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Succession: Season 2, Episode 3 (Hunting) - Review

Succession

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

IS THERE a more formidable character on TV at the moment than Logan Roy? The family patriarch, played so bullishly by Brian Cox, elevated his status to even more grotesque heights in season 2 episode Hunting – a brutal, brilliant, painful to watch instalment of a show that continues to go from strength to strength.

With the stakes against Logan’s business empire, Waystar Royco, ever higher, not to mention an unofficial biographer seeking to dish the dirt on the media mogul, Logan took his employees on a corporate retreat that turned into the business trip from hell for just about everyone involved.

Part of Succession‘s appeal lies in the perverse delight in watching a hideously rich and pampered family rip itself to shreds. Here, the vindictiveness of everyone extended beyond blood to outer family members and business comrades. No one was safe.

The episode opened in light-hearted manner, to be fair… albeit one that carried a sense of foreboding. The hapless Greg (Nicholas Braun) met with said biographer for a ‘pre-meet’ to discuss the terms of his contribution to the book. The only trouble was, Greg nervously confessed that Logan can be ‘vindictive, paranoid, violent’, before only then declaring his sentiments to be ‘off the record’.

As it happened, the description – which the biographer jotted down with gleeful relish – was a taster of what to expect from the ensuing 60 minutes.

Logan displayed all three ‘attributes’, so incensed was he that his attempts to buy out PGM, his highly-regarded news nemesis, were being undermined from traitors from within his inner circle. To darken his mood still further, news had filtered down that someone had spoken to the biographer despite the presence of a gag order.

Matters came to a head during a sit down dinner, at which Logan decided to try and ‘out’ the traitor and find out who had been speaking to the biographer as well as tipping PGM to the buy out bid. But the manner in which he did this was as amusing as it was terrifying.

He devised a game, Boar on the Floor, in which everyone who told a lie was forced to stand in shame to the side of the table, before being forced to fight over sausage. Included in the unfortunate trio singled out for such shame and ridicule were Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg.

The extended sequence was, at times, excruciating to watch. But it was designed to be so. Tom, for his part, had spent the better part of the episode building up to the moment where he could question the buyout bid on behalf of his wife, Shiv (Sarah Snook), who had begun to flex her own muscle as the potential ‘new sheriff in town’. But by playing both sides, he only exposed his own shortcomings… namely, his desperate need to be liked in order to continue social climbing without really doing anything.

The brilliance of Macfadyen’s performance, however, lay in his ability to elicit some sympathy. We wanted him to stand up for himself. We sensed his pain and humiliation, as well as the suppressed rage and inherent frustration of his situation.

When he did finally get home, the conversation he had with Shiv was as awkward as awkward gets. Without wanting to confess to his shaming as part of the Boar on the Floor game, he strove to take back some of the control in their relationship, only to be floored once more by the suspicion that Shiv’s own weekend had involved some kind of duplicity (she slept with someone for the sake of it). A conversation in which nothing expressed but everything was told exposed just how much of a sham their marriage has quickly become.

Credit, too, for the writers for allowing less to offer so much more. Another of Succession‘s many plus points is its ability to let its audience arrive at their own conclusions, without being spoon-fed.

Macfadyen’s Tom did earn himself some brownie points, to be fair, given that he never sold Greg down the river for confessing to him that he had been the one to speak out to the biographer [or so he thought]. Their most unlikely of alliances held surprisingly firm in Greg’s darkest moment of need. Macfadyen and Braun make an extremely endearing double act at the best of times.

But that unlikely friendship and bond was the only shred of humanity in an episode that was otherwise geared to highlighting just how toxic the Roy family have become.

For while Logan was lauding his power and wrath over anyone who dared to oppose him, sons Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) were determined to ‘rat’ each other out in the hope of gaining the upper hand in currying their father’s favour. Shiv, for her part, was seeking to undermine Logan’s power play herself, while potentially placing deputy and/or foot-soldier Tom in the firing line. These are not very nice people, albeit damaged ones.

And while the acts of humiliation were sometimes horrid to watch, the writing enabled audiences to laugh in the build up to the big moments, such was the sharpness of the dialogue as Tom sought out alliances of his own to help with the approach to Logan. The writing is razor-sharp and so on point.

As for where the episode left everyone… Logan remains the tyrant at the top, dwarfing all before him. But the pretenders to the throne are gathering their own kind of momentum. Kendall has found a new kind of comfort zone as his father’s puppet. But the calmness with which he now carries out his father’s instructions, or kill orders, suggests lessons of the past have been learnt. Is he about to make a new play?

Shiv, for her part, continues to revel in her newfound power, making moves of her own behind the scenes. While Roman is striving to be taken seriously, making his own moves to cut to the top of his father’s good graces – even though this week’s power move backfired somewhat into a ‘moron’ play.

With its Shakespearean sense of grandeur and its Godfather-style betrayals and power plays, Succession is fast becoming a modern masterpiece in its own right, borrowing from the best while being driven by its own rules to keep viewers gripped and guessing what might happen next.

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