The Roys of Succession thrive under pressure. In “What it Takes,” the Roys and their associates are crumbling in their own special ways, prognosticating future disasters and making decisions in their present that, in true Roy fashion, are self-serving and ultimately wrongheaded.
For Tom and Greg, the idea of prison looms heavy on the horizon, as both men consider a possibly grim future. Kendall, a spoiled and sour petulant little prince, is doing everything he can to win in a battle against his family that only he seems to really care about. He’s sinking further into desperation, skulking in diners with Tom to try to lure him to his side, while dangling the possibility of burning Greg to the ground.
The Roy’s power was on full display this week as the family divides and conquers at a secret political convention comprised of wealthy conservatives and presidential hopefuls, in search of the next candidate who will meet their very specific requests: making sure DOJ leaves Waystar alone in exchange for positive press on ATN.
Honestly, everyone this episode was a little bit of a mess. “Prison consultant” aside, Tom’s unraveling is elegant in a way—composed and eloquent and resigned to what he presumes will be his fate. Greg, my personal bugbear, is also enduring a similar trial of spirit, but he will not unravel so much as spontaneously combust. Kendall is incensed by his lawyer Lisa Arther (Sanaa Lathan) putting him in his place. Naturally he fires her, proving that he is not just sensitive but completely incapable of hearing anything other than what he wants. “Lisa’s out, turns out she’s a toxic person,” he tells his staff, who can probably already see the writing on the wall, even though Kendall lacks the emotional intelligence to do so for himself.
Papa’s favorite stars, Roman and Shiv, are locked down in the fancy political summit comprised of rich conservatives and utter assholes all gunning for the presidential nomination. Connor Roy’s confidence is admirable in that it is entirely divorced from reality; in his brain, he is a viable pick for president, but no one else sees it that way. The nominee, instead, is Roman’s pick, Jeryd Mencken (a delightfully smarmy Justin Kirk), whose fascist and white supremacist tendencies might not quite align with the Roys, but will be a big hit on the TV—and that’s all that counts, right?
Arguably, there was really one winner, and that was fascism. Below, we contemplate the void.
Winner: Uh... fascists? Roman coming in hot as a protege to Gavin McInnes was truly a surprise. In hindsight, it most certainly shouldn’t have been — ahem, his haircut. It makes sense that the show would go this route, but it also means further tension between Shiv and Logan and I’m finding their incessant “we’re-fine-one-minute-and-furious-the-next” routine exhausting. So, yeah, fascists won this week. Feel free to not continue to let life imitate art this season, HBO!!
Loser: I mean, the real losers are obviously the American people living in Succession’s universe. But for the sake of suspending all the disbelief I have in my body, I’ll say Connor. His vacant loft of a brain has continued to hold faithful to his dream of becoming president one day. And, finally, Logan decided to toy with ole Con and ask a group of his nearest and dearest to assess his political prowess publicly. They’ve really made Cousin Greg the most idiotic jellyfish of a man, but his one redeeming moment this episode was dragging Connor to hell by solemnly telling Logan that, on behalf of the American people, he couldn’t endorse Connor as an option. Little did Greg know what fresh hell that would unleash. Regardless, sucks to be Connor right now (but holy hell thank god that subplot is over, it was annoying).
Winner: And just like that, fascism is on top. I definitely didn’t see the Mencken endorsement coming, but when you think about it this is based in America. So, is it really that surprising?
Losing: I didn’t think it could get much lower for Tom, but the fact that they’re calling him “The Christmas Tree” tells me all I need to know about his status within this hierarchy. Adding insult to injury, it seems like Shiv can’t wait for his toilet adventures to begin. I don’t think he’s dumb enough to partner with Kendall, but this depends entirely on how secure he feels in his relationship with Shiv and they’re not exactly tungsten at the moment.
Rock Bottom: At this point, Kendall is turning out to be just as useless as his father always thought he was. Each episode he’s just a bit more desperate and I’m beginning to worry where this ends for him.
Winner: Okay, other than fascism clearly winning (in the shape of a very spooky Justin Kirk as prospective presidential candidate, Jeryd Mencken), the other clear winner of the episode was Roman. Roman has long proven himself to have some of the best instincts of the Roy clan, and if pitching redpilled-ass Menken leads to the man winning the next election… it seems like Roman should be poised to be the most beloved Roy child, the main thing he seems interested in. But given how fickle Logan is, maybe even that won’t be enough. We’ll see.
Loser: Tom and Shiv, a twofer. It has never been harder to watch their relationship (as fucked up as it was from the jump) continue to tear apart at the seams due to Shiv’s aloofness and Tom’s baldfaced need for his wife’s comfort and support. But Shiv has never really been the comforting sort, so while her approach to Tom’s anxiety about potentially going to prison to protect her father is endlessly cold, it’s also deeply unsurprising. But more independently: Tom’s waffling and subsequent meeting with Kendall ended so nastily (I could have killed Kendall when he pulled out that phone). Meanwhile, Shiv kept taking L after L, from being ignored when she warned that Mencken is a dangerous candidate to failing to stand her ground after initially declining from standing with him in a photo. But, of course, daddy demanded it. Can’t disappoint daddy.
Winner: As my colleagues have noted above, fascism won the day this episode, but it was always going to work out this way for the Roys. If hard-pressed, I think the family would identify overall as fiscally conservative and decline to say anything else on their political leanings, but in this case specifically, I do not think that they’re fascists. What they are, however, are opportunists. Roman, so desperate for his papa’s love, delivered him a white supremacist that oozes charisma— Justin Kirk has always had a louche charm about him that works perfectly for this role, as it did when he was a charming scumbag on Weeds. Another winner, honestly, is Lisa Arthur, who did all she could with her nasty little client and got out just in the nick of time.
Loser: When the going gets tough, Shiv retreats further into her shell, which is exactly what her loving husband, Tom, doesn’t need. He is a jangling bundle of raw nerves and fresh emotions, and Shiv, facing disrespect from her family at every possible turn, deals with her bullshit by tightening it up. Who needs emotions when they happen, when you can very easily put them in a large box and chuck them into a storage unit somewhere in Long Island? Both parties are incapable of communicating with each other appropriately, and though I am loath to recommend a book that is essentially self-help, I would urge both parties to read Attached and to figure out what the fuck their problems are, post-haste.