Succession S3E7: Self Destruction In Every Direction

“Too Much Birthday”

Kendall’s girlfriend walks him out of his party
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

This article contains major spoilers for Succession S3E7, “Too Much Birthday” (written by Jesse Armstrong, Georgia Pritchett & Tony Roche and directed by Lorene Scafaria). Proceed with caution.

Succession S3E7 has broken my heart. Last week, I wrote about how dark this story has become and how that’s made this season feel different than others. We’re progressing narratively in a series that’s about generational trauma and wealth that isolates you from 99% of the planet. At its core, Succession isn’t the charming comedy/drama that we often confuse it for, or perhaps more accurately, want it to be. It’s a story of damaged people who are broken, possibly beyond repair. Succession S3E7 doubled down on that in ways that, frankly, were often times hard to watch. In an episode framed as comedy, it was anything but. This was a tragedy on full display. We’re getting ready to enter heavy spoiler territory so if you haven’t seen Succession S3E7, you’ve been warned.

A Fall From Grace

We root for Kendall. We want Kendall to overcome his depression, desire for love and approval from his parents that’s never coming, substance abuse issues and other self-destructive traits. We get our hopes up when he pulls it together and then get let down when he crumbles. And this episode was the crumbling.

We’ve seen it coming for awhile now. His desperate attempt to be seen as “cool” in the public eye. His desire to be cast as a champion for progressives battling an evil empire. The false hope he had that his father would see him differently for going to war with him and admit that he had seen his son wrong. Kendall started this season off with a sense of momentum but none of his attempts to be a serious threat to his father have panned out and this has taken a toll on him. He takes these failures to heart.

So here in Succession S3E7, Kendall is turning 40 and wants to throw the most over the top birthday party he possibly can. Celebs, business tycoons, drugs, vibes, a “bangers only” playlist and no coats. Sorry Connor, but you will be harassed all night long about that old man coat you refuse to take off.

Kendall rehearses for his party performance in Succession
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

What could possibly go wrong? The episode opens with Kendall rehearsing the musical number he’s going to perform at his party. After his rap last season, there’s a feeling that we’re in for a treat here. But none of this will come to be, because this level of excess (and desperation), combined with the mounting stress in his life he refuses to acknowledge, leads to a full Kendall meltdown at his own party.

The meltdown seems to stem from a variety of triggers. Kendall invited his siblings out of this sense of false hope that they wanted to be there for him on his birthday. They came but it was to try and get alone with the owner of a digital company they want to purchase (played by Alexander Skarsgard). Kendall in his mind feels like he’s been trying harder to be a good father but in reality hasn’t. These feelings were awakened by his ex-wife, who before she left the party asked him if he got the gift from their kids. He went into a tailspin trying to find it, almost as if by finding this gift, he would be less of an absentee parent than his parents. Despite his extreme levels of denial, on some level Kendall is realizing that he is every bit the bad parent that his own parents are.

While not finding the gift from his kids was his breaking point, the “gift” he received from his father was what put all of this in motion. As it turns out, Roman and Logan decided to offer Kendall 2 billion dollars to buy out his shares, which came with a message in a card from his dad: “Cash out and f*ck off.”

Kendall knows he’s losing the war yet he doesn’t want to take the money and be done with his family business. But why? Is it a feeling of losing? Or that his dad will view him as weak? Or that he’ll truly be alone if he cashes out of the family business? Seeing how he clings to this idea that his family can still mend and be the family that he wants them to be, perhaps it’s just that. He’s afraid of no longer being a part of it. But is he really now?

Kendall, Shiv and Roman at Kendall’s party in Succession
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Off the Hook, Maybe?

Early in Succession S3E7, it’s revealed that Gerri’s inside sources at the DOJ have let her know that criminal charges aren’t likely and that the Roy family will be able to pay their way out of this. Tom and Greg also appear to be off the hook, with nobody looking at prison time.

While this appeared to be great news, there’s a few things that need to be looked into. First, a new President is looming and that means new players at the DOJ. I’m not convinced that the season finale won’t see this current reason for optimism overturned. Additionally, Shiv was visibly dismissive of this news, almost to the point of looking annoyed that her husband wasn’t going to jail, and everyone picked up on it, Tom included. Shiv has cheated on Tom multiple times throughout their short marriage and Roman throws this in her face, asking her if she was looking forward to sleeping with whoever she wanted while her husband was locked up (in much harsher language). Tom responded by doing lines all night at Kendall’s party and was visibly angry, despite never calling his wife out on it. This confrontation seems inevitable now.

Tom and Greg at the party in Succession
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Then There’s Roman

The season long narrative of Roman being more loyal to his father in an effort to be next to him when he falls continues here. Politically speaking, it’s proven to be smart. He’s effectively bumped Shiv out of contention to be the next in line. This maneuvering has seen Roman become more and more cold, which is taken to a whole new level here.

Roman managed to get into the VIP “treehouse” of Kendall’s party, despite Kendall telling security to keep him out so he could get to Matson (Skarsgard). Much like he did last week with the Presidential candidate Jarod Meinken, Roman managed to speak Matson’s language, assuring him that he knew his father’s shortcomings and that he could manage the relationship to ensure that his father and his dated way of thinking wouldn’t impact a modern running operation, should Matson sell. It was brilliant to be blunt, the way Roman brought this deal together.

If Roman does manage to get Matson to sell, he’s put Waystar in a position to modernize their aging business and really strengthen their media empire. If Meinken is elected, Roman is in a position to begin to have the kind of power that his father has. The moves he’s making aren’t just to beat his siblings in the race to be the successor, they’re to have power and leverage over everyone, his father included.

Watching Roman berate both Kendall and Shiv at the end of the episode was hard to watch. He went for the jugular. Kendall was as low as we’ve seen him before. He could barely string words together. He was having a complete breakdown and was helpless, with his younger brother kicking him as hard as possible while he was down.

Where Do We Go From Here?

With only two episodes left this season, we’re looking at Roman closing in on a major power grab. We’re looking at Shiv being pushed out of the family business and her husband growing more and more upset with her lack of support and concern for him. We’re looking at Kendall as a shell of himself with a 2 billion dollar buyout in front of his face.

I can’t help but wonder if this breakdown was what Kendall needed to regroup. He’s played his cards all wrong this year and it seems like he knows that now. So what are his options? Take the money and go into business for himself? Or perhaps sell his shares to someone else creating a firestorm in the company?

It also seems like an option for Kendall and Shiv to kiss and make up to see what options they have to battle their father and Roman. Could be legal, could be PR, could be selling shares but they’re both upset and on the outside looking in. They need to do something.

The table is set for fireworks the last two episodes of the season. Succession S3E7 broke my heart, seeing how broken these people are and how cruel they can be, but I think we’re moving into some heated battles with Succession’s trademark twists and turns to come. Until next week my friends…

Written by Andrew Grevas

Andrew is the Founder / Editor in Chief of 25YL. He’s engaged with 2 sons, a staunch defender of the series finales for both Lost & The Sopranos and watched Twin Peaks at the age of 5 during its original run, which explains a lot about his personality.

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