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Succession: Season 2, Episode 9 (DC) - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

THE stakes reached new heights for the key players in Succession as the end of its brilliant sophomore season looms large.

With control of Waystar hanging on a knife-edge, a whistle-blower has testified to a ‘cesspool of mis-management’ and ‘unexplained deaths’ at cruise division Brightstar, prompting the Roy family to be called before Congress.

This was the scenario that Logan Roy (Brian Cox) dreaded. But it was the very one that Shiv (Sarah Snook) had envisaged when seizing the opportunity to allow events to play out and have newly installed CEO Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter) take the heat for.

Alas, things don’t always go quite as planned. Rhea was certainly compromised. But she remains wily enough to see the future and so distanced herself from the hearing and from any subsequent attempts to silence the whistle-blowers.

Rather, it fell to Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) to sit before them, albeit with another carefully laid out plan: ‘Kill Bill’, the amiable retired head of the Adventure Parks division who had organised a ‘clean up of the cruise division, but who they would claim had not informed the family before doing so.

Once more, however, things didn’t go according to script. Under questioning from Senator Eavis (Eric Bogosian) Tom fluffed his lines, stumbling repeatedly when pushed over why chief wrong-doer Lester (aka Mo) was referred to as ‘Mo’. And then initially denying that he knew the identity of his friend and protégé Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) despite the fact he was sitting behind him.

The scenes were intensely humiliating but highly comical, as only Succession knows how. But they paved the way for the serious lies and betrayals that were to follow, as the Roys (on the back-foot following Tom’s testimony) went on the offensive.

Logan, for his part, appeared before the Senate to offer his ‘sincere’ apologies for the historical abuse, even going so far as to describe the day as the ‘worst’ of his life. He then handed over to son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) to take on Senator Eavis, which he did by turning the tables on his accuser and exposing his ‘vendetta’ against the Roys, as well as his hypocrisy in doing so.

Kendall’s verbal assault was deemed a media victory. But Logan knew it hadn’t been enough. There would have to be ‘a blood sacrifice’. And therein lies the new dilemma as the show approaches its climax. Who will be thrown under the bus? Will it be Tom, for his inept performance? Or maybe even Kendall, given how he betrayed his father in season one, and was fairly left to fend for himself by his dad before the Senate?

Nothing is off the table. No move too devious or ruthless. The Roys know how to survive, period.

And once more, we’re absolutely gripped. DC was a brilliant episode in so many ways. Primarily, it brought into play two seasons worth of cover-up and manoeuvring, while simultaneously shining a light on corporate abuse of power and culpability in the real world.

The small details of previous episodes came home to roost here, while providing the key players with room for important character growth. The Roy children, in particular, all seemed to step up to the plate in a time of crisis.

Kendall successfully took on Eavis and ‘won’; Shiv not only saw off the threat posed by Rhea but also reached out to one of the victims of the abuse and succeeded in getting her not to testify. And Roman (Kieran Culkin) travelled to Turkey to broker a deal that could be pivotal in saving Waystar. He seemed to be doing admirably well until apparently being taken ‘hostage’ in one of Succession‘s most unexpected and brilliantly bizarre turn of events.

Logan, meanwhile, continued his fall from titan status. He passed the buck before the Senate, despite having sold his sympathy so well. And when attempting to lure a dispirited and disgusted Rhea back to the family, after she turned down the CEO position, he merely succeeded in showing just how untrustworthy and back-stabbing he could be. The formerly formidable patriarch has been taken down a peg or two in recent weeks, as he struggled to have his own way.

Tom also had his moment, post hearing, in which he got to express his anger and frustration at being made scapegoat for the Roys, while Greg also had a go at venting too (only to be dismissed by Logan). But there are signs that even if one or both of these men are chosen as sacrificial lambs, they won’t go quietly.

Shiv, meanwhile, seems to be growing in stature with each episode, having wavered so spectacularly mid-series. Her ‘negotiation/intimidation’ of the primary Brighstar victim was a masterful piece of chess playing… courting trust, then removing some of it, but laying things out as they were. It was little wonder the victim decided to ‘side’ with Shiv, in the vague hope that she may be true to her word (about investigating and punishing those responsible), while also maintaining her own privacy and integrity [and legacy].

DC was a fantastically tense piece of television, intermittently punctuated with blistering wit. Even the hostage scenario, involving Roman, was filled with uncertainty, yet offset with laugh out loud moments of humour. Roman lost none of his ability to quip. But he also had the guile to fast-talk himself out of ‘danger’.

It never ceases to amaze just how dazzling the writing is on this show, or how note-perfect the performances are. DC was another masterpiece in a series already littered with them. The season finale, while sad to have arrived, promises multiple fireworks. But we can’t wait to witness the spectacle.

Read our review of the previous episode