Succession: Too Much Birthday
November 29, 2021 2:31 PM - Season 3, Episode 7 - Subscribe

At Kendall's lavish birthday bash, Shiv and Roman try to arrange a meeting with Lukas Matsson, a tech mogul who recently snubbed Logan.
posted by jeoc (31 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This was a brutal one.

Did anyone else get the sense that Roman genuinely wanted to go to the party, at least at first? He brought it up to Shiv at the beginning of the episode before the idea of meeting Matsson there was raised, and then when they're there, he immediately says they should go say hi to Ken. Shiv even makes fun of him for it ("awww, brozers"). Just makes the end of the episode harder to watch - none of these kids can sustain even a glimmer of humanity for a full episode.

I bet HBO is glad they sped up HBO Max's loading time before this episode aired.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:04 PM on November 29, 2021 [4 favorites]

I felt the smallest twinges of sympathy for Kendall during the episode, as brief flickers of humanity shone through the megalomania that characterizes his life, particularly during his desperate hunt for the gift from his children, the only one that actually matters to him, and receiving his father's "Fuck off and die" buyout offer in a hell of his own making. (Through the episode I feared that he'd find the present and tear away the bunny wrapping paper to find the body of the rabbit killed by a bagel.) But whatever pity I felt was more than balanced out by his childish petulance, typified by literally keeping his siblings out of his treehouse.

I wish Kendall had the ability to let go of his ambition, greed and desperation for success long enough to recognize the exit strategy provided by Logan's 2 billion offer: that taking the money and, say, giving it to Greenpeace would irk and wound his father more than anything he could achieve personally.

Question: has there been any speculation that Kendall might be rapid-cycle manic-depressive? It may be impossible to determine if the unhinged grandeur of his plans - descending crucified from a stage ceiling singing "Honesty", ordering hundreds of vintage He-Man lunchboxes - followed by a numbness so deep that it's unclear that his sad “I just wish I was…” was going to end with "dead" rather than "home" - is the behaviour of someone with unlimited money and emotional emptiness, or symptoms of a deeper psychological disturbance, but it feels like something that might be explored.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:08 PM on November 29, 2021 [8 favorites]

Yeah, this was very bleak. Kendall and Tom are absolutely the loneliest people on the show. They're also insufferable that there's a limit to how bad I can feel for them. That said, while I am not a big believer in the theory that Greg is going to win the Iron Throne, I do not buy his hapless mien when asking out Comfrey! That "ha ha maybe we could hang out when you're not slandering me to the press" and "not that Kendall would let you" felt a little like Nice Guy calculation to me.

Nothing bad Roman does surprises me because I remember the first episode, where Roman is introduced as the person who offers a child (whose parents staff one of Logan's many estates) 1 million dollars if he can hit a home run, then taunts the child when he fails. Roman is not just the guy who wants to be humiliated; he's the guy who desperately wants to humiliate everyone around him. And his irreverence is wafer-thin -- notice how rattled he was when Matsson brought up Logan's impending death -- it applies to what other people value, never to what he values.
posted by grandiloquiet at 4:09 PM on November 29, 2021 [7 favorites]

Question: has there been any speculation that Kendall might be rapid-cycle manic-depressive?

Yes, tons of it on r/SuccessionTV.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 4:43 PM on November 29, 2021

Felt like Connor was used in this episode to remind us of what Ken will become if he takes the money.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 4:46 PM on November 29, 2021

I think I smiled once when Connor looks at Willa with such love after she chases Comfry away from taking Connor's coat. And maybe when Ken tells Roman that he'll give him the vagina hallway after the party. Other than that, what misery. But some of the dialogue, especially around the treehouse, was so bleakly funny.

The smartest thing that Logan does is continue to make sure that his children hate one another just enough to never take sides against him. He leaves them all just broken enough to fight each other and never him. Shiv's omnipotent dance rage coupled with knowing that Logan is playing Rome exactly as he's played her and Kendall. And now that Roman has been such a smug neo-fascist shit, I sort of can't wait for the moment that Logan turns on him -- which is itself a sickness!

And then there's Tom's totally explosive joy only to remember that he's escaped federal prison to stay in his Roy prison.
posted by gladly at 7:22 PM on November 29, 2021 [4 favorites]

This show gets more brutal each week. Now Kendall/Shiv/Roman are practically clawing at each other, drawing blood, and yet when they first met up at the party, you could see a glimmer that Kendall was happy they came and Shiv was happy to see him, despite the terrible things they were actually saying to each other at that moment.

I LOVED the idea of the Tunnel of Compliments. Whoever thought that up deserves a raise.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:40 PM on November 29, 2021 [6 favorites]

Absolutely top notch Greg in that scene where Tom trashed his office.
posted by simonw at 12:16 AM on November 30, 2021 [7 favorites]

if the unhinged grandeur of his plans - descending crucified from a stage ceiling singing "Honesty"

A rare moment of self-awareness from Kendall that he didn't go through with this. There are points where his self-aggrandizing stunts remind me a little too much of GOB from Arrested Development, but I'm hardly the first person to point out that Succession is kind of Arrested Development with a more serious and realistic tone.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:27 AM on November 30, 2021 [8 favorites]

I admire the way this show can have its cake and eat it. The crucifixion, I was genuinely worried that it would go ahead, and while it would have been absurdly amusing (and cringe), it wouldn’t have been in keeping with the show’s tone. And throw away lines like “a jet pack to leave through a retractable roof”, they give you the spectacle in your head, but keep the actual events a bit more grounded.

Some laugh out loud moments (I have a dick like a red sequoia and fuck like a bullet train…), yet by the end I too was wrapped in a comfort blanket on the sofa.
posted by chill at 2:01 AM on November 30, 2021

Just quietly laughing to myself for suggesting that the events in this episode were in any way “grounded”, crucifix or not.
posted by chill at 2:02 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

The only two moments of (maybe) actual touching human connection was Logan telling Tom he would remember what Tom offered to do (unprompted no less), and Tom kissing Greg's forehead after he trashed the office. I think Logan actually respects Tom more than his own children, but of course being Logan Roy it is very hard for him to act on it.
posted by Megami at 4:08 AM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

What a tonal shift this season. Look at all the sympathy for Kendall here in this discussion! I felt it too. His desperation for love from his siblings and father were quite touching, as was his fixation on finding the present from his kids (mania aside). It's like the previous episode where I genuinely felt bad for Tom, or two episodes ago where even Logan got some sincere sympathy because of his health problem.

The show didn't used to do that. The characters were all painted three dimensionally, with occasional relatable human impulses coming through. But it always was tainted by awfulness so that we loathed all the main characters. This season seems to be trying to invert that some, to make the sympathetic moments even more poignant than the awful moments.

I wonder if Roman's going to get his turn. He's always been the "good one", the one we like best because he's funny and as the youngest sibling, the underdog. He also understands how fucked up his family is and is constantly making hilariously mean comments about it that we, the audience, agree with. But then Roman himself is still loathsome. So far.

The other structural thing I like is how they teased Kendall's singing before the broadcast. It was in all the social media marketing; "Kendall at a birthday party, and he sings!". So then to not actually deliver on that (other than the rehearsal) was pretty funny. I'm almost sad we didn't get to see his "shitty Jesus" act.

Shout out to Alexander Skarsgård for coming into the show as Matson so strongly. He seems just as awful and broken as the Roys but in a different direction. I first I thought he was going to be some lovable sad socially awkward nerd boy. But then the way he kept going on about "pussy", and the way he so quickly bonded with Roman literally with his dick hanging out his pants. Icky man, can't wait to see more.
posted by Nelson at 7:10 AM on November 30, 2021

I wonder if Roman's going to get his turn.

I'd bet he is, and soon. These last few episodes have been too easy for him, as he has largely bullshitted his way to the proverbial (and sort of literal, I guess?) 'right hand of the father.' Picking the far-right political guy based on two informal conversations and hooking in a drugged-up (?) and seemingly ambivalent Matson based on an IRL-Calvin-peeing-on bit can't possibly both work out. Matson seems to be way smarter than that; even if he was gleefully playing along there's no way he sticks to that after he sleeps it off. Or maybe Matson was faking it the whole way and he's playing Roman for a fool. Roman's "I'm the greatest businessman ever" comment as he walked away feeling victorious was a beautiful bit of writing because we understand it to be both his flippant nihilism AND his overinflated and undeserved business confidence at the same time.

And then Roman immediately took a pretty drastic victory lap: totally shutting out a desperate-for-information Shiv in a way that he has been too smart for in previous episodes and calling his dad to say it was all but done. It felt like the siblings (well, except Connor) always were open about their competition but they were also always conscious to support each other enough so that everyone was in the circle. Roman is making his move too soon.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:05 AM on November 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

If Connor is what Kendall would become then I’d encourage him to take the buyout. Connor is the only one that seems happy in this episode and that’s because he’s still got some distance from dear old dad.

Shiv is in a particularly bad place in this episode. Interesting how wild her hair is- I think this is the first departure we’ve seen from the sleek bob debuted in season 2.

Roman does seem to be getting out ahead of his skis. Hubris isn’t usually rewarded on this show.
posted by jeoc at 8:48 AM on November 30, 2021 [6 favorites]

As noted elsewhere (including the Firecrotch and Normcore podcast last week) Roman sure likes hanging around in loos. Doing business with a Nazi there last week and with Matson this week, his career is in the toilet in more ways than one.
posted by chill at 9:21 AM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

One beautiful little detail this week was Kendall's various sibling-related tabloid headlines, and particularly the one for Shiv where she is identified as the "Wife of Tom Wambsgans." It's such a brutal shot, not just for the basic misogyny of disregarding Shiv's own career and accomplishments but also for the open condescension toward Tom. He might be in the same room but he'll never be on their level.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:33 AM on November 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

Comfrey's decision to go out with Greg because of the lunch boxes was a great moment. We've seen Kendall's "team" tasked with some ridiculous whims but that really put a face on it.

The folks over at Archive of Our Own are going to be doing back flips over the Tom in Greg's office scene. The slash just writes itself.

The manic depression diagnosis makes some sense for Kendall but I'm still thinking he and Naomi are using heroic amounts of drugs.

The three siblings behavior was so desperate and terrible this episode it made Connor seem almost heroic. Almost. He still wins points for taking Kendall and Roman on that camping/fishing trip, with of course Roman uses to taunt him because Roman has to Roman.
posted by Ber at 10:21 AM on November 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

JUST TAKE THE MONEY KENDALL. (He won't and it will make me angry.)

I'm not a big Connor fan but at least he seems the least repressed. He doesn't always deal with those emotions well, but I really appreciated his hurt at the fake tabloid cover. He's not covering it up. The fact that it was on that camping trip adds more depth too. My favorite moment, though, was his look of genuine adoration towards Willa after she defended him. I don't know how on earth that became the healthiest relationship on the show, but I'll take it.
posted by j.r at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

This one was super hard to watch. There were a few moments that were hilarious, but overall it was brutal.
posted by jzb at 11:54 AM on November 30, 2021

Wow, this really was a hard episode to watch at times. Although it was Kendall's party, this was Roman's episode. The way Kieran Culkin plays him, Roman is both compelling and repellent, so utterly amoral, yet needy, desperate for his father's love and willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

I also had a little sympathy for Kendall in this episode, particularly one scene where, at his own party, nobody was talking to him, people all around him having their own good time, and he was utterly alone. Yet his cruelty to Naomi when he opened the watch was cutting.

I can definitely see Shiv defecting to Kendall, as she's effectively been frozen out by Logan and usurped by Roman in the sibling hierarchy. And now Tom is in Logan's good books, it's all looking very interesting for this couple.

One continuity question: Roman threw his phone in the urinal for Matsson to piss on. Yet when he left the party, he was talking on his phone, telling his driver he was going to walk home. Did he fish the pissy phone out of the urinal? That doesn't sound like something he'd do. He doesn't seem like the 'two phones' type of businessman, so this stuck out as something unexplained.
posted by essexjan at 12:22 PM on November 30, 2021

I 100% believe Roman would take his phone out of the piss -- in Roman's mind, celebratory piss, piss that sealed the deal! -- and use it. Honestly, I was more worried at the bad infosec of leaving it in the bathroom. There have to be a few ex-Vaulter reporters with a grudge against Waystar-Royco who got into Kendall's birthday party and would kill to have a window into Roy family machinations. But...if Roman didn't go back for the phone, he probably just took the driver's. The Roys always seem to have hangers-on, and I don't think Roman would have any qualms about resetting someone's phone and taking it.
posted by grandiloquiet at 1:08 PM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I thought the same thing about the phone. Who knows. Roman’s transition in this episode from comic relief asshole to actual sociopathic meanness was a real bummer. I hope they’re going somewhere soon because this whole season has been pointless, constantly escalating sniping at each other and it’s getting old.
posted by something something at 1:21 PM on November 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

There’s so much to say about this episode, and it’s interesting to see how many people (myself included) describe it as “brutal.” However, the part that has me aghast was when Tom said, “I have a dick like a red sequoia and I fuck like a bullet train” and Greg replied, “prove it.” WTF?????
posted by kat518 at 4:47 PM on November 30, 2021

I greatly enjoyed the episode title. It's the title of a Berenstain Bears book my daughter had when she was little, about one of the child-bears becoming overwhelmed by their birthday party. It was a clever touch, one the one hand making fun of Kendall's excess while also a nod to his "wounded inner child" which is the source of so much of his acting out.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:56 PM on November 30, 2021 [11 favorites]

I wonder if Roman's going to get his turn.

As much as I would love to see this from a karma point of view, I'm also worried that the whole point is that this type of behaviour is rewarded in their world and that truly shitty people "win".

Logan won, and continues to win, despite being a fucking awful person and not having a single redeemable feature.
posted by jontyjago at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Y'all misunderstood my intent about "Roman getting his turn". I didn't mean that Roman wins the family corporate power struggle. No one's gonna win that. I mean that Roman is going to get his turn at being a truly sympathetic character for an episode.

My theory in my previous comment is that this episode was written to make us feel genuine empathy for Kendall. And the previous episode was Tom, and the one before that was Logan. I'm wondering if a coming episode will give similar treatment to Roman. It may hit a little different since Roman is for many of us the most fun character. But he's just as much a monster as the rest of them.
posted by Nelson at 9:24 AM on December 1, 2021

My opinion of Roman dropped like an absolute stone when he teamed up with that fascist, especially after the conversation about "H".
posted by simonw at 6:42 PM on December 1, 2021 [5 favorites]

I thought you meant "Roman getting his turn" at being the favored one just to fall a half-season later. Roman has been smart enough to maneuver into top puppy, but he's too busy gloating to have learned from Kendall's rise and then fall from grace, or Shiv's rise and then fall from grace. Which is strange, because he's generally been the one with enough distance to see the dynamics that are really happening.
posted by Liesl at 7:22 AM on December 2, 2021

It would really surprise me if they were to try to make Roman a sympathetic character in an episode. His whole thing from the beginning is that he's irredeemable, including compared to his siblings. Even the things he seems to do with heart, like not signing on to Shiv's letter against Roman, can be written off as self-serving. He's effectively the projection of Logan's base instincts. He's an internet troll, but filthy rich. Take away his money and he's an incel.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:15 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I love the whole set design for the party. It implies months of heavily cash fuelled, egocentric batshit craziness on Kendall’s part. Look at the room of flames, the clutch of specially created of artworks featuring Kendall, the meticulous guest selection (we don’t see Elon Musk, but he is mentioned on the list) and setting of door policy, the enormous stage, the gift selection that includes a motorcycle… In both planning and execution it is a nervous breakdown rendered as set design.

I also love how the music changes: we start off with Kendal doing a pretty good, and lyrically appropriate version of Billy Joel’s “Honesty” - then there is the relentless party music, and finally the dissolve into the sad piano music of the closing credits.

Notably, and despite everything, there is quite a lot of love shown to Kendal at his birthday party: from his kids and from Naomi for example. But none of it works right for him.
posted by rongorongo at 4:32 PM on January 15

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