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Following a stellar first episode, “Succession” kept the momentum going this week with an hour of witty one-liners, corporate intrigue, and tangled familial drama culminating in an intense and emotional confrontation between Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his children.
The premiere started out with a bang, following the rebellious Roy children — still stinging from their father’s betrayal — as they successfully snatched Logan’s acquisition of Pierce Global Media (PGM) out from under his nose. Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) are themselves in a more prominent yet still somewhat precarious position after siding with the venerable Logan Roy. Siobhan “Shiv” Roy (Sarah Snook) and Tom’s marriage is quietly falling apart, Logan is increasingly emotionally detached from his family and taking a cynical view on mortality, and the siblings are finally working together in a fragile yet budding alliance.
As always, “Succession” perfectly balances drama and comedy, from sharp banter exchanged between the three siblings, whose newfound camaraderie is threatened by their own conflicting motivations (and of course, their remaining and varying degrees of filial loyalty), to the hilarious Greg and Tom dynamic in which Tom continues to bully and boss Greg around, in this episode delegating to him the unpleasant task of dealing with Logan’s assistant and wannabe TV host Kerry Castellabate (Zoë Winters).
The episode opens with the fallout from the siblings’ acquisition of PGM. Logan has taken it in stride, instead shifting to focus on his global news broadcasting service ATN since Waystar Royco is about to be sold to the icy Swede Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). The siblings analyze a PGM news clip with sardonic ease, only for Shiv to be interrupted by a disturbing call relating to her divorce.
The theme then cues with all of these tantalizing plot devices laid out — corporate battles, Logan’s newfound interest in ATN, and the siblings’ partnership starting to fray under pressures from outside forces.
This episode featured superb acting per usual from the entire cast, with a particularly spectacular performance from Brian Cox, who expertly plays Logan with his typical brusque and direct manner. In the second episode, Logan has decided to take a more active role in ATN that will remain his after Matsson buys out Waystar Royco. Logan marches into ATN and prowls about the newsroom, “terrifyingly moseying” as if “Santa Claus were a hitman,” according to Greg.
After pushing Tom and news mogul Cyd Peach (Jeannie Berlin) around for a bit, Logan delivers a fierce speech about his hopes for the future of ATN, eliciting cheers from the entire newsroom. He is powerful, provocative, and inspiring, and the viewer can plainly see how his leadership is so much more effective than that of Tom or his three children, who have all fancied themselves head of his company throughout the show. There is something almost Machiavellian about this scene, as Logan masterfully demonstrates how the cutthroat leader can succeed by wielding both love and fear.
Connor (Alan Ruck) and Willa (Justine Lupe) also got more screen time this episode, when a dejected Connor crashes his siblings’ scheming after a disastrous wedding rehearsal dinner. In the past, Connor’s character has been relegated to the role of comic relief, so viewers may enjoy seeing him as a more serious character in this season, as opposed to being the family laughing stock — although he still provides plenty of entertaining content.
The writing, as usual, is fast-paced, tight, and brilliant, with all the actors performing at their very best. “Succession” truly excels in its group scenes, when all of the complex relationships that have been woven together and pulled taut episode by episode, season by season, are laid out before the viewer in an intricate, tangled knot of familial drama.
Logan’s surprise display of empathy as he attempts to apologize to his children for last season’s betrayal shakes the siblings to their core even as they rebuff his apologies, adding another layer of complexity to the family dynamic that is so well-executed by the show writers. And in the very last scene, when Roman (Kieran Culkin) returns to his father again, viewers understand his desperate desire to be loved.
“Succession” continues to masterfully explore dysfunctional family dynamics, delving into the nuances of love, trust, anger, betrayal, and the whole spectrum of human emotion. Episode 2 was just as great as the first at diving fearlessly into the profoundly complicated nature of love, and the ending leaves viewers hungry for more as a haunting rendition of the theme plays, deftly evoking the grand yet sorrowful fate of the Roy family.
—Staff writer Arielle C. Frommer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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