Apologies for running this so late in the day, but the AMAs were last night! (You can catch up on our coverage here. Billy Porter wore an umbrella as a hat.) I will make it my tardiness up to you by sharing the preview for The Gilded Age that ran before this episode:
I am obviously here for this. (And have high hopes that Sonja Warfield, the co-creator, will keep Julian Fellowes’s most Julian Fellowes-y instincts at bay.)
Back to our more modern Rich Assholes With Personal Problems! This was a very good episode. I just know our favorite anonymous mid-management Waystar Royco employee who isn’t totally sure what the hell is really happening around the office but knows it’s probably a bad sign that the tall one is now working in the Xerox room came home and complained to her spouse that she knows it sounds like she’s wearing a tin foil hat but she thinks the boss just….picked the new president?? Should she call someone about this? Related to this conceit, I also want an episode from the POV of Logan’s driver, a man who definitely knows everything given that we’re always having scenes where people are screaming at each other about, like, federal crimes in the backseat of a car. I hope he is well compensated. I also hope he and Kendall’s driver are texting each other often, like:
LOGAN’S DRIVER: He’s definitely committing some kind of securities fraud.
KENDALL’S DRIVER: I think my guy maybe killed someone when he was strung out on coke in Scotland?????
Where’s that webseries? Anyway, this week, most of the Roys are off to some Secret Republican Conference to Pick the Next President that has a name like Federal Freedom Forum and which Greg correctly points out is maybe not totally constitutional. The Federal Freedom Forum (it’s technically actually the Future Freedom Summit, but whatever) has such outsized power because, according to That Woman Who Works For the President In Some Capacity I Never Cared To Actually Learn, apparently it’s “six months to election day and no candidate. Super Tuesday is gone, ballots are already finalized, the delegates will chose at the RNC of course but…we need to choose here first.” Seems realistic tbh. (At one point, Kendall calls this gathering of right-wing dildos “the Hatefest Fest,” which I swear to god has to be a reference to the FYF Fest here in LA; FYF stands for “Fuck Yeah Fest,” which means this event is literally called the Fuck Yeah Fest Fest, a name which makes me insane, and which I guarantee the Succession writers have also absently complained about to their friends.) This all makes for what might be the strongest episode of this season to date. I gave an eff about almost everything! To the rankings:
Zero Effs, AKA Who Cares?!?!?!?: It seems that the Roys have NOT yet given up their private jet. Additionally: Shiv used the word “actioned” as if that were actually a real thing. Shiv, it is not!
1-3 Effs, AKA This Is Moderately Diverting: Did we know that Cousin Larry was Connor’s…..important campaign something or other? (It turns out yes, we did — he was on an episode in 2019. Who can even remember 2019?!)
Did we know that the Tom and Shiv had a vineyard? Their wine is bad, but the scene of them trying to describe the terrible wine to each other was really amusing.
Did we know Tom is worried about going to jail? Yes, we did know that one! And he is spiraling about it. (He also tells Shiv there isn’t any point to them having sex and calls it “throwing cake batter at a brick wall.” Yikes, these two are having marital issues!) He and Greg (also super spiraling over the prospect of doing time) go to a local diner to try to prepare themselves for prison food. You two should be so lucky as to get a Moons Over My Hammy in the joint, my dudes! Whilst there, Greg asks Tom to take the fall for his crimes too (all of which, if I recall correctly, he committed at Tom’s behest) and Tom actually agrees. This relationship is quite fascinating.
4-7 Effs, AKA We Are Quite Intrigued: (a) Oh my god, Kendall Kendall KENDALL Kendall, you are a terrible whistleblower. You are just not made for whistleblowing! Maybe you should not have whistleblown so off-the-cuff! You clearly have no actual plan to bring down your father’s empire and all the plans you come up with on the fly are, and I cannot stress this enough, profoundly cringe. I could watch Sanaa Lathan tell Kendall that he’s an idiot for hours on end but instead he FIRES HER for giving him fairly measured and reasonable legal feedback. And then he drives to Virginia and — in a really great couple of scenes — tries to get Tom to flip on the family, saying this will bolster Kendall’s own case and keep Tom out of jail. (Tom wisely points out to Kendall that it’s hard to trust someone who has never yet come out on top.) PS: The show has not shown Kendall doing coke again but Kendall is acting very coked up.
(b) Caroline — Kendall, Shiv, and Roman’s mother — is getting married and they find this out at the Federal Future Freedom Forum Fest Fest from some random British dude (Roman amusing calls him “the Brexit pervert” which is a very illuminating turn of phrase), and they don’t even know the groom and they’re maybe not even invited?! Well — the kids don’t know the guy. But Logan does, saying he’s been sniffing around Caroline for ages. He doesn’t seem terribly distressed by this news. (But that might change if he shows up for the wedding, which Roman lies and says he’s invited to.) Speaking of Logan’s wives, I assume Marcia is still off negotiating getting her third cousin a free Vespa before she comes back into the fold? This non-divorce settlement is getting very specific!
8-10 Effs: THIS IS WHAT I AM HERE FOR: Okay! First of all: as much I love this show, I find it hard to believe that ATN bitching about the president for what seemed like two or three days would really prompt the president to be like, “FINE I QUIT I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW!!!!!” and, as the show claims, plunge the GOP into flames. I’ll accept this creative license because the show requires it to get to this section of the plot and I don’t really care because where we are going is very interesting, but it feels like a stretch. I just had to let that out.
ALSO! We are told that it’s six months to election day, which means it’s May. Everyone was coming off a summer vacation on a yacht at the beginning of the season, right? So these past six episodes have spread out over nine months already? This show is great at a lot of things but the passage of time is not one of them. For one thing, there is no weather in Succession this season, which makes it hard to orient yourself. (This is something that also used to happen on an incredibly similar program, Dawson’s Creek, and it similarly drove me mad.) There have apparently also been no holidays. While I understand that hand-waving when things are happening makes certain aspects of storytelling easier, it also sometimes makes the viewer feel slightly confused and unmoored in time, and I wish this season were was a little more persnickety about its timeline. (Again, I sympathize; when we were writing The Royal We, Heather and I came to the realization that one of our characters was accidently like 115 years old.) This also would have fixed my previous note about how it felt like ATN was calling President Raisin incompetent or whatever for a mere 36 hours before he stormed off in a huff, if we knew it were actually three months or something.
ANYWAY! Those are real whiny nitpicks about what is honestly a fantastic episode but I had to give my network notes. That over: We’re here to pick the next president! And the candidates are: Vice-President Boyer (an easy and clean choice but he might be a vegetarian and he licks his lips too much and he’s boring and Logan doesn’t like him); Justin Kirk, who is snarky and handsome as hell and fascinating and maybe a fascist and probably an actual, for-real sociopath, and definitely a legit Bad Person who Shiv (correctly) hates; a semi-decent-seeming eyebrows-y guy named Rick who tells Shiv that he’ll send Logan to prison and make her CEO if they make him president, which she treats as a joke but is it? Because she does support his candidacy; and finally, um, there’s also Connor???? If you think about it….doesn’t it make sense for the Roys to back Connor? He’s in their pockets and he’s kind of a dumb-dumb. They can master that puppet very easily. Well! They don’t. They go for Justin Kirk. The maybe-fascist fast-talking charisma machine, the only one who brought Logan a Coke. Buckle up, y’all.
Bits of note which didn’t fit into our super scientific system of effs but which deserve recognition nevertheless: “Duty calls for my leggy Mary Todd;” “It’s a safe space where you don’t have to pretend to like Hamilton.” “I do like Hamilton.” “Sure, you do. We all do.”; “We could fall apart and hand it to the Fuck Fuck Donkey Gang.”; It seems like this is also the right place to say that, just as a general note, Matthew Macfadyen was really good this week, and Justin Kirk came in and NAILED his scenes. Finally, I learned this from the Vulture recap, and it’s so interesting:
The title “What It Takes” references Richard Ben Cramer’s book about the 1988 presidential election, a classic of political nonfiction and perhaps the definitive book about how campaigns operate. The ’88 election was a mad scramble to succeed Ronald Reagan after he’d reached his two-term limit, with then-VP George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole battling it out for the Republican nomination and Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart, Dick Gephardt, and a no-hope Joe Biden mixing it up on the Democratic side. There were a lot of wild twists and turns in the news media, particularly among the Democrats, that led to a nominee, but it was not as if the media itself had a thumb on the scales. As in any healthy democracy, it was decided by the people of New Hampshire.
I am going to get this from the library! (Although that’s an affiliate link to Bookshop.org.)
And, finally, the best outfit of the week lives above, in the header: Sanaa Lathan’s glasses are the best accessory of the season so far. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her.