Succession premiere recap: A family at war
It's been almost two years since we've seen the Roy family, and while we've gone through a worldwide pandemic and a contentious presidential election, season 3 picks up only a few days after wayward son Kendall (Emmy-winner Jeremy Strong) has blown the whistle on Waystar Royco's corporate malfeasance and made himself a pariah amongst the rest of his backstabbing family. And despite the COVID-related delays that led to the long gap between seasons, Succession hasn't lost a bit of its scalpel-sharp precision in dissecting this dysfunctional family's foibles.
After Kendall blows up Logan's (Brian Cox) plan for him to take the fall for the crimes of Waystar's travel division by going public, he retreats to a fancy bathroom to stave off a panic attack while his nervous co-conspirator, Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), bangs on the door. Meanwhile, Logan searches for a location that will let him figure out his plan of attack without a nasty extradition treaty hanging over his head. Though most of the family and the Waystar executives have stayed with Logan after the bombshell revelations, every single one of them is trying to figure out which is the winning side. Public disgrace is bad and all, but to be caught on the losing side just might mean jail time for many involved.
Gathering his courage, Kendall finally gets out of the bathtub and, along with Greg and Karolina (Dagmara Domińczyk), decides it's time for action. Hyped up by the public's reaction to his whistle-blowing bravery, Kendall lets the attention go straight to his head, assigning Greg to scan Twitter to find out what his "cultural temperature" is. When he realizes Karolina might be on Waystar's side, he kicks her off his team and replaces her with his loyal toady Jess Jordan (Juliana Canfield). Kendall and company spend much of the episode trapped in a company SUV, looking for somewhere to stage their corporate coup. Being stuck in a runaway SUV for so long leads Greg to make the inevitable OJ comparison. When Greg notes that the difference is they aren't murderers, Kendall shows his impulsiveness, asking, "Who said I never killed anyone? The Juice is loose!"
Since Kendall's place is crawling with reporters, they land at his ex-wife Rava's (Natalie Gold) apartment. Though Kendall tells her, unbelievably, that he did it all for her and the kids, even Rava is surprised that he finally got out under Logan's thumb. He's looking for her approval but having experienced Kendall's many flaws firsthand, she isn't sure her ex has what it takes to win this battle against his formidable father. And even though he's been surreptitiously calling Frank (Peter Friedman), Gerri (J. Smith Cameron), and Shiv (Sarah Snook) to join his side, they all have doubts as well.
While Kendall is obsessed with his cultural temperature, Logan's trying to cool off the hot water he's in politically. He seems a little out of it at the beginning of the episode, but once Kendall spurns his offer for a deal, he swears, "I'm going to grind his f---ing bones to make my bread." Snapping out of his funk, he calls everyone to action stations, just as Kendall did earlier with his team. He wants to know how they can maneuver their way out of trouble. Gerri wants them to cooperate with the authorities, but Roman (Kieran Culkin), appealing to his father's killer instincts, wants the opposite and believes they should use Kendall's substance abuse struggles against him. With her background, Shiv points out that it's too politically hot right now for Waystar not to cooperate, but she also doesn't want to get on her father's bad side. Even amid the chaos triggered by the former No. 1 Roy Boy, each of Logan's remaining children wrestle with each other for Daddy's approval.
They really need to know what kind of legal trouble they might be in, and the only one who can give them a read on that might be the President of the United States. The president in Succession's world is referred to only as the Raisin, and while he isn't Donald Trump, he is a Republican who's been on friendly terms with Logan due to the power he wields through the Fox News-like ATN. But the president, who's busy with his upcoming reelection, dodges the call, leaving Gerri to talk to presidential advisor Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Linda Emond). She warns they might be in danger from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and the deputy attorney general.
Logan's going to need a good lawyer, and his team winds up targeting Lisa Arthur (the excellent Sanaa Lathan), the same legal shark that Kendall has been circling and who also happens to be a friend of Shiv's. Since she's both a woman and a morally crusading lawyer, they believe her gravitas would give their defense the right political sheen. And that's the exact reason Kendall wants her to represent him as well. It's the tug of war over Lisa that sets up the first outright battle between the two opposing camps, and both sides want to win.
Though everyone on Logan's team has been waiting to board a plane while they discuss their legal options, Logan decides it might be best that Roman, Gerri, and Shiv return to New York while he, Frank, Karl (David Rasche), Hugo (Fisher Stevens), and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) will wait things out in extradition-less Sarajevo. As usual, oldest child Connor (Alan Ruck) is forgotten at first, but Logan gives him a nice head pat and tells him to hold down the fort while floating to Shiv that he may need to step back from the company for a bit. As visions of her as CEO dance before Shiv's eyes, Tom, who is in the most legal trouble out of everyone since he dealt directly with the cruise division coverup, tries to give her a comforting goodbye. But it rubs her the wrong way and their communication troubles from last season continue here. Tom is loyal to Shiv now, but will he continue to be when his feet really hit the fire?
Team Logan boards separate planes, and while Logan remains on war footing as he flies to Sarajevo, he realizes he might need to throw the vultures circling Waystar a bone by publicly stepping back as CEO while, of course, still controlling everything behind the scenes. After quickly quashing Karl and Frank as potential interim CEOs, Logan reveals that the choice is really between Gerri, Roman, and Shiv, but each has pros and cons, and he wants to hear everyone's arguments about what they are.
Trying to be a loyal husband, Tom immediately gives Shiv a heads-up on what's happening on his plane, and while she tries to keep it quiet from Roman and Gerri, both of them eventually find out. Gerri plays it cool but Roman shoots himself in the foot through a bumbling call to his father where he does a truly cringe-inducing job of pitching himself as CEO. Shiv, meanwhile, strikes out when she pays a visit to Lisa Arthur after they land in New York and discovers that not only will her friend not represent Waystar, but she's considering signing Kendall himself as a client.
Logan, now ensconced at a hotel in Sarajevo, eventually lands on the pragmatic and experienced Gerri as his choice, which he informs her of right after Roman has tried coming onto her again without success. Though Gerri wants to ignore Roman's lewd come-ons and remain professional, he seems stuck on her in a way he can't seem to define or fully express, and she seems to like having a Roy son orbiting around her no matter how damaged he is.
Though Roman realizes he torched his own shot with his father, he turns his disappointment to savage glee when he informs Shiv that she didn't get the position either. Shiv is pissed at being passed over once again and decides on a change of plans that leaves her out of contact with both Logan and Tom for the rest of the episode. She hung up on Kendall earlier when he tried to draw her to his side, but her father's continued disrespect might just lead her to switch teams at the most crucial moment of all.
But as Kendall sits down with his new PR consultant Berry (played by the musician Jihae) and her team, Kendall demonstrates what a nightmare he's going to be for anyone on his side. Before Berry can even communicate her plans for managing his PR, Kendall rambles on about corporate manifestos, a New York Times op-ed, and how his Twitter feed needs to be "off the hook," showing again how clueless he truly is. Despite the doubt on her face, Berry agrees to work with Kendall because "we like winners," and she thinks he's going to win this. Kendall, finally hearing what he wants to hear, agrees, "Hell, yeah."
After being visited by Shiv and duly rejecting her, Lisa Arthur makes her appearance at the apartment at the same time as Kendall's enabler girlfriend, Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), appears. Naomi continues to be a bad influence on him, and Rava can sense that as well, which she confirms later when Naomi has Greg uncork a precious bottle of Rava's wine and takes no responsibility for it. Kendall awkwardly leaves the two of them together while trying to convince Lisa to take on his case. Though he tries to concentrate, he's still all over the place. Lisa lays out the complications and the fact that they need to prevent Kendall from incriminating himself while they contact the authorities with the evidence he has in his possession. Kendall confesses that while he wants Logan out of the company, he doesn't want him in jail or to harm the company to the extent that the Roys lose control of it to Sandy and Stewy, who remain an unseen but prominent threat.
Though Kendall tells her he'll do whatever she wants him to do, he still seems to think he knows better than she does on what should be done. Ignoring these red flags, Lisa agrees to sign on as Kendall's lawyer, which Kendall, being the mature individual he is, rubs in his father's face through a call Logan avoids taking. Not being able to get in touch with Shiv when he gets the bad news about Lisa, Logan swears he's going to go full beast on Kendall now, but as he flees his hotel in Sarajevo, it's obvious the walls are starting to close in on him. But a desperate beast is also a dangerous one, and Kendall might not be prepared for the bloodshed this battle could draw.
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