After a week of speculation over a Roy family death – as well as a viral Jeremy Strong interview that went confusingly viral – season three finally reached its jaw-dropping end
Not since The Great Gatsby has a scene in which a rich man ends up face-down in a pool been so thoroughly analysed. HBO’s refusal to provide journalists with a pre-release copy of the final episode of the third season of 演替 has meant two things: one, that I was up at dawn’s crack on this drizzling Monday morning and have been mainlining coffee in order to file this recap, and two, that everybody has been speculating that this might finally be the episode where Kendall dies. Several days ago, a profile of actor Jeremy Strong 在 The New Yorker ended up going stratospherically viral 作为 演替 fans read it like tea leaves for new clues about the Number One Boy’s fate. Its big revelation – that the man responsible for one of the most nuanced and excruciatingly real performances of suffering and self-doubt on television is a bit intense – sent the internet insane enough that Anne Hathaway, of all people, rushed to Strong’s defence with a black-and-white tribute post that made it look less like he’d been revealed to have been a little bit weird in the workplace than as if he’d been murdered. It has been an odd week, all being said and done. 反正, to paraphrase Roman in last week’s episode: it’s just like, here’s my recap, I guess.
Hans Christian Anderf**king with Us
Never let it be said that 演替’s writers don’t know how to tease us. The first shot of this week’s episode shows Logan sitting poolside with his arm around his grandson, a sweet moment of domestic bliss that we are instantly meant to intuit would not take place unless something truly awful had befallen Kendall. Worse still: he is reading the boy Goodbye Mog, the book in which Mog, now elderly, ends up as dead as the invisible cat in episode five. Before we have too much time to feel afraid, Logan suggests that his assistant brings another, more adult book “with more action,” a meta-nod to the audience that this finale will not be about a death – a literal death, at any rate – but about movement, tension, heart-in-mouth decision-making et cetera et cetera. Sure enough, we soon see the other Roys engaged in a game of Monopoly, and it’s revealed that although Kendall did end up unconscious in that pool, he survived and is still well.
Then again: I don’t know that “well” would be the best word to describe his vibe when he walks in, and although I would say he physically survived, I’m not sure I could entirely disavow the notion that some part of him is missing. Jeremy Strong – who puts in such fine work this week that as far as I am concerned, he can jump off as many stages and skulk quietly in as many make-up trailers as he likes – continues to give him a ghostly air, a half-there quality that shows not only in the slackness of his mouth and the emptiness of his eyes, but in his slouching body language. The show, as I mentioned last week, often uses death itself as something abstract, phrases like “killing dad” or “trying to murder pops” not meant literally, but equating death with impotence or weakness or failure. Kendall, in this sense, 是 死的. “I had one too many limoncellos, it’s no biggie,” he says unconvincingly, before announcing that he plans to put all of his paperwork and correspondence from the last five years on Instagram for the sake of accountability and transparency. He also suggests he might end up getting a 名利场 轮廓, in which the journalist responsible for profiling him will presumably imply that he is extremely self-serious, determined to the point of near-derangement, and convinced that the L-to-the-O-G rap he once performed for Logan was worthy of Raskolnikov.
The O-G himself, on hearing that GoJo’s Lukas Mattsson has once again been meeting with the competition, decides to forgo decoding his emoji-laden texts in favour of going to visit him in person. After initially refusing to bring Roman, suggesting that he ought to “stay [t]here and play with his [d**k],” he relents and says that both of them should go and see “Hans Christian Anderf**k” and talk to him about his “fairytales.” (I was so shaken by the sight of Roman’s d**k pic last week, incidentally, that I incorrectly said that he had sent it to everyone in the boardroom, when in fact I think it only went to Logan. I’m not sure that “only” sending a photograph of your penis to your father is a better situation, 老实说, but it’s…different, 我想. “So what is it, 儿子?” Logan asks Roman at one point this episode, perhaps thinking thirty-something years too late that it’s time they had The Talk. “Are you scared of p***y? Is it all screens and up the ass with you, or what?”) After a frightening and instructive conversation about some advice Mark Zuckerberg once gave him on the subject of never allowing oppressed, desperate people clock just how far they outnumber the powerful one per cent, Mattsson suggests that although initially he had been interested in a total merger, what he wants now is to buy out Waystar Royco. “You can’t become a tech player because you and your business are just too f***ing old,” he tells Logan, with “respect.” “So you want me to come into your sauna and tell you what a pretty pecker you got?” Logan asks him, instantly helping to demonstrate where Roman gets it from.
When Mattsson asks if Logan ever feels genuinely excited about future prospects, it’s an interesting mirror for the scene at Kendall’s party where Tom bemoans the fact that despite being high as a kite, he cannot actually feel happy. If Kendall now wears his near-total disengagement with reality on his face and in the movements of his body, every member of the family has a similar air of emptiness about them, even if that air is often covered up with “f**k”s and bluster. “America, I don’t know,” Logan says, quieter than usual. “When I arrived, there were these gentle giants smelling of gold and milk. They could do anything. Now look at them. Fat as f***. Scrawny or on meth, or yoga. They pissed it all away.” As much as he appears to bristle at Mattsson’s offer, he does not refuse it as stridently as he might have done a week or two ago, and we see something fall over him that is not quite resignation, but is definitely tiredness—a momentary admission to himself that he is 83 岁, and as many times as he is described as “bulletproof” or “indestructible,” not all deaths are the abstract kind. He sends Roman away, back to Caroline’s wedding, but remains with Mattesson to discuss matters further. “My mom’s getting remarried to a bowl of porridge and it’s all terribly moving,” Roman nods, trying not to look suspicious as he returns to the speedboat.
A Tabby Cat Out of a Bath
Love has never been high on the menu as far as 演替 is concerned, but this week it seems to abound in various forms, some entirely real and some wholly perverse. At the wedding, as their mother walks down the aisle, Shiv tells Roman that he ought to interrupt the ceremony. “Imagine how romantic that would be, if you could marry mommy on her wedding day,” she teases. “Or tell them the reason that they can’t be married, because she’s the only one who makes her son’s pee-pee go boom-boom.” Later, when Shiv makes a toast and tells her mother that she hopes her marriage to Peter Timothy Mungo Munions (do not ask) is as “rich and happy and rewarding and fulfilling” as her marriage to Tom Wambsgans, it feels as if she is levelling a curse. “You know why she’s making you wait [to have a baby], 正确的?” Roman asks Tom later, the lashings-out and humiliations going in circles. “She’s going to make you carry it. You’re going to have to poop out your own baby and then squeeze milk fromyour little Tommy tits for man milk.” Willa, finally accepting Connor’s proposal, does so with the phrase “how bad can it be?” Suffice to say, 演替 does not make any persuasive arguments for marriage, childbearing, the nuclear family, or generally trusting or caring about a single other human being.
Except somehow, 本星期, real love shows itself eventually, albeit in a context that is almost unbearably sad. The Roy siblings begin showing signs of actual familial care when Shiv, Roman and Connor try to mount a kind of intervention on their haunted, fragile brother Kendall, whom they suspect tried to kill himself in that pool. “I feel like everything I’ve done is with good intentions,” says Kendall, gently. “If you had any idea what it’s like to be promised something and then, 你懂, just have it taken. I’m the eldest son.” “我是 the eldest son!” Connor “first pancake” Roy exclaims, repeating the phrase over and over as if any of us are going to remember once his monologue is done. Lashing out, telling his siblings that he loves them but also labelling them “a******s”, Connor gets up from the table and places his forehead right up against Kendall’s, a small move that Alan Ruck makes threatening and tender and frustrated at the same time. It’s the first time in a while I can remember a Roy acting as if they felt any love for another immediate family member, and it took me by surprise.
Even more surprising: later, when all of the Roy siblings are mobilising after finding out that Logan may, 实际上, be considering selling Waystar Royco out from underneath them after all, Roman, Shiv and Kendall share a moment of genuine sibling sweetness under the most awful circumstances imaginable. When Shiv approaches Kendall to urge him to help them nix their father’s deal, he tells her that he wants no part in it, and as she follows him to try and talk him round, he crumples suddenly to the floor. “I’m not here,” he tells her, his breath turning ragged with emotion. “There’s something really wrong with me, Shiv. I don’t know what the f*** is wrong with me. I’m not feeling very connected to my children or my endeavours right now, and I can’t get one thing right with another, 你懂? … I’m not a good person.” When Roman tries to hand-wave away this suggestion, Kendall finally tells the truth. “I killed a kid,” he murmurs quietly. “Is this real?” Shiv breathes. “It’s f***ing lonely,” Kendall sobs as he confesses. “I’m all apart.”
It’s Roman, of all people, who comes to his older brother’s rescue, in the most typically Roman way. As Kendall tells the story of the car accident at Shiv’s wedding, and insists that he tried more than once to rescue the young waiter from the crashed car in he river before he finally fled and let him drown, Roman launches into what can only be described as a comedy routine. “This sounds like the story of a hero to me, because I would have been straight out of the water like a tabby cat out of a bath,” he deadpans. “You’re not a killer, at worst you’re an irresponsible-er. You’re bigging yourself up.” The way Kendall sniffles and says “don’t, man”, chuckling against his better instincts, is such a beautiful rendering of the very particular dynamic between someone who’s upset, and someone who loves them enough that they’ll do anything to make them crack a smile. It is almost enough to make us forget that what they are joking about is a dead employee. “You know, one waiter down, that makes sense, it took me forever to get a f***ing drink at her wedding,” Roman adds. “I guess I’m just trying to say who’s the real victim here, because I waited three quarters of an hour for a gin and tonic.” Yes, the implication makes you shudder, but the moment also very nearly made me cry.
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最后, 然后, all three of them resolve to band together to put Logan’s bid to sell the company to bed. “I do think that even if this makes me want to vomit, and it goes horribly, and I want to kill you both every day, I do think we could make a pretty good team,” Roman sighs. (Let’s ignore for now the fact he had to fake a puking noise to get through such a heartfelt statement – he is, 毕竟, still Roman Roy.) Their respective stakes in Waystar Royco, gifted to them as a condition of Logan and Caroline’s divorce, mean that they have the ability to dethrone Logan; Shiv, calling Tom from the car as they drive to confront their father, suggests that they use ATN news the same way they did to unseat the actual US President earlier this season, seeding quotes about their father’s failing health. For a moment, it seems as if the show might finally give us everything it has been dangling in front of us since 2018, sending Logan to the boneyard and repairing the relationship between his children until they have a(n invisible, 死的) cat’s chance in hell to become reasonable human beings. “Are you ready for this?” Shiv asks Kendall, who seems newly invigorated by the opportunity to restart his long-desired coup. “I’ve basically been planning it since I was four,” he growls.
Eggwatch, 或者: The Top of the Bottoms
You know and I know, 当然, that nothing good ever lasts in 演替’s universe, so let’s spend a moment with our favourite Egg to catch our breath. At the wedding, Greg is still juggling two women, sitting between both of them at the ceremony and looking like a long white stick of gum in his tuxedo. He tells Tom that the Contessa-slash-gut-yoghurt-influencer is eighth in line for the throne of Luxembourg. “Eighth in line!” Tom exclaims. “Greg, if you marry her you’re a plane crash away from becoming Europe’s weirdest king! You off a couple of haemophiliacs and you’re the king of Luxembourg!” There is a momentary setback when the influencer-Contessa mentions donating a chunk of her inheritance to an environmental charity (“which charity?” Greg “suing Greenpeace” Hirsch asks, nervously), but ultimately the two hit it off, leaving Greg flying high at the reception.
“She’s having an existential crisis about her personal branding,” he tells Tom, delighted, “and I’m right there to wheedle away.” Tom, who has just hung up the phone after discussing the Roy kids’ attempted coup with Shiv, has other things in mind. Asking Greg to take a seat, he proceeds with what is weirdly the only actually romantic overture in the episode, despite all the action playing out at a wedding and two people having got engaged. “Things may be in motion,” he asks, carefully, “so…do you wanna come with me, Sporus?” “Can I ask for more information?” Greg presses. “不,” says Tom, smiling. “I don’t think so.” What Tom can offer is a chance for Greg to move “away from the endless middle, and towards the bottom of the top.” (The jokes, honestly, write themselves.) “Who has ever looked after you in this f***ing family?” he asks Greg, and Greg is unable to answer. “Could I get my own…?” he begins, and Tom interjects: “Your own Greg? You can have twenty.” “What am I gonna do with a soul, 反正?” Greg decides, going all-in with Tom for a shot at being the best of all the bottoms. “Souls are boring, anyway.”
When Roman, Shiv and Kendall turn up ready to storm what is in effect their father’s bedchamber, complete with a stony-faced heavy standing guard, the show feels as Shakespearian as it’s ever felt. It feels Shakespearian, 也, that their father is expecting them. There is a brief struggle for power in which he agrees to share his plan with Roman and Shiv as long as Kendall leaves the room, the first of what ends up being many attempts to drive a wedge between them. They decline, presenting a united front. Calmly, Logan – who is sitting with Frank, Karl and Gerri, working out the kinks – informs them that the deal’s more or less done, and that he’s selling for $5bn. “What are you going to do with five bill,” Kendall asks, “put it in the pile with all your other bill?” “Probably, yeah,” Logan shrugs, suggesting that his children ought to “make their own f***ing bill” instead of counting on the company for hand-outs.
“You need a supermajority,” Shiv says, “and we can kill it.” Brian Cox, somehow scarier here than when he was quite literally the first man to play Hannibal Lecter, fully lets rip, Logan barking like a slavering attack dog: “I have you beat, you morons!” he roars, before mimicking Shiv in a cruel baby voice. He has their mother on the phone, he reveals casually, and they have rearranged the details of their divorce settlement, so that the Roy children no longer wield the power they once did, and are thus helpless to prevent the sale. “What have you got in your hand?” Logan asks triumphantly. Roman – recalling the voicemail he left for his father after Logan’s party – says “I don’t know, f***ing love?” For perhaps the first time in the show, Roman’s eyes well up with tears, a horribly affecting sight that ultimately has no impact on his father whatsoever. “You come in here, guns in your hand,” Logan hisses, “and now they’ve turned to f***ing sausages, you talk about love? 一世. F***ing. Win.”
Roman, the youngest Roy and probably the metaphorical dog that Logan has spent the most time kicking and bullying over the years, appeals to Gerri after Logan has stormed out. “He’s not well,” he implores. “You can help us, 正确的? You can stop him.” “How does it serve my interests?” she asks, coldly. Thoroughly screwed by both his mommies in the opposite way than the one he’d hoped for, Roman crumples just like Kendall did earlier in the episode, looking just as empty-eyed and lifeless. It is in this moment that Tom, dressed in a white suit that earlier made him look like The Man from Del Monte but which now makes him resemble a cruel mobster, appears in the doorway and receives a shoulder pat from Logan – not the kiss from Daddy everybody has been vying for, 确切地, though Tom has evidently administered his own Judas kiss of sorts. It was at this point that I realised that I was shouting “oh my 上帝” aloud, my voice crescendoing as Tom enters the room and comforts Shiv, who is beginning to put two and two together, as if nothing untoward had happened. What a show, and what a final episode; what an extraordinarily slow hand they have played with put-upon, pathetic Tom and his beloved eunuch-wife Greg Hirsch. I have no idea how anyone comes back from this, but I will absolutely be returning to find out.
‘Succession’ is available to watch on-demand on Sky and NOW