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Succession: Season 2, Episode 8 (Dundee) - Review

Succession

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

POWER plays dominated the latest episode of Succession, empowering some, while apparently weakening others. And while sympathies have been drifting towards Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) in recent weeks, his own moves this week made him difficult to like while apparently showing that he has learned nothing from his recent troubles.

First, the power plays. And what made those so interesting was who made them. We’re used to seeing former PGM CEO Rhea (Holly Hunter) making a lot of them. Likewise, Logan Roy (Brian Cox). But while these two big-wigs certainly weren’t static, the biggest moves were made by those we might not necessarily have seen coming.

Shiv (Sarah Snook), for example, seemed to put a bad run of decisions behind her to learn fast and throw caution to the breeze in her bid to undermine Rhea and claim back what she feels is rightfully hers.

Early on, she struggled to gain any traction from her fellow family members, with brothers Kendall and Roman (Kieran Culkin) largely dismissive of her efforts. They were seemingly more content to laugh at her expense, only contributing minor bumps for Rhea to navigate.

She even failed to enlist the support of her husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), who seemed to feel he stood a better shot at career enhancement with Rhea at the helm of Waystar, rather than his own wife. But then, given recent events, that’s hardly surprising.

But undeterred, Shiv came into her own during the episode’s final moments. A storyline that had been bubbling beneath the surface, involving another wayward Waystar Parks employee about to go public with potentially existentially damaging revelations about malfeasance, provided her with an opportunity.

Moments after her father, Logan, had expressed his own doubts about Rhea to her, Shiv entered a huddle involving Gerri, Cyd and Frank, at which they discussed their next move in silencing the employee, fully aware that any new CEO of Waystar is “going to get ripped to shreds” should the revelations come out.

Shiv advised against doing anything, then endorsed Rhea as CEO to her father, who promptly confirmed Rhea as his successor. Just as Shiv had been thrown to the wolves last week, so now Rhea has unwittingly walked into a trap of Shiv’s making. It should be interesting to see what happens from here, given the potential damage that the revelations could bring to the company anyway, no matter who is in charge. And could husband Tom yet be made the scapegoat, by Rhea?

There were two more unlikely power plays in this episode. Firstly, Logan’s current wife, Marcia (Hiam Abbass), who not only made her feelings of dislike towards Rhea known to her (“when I lose, the other one will generally lose an eye or so”), but also her own disappointment in Logan for not keeping her in the loop about his plans for the business. She did this by walking out on Logan’s benefit evening moments before he was due to unveil his plaque.

Marcia has long been languishing in the shadows, a quiet but silently formidable presence. Here, she made a statement of intent: that she’s no pushover. She’s a survivor and a scrapper, equally capable of winning and losing, and equally capable of leaving her mark. Abbass was brilliantly menacing.

And then there was James Cromwell’s Ewan, Logan’s brother, whose presence at the party was a real pooper. Early on, Ewan advised his grandson, Greg (Nicholas Braun) to quit the company or face being written out of his own inheritance. His argument was persuasive, especially in how he described his brother: “He’s morally bankrupt. He’s a nothing man who may be more responsible for the death of this planet than any other single human being … there’s a persuasive argument to be made that he is worse than Hitler.”

But Logan, upon hearing this from Greg, dismissed his brother as “a fucking coward” and urged Greg to stick with him and rise. His own endorsement – “I like you, Greg” – was its own ringing endorsement.

Not done, however, Ewan then tormented Logan in person, informing him: “All those years [of] blaming yourself for [sister] Rose – that wasn’t your fault. This empire of shit… this is your fault… It’s time to pay up.”

Could it be that Ewan is backing the complaint against Waystar? Or is it that Ewan can see, from a distance, how clearly Logan’s empire seems to be crumbling around him, with the threat of a potential takeover still looming large. Certainly, he seems to know more about Logan’s ghosts (Rose?) than Logan dared try to express himself. Could Ewan yet become Logan’s fiercest opponent?

All of this left Logan himself looking surprisingly weak. The formidable man of “boar on the floor” was, at several points, reduced to his version of a gibbering wreck. Early on, for example, he struggled to put into words his feelings about returning to his Dundee roots, mumbling incoherently “it was so complicated … I don’t know what it was … what they say, you know…”

While he had little response to Marcia once she made her move. And he’s beginning to second guess himself about Rhea, once his family members exposed some of her foibles [not drinking, political allegiances, etc]. This was undoubtedly Logan appearing vulnerable… the cracks of the previous weeks of pressure starting to show, while the ghosts of past misdeeds threatening to overshadow his legacy. Cox, as ever, played it magnificently.

And then there was Kendall. After weeks of heart-breaking storylines that seemed to suggest he was the real heart and soul of the show, he went and royally screwed up on a decency level. First, there was the rap: a cringe-worthy ode to his father that even had his brother, Roman, climbing the walls with embarrassment.

But it came from a decent place… even a happy one. Kendall was in love, smitten with a lead actress he had met earlier at a theatre evening put on by Connor on behalf of his playwright girlfriend. He even persuaded said girlfriend to abandon her play so that she could be flown over to join him in Dundee.

Yet, when the moment came for her to ‘shine’ in front of his father, she failed. Kendall himself observed there was an overuse of the word ‘awesome’, before promoting an aid to fly her back to New York as quickly as possible. Romance dead. Actress’s career dead. In abandoning her so coldly, Kendall had effectively discarded another life just as recklessly as he had the waiter’s who wound up dead during his last trip to Britain. In effect, he had learned nothing.

Succession‘s sustained brilliance lies in this ability to continually wrong-foot viewers, to give people power and upper hands, only to have the floor pulled out from under them. Shiv, for instance, had appeared down and out just a week earlier, while Rhea was very much on the rise. Now, the positions seem reversed.

And while Kendall had a tight grip on our sympathies and loyalties, his actions in this episode forced us to pull back a bit. Was he descending a dark path in trying to keep so loyal to his father… assuming his worst traits rather than any good ones [if any exist].

Dundee was another busy, captivating episode. And we’ve not even mentioned Roman’s own play to impress his father: the purchasing of a Scottish football club with sought-after financier Eduard. The only trouble was, Roman bought Hearts FC, instead of his father’s beloved Hibs [Hearts’ fiercest rivals!], offering a moment of inadvertent hilarity and a rare opportunity [in this episode at least] for Logan to issue another scathing rebuke.

As always with Succession, there was so, so much to savour and to sink your teeth into.

Read our review of the previous episode

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