“Mass in Time of War,” the second episode in the Murdochian HBO drama’s third season, might as well take place in Netflix’s candy-colored quarantine studios. As Logan Roy and his wayward son Kendall scramble to build up their alliances, information is key—so no one’s telling anyone anything.
Logan is yelling (obviously) that he needs “to know where everyone is and what they’re doing!” Kendall announced in last week’s premiere that the “Juice is loose!” and now here’s his father, sincerely shouting at his colleagues that he’s “losing juice!”
Trapped in a corner once again, Logan returns to his favorite trick: playing everyone who hopes to one day inherit his power against one another. He asks Roman to “keep an eye on Gerri” and promises the subordinate position his son finds himself in now is only temporary. He calls Connor to apologize for calling his presidential campaign a “horseshit pipe dream” and promises, “You’re my No. 1”—a claim so brazenly untrue even his son has to laugh. (You know—in that quiet, mournful way.)
Everyone is sussing out their relationships—or are they alliances? When Tom responds to another of Shiv’s “I love you’s” with a “thank you,” she prods until he likens their marriage to an investment.
“You can’t just take my love and bank it, and take it to the love market and see if you want to invest in me,” Tom says. But sure, they’re fine! As Shiv half-heartedly tries to smooth things over, her husband replies, “It’s good to know we don’t have an unbalanced love portfolio.”
Marcia, meanwhile, keeps things direct and simple: If Logan wants her to do the “stand by your man” dance, he’s going to need to pay for the public infidelities of his past. Literally.
But Logan is desperate to know where Shiv is. As one might have guessed when she redirected her driver last week, Shiv has made a break for Kendall’s war room—all under the guise of trying to win him over “for dad,”of course.
Poor Greg, who’s struggling to figure out his path out of this mess while Kendall and Waystar both try and set him up with lawyers, asks his grandfather Ewan (James Cromwell) for help. “I’m quite focused on my position, and me in particular not getting fined or going to jail—if that isn’t too selfish,” he says. After a threatening call from Tom—“You better find an animal’s corpse to crawl into and hide”—Greg reveals that Shiv is there to get her husband off his back. Someone’s learning to play the game!
And so, here we are again: Kendall rallying his siblings to betray their father.
The Roy children all have their own dysfunctions, but they share at least one core insecurity: Decades of competing for their father’s approval and, by extension, estate, have eroded these people of their ability to see themselves as adults. When Gerri made a call on Logan’s behalf last week, Shiv made faces behind her back while Roman pretended to fellate an invisible penis. Kendall is holding meetings in his daughter’s bedroom at his ex-wife’s house, and Connor is not even a factor in his own siblings’ minds.
While Gerri congratulates Roman on his new “apprenticeship” under her as CEO, the youngest Roy boy seems... less than enthusiastic. Before long he winds up at Kendall’s—at which point Kendall borrows an interesting move from their father. He asks Shiv if she wants him to let Roman up: “You’re the one I want.” As toxic as Kendall claims to believe Logan to be, he sure is sounding a lot like him. At another point, Kendall rushes his lawyer, Lisa Arthur, off the phone while she tries to keep him out of prison, insisting he has “bigger fish to fry.” Logan said the same thing last season right after he told Connor to dash his (admittedly humiliating) political dreams.
Oh yeah, and speaking of—Connor ends up at Rava’s place with all of his siblings, too. It’s the moment Kendall’s been waiting for: the big pitch.
“The great whites, from politics to culture, they’re rolling offstage,” Kendall says with grandiose energy that could take him far at Juilliard. “It’s our time.”
Time to do what, precisely? To topple Logan and replace him at the top of Waystar Royco? To stop being “apprentices” strapped to various supervisory adults and run the show themselves? “What, this multiethnic, transgender alliance of 20-something Dreamers we’ve got here” Roman deadpans.
As far as Kendall is concerned, however, the change of hands at Waystar might as well be a planetary shift. “We can become omni-national,” he presses on. Waystar could be a global information hub. “Detoxify our brand, and we can go supersonic.”
Kendall Roy never seems to notice when his pitches are tanking. Despite his siblings’ blank looks and incredulous scoffs, he continues to spew his fantasy for the future—an unholy blend of hollow corporate jargon masquerading as self-actualization and shallow appeals to a sibling bond that does not exist. When one line of argument starts failing, Kendall switches to another almost immediately, muttering, “This is side shit.” He steps outside to “hug his kids” (AKA take a phone call with Sandi and Stewie to try and quell shareholders’ concerns) before coming back in to spell out the one stipulation all of his siblings were waiting for—the reason they knew they were never going to say “yes” to his idea in the first place.
“He was gonna send me to jail,” Kendall tells his siblings. “He’d do the same to you, Roman. And Con. Shiv, I don’t fucking know.”
His vision for the future? “It’s 323 BC, basically.” Basically.
In this plan, Connor would take Asia; Roman, Egypt; Shiv, Europe; Connor, “the rest of the world.” And Kendall? He’ll just oversee—for a little while!
If there’s one thing we know about the Roy children, it’s that they’re tired of competing to kiss any corporate daddy’s ring. Shiv immediately says that for her to back this idea she’d need to be in charge—at which point the misogyny that had been quietly humming in the background went, to borrow a word from Kendall, supersonic.
“I wish I could, but you don’t have the experience,” Kendall tells Shiv. “I don’t see you this way, but you’re still seen as a token woman, wonk snowflake.”
All it takes is a well-timed donut delivery from Daddy—“Have a nice tea party”—for the whole thing to unravel just like Kendall’s vote of no confidence did in Season 1. All of the siblings pull out, and Kendall shouts after each of them that they are not wanted and irrelevant. But he saves his harshest words for his sister.
“You owe me an explanation,” he said. “Obviously you believe me, so you’re literally doing the wrong thing over the right thing?... Is it cowardice or avarice?... Is it because you don’t take over?”
Shiv’s reaction is about what you’d expect: “Fuck you, plastic Jesus.”
Just like an earlier moment, when Shiv sends Roman running to the bathroom by making fun of his “sex thing” with older women, her remark to Kendall appears to strike a nerve. When Kendall calls his younger sister a twat she reveals to the rest of her siblings that Kendall had told her she was the “only” one he wanted.
“Girls count double now—didn’t you know?” Kendall booms. “It’s only your teats that give you any value!” He yells at a female executive assistant for looking at him wrong.
Kendall can’t see past his delusions of morality; he conflates his quest for his father’s power with the pursuit of a better world because it allows him to enjoy the money and the stature without questioning his position. At least his siblings are willing to cop to their selfishness.
While the siblings squabbled, their father was not just ordering donuts; he and his entourage are forced to return home after Tom cautiously informs them, “The Bosnians want us to leave, maybe.” When he touches down, Logan pulls Shiv into the car and offers her the role of “president.”
“A mascot?” she asks.
“My eyes and ears, Shiv,” Logan replies. “Wearing a full chemical and biological suit going by the name of Gerri Kellman.”
If there’s anyone whose skin Shiv might want to tear off, that does seem like a safe bet. Logan might be a “full fucking beast,” but he still knows how to read a room better than his son.