Quote of the week: “Who ordered the thoroughbred?”
There’s a war going on in HBO’s “Succession,” and everybody’s asking the same question: Are you Team Kendall (Jeremy Strong) or Team Logan (Brian Cox)?
If you’re the Roy family’s only daughter, you may not have a ready answer. After a fast-paced premiere, the second episode opens with a tense shot of Shiv (Sarah Snook) in the back of a car, ignoring her father’s calls in an apparent attempt to go rogue.
This shot alone is enough to signal that this is Shiv’s episode, through and through. She arrives at Kendall’s war camp — also known as his ex-wife’s apartment — ostensibly on her father’s behalf, but after her humiliation in the premiere, it’s clear that she’s considering defection. Big changes are on their way, and not just because of the replica Trojan horse waiting for her in the hallway.
Back in Sarajevo, Logan is in disarray, barking orders at his advisors and slowly losing control of his children. He needs a win, and that win comes in the form of Marcia Roy (Hiam Abbass). Marcia bursts into the episode like a smart bomb — not a single word is wasted. With a neat black pantsuit and poker face that could trick God, Marcia resumes her spot at Logan’s side, but not without a few “improvements” to her financial situation.
As one marriage is restored, another seems ready to crumble: Shiv asks Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) if he loves her, and Tom says yes following a bitter rant comparing their relationship to a business venture. As Shiv’s desperation grows, it seems more and more likely that he may start wielding power in their relationship.
Meanwhile, cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) is the closest we get to comedic relief in this crockpot of discomfort and tension. After Waystar Royco sends a suspicious man to his apartment with an offer to represent him, Greg goes to uncle Ewan (James Cromwell) in search of an unbiased lawyer. Naturally, that means he ends up with a staunch anti-capitalist who looks like the Garfunkel to Ewan’s Simon.
The heart of this episode, however, lies with the Roys. When all four siblings gather to discuss teaming up against their father, they begin to question whether they knew about the widespread sexual harassment at Waystar. The poll is split down the middle: Shiv and Roman (Kieran Culkin) insist that they didn’t. Kendall and Connor (Alan Ruck) say they did.
The discrepancy is ripe for analysis. Is it a matter of age, with the older siblings more aware of their father’s dealings? Is it a matter of willful ignorance? Or is it Shiv, as a young girl growing up in a sea of predators, keeping her distance from the others for the sake of self-preservation?
In any other show, this line of questioning could stop an episode in its tracks; in “Succession,” it’s a mere pitstop. The main focus is whether the other Roy siblings are willing to join Kendall’s side, and despite her protests, it’s clear that Shiv wants to take the leap. She’s hungry enough to eat, and she has the guts to keep it down.
The only issue? Kendall’s misogyny kick from the season premiere is still going strong. He bluntly tells her that she can’t be Waystar’s CEO because she would be seen as another “snowflake,” a “woke” woman — or in plain words, a diversity hire.
Things get even meaner with the arrival of a box of donuts from their father. The message is clear: Logan knows that they’re having a meeting together, and he knows there’s talk of betrayal.
Roman says he’s ninety-eight percent sure that they’re not poisoned, but whether or not he’s right, the donuts certainly have a poisoning effect. Connor, Roman and Shiv reject the alliance offer, and that turns out to be Kendall’s breaking point. One by one, he goes down the line and hits them where it hurts, telling Connor that he’s unwanted, calling Roman a moron and reminding Shiv that she’s only relevant because she’s a woman.
“Succession” does what “Succession” does best in this episode. It offers up an easy solution, putting it just barely in reach, only to break it apart into thousands of complicated little pieces. The promise of Roy sibling unity is enticing, but ultimately impossible so long as their father still lives.
Of all the siblings, perhaps Shiv is the most aware of this. The episode ends as it began, with a simple shot of her in the car — only this time, father and daughter are reunited. She’s Team Logan for the time being, and Kendall better start sleeping with one eye open.