Succession S2E8: Dundee

Shiv speaks to Rhea outside the hotel in Dundee
Image courtesy of HBO

This week’s Succession takes us to Scotland: the land of Logan’s traumatic youth. While we don’t learn the specifics of what happened to Logan and Ewan as children, there are tidbits here and there that contribute to Logan’s character development. Without these small things sprinkled throughout the show (the scars on his back, the whispers and murmurs of a childhood of abuse and neglect, etc.), Logan would be an absolute monster—and he is an absolute monster, but like all great villains, he needs an origin story. “Dundee” hints at that origin story but stops short of giving us the goods.

I would have liked some more fleshed-out backstory about Logan’s past, but Succession tends to dole out these nuggets of truth very gradually so I’m not surprised that things were hinted at but not explained. It’s true to Logan’s character to keep all his deepest, darkest secrets as exactly that: secrets. Brian Cox’s acting what sells the whole thing and makes us feel Logan’s trauma and his attempt to quash any feelings the trip to Dundee is bringing up. A perfect example of this is when he drives by a bandstand upon his arrival in Scotland. It’s clear it holds some sort of nostalgic significance to Logan; he even smiles a bit, but when Connor asks him the significance of it, he won’t (or can’t) share anything with him.

We do get a very rare moment of vulnerability from Logan here. He doesn’t say much in terms of specifics—just that he returned to Scotland when his mother died—but it’s in all the things he doesn’t say that we can feel how traumatized he still is by his past. Logan is not one to mince words; he says what he thinks when he has something to say and keeps quiet when he doesn’t. But here he tries to explain things and fails to find the proper words to express how he is feeling. He simply cannot speak about the past, and certainly not to Connor (or any of his children).

The trip to Dundee, which was meant to be a fairly simple celebration of Logan’s 50 years in the business and a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the new school of journalism in his name, is complicated by the fact that the cruise line scandal is escalating. A new whistleblower has come forward and is not responsive to any attempts by Logan’s team to silence him. Logan wants to keep Rhea in the dark regarding these new developments—a decision he thinks will keep her clear of the cruise scandal shitstorm but which (if Shiv has her way) may bite her squarely in the ass.

One part of the whole dog-and-pony show of the Dundee trip is for Logan to visit his childhood home, take a photo or two and a tour. However, when Logan pulls up to the house he is unable to bring himself to get out of the car. Just the sight of the house is too much for him and he drives off. Again, we see him completely closed off and unable to confront his past.

When Ewan shows up to the journalism school (invited by Rhea), he is as antagonistic to Logan as always, but there is something between the two that we don’t usually get. Behind the obvious contempt there is a tiny bit of warmth that comes from the shared experience of their childhood there (both the good and the bad). They reminisce a bit, and even though it’s clear that they despise each other as adults, we get just a hint that as children they were in it together. This doesn’t last long, though, as Ewan makes it clear to Greg that Logan is an absolute monster and that, if Greg wants to keep his inheritance ($250 million), he has to quit Waystar. This puts Greg in a tough position as he has compromised himself both morally and legally for Waystar and is an integral part of the cruise scandal cover-up.

Roman sits on the window ledge opposite Shiv as she tries to convince him to help her take down Rhea
Image courtesy of HBO

After being thoroughly outplayed by Rhea in last week’s episode, Shiv is scrambling to try and put the pieces back together. It’s clear to her now that Rhea is a threat, not only to her but to any of the Roy kids’ chances at becoming the next CEO of Waystar. Rhea is fully in with Logan now; on top of the fact that they are sleeping together, Rhea has Logan’s full trust and confidence. There is no doubt in Shiv’s mind that she is out and Rhea is in. She attempts to enlist her siblings to help form a plan to take Rhea down but they are more interested in mocking her for getting played so hard. It’s not surprising that they aren’t fully backing her given how things went down at the dinner at Tern Haven. In some ways, it’s what she deserves for being as overconfident and careless as she was. Rhea is right about Shiv: she thinks she’s much smarter than she actually is.

As far as Shiv’s war with Rhea goes, Kendall is content to keep out of it and defer to his father’s judgment. After his traumatic trip to London in last week’s Succession, Kendall seems to have checked out when it comes to the family business. With Naomi Pierce seemingly out of the picture, he has set his sights on Jennifer, an actress from Willa’s play. He flies her out to Scotland for a fling, likely to keep his mind off the absolute mess his life has become. Kendall seems to be using women/sex as a way to reclaim some sense of power and masculinity in the face of the absolute impotence he feels when it comes to his dealings with his father and his future at Waystar. And can you really blame him? Of course, being Kendall, his chilled-out, somewhat cheerful, “drowning in pussy” act can only last so long before he looks to Logan for approval and finds nothing but disappointment and secondhand embarrassment (more on that later).

With her brothers uninterested in joining forces, Shiv sets her sights on Marcia. She attempts to not-so-subtly inform Marcia that Logan is having an affair with Rhea but she has underestimated her stepmother. This is clearly not Marcia’s first time dealing with one of Logan’s infidelities and she seems content to let it play out, knowing that (as Logan’s wife and significant shareholder in Waystar) she holds more cards than Rhea does. However, Marcia isn’t going to allow Rhea to get away with it without putting her in her place. One of the highlights of “Dundee” is Marcia putting Rhea on the spot by asking her if she has any STDs and casually informing her that she still sleeps with Logan occasionally.

Marcia leans in toward Rhea to intimidate her
Image courtesy of HBO

As for Roman’s interest in keeping his (albeit limited) power at Waystar, he once again turns to Gerri for advice. Gerri is concerned about the Rhea situation and correctly believes that it’s more than just a fling for Logan. Her concern is that Logan is distracted by his relationship with Rhea and that this could open the door for her to seize power completely, especially given the situation with the shareholders. She suggests that Roman cozy up to Eduard as a possible bankroll for private equity. As always, Roman does exactly what Gerri tells him to do (but not before offering up the world’s most disturbing partnership proposal).

As it becomes clearer to everyone that Rhea is actually a major threat, Shiv does get a bit of assistance from Roman and Kendall. Roman suggests that they have Rhea mention Rose (Logan’s deceased sister) and Kendall agrees to suggest this to her for her toast to Logan—without context, of course. We don’t really learn much about why Rose is a sore spot for Logan (though we later learn from Ewan that Logan blames himself for what happened to her, but not why), but it’s enough to add to the general sense of Logan’s discomfort and remind us of his trauma. The more effective strategy is to point out to Logan exactly how liberal Rhea is and that, despite her cutthroat nature, her values don’t align with Logan’s.

Throughout this week’s Succession, we see Rhea’s incredibly transparent attempts to bring the Roy boys over to her side. She knows that Shiv is a lost cause but she makes overtures to the rest of Logan’s kids, playing to their respective vulnerabilities. With Roman, she tries to play the angle that he has the most killer instincts of any of the possible successors and that all he needs is to rehabilitate his reputation a bit before he can be a viable option. This is exactly the type of thing Roman would want to hear from his father (and is in line with what Gerri has told him in the past), but coming from Rhea it rings completely hollow.

With Kendall, Rhea plays the “it’s always been you” card. She feigns concern for him but assures him that, when all is said and done, he will be the one that takes over. Kendall is slightly more susceptible to Rhea’s angle simply because he is a walking raw nerve, but he can see through her as well. Still, you can see how desperately he wants to believe her even though he knows it’s all part of her game. Connor is desperate for a cash infusion given the amount of money he’s sunk into Willa’s play and the presidential campaign he still seems to think is a viable idea, and Rhea plays to that with him.

Later, when Shiv attempts to get the family together to plan a final takedown strategy, she is horrified to learn that Rhea’s plotting has actually kind of worked. Even though the Roy boys may know that Rhea is acting out of self-interest, they all believe that aligning with her is more beneficial to them than aligning with Shiv, who at this point is completely out on her own. They think Shiv is fighting a losing battle, that Logan has already made up his mind, so it’s much easier to just go along with it and hope that the outcome will benefit them. Kendall is especially keen to stay in Logan’s good graces and continues toeing the “Dad knows best” party line.

Rhea stands in the center surrounded by all the guests at the surprise party for Logan
Image courtesy of HBO

At the party for Logan—where Rhea seriously miscalculated Logan’s comfort level regarding surprises—things start to pop off on various fronts. Kendall decides (even though he’s known her for approximately three seconds) to introduce Jennifer to Logan and she doesn’t make the best impression on him. It’s not any fault of her own, really. Kendall completely springs it on her, and who would want to meet the parents (especially a guy like Logan) when you’re not even really in a relationship? She’s young, she’s nervous, and she says “awesome” a lot. She’s clearly not going to impress Logan, and Kendall, being Daddy’s Number One Boy, can now only look at Jennifer through his eyes. Not that I think the relationship really had legs to begin with, but Kendall put the nails in the coffin with his decision to introduce his flavor of the week to his father.

Shiv tries to bury the hatchet with Logan for the evening and he reveals to her that he thinks perhaps he’s made a mistake trusting Rhea. The fact that she’s a liberal who doesn’t drink seems to especially stick in Logan’s craw but he’s also thrown for a loop by the fact that she has access to all his contacts and was able to pull off an (unwanted) surprise without his knowledge. Logan is the type of guy who gets “surprise” parties thrown for him often, but he always knows about them ahead of time. This one was truly a surprise, and not a pleasant one.

When Gerri clues Shiv into the escalating cruise scandal situation, she sees a way to lose the battle but win the war. The story is about to break—there’s no stopping it—and the new CEO is going to get eaten alive. So who better to throw to the wolves than Rhea? Shiv knows that Logan, despite his reservations, is going to announce Rhea that evening (and she actively encourages him to do so) and so she decides they should keep the information from him until the following day. Shiv has made a laundry list of stupid and rash decisions over the course of Succession’s second season, but this one is poised to be the one that really matters. It’s cold, calculated, and cutthroat—and it’s exactly what Logan would do if he were in her position.

Just when you think Succession can’t top itself, it gives us a scene so excruciating that watching it is almost physically painful. Kendall’s rap will go down as one of the most iconic scenes in the show but good lord it is hard to get through. Kendall has quite literally shat the bed this season, yet his rap performance is the single most embarrassing thing he’s ever done. The funniest part about it, though, is that he is completely unaware of how much of an embarrassment he is. To Kendall, Jennifer saying “awesome” too many times is just horrifying but his performance is totally appropriate and cool. The whole thing just A Lot, but I cannot praise Jeremy Strong enough for being able to shift seamlessly from absolute husk of a human being to legend-in-his-own-mind rap God. That said, I’m happy to never watch that scene again ever in my life.

Kendall performs a rap for his father on stage at the surprise party
Image courtesy of HBO

With Succession barreling towards the end of the season and the explosion of the cruise scandal looming, the stage is set for some serious conflict. There is a lot at stake for many of our characters, especially Tom and Greg who are neck-deep in the scandal cover-up. Will Greg pull the receipts on Tom to keep himself safe? Will Shiv’s plan to throw Rhea to the wolves actually work? Will Kendall stop being a consummate embarrassment to everyone around him? I am both terrified and excited to find out.

Written by Alison Morretta

In addition to her position as Senior Editor and Writer for TVObs, Ali is a freelance editorial consultant and author of numerous nonfiction reference books for middle school and high school students. In her spare time, she enjoys obsessing over various television shows, especially Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When not overanalyzing TV shows, she is wrangling her hyperactive Corgi, who is inarguably the cutest dog that has ever existed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *