Tuesday, October 15, 2019

THE ‘SUCCESSION’ FINALE: A WORTHY SUCCESSOR?

[Spoiler alert: You are advised to read on only after having watched the SUCCESSION season two finale]



Oh that smile! Logan Roy barely let on that he threw a smirk—so much so that people were wondering if it was there—but it was. And while it was barely noticeable, he was thrilled inside, and it was so deliciously done. He had just seen Kendall become the killer that he had, just scenes ago, told him he needed to be, in order to be at the helm of Waystar Royco. The thing is that we practically didn’t see it coming, yet when Kendall said, “…But…,” at the press conference, it was all but obvious that he was going to put his father’s head on the spike instead of his own. 

Throughout this second season of SUCCESSION, we’ve seen Kendall keeping a low profile, indulging himself ever so slightly, and doing his father’s bidding. Initially it seemed like he was simply grateful to Logan who helped him out of the tricky situation in England. Of course, Logan just seized the opportunity to get Kendall out of the bed he’d gotten into with Stewey and Sandy. And I wondered when Kendall would see that for what it was. Obviously the shock and despair that came with how he ended up being responsible for the catering waiter’s death was going to take its time, but it now looks like it didn’t take as much time as we thought it was taking. He was keeping his head down, but he was just doing so in order to strike when everyone would least expect it. He was playing his cards right, and even embarrassed himself in Dundee, when he broke out into a rap number, making himself out to almost look like a loyal idiot (without becoming too much of an idiot, because Greg holds that distinction!). 


And speaking of Greg, somewhere along the way, Kendall had to have joined hands with Greg (or had to have tricked Greg) to obtain the documents that would incriminate Logan for being a part of the cruise scandal cover-up. Everything was clearly well thought-through, but I don’t think we’ll ever know at what point Kendall started planning this massive blow. Yet, we should’ve seen it coming. Throughout season one, he failed to take down Logan time and again—the hostile takeover with the board, and then with Stewey and Sandy. We knew he wanted control, and he’s clearly the Roy sibling with the biggest claim to the Royco empire, which is exactly why he was just the perfect scapegoat to become the blood sacrifice to bail out Waystar Royco.

And the way it all went down! 



SUCCESSION has always done wonders with drama in confined spaces—whether it’s by literally putting the characters in a plane or panic room, or by creating an illusion of confined space—the Pierces’ ranch, the Argestes, Dundee, and now a yacht. It’s turned into an obvious setting, but it sure does create impact. And by putting the Roys (and plus-ones, and other Royco top management, and a ‘sprinkling’ of Greg) on a yacht, there’s also a sly nod to the cruise scandal. As Connor tries to make Willa feel better about her abysmal play, the main Roy siblings are enjoying a sweet moment, until daddy dearest arrives. 



Logan puts his own name out there, knowing that it will instantly get ruled out by the likes of Tom, who would go out of their way to kiss ass. What follows are extremely gripping conversations, each exchange layered with intent and agenda, yet seeming quite bare. The writing is exemplary, as we see even the inconsiderate Roman standing up for Gerri, making a strong point about how they can’t let a woman go down for the cruise mess. Roman actually has his moments to shine throughout the episode, where he gains sympathy in his own can’t-care-less way, and even manages to make the smart and honest assessment that going private is not going to help the company at this point. We even see a certain vulnerability in Tom, who probably feels more like an outsider at this time than has he ever before. His admittance of not being happy with Shiv, or in their open marriage is as forthcoming as he’s ever been. On the other hand, we also see how dependent Connor is, despite staying away from the core Royco drama, and delusional enough to imagine that him being the blood sacrifice could have a significant enough impact (or that he can actually make it to the White House for that matter).

This whole series is actually a thorough study of its own characters, and it’s amazing how much restraint the writing displays, even as the writers’ indulgence—as they peel back the devious and delicious layers of each character—is quite apparent. Logan Roy is the ultimate puppet master, silently manipulating the moves that people make around him. Even when he’s been ditched by Nan Pierce, or been played by his kids when they get on board with Rhea taking over, he’s had something to bounce back with. And his kids have been the biggest subjects of his experiments, as he manipulates, challenges, and defies them, threatening their agendas. That’s why it’s hard to believe that Kendall’s big move at the end wasn’t something Logan saw coming. He told Kendall that he’d have needed to be a killer to be in charge, perhaps challenging him in the process. On the other hand, Kendall’s moves, in retrospect, seem perfectly calculated. It was almost like he was giving his father a chance to stop him by even asking Logan if he thought Kendall would’ve been a good successor. He didn’t get the final validation—which could’ve been by design—and he seized his opportunity to take control. 




We’ll probably never know explicitly if Logan had planned this throughout, or if he was just holding on to his position until a worthy successor emerged on their own. He probably wanted it to be Kendall, but wanted Kendall to rise to the occasion, just as he has. What Kendall wants hasn’t been clear for a while, until now, and where he takes us with his latest claim to be the successor is going to be a terrific ride. Even where Shiv, Roman and even Tom will fit into this is going to be a treat to behold. Especially because the intentions, underlying desires and each character’s own perception of how far they’ll go and how much their relationships will withstand, as they follow their own agendas are all things that are so scrumptiously under the surface. And this is exactly what makes SUCCESSION such a masterpiece.

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