Season 3, Episode 8: ‘Chiantishire’
At the end of this week’s episode of “Succession,” Kendall Roy is floating on an inflatable raft in a swimming pool, face down and clearly intoxicated. From underwater, in a shot aimed toward the pool’s surface, we see Kendall drop his bottle of beer into the water. From the camera’s perspective, it appears his face is also submerged. He looks … dead?
Whether this is a literal or figurative death remains unresolved when the closing credits roll. (Surely the show wouldn’t kill off a major character in such an ambiguous way?) We do know, though, who is responsible — in a roundabout way — for putting Kendall into that pool. It’s the same people who brought him into this world: his mother, Caroline (Harriet Walter), and his father, Logan.
This week, Kendall joined his family in scenic Italy for the wedding of Caroline and her old flame Peter Munion (Pip Torrens). He appears to be on a mission to straighten out his life after last week’s calamitous birthday party. His hair is buzzed down to stubble — “stripping down,” he says — and he seems determined to make peace with his siblings and to settle his Waystar business.
But as soon as Kendall arrives, his mother pulls him aside and tells him about Peter’s awful “itinerary of events,” asking if her son can help divvy them up in such a way that he won’t be in the same space as Logan — per Logan’s request. That is the first blow to Kendall’s confidence.
The second comes when Kendall is talking with Comfry about some last-ditch opportunities to keep his crusade against corporate malfeasance alive in the media. A popular podcast is investigating “the Curse of the Roys” and would love to have him participate. The problem? The hosts are going to dig deep into all the family scandals … including the death of the cater-waiter whom the media thinks Logan bullied to death but whom Kendall actually drove into a lake at Shiv’s wedding.
The third strike to Kendall’s psyche — the finisher — comes when he has dinner with Logan. Kendall has given this meeting a lot of thought. He consulted with Logan’s doctor to make sure the menu fit with his dad’s restricted diet. (“Afraid I’m going to Jim Jones you with an olive?” Kendall jokes.) And he prepared a reasonable proposal. He will cash out of Waystar for two billion dollars while keeping one of the company’s media assets for himself. He also promises to stay out of Logan’s life forever. “I won’t even speak at your memorial,” he says.
But Logan won’t play along. He calls in Kendall’s autistic son, Iverson, to taste his food, to make sure it isn’t poisoned. This is icy not only because it demonstrates a lack of trust but also because Logan seems blithely willing to sacrifice his grandson. (In a further dig, he then asks Kendall of Iverson, “Is he getting better?”) And although he seemed willing to buy his son out before, he hesitates now that he has a counteroffer in hand.
This whole scene — intense and emotional — neatly encapsulates the whole Logan Roy mentality. He wants his family and his employees at his beck-and-call, but he doesn’t want to grant them any real boon. Whenever someone he is negotiating with seems satisfied, Logan gets restless.
Like nearly every other one of his corrosive personality traits, this combination of greed, envy and paranoia has been passed on to his children — and to Shiv, in particular. While Logan is having a miserable dinner with Kendall, Shiv is stuck at a “girls night” with Caroline and some of her future in-laws. The conversation she has with her mother is just as revealing about “the Curse of the Roys.”
Shiv has long kept Caroline on the list of childhood disappointments she had to overcome. But Caroline won’t let her get away with this revisionist history. In Shiv’s memory, her mother took a payout from Logan and then pushed her and her brothers to go live with their dad when she was 10 years old, all because Caroline didn’t want to play mommy any more. The real story? Shiv was 13; and she made an active decision to move in with Logan. (“I’ll have the carbonara and daddy,” is how her mother describes her daughter’s casual cruelty.)
This revelation fires up Shiv, who heads back to her room and tells Tom that she is ready to fight for the top Waystar job — and to have a baby with him. But their night of passion goes poorly, as she slips into a curious bit of dominatrix-style role play, which sees her seducing Tom while purring, “You’re not good enough for me,” and, “I don’t love you.”
The next day he wants to discuss this, wondering, “Should I maybe listen to things you say directly in my face when we’re at our most intimate?” But Shiv insists none of it should be taken seriously. (“What happens in Sex Vegas …?,” she offers weakly.) She also modifies their pregnancy plan, offering to freeze their embryos instead, and then wraps up the conversation with, “I may not love you, but I do love you.” Such is the way a Roy expresses affection.
This deep fickleness is evident also in the way Logan handles the continuing negotiations with Lukas Mattson and GoJo. At the start of this episode Logan brings Stewy and Sandi into the office to inform them about the acquisition, pretending it’s a courtesy but really wanting to rub it in their faces a little. But he also insists that he will kill the deal if they don’t like it; and truth be told, he is a little nervous about the way Mattson seems to be driving up his share price with reckless, emoji-filled tweets. (“I’m not used to negotiating via eggplant,” Logan sighs.)
So Roman is dispatched to the Mattson compound to find out whether the GoJo boss is mentally unstable or just making “a move.” The two men have an unsettling discussion about the thrill of failure; and Roman may have come away from this meeting with the impression that Mattson is a flake. But he hedges his bets with Logan regardless, telling his dad that their potential business partner really wants “a merger of equals” — something he figures will torpedo the deal.
Instead, surprisingly, Logan is open to the idea of letting GoJo be the acquirer while Waystar runs the business — so long as he knows that Mattson is “a serious person” and not “a Twitter panty flasher.” (“I can win any bout with a boxer,” Logan says. “But I don’t know how to knock out a clown.”)
What does give the old man pause, though, is that while Roman is celebrating what he thinks is another big win for himself, he accidentally texts a picture of his penis to his father, thinking that he is harassing Gerri. Now Logan has reason to question Roman, Gerri … really his whole command structure.
Amusingly, when Roman tries to explain the whole concept of sending photographs of genitalia, Logan reassures him that he is aware of this phenomenon, saying, “We do publish a number of popular newspapers.” This echoes something he says to Kendall as they wrap up their bitter meal together with nothing settled. Kendall tries to deliver a closing statement on his time at Waystar, telling his dad, “You won because you’re corrupt and so is the world,” and, “You’ve turned black bile into silver dollars.” Logan smirks and says, “Just noticed, did you?”
Logan counters Kendall’s self-righteousness first by standing up for his revolutionary vision for the news: “A bit of spice, a bit of fun, a bit of truth.” Then he stabs his son through the heart, referencing the dead waiter again by asking, “How long was that kid alive before he started sucking water?”
And so, as day follows night, Kendall ends up sucking water himself, mired in self-loathing in a Tuscan paradise. Dead or not, at this moment, he certainly isn’t alive.
Greg’s budding romance with Comfry seems to be stalling as he watches her getting constantly distracted by “phone stuff.” He says to Tom and Shiv, “I do wonder, is there depth there?” Following their suggestion, he decides to use his time with Comfry as a “date ladder” to something better and flirting with an honest-to-goodness European countess who is also the online brand ambassador for a fermented yogurt drink. But he gets flustered while talking to her, and the best he can think to say is that her beverage of choice is “a gut-cleansing treat.”
Everyone is very worried about the true intentions of Caroline’s beau, Peter — even the bride-to-be herself, who admits, “He is awful, I can obviously see that.” (Roman, pretending to be indignant: “That’s my stepfather you’re talking about.”)
In the past, through Kendall’s many coups and calamities, Roman and Shiv have maintained a special bond, connected by their shared relief that they are not their brother. That rapport now seems to be in jeopardy, thanks to Roman’s open glee at Shiv’s exile from the inner circle. He tries this week to win her back by recruiting her to help him take down Peter, but instead she asks — sincerely and bitterly — what is wrong with Roman. He mutters: “We’re working on it. An ongoing process.”
Leave it to Connor to ignore one of the cardinal rules of social etiquette as he drops to a knee in front of Willa: Never propose at a wedding.