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Succession: Season 2, Episode 5 (Tern Haven) - Review

Succession: Tern Haven

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

OLD money may have collided with new money and journalistic integrity took on fake news in the latest episode of Succession but there was only one clear winner: money.,

Tern Haven, the fifth episode of a superlative sophomore season, offered another masterclass in writing and acting. It was bang on the money in terms of its world view, highlighting the cold hard fact that money does, indeed, make the world go round. Anyone can be bought. Ethics and morals will only get you so far.

But then again, with such a skewed morality on play throughout, it wasn’t always easy to divide the good from the bad. If anything, you inadvertently ended up rooting for the Roys over the Pierces, such was the hypocrisy on show.

Yet, as if to underline the twisted genius of Succession as a whole, the most sympathetic characters were, arguably the most damaged… and there was still a perverse delight in seeing everyone sabotage themselves.

Sound complicated? It kind of was. The set-up was simple, though. With Logan Roy’s deal to clinch PGM very much on, the Pearces asked the wider Roy family to spend a weekend with them at their estate, so that they could see and asses the Roys’ moral character first-hand.

Hence, each Roy had a role to play, rather like a football team. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) had to grapple with Naomi Pearce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), the unexpected family member who hitherto had a history of sitting things out business-wise. She had the potential to block the whole deal.

Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) also have their own targets, while Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) is the ‘straw man’, or patsy, for ATN… the man in line to take a fall. No one is comfortable with their roles, least of all Tom. But then even Logan (Brian Cox) will find himself tested during the course of the get-together.

As ever with Succession, barbed humour sat snuggly alongside extreme tension as well as the occasional moments of heartbreak. For as despicable as these characters can undoubtedly be to each other, the acting is so good that you can often see the hurt that such actions cause.

Snook, for example, excelled in this episode. Her paranoia at being played by her father festered and bubbled beneath the surface until it eventually exploded. Hence, when a Pearce family member dared to ask the million dollar question concerning a successor to Logan, a clearly put upon Shiv broke ranks to exclaim: “Dad, just tell them it’s going to be me.” The silence that followed was palpable. Looks were exchanged – either shocked or in disdain.

If Shiv ‘shit the bed’ figuratively, then there was still more faeces to come. Kendall managed to forge an unlikely bond with Naomi over their mutual addictions, resulting in a highly surprising romantic bond that seemed destined to end in good things for Kendall. But, the following morning, he woke up having, quite literally, shit the bed. And therein lies Kendall’s capacity to break your heart. If there were winners in this episode, then Kendall could count himself among them… but at what cost personally once more?

The hurt and anxiety that’s always inherent in Macfadyen’s Tom was also evident once more as he was thrown to the wolves by the wider Roy clan. His head had been on the chopping block even before Shiv’s outburst… but Tom can now expect to bear the brunt of Logan’s fury at Shiv’s outburst. As desperately unlikeable as some of Tom’s actions often can be, there is a feeling he knows how despicable he has become, and dislikes himself for it.

There was something quite sad in seeing him fight for his own worth against Shiv during a time out in the Pearce hallway, before then having to put his own ambition to one side, fleetingly, in order to build her back up – without ever coming close to having that kind of emotional support reciprocated.

But such are the nuances of Succession. They are so damn addictive. So cleverly written and portrayed.

By the time Logan had to face his challenge, the tension had reached boiling point. And for all of the Roys’ emotional failings and ethical shortcomings, it came down to a question of cash.

Would Logan agree to pay $1 billion more for his prized asset? And would he also be prepared to confirm Shiv as his successor? Those were the terms, as coldly laid out by Nan Pearce (a consistently excellent Cherry Jones), in a bid to put integrity before shock values… and old money ‘nobility’ before new money excess (her family even quoted Shakespeare along the way).

Would Logan have to roll over to get what he wanted? Not a chance. Logan bit back. He wouldn’t be bullied into announcing his successor. He would do it on his own time. That reply, alone, sent a shiver down the spine of an already frightened Shiv.

But then the final, telling line, delivered with such relish by Cox. A firm no. Followed by: “Do you want to know what my favourite Shakespeare passage is? Take the fucking money!”

With that, the deal appeared to have collapsed. The Roys departed, tails between their legs, and Logan was furious.

But such disappointment was fleeting. In the time it took the Roys to return to New York, the Pearces had capitulated and accepted the deal. Money had won, just as money always wins. Old money could continue to bask in the spoils of the takeover, while new money could revel in its ability to conquer all.

Cox’s Logan was cock-a-hoop with joy. Yet, there was no reprieve for Shiv. She has been left to stew on her mistakes, ever more mindful that – just like Kendall last season – the crown is beginning to slip from her grasp (if it was ever there in the first place).

But then another great joy of Succession is that we have no clue what’ll follow either. We’re hopelessly addicted to the Roys, thereby exposing that ruthless streak in ourselves, and thirsting for more time in their company.

Tern Haven was yet another tour-de-force in a series that just keeps getting better and better.

Read our verdict on the previous episode