It’s a sorry state of affairs when Connor Roy starts to look like a decent option for president, but Sunday’s Succession at least treads pretty close.
This week’s episode centers around a bleak convention called the Future Freedom Summit, a gathering of the nation’s most terrifyingly wealthy, terrifyingly red Republicans. It’s giving “Berlin bunker vibes,” as Shiv describes it—just before Roman asks how his sister likes “spelunking in the elephant’s asshole.” Greg, who doesn’t realize Hamilton is not the show to bring up in this crowd, is dismayed to get called a “soy boy”—until his story about suing Greenpeace makes him the most popular scumbag in the room.
However uneasy Shiv might be with her new role in degrading the American Republic, the family is on a mission: Figure out who to crown at an event that’s informally known as the “ATN Primary”—a nod to the influence their company’s news division wields. Logan Roy’s only daughter spends the episode chewing over the fact that this room of balding stuffed suits can really choose a president just like that. Perhaps the idea terrifies her because accepting it would mean that her brothers might be right when they compare her career in politics to a lemonade stand. Whatever the reason, the tiny sliver of morality Shiv has left continues to hold her back in the race to become Daddy’s favorite for CEO.
Ever the audience stand-in, Connor’s wife and perpetual source of comic relief Willa spends the evening typing a play on her phone while Connor rubs elbows with potential supporters for his presidential run. “In a room full of Timothy McVeighs, does Connor suddenly look like a Roosevelt?” Shiv wonders aloud. Connor, meanwhile, has taken to referring to his wife as “leggy Mary Todd.”
Sadly for Connor, the playing field seems to boil down to three real options, and he’s not one of them. There’s the current vice president—a safe but boring stalwart whose lip-licking habit could bury him in memes during a televised debate. There’s a slimy internet provocateur whose coziness with Nazi ideology seems to concern only Shiv. And there’s an ATN anchor who offers Shiv a tidy quid pro quo: If she can get him Logan’s backing for the presidency, he’ll make sure she becomes Waystar’s new CEO once he’s elected—even if it means locking up her father for good. Shiv, always eager to look out for No. 1, is noncommittal but intrigued.
The Roy siblings are still on the outs, but this week delivers a bit of news that, if nothing else, unites them in shared bemusement: While rubbing elbows at the summit, Roman finds out secondhand that their mother is getting remarried. Or, as he puts it to Kendall on the phone after rushing to tell Shiv: “New mom just dropped.” Will mummy’s remarriage spark another disastrous reunion? We can only hope so.
Tom, meanwhile, is feeling pretty hopeless about his own future prospects. Prison seems like a certain destination on the horizon, so he’s eating at Denny’s—which, as far as he’s concerned, tastes like a cross between a yoga mat and a camel’s labia. What better way to prepare for prison cuisine?
When Tom tries to talk to Shiv about his endless prison blog surfing, however, she still refuses to provide an ounce of emotional support. When she offers sex, he refuses. In an equally uncomfortable echo to last week, when Tom told his wife he was “vibing to her sexy window,” he says this week that sex with Shiv while on contraception would be like “throwing so much cake batter at a brick wall.”
And outside the world’s swampiest meet-and-greet? Kendall is preparing for his deposition—and planning himself what sounds like the tackiest 40th birthday of all time. The party theme: “End Times: Weimar Meets Carthage, Meets Dante, Meets AI and Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs.” (But will Zadie Smith and Chuck D want to attend a party with this aesthetic? Sadly for Kendall, time will tell.)
Hotshot attorney Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan) remains as patiently frustrated as ever with our deluded king, who seems pathologically incapable of following her advice. Her client throws a temper tantrum when confronted with uncomfortable questions while practicing for his deposition and apparently did even worse during the real thing. Despite Lisa’s best efforts, it seems Kendall is unwilling to accept that the folks at the Department of Justice “don’t do hugs.” He fires her when she dares to suggest his attitude during questioning was less than helpful.
The main issue for Ken, it seems, is that the smoking-gun documents Greg provided don’t actually give the feds that much to work with. So he attempts another Hail Mary: meeting Tom at a Denny’s (where he declines to eat) in an attempt to flip him against Logan. He talks down to his brother-in-law, comparing him to a country mouse who married a hot tamale. “You’re a long way from home,” Kendall says. “You’ve played your hand well and now you’re sitting at the top table.” But what is his agenda, Kendall wonders. Tom insists he’s just in love with Shiv. Kendall—like, probably, a healthy chunk of the Succession-watching public—suspects TomWamb’s got some other motives.
For now, however, it looks like Shiv’s coattails might not be the swiftest ride to the top of Waystar anyway. Like Lisa, she winds up sparring with stubborn Roy men when it comes time to choose a presidential favorite at the convention—and just like her old friend, her opinions fall on death ears.
After some back-and-forth, including a half-hearted discussion about Connor as a possibility, the room swerves toward the Milo Yiannopoulos-like provocateur. (You’ll be shocked to learn he hits it off with Roman, who later brings him into the fold to charm Daddy.) This is a man whose campaign manager has broken someone’s jaw, who has encouraged burning Qurans, and who is more than happy to pull a page or two out of Mein Kampf if it sounds punchy—but no one seems to care about that except Shiv. Roman mocks her by humming the national anthem while she speaks, the rest of the men in the room exchanging knowing smirks.
There’s something both pathetic and heartbreaking about the panic in Shiv’s voice as she asks, “This is how it happens?” For three seasons, we’ve watched her abandon a political career that gave her an identity outside her family’s toxic vortex only to fly straight for the center once invited in. Shiv, it seems, didn’t establish that independence because she wanted to but because she had no other choice. But how can she be so shocked by the power her father wields—or the careless manner in which he wields it? Is it too painful an admission, or has she simply not been paying attention? Given the look on her face when forced to pose for a photo with the neo-Nazi she hates, it seems safe to bet that Shiv will hate the bed she’s made for herself more and more with each successive night she tries to sleep in it. The question is when and if she’ll ever choose to wake up.