the attempted coup is still very real. Logan showed what his version of a caged animal looks like this week and it’s as unhinged and degrading as one might expect. The episode starts with him berating his “inner circle” for not being in love with his idea to buy a rival news company as a way to fix his current problems, and this is an ongoing theme of the episode. Logan’s outdated way of thinking—to spend a lot of money on something shiny to make himself appear more powerful—is not met with enthusiasm from all (except Kendall, the Logan Roy loyalist).
Logan’s paranoia was interesting to study this week and there were two causes for this paranoia to increase. One: he finds out that someone close to him spoke with a woman writing a book about him (a book he really doesn’t want to be written). Two: he finds out that someone leaked details of his plans to purchase a rival company. These events, combined with his already fragile psyche, gave us “Boar on the Floor”: a game that evil corporate tycoons all over the globe are surely chomping at the bit to play. While I’m tempted to say that we’ll never again see something on Succession as over the top as grown adults pretending to be boars fighting over a sausage, I’m sure that statement will be proven wrong at some point.
One of the big takeaways for me this week was Tom. Greg confides in Tom that he had awkwardly and hilariously sat down with the writer of the upcoming biography of Logan. Tom could’ve easily thrown Greg under the bus during the game of degradation later in the episode but he doesn’t. While Tom is far from an admirable guy, he does like Greg and seems to be looking out for him in his own weird way. Is it because he sees himself in Greg? That’s my assumption at this point. The shoe fits.
Speaking of Tom, when he returns home from the corporate retreat from hell, you can see that all he wants is to be with his wife. For all of his flaws, Tom loves Shiv, and while I won’t say Shiv doesn’t love him, she treats him as if he’s a class down from her. He’s there to do her bidding. While Tom was away, Shiv had slept with a man that was about as opposite from her as he could possibly be, and when Tom asks what she did while he was gone, she tells him without saying the words. The hurt on his face is real. This is not the marriage Tom wants. Last week I speculated that at some point Tom would be the one to bring Shiv down but now I’m not so sure. In this story of greed and power, will Tom lose all sense of self—the part of himself he sees Greg in—or will he eventually break free?
I want to wrap up this week by looking at the game Logan is playing with his younger children. We’ve seen him bringing Kendall closer despite not trusting him, we’ve seen him push Roman to the side, and we’ve seen him leave Shiv out in the cold by not inviting her to the corporate retreat only to end this week’s episode by telling her it was time to bring her in. Whatever Logan’s true intentions are, they will likely be self-serving. He wants his kids behind him, helping him fight his battles. Roman is more motivated than ever to earn his father’s respect after being the odd man out. The question to me is how long can Logan manipulate his kids until they’re ready to revolt like we saw with Kendall last season, and who will be the one? That remains to be seen but surely has to be where we’re heading.