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Succession: Season 2, Episode 6 (Damage Control) - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

DAMAGE Control, the sixth episode of the stupendous second season of Succession, simmered beautifully for long periods, before exploding to life for a spectacular climax.

Jesse Armstrong’s drama cranked up the pressure on family patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and, in so doing, offered a masterclass in sustained tension. But he also dropped in moments of brilliant humour.

The main thrust of the episode took place at Argestes (‘See, Hear, Do, Be’), a prestigious conference for the rich and prosperous, at which ATN looked to rebrand and reposition itself as a better news deliverer, and which – more relevantly – Logan and his legal team looked to sign the deal with for the acquisition of PGM.

What the Roys hadn’t reckoned on, however, was the looming storm posed by an imminent article by New York magazine, designed to offer an expos√© on sexual misconduct in Waystar Royco’s cruise division. The potential for damage was akin to the iceberg hitting the Titanic, especially in terms of the PGM deal.

To add to the storm, media-mogul rivals Sandy Furness and Stewy, are also present, keen to upset the PGM deal so that they can further their own ambitions to buy Waystar.

What ensued was a high stakes chess match in which the Roys, for once, seemed always to be one step away from finding themselves in check-mate.

An attempt to strong-arm New York magazine, for example, backfired spectacularly and prompted the early online release of the story, thereby scuppering the imminent deal with PGM. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) also attempted to ‘reach out’ to Stewy in his own muddled way, to ward him off furthering his buy-out attempt, only to have the approach thrown back in his face.

What Damage Control did so brilliantly, however, was once again highlight the ongoing tussle between old money and new: as well as contemporary thinking against out-dated business models, thereby encompassing such hot button topics as the #MeToo movement.

The series has already touched upon #MeToo but in this episode the sins of the past came home to roost. The Roys may not have ever condoned the behaviour of some of their male employees, but they didn’t do anything to deter such practices either. Rather, in the case of Matthew Macfadyen’s hapless Tom, they sought to shred the evidence and bury it.

Now, though, they were forced to confront it. Shiv (Sarah Snook) opted for a swift condemnation and a moving on, whilst refusing to be the figurehead for any public commentary. Kendall, on the other hand, sought to take ownership of it and properly do right by the victims. Logan just wanted to find the quickest way forward to deal with it, so that he could concentrate on bringing home the PGM deal.

Needless to say, the family mis-handled the whole debacle. Kendall first broke ranks and opted to pursue his course of action, Shiv unwisely referred to her father as a ‘dinosaur’ (before back-tracking) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) once more found himself racing to catch up.

The beauty in the writing was echoed by the performances. As the tension built, so did individual pressure cooker situations. Shiv went and saw Rhea (Holly Hunter) to gauge PGM opinion. In fact, she all but dug her own grave, appearing hopelessly out of her depth as she attempted to play her own chess match with the far more wily Rhea.

The scene in question provided utterly gripping viewing as Rhea continually found a way to gain the upper hand over Shiv, while Shiv wriggled uncomfortably in her seat, eager to please the woman before her without undermining her own position, or risk garnering the wrath of her father any further. The two women played the scene beautifully.

But this was just a taster for what was to come. By the episode’s end, Logan blew. The pressure had become too much. With PGM on the verge of pulling out of the deal, mostly due to the indignation of Nan (Cherry Jones), and with his children continually bickering, Logan lashed out, physically and verbally.

Roman caught the worst of it (literally), being struck across the face by his father. But Shiv also saw her own position at the top of the tree once more dealt a potentially fatal blow. The impact of Logan’s meltdown was mesmerising, and contained small tells. Kendall, for instance, showed more backbone than ever before in standing up to Logan and defying him to strike Roman any further. It almost jolted him out of his subservience, but also prompted the question: would Roman have done the same for his brother if the shoe had been on the other foot?

Is there a way back for Shiv, now that she’s dropped yet another clanger?

The stakes have never seemed so high, for if the PGM deal cannot be closed, then the wolves may be able to move in for Waystar in general. Logan knows it. He despairs at the thought of it. Hence, the loss of cool as the episode came to its close, as a desperate Logan pursued Nan out of the conference centre in one final, fool-hardly attempt to salvage the deal.

But the power had shifted. Where Logan had held the upper hand by the end of the previous episode, he now cut a disconsolate, almost pathetic figure. And viewers were in new territory for him.

If those final moments marked Succession at its most potent and dramatic, then it’s also worth praising some of the more humourous, tension-dissipating scenes that came before: none more so than the brilliantly comic exchange between Tom (Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) about ATN’s new slogan: ‘we’re listening’.

As ever with this partnership, there was mirth amid the mayhem, as both men attempted to grapple with the implications of the ‘we’re listening’ faux pass and come up with a new, similarly sounding logo. Their decision to settle with ‘we hear for you’ (ambiguous message and all) was a master-stroke of comic timing… while the denouement of that joke, as Tom unveiled the logo at the conference (mis-spelt for heightened ineptitude) was brilliantly understated… but so wonderfully well played.

It’s this magical mix of humour and drama, of hot button issues versus strained family dynamics, and greed offset by tragedy, that makes Succession such essential, inspired viewing.

Read our verdict on the previous episode – Tern Haven