Succession: What It Takes
November 22, 2021 7:27 AM - Season 3, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Logan and the team heads to Virginia for a conservative political conference, where Roman learns some surprising news.
posted by jeoc (34 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One thing that struck me about this episode is that Shiv is really powerless, or at least on the outs with her father (which amounts to the same thing). Posing with the deplorable politician was emblematic of how much she had compromised to try to be close to the throne.
posted by jeoc at 8:16 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]

Shiv's weakness panders to my stereotypes about liberals too well. The final scene was hard to watch.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:27 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]

So little happened this episode! You'd think a Republican power broker conference would be an awesome scene but it didn't work for me. It didn't feel particularly real, there needed to be more characters and posturing. No time in an hour I think. And too much time was spent in Logan's suite with the family.

I did like Mencken though; they did a good job having a Trumpist candidate who didn't seem like a Trump clone. And the way everyone got comfortable with his naked fascism was great. (The scene in the bathroom where he talks about H was amazing.) What was up with him coming all the way to Logan's suite, delivering the coke, then not actually saying anything meaningful to Logan or the family and just leaving? Was that a power move? Did he already think he had their support because of the private conversation with Roman?

The "Mom's new husband" storyline was strange. A lot of time spent on it and nothing resulting from it. Maybe they're just laying groundwork for a future episode, but I thought they could have made more of Logan's reaction.

Logan's assistant Kerry is creepy, right? Their relationship certainly is, although it's hilarious how the family keeps debating whether they're having sex or not. But also she herself is creepy? She's almost silent but always visible. It was jarring when she tried to express an opinion this episode.

The writers may have committed a cardinal sin: a character on Succession is actually genuinely sympathetic. I mean Tom: between his sadness of going to prison, his miserable relationship with his wife, his continuing inbetween status in the politics, and his extra hash browns I just felt bad for the guy. He's always been the sad sack character but usually when we get too sorry for him the show gives us something of him being awful and evil, usually to Greg. This time he was just sad. Kendall reading him out as "country mouse" and Tom retorting he is in this position because he fell in love with Kendall's sister struck true. And so sympathetic; Tom having a genuine kind human emotion! The characters on this show aren't supposed to do that.
posted by Nelson at 8:41 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

That fundraiser summit was appropriately gut-churning all the way through. (And wow, there were some real vibes between Roman and the fascist! Like, enough vibes that I think Gerri/Roman shippers might be out of luck.) Logan was so grotesque in this episode. I can finally understand the model for so much of Roman's immature behavior; this is the Logan who had decades of fun with Mo and the guys.

This episode was pretty firmly dismissive of Shiv's previous job, too. I winced every time she started complaining about the fascist, because it was clear to me that Shiv's passionate revulsion to Mencken was one of his biggest selling points to Logan. If Shiv really wanted to diminish him, she should've dismissed him as a clown and started building up her brother Connor instead.

Tom was incredible in this episode. At first I thought he was meeting with Kendall because he was wavering, but it was more crushing than that. I think he was meeting with Kendall because he felt sympathy for him. (Did Kendall really fire Lisa, or did Kendall just lie because Lisa fired Kendall? Either way, what an idiot.)

I, too, am never sure whether I think biodynamic wines are good or not. It's very embarrassing to agree with Tom on this, but I think it's because I broadly know how "good" wines are supposed to taste. Natural wines do not follow a script, so I spend the whole glass trying to decide whether I like something or not.

"Is Greg necessary?"
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:49 AM on November 22 [4 favorites]

"H" wasn't a deal breaker for Roman. Brutal.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:28 AM on November 22 [5 favorites]

Roman's sing-song reply to Mencken's H is just great.. "There was a very naughty boy named H". Also love the opening line "Fascists are kind of cool. But not really. So is that like a problem, the thing?" The writing really captures the way cynical people can accept Trumpism and just dismiss the overt fascism and racism.

Mencken is played by Justin Kirk, btw, who I recognize from Weeds.
posted by Nelson at 9:38 AM on November 22 [7 favorites]

Nelson that is a good point but I think Tom is exactly the kind of person to have (or seem to have) these genuine and kind human emotions when he is in a bad bind and things are not going well for him. he's scared and he feels sorry for himself. I'm not sure it makes him more likeable.
posted by supermedusa at 9:51 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

What does happen in Plato anyway?
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:52 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

My ultimate endgame is Waystar-Royco/up in flames*, but this show is very good at making me feel something for characters whom I want very far away from me in real life. Watching Shiv gave me obvious flashbacks to 2016, and that's all still true and happening today. Her upset only egged them on as they shoved her to the side, again, but this time to callously push a white nationalist into the presidency. And it hurt to watch. As much as she's the worst kind of white feminist and she doesn't deserve any of what she has, I felt for her.

Tom was also on fire this episode, thanks to A-plus casting. Would I feel so much for him if it wasn't for MacFadyen's masterful and subtle performance, of a man swallowing hurt after hurt and trying to keep going? This is still a man who carried out the cruises coverup, who even without that is complicit in climbing the ranks of a terrible and powerful company and ingratiating himself into a terrible and powerful family. Plus his weird comments towards the wife who hurt him about the cake batter and tracking her ovulation, and his years-long bullying of Greg. Despite how things are shaking out now. He's the character I'm usually most conflicted about.

It's also funny to me to see the Succession subreddit wring its hands over Roman and Kendall. Yeah, I love watching Roman too and the man has charisma pouring out of his ears, but I'd be perfectly happy if he somehow lost everything and had to go work at a Target after all. Meanwhile Kendall is just doing what he inevitably was going to do and self-destructing, and all the #teamkendall Reddit bros are freaking out. I hope the show will do something next episode besides have Shiv join his side and reinvigorate him.

*also many of them/jail and everyone/therapy!
posted by j.r at 9:54 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]

I find Greg so compelling. He has a knack for eventually saying the right thing ("Connor shouldn't be crowned President") and yet he inevitably does the wrong thing (sue Greenpeace).
posted by SituationNormal at 10:43 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

Prediction: At some point this season Kerry will stop appearing and no one will ask where she went -- or maybe ask Colin, who will say something perfectly vague.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 2:11 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]

Has anyone else noticed that this episode has given Tom an incentive to defect?

Shiv is legitimately disgusted with the Waystar political machine, for reasons both ideological and personal. Now Tom could go to the DOJ in hopes that it will win Shiv back.
posted by kandinski at 2:41 PM on November 22

Tragic Tom is a loose end for the Roys, and so I'm not sure there are any good things coming for him, but that moment of pure clarity when Tom tells Kendall he's probably getting fucked was brutal. Great acting from Macfadyen.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:53 PM on November 22 [10 favorites]

Earlier this year, I binged mr. robot. This episode could have easily been a part of that arc.

It was sometimes difficult to appreciate the jokes and writing of this episode because it was deeply disturbing. But I think it was probably good for the show to have an episode about what these people actually do for a living. There's been a long stretch of episodes that were almost entirely about the power struggles and soapy storylines. Could almost occasionally feel sympathy for someone like Logan. Could almost forget what they're doing to the nation because the storylines were so far removed from anything that would affect most of us personally.

But this episode brings it all home. It wasn't a perfect episode in terms of pacing or dialogue, but it was perfect in terms of being a reminder.

Still some good moments. I like how Greg was used as a stand-in for the 150 million ordinary voters. I think Conner will still run because it would be hilarious. And it would allow them to portray Trump divided into two different characters. Mencken as the terrifying side. Conner as the stupid, ridiculous side.

About Tom being sympathetic for the first time: yes and no. Definitely have considerable sympathy for him as a human being. But he had no qualms standing next to the fascist for the photo. Seemed to have some self-awareness of the harm these conservatives were going to cause, but that didn't slow him down.

At least he got the best burn of the night. Maybe the best burn in the show's run.
"And I don't mean to be insulting, but, having been around a that you're going to get fucked because I've seen you get fucked a lot. And I've never seen Logan get fucked once."
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 3:08 PM on November 22 [7 favorites]

What was up with him coming all the way to Logan's suite, delivering the coke, then not actually saying anything meaningful to Logan or the family and just leaving? Was that a power move? Did he already think he had their support because of the private conversation with Roman?

It was a symbolic display, I think. "I know what you need and I will bring it to you. We don't even have to be so mundane as to talk about it." I think it was Boyer, the current VP and lip-licker, who was asked to bring the Coke, so Mencken picking up one as he entered the room and presenting it as an offering showed he both knew what was 'going on' and was happy to work in ATN's interests if they worked in his.
posted by Sparx at 3:23 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]

I, too, am never sure whether I think biodynamic wines are good or not.

You gotta hyperdecant them.
posted by jeoc at 4:46 PM on November 22 [5 favorites]

Also the coke was in a private conversation with the friggin VPOTUS, how did a politico hack know about a private conversation from an hour ago? He's signaling he's got serious insider mojo.

And fuck Roman for not kicking him in the balls and calling security.
posted by sammyo at 6:41 PM on November 22

Holy shit that was the skeeviest scene, between Roman and Mencken. Good thing it was in a bathroom because I felt like I needed the world’s hottest shower afterward. It was clear Rom was checking out his pics just before they started talking at the bar. Gross gross gross.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:27 PM on November 22

As episodes go, a lot of it felt skeevy. Watching rich folks joke around with Republican fascists about American work/death camps and H(itler) was perhaps about as dark as the writing has gone. My only worry is that it isn't enough on the nose, post January 6 — some people out in social media land perhaps seem a bit too entertained by the villainy to see the characters for what they represent.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:56 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]

I agree that this episode moved away from the soap opera-ish drama about the Kendal and the company ownership and quite simply showed just how fucking dangerous people like this are.

Roman basically finds the white supremacist piece of shit amusing and watching him fuck up the entire country will be as entertaining as tattooing his brother's initials on a homeless person's forehead.

But of course he won't fuck up the entire country because the Roys and the rest of the attendees will be just fine, ratings will be up and they'll get to stick it tech.

And whilst Shiv is vehemently against the H-loving disruptor, let's not forget that the guy she's putting her weight behind is offering to put her lovely old Dad in jail, something she fails to mention in the brainstorming.

But, she needs to stay part of the family, so she lines up for the photo like a good solider...
posted by jontyjago at 2:45 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

Matthew McFadyen's performance as Tom this season has been masterful, and particularly so in this episode, and especially so during the meeting with Kendall, when we saw on his face, for just a moment, that he realised there might be a way out of the mess he's in. I would love Tom to take that option, to man up and turn his back on Logan, but I think it'll take Shiv doing something really awful to him to push him in that direction. Still, he was weighing it up, and the door is open, and I hope the writers make him walk through it in a future episode.
posted by essexjan at 5:28 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]

Also the coke was in a private conversation with the friggin VPOTUS, how did a politico hack know about a private conversation from an hour ago? He's signaling he's got serious insider mojo.

I assumed Roman told him?

I like Roman as a character because he's clever and irreverent, but this episode really highlighted what a destructive and selfish person he is.
posted by jeoc at 10:13 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]

Also the coke was in a private conversation with the friggin VPOTUS, how did a politico hack know about a private conversation from an hour ago? He's signaling he's got serious insider mojo.

I thought it was implied that Roman told him.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 10:15 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]

But, she needs to stay part of the family, so she lines up for the photo like a good solider...

It was a true, Kendall-style humiliation. Shiv spent the last two seasons burning all her bridges -- breaking with her powerful Senator boss, throwing her weight around with former contemporaries (without considering that the power boost of aligning herself with her father has made Shiv too toxic for left-leaning types to want to appear close to), choosing to be the face of the company's response to the cruises scandal, accepting that her husband would likely go to prison because her father put him in charge of the coverup. Even if this were the final straw, what else does Shiv have? I think it's interesting that when Shiv "rejected" the family business, she still went for power by going to work in politics. She's not going to retire on a vineyard somewhere. She's already made her choice. I would expect she'll continue to throw herself into the wall at Waystar-Royco and try to ignore the gossip that starts filtering into Vanity Fair about what a fraud she is.
posted by grandiloquiet at 12:01 PM on November 23

It was clear Rom was checking out his pics just before they started talking at the bar. Gross gross gross.

Was he checking out the fascist or his new daddy (er, or are they one and the same...)

This episode overall made me feel icky.
posted by armacy at 12:25 PM on November 23

This episode clarified for me why asshole men think negging is an effective method for hitting on women. I used to think it was just because they were emotionally-stunted jerks, but now I wonder if it's also because it works– on them. We see Roman drawn to Mencken in part because of his smarmy trash-talk of ATN. Either because it's an appealing challenge or because it contains an implicit promise of "I know how to fix your defects."

Up until now I had assumed the current present was supposed to be a version of Trump, but anyway - Mencken seems more like a Matt Gaetz (pre-scandal) or a Tom Cotton. In other words, some likely even more dangerous than Trump since they actually have more of a grasp how power in DC works (well, Gaetz is debatable there).

Anyhow, my bets are now on Roman to succeed his father. I'm not sure Shiv (as a woman, and as a political moderate with at least a smidge of a moral compass) ever had a chance. As Gerri and others have observed, Roman is the most like his father. Both Kendall and Shiv want to get out of their father's shadow and change things up (albeit in different ways), whereas Roman is happy to stay the course. And the brutal part is that as horrible as Logan Roy is as a human, he is wildly successful. Yes, ATN needs to adapt a bit to changing technology and whatnot, but not to the degree that Kendall/Shiv desire. This isn't the first time that Roman's demonstrated his ability to scheme and foresee the future in a way that speaks Logan language of amoral greed.

Seems a true toss-up whether Tom will defect. Was this the first episode where we saw him be mean to Shiv? I can think of instances where he expressed frustration, passive aggression, hurt, annoyance, etc. – but the cake batter line suggests he's no longer content to live off the occasionally crumbs she's willing to give him. As I often do, this episode had me wondering how on earth these two ever got together in the first place. I have no doubt he'd have flipped to Kendall if Kendall actually had anything to offer him. I do have to wonder whether Tom was assigned Cruises because Logan did know the whole thing was tainted, and we know he never really supported Shiv's decision to marry Tom (he more or less tried to persuade her not to go through with the marriage). It would be oddly heart-warming if Greg managed to find some piece of info that could provide Tom with a get-out-of-jail free card.
posted by coffeecat at 1:02 PM on November 23

Crazy idea: Mencken gets his tv show, huge ratings, loses the presidency and then ends up as another candidate to succeed Logan
posted by shothotbot at 3:57 PM on November 23

As I often do, this episode had me wondering how on earth these two ever got together in the first place.

In the podcast interview with Sarah Snook, she suggested there may have been some major crisis in Shiv's past, and that Tom may have been there for her at the time. No idea if that is merely the backstory in Snook's head, or if she's been given reason to believe it's true; but I'd love to see that explored at some point. Could have some relation to the reason Shiv (temporarily at least) peeled off from her family and did her own political consultancy thing (though Tom did apparently remain at the company, so I'm not sure how all that would have worked).

I have no doubt he'd have flipped to Kendall if Kendall actually had anything to offer him.

Kendall potentially has immunity to offer, doesn't he? I've found it fascinating to watch, this season, how Tom is acting the sad, sad parallel to Kendall's end-of-last-season sacrificial lamb. Well, Tom is a Christmas tree! But Kendall's saying to the family in the finale, "this one's on me," compared to Tom's agreeing to accept responsibility for Greg's complicity (however that would work??) have exactly the same hopeless vibe.

Kendall's turn was fast, and a shocker, but I think we're watching exactly the same pressures on Tom, just on a slow burn. Tom and Shiv need to get together. Tom has the capacity for love, and Shiv has some (wobbly) principles, and both those traits are going unappreciated--OR cruelly thrown back in their faces--between the two of them and by the rest of the family.

The pair of them have plenty of motivation to turn; and their reasons not to (loyalty/ambition) really do not seem to be working in their favor right now AT ALL. I guess the question on the show, as always, is how much abuse/humiliation will a person, or people, take? How much will an already extremely damaged person take?
posted by torticat at 12:06 AM on November 24 [1 favorite]

That last comment might have sounded overly sympathetic to Tom and Shiv. They are horrible people. But compared to Roman--who now seems to be going 100% nihilist with this political alliance and just doesn't care at all--and who seems to have internalized the abuse from Logan to the point that nothing will shake his loyalty--Tom and Shiv both seem to have more complexity of motivation.

[Come to think of it, though--I'd like to see Roman take a turn as the Christmas tree, and see how well his love for Logan would survive that.]
posted by torticat at 12:21 AM on November 24

I'm struck that this is the second episode in a row where the thing to be avoided at all costs is that a decision is made by voting among the people who are supposed to vote to make that decision. Last week everyone was desperate to strike a deal to avoid a shareholder vote, and this week the Republican Party absolutely does not want a choice to be made by the elected delegates at their convention. Everyone can disagree about what the optimal outcome is, but everyone also agrees that the worst outcome is to have those people decide.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:39 AM on November 24 [8 favorites]

Mencken is giving me STRONG Jordan Peterson vibes, which is appropriate given his pseudo-intellectual posturing as a justification for his fascist, racist ideology as the engine underneath it all.

I felt very disturbed by the scene where they go with him, to be honest. Hit way too close to home with the last six years and felt like a vision of years to come: The “intelligent” fascist blessed by the elite who takes up T’s mantle and runs with it. To me, heavy commentary on the banal, boring way real power politics likely plays out despite the disastrous consequences for the rest as a result.

Tom’s scenes in this one gave him so much sympathy. I feel for him. Even though he’s terrible. The podcast insight above that there’s some background for Tom and Shiv where he was there for her in a major way really does point to both of them going Kendall’s route but much more effectively.

And we now know Kerry has major influence with Logan. More than the kids. She knew about his UTI and medication last episode (did she know that because they’re sleeping together? The way they left together points to that), the way she laughed in the car at Logan’s joke about Shiv getting a medal, the way she jumped into the conversation with the VP without any consequences from Logan, the way she nodded at him and this is what Logan needed to accept Mencken….she’s a major player now, but under the radar to everyone else, who just thinks she’s Logan’s assistant that he might be sleeping with. Again, points out the scary way powerful people maintain control from those around them by finding allies when needed. Likely, she’ll be jettisoned once she no longer serves any purpose for Logan, though she might become his new partner, too. I could see her blowing up Logan’s marriage and quickly becoming his wife just as easily as her suddenly disappearing with barely an explanation.

I thought it was a great episode. The power politics of that Republican meeting were boring because it is boring. It isn’t this grand, operatic thing. It’s gross posturing and rich people throwing their real influence around as the “leaders” kowtow to their every ask, even as simple as bringing a can of soda.
posted by glaucon at 8:49 AM on November 24 [9 favorites]

Another prediction: Mencken will be crying in front of TV cameras at some point.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:01 AM on November 24 [6 favorites]

Mencken is played by Justin Kirk, btw, who I recognize from Weeds.

This was driving me crazy; thanks for nailing it down.

Agreed that he’s a good way to introduce trumpism to the show without having a trump character.

My one concession this week is that it’s become clear Kendall is incapable of blowing up waystar royco without some deus ex machina, but a season where Logan wins outright has been telegraphed so strongly that there must be at least one twist remaining.

Shiv’s toothless ultimatum (I’ll be in the picture but not next to him) was as heartbreaking as it was inevitable.
posted by condour75 at 6:52 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]

Is there anyone better at smarm than Justin Kirk? Maybe Christopher McDonald.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:07 PM on November 29

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