america decides

Succession Power Rankings: We Didn’t Start the Fire

Photo: HBO

What a stress-free and absolutely not triggering hour of television! It’s Election Night at the office and the kids are supposed to stay upstairs — no brass on the battlefield — lest they interfere with the otherwise totally objective, extremely trustworthy journalism that ATN famously provides for its viewers. The fate of democracy hangs in the balance, but also, crucially — one could say even more importantly — the Roy boys’ desire to blow up their deal with Matsson also hangs in the balance, and the only thing they have to do to look out for their best interests is tip the scales in favor of a fascist. What could go wrong? Kick up your dress shoes and see how everybody is faring at the end of “America Decides.”


Jeryd Mencken

Does it make you feel any better to know that he was going to win no matter what? As he told Roman, “If I lose, I want it correctly characterized as a huge victory.” I wish I were more optimistic about the monthslong legal process to fight for the 100,000 Milwaukee votes that could’ve turned Wisconsin blue, but alas. It’s almost enough to make you think that the whole Electoral College model is undemocratic, even in a best-case scenario where no domestic terrorists set fire to a voting center, and we would be better off abolishing it so that all of our votes actually counted. Anyway, in the meantime, I guess we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing, which is working out great!


The ghost of Logan Roy

Very funny and a little bit sad to see all of the Roy children gut-checking their objectively horrendous decisions by asking themselves, and each other, “What would Dad do?” Ah, yes, Dad, that paragon of virtue! Shiv tries to convince Kendall that Logan wouldn’t side with Mencken; Roman says their dad would’ve done whatever he wanted. I don’t have a strong opinion about how Logan would’ve handled this, but I find it pretty impressive that he is basically dictating the results of a presidential election from beyond the grave.



It pains me to put Roman this high because (and I mean this with the highest of compliments to Kieran Culkin) this is the most annoying Roman has ever been. Just relentlessly, outrageously, “false flag false flag FALSE FLAG!!!” annoying. Every time he interrupted Shiv, I thought about the karaoke-bar scene when Logan is confronted with the fact that he used to beat his youngest son and Roman is like, “Everyone hit me, I’m fucking annoying.” Just in case you were still wondering: Does corporal punishment work? No, it does not, because Roman is STILL so fucking annoying. The only moment of the whole episode where I didn’t want to punch him in the face (Adult to adult! Not in a bad-parent way!) was when he saw Shiv crying after her confrontation with Tom and offered to have Tom killed.

Yet these rankings are not about my personal preferences. Unlike ATN, I take my responsibility to choose winners and losers here very seriously and I must do so with integrity, and therefore it is my duty to report that Roman ends the episode with the president-elect in his pocket, his more powerful sibling and co-CEO brother as an ally, and a top speaking slot at his father’s funeral on deck. While his brother is expending valuable energy wrestling with his inner demons, Roman seems content to categorize the events of this episode as “a good night of TV” in which “nothing happens.” Without Gerri there to guide him or rein in his worst impulses, Roman can just be a happy-go-lucky chaos agent with a phone full of 🍆🍆🇺🇸.



Kendall is in the top five because he’s still the CEO of Waystar and Waystar is in good with the president. But the gap between those public-facing wins and his internal despair makes his position extra-precarious. I’m starting to fear that Kendall, still flailing in his personal life — covert surveillance to show your kid, whom you still have not talked to, that you care about her?? Kendall, no — and absolutely lost at work, will not survive the season.

Sure, he technically emerges with a victory, but I’ll believe that Mencken is going to keep his word on the GoJo deal when I see it. Meanwhile, Kendall has betrayed his daughter, lost faith in his sister, and given up on his country, despite the fact that he does think “it is kind of a nice idea, all the different people together.” His apparently genuine attempt to bring some vulnerability to Shiv is immediately undermined by his discovery of her treachery; he has no one left who will tell him if he’s a good dad or even a good person, at least not anyone whose opinion he takes seriously. As he admits that he feels threatened by Roman’s relationship with Mencken, I write in my notes, Are daddy issues and brotherly damage seriously going to tip the scales in this not-democratic-anymore election despite the fact that a bunch of domestic terrorists TORCHED A VOTING CENTER, and the answer is yes, yes, a thousand times yes!



Tom “Well, Pam, You’re Not a Doctor” Wambsgans has a hot little health-care PSA about coke that you can take to the next buzzkill who tries to ruin your party in a bar bathroom: “It’s medically good for your brain! What are you saying, all Aztecs are stupid? Don’t be a racist little bitch about it.”



After a harrowing night on the town with Matsson downing “things that aren’t normally drinks” in some “unseemly venues,” Greg is demoted back to Gregging for Tom, which means filling his body with ever more problematic substances (cocaine, bodega sushi) before his hangover can subside.

But Greg’s lowly stature actually works in his favor this week, not just because he is spared public humiliation and blame — only Tom’s face, with a damning chyron beneath it, is plastered on TV screens at the end of the night. He also emerges with some valuable intel: Not only does he know that Matsson and Shiv have a thing, he also knows about Matsson’s “funky numbers” because Matsson confided in him during their night out. (Matsson’s explanation to Shiv for this indiscretion: “He was part of the conversation, as a normalist.”) As Tom says, information is like fine wine — “You store it, you hoard it, you save it for a special occasion, and then you smash someone’s face with it” — and it wouldn’t be the first time Greg bumbled into having the upper hand just because no one took him seriously enough to realize he could be a threat. And in a real just-following-orders way, it is Greg who delivers the Arizona call to the ATN control room, all but setting in motion the Mencken presidency.



I’d be more edgy about Connor’s extremely ominous concession speech — “America, be afraid. Be warned, for the Conheads are coming.” — if I took any of those Conheads seriously and understood what, exactly, they were coming for. Sure, he didn’t get the presidency, but he did get Slovenia! And a wife who is with him until the bitter end. (Connor insisting, “Maybe everyone voted for me, but we don’t know” and Willa whispering, “Schrodinger’s cat” … these two!)



So she didn’t avert a Mencken victory. At least she helped secure a decent position for her husband! Vienna for lunch and Venice for dinner, far from the rest of the Roys (for whom she seems to feel zero affection) and the fraying democracy she once called home. Not too bad!

I also love that Willa’s hair and styling has reached its inevitable conclusion, wherein she looks like she could easily be an ATN anchor. Was anyone else watching this coverage and imagining Kerry watching at home, sobbing into a takeout container? She could’ve been a contender!



Well … he tried? Tough to see the numbers clearly with wasabi and lemon LaCroix in your eye.



If Mencken is keeping his word, Matsson is screwed. But how reliable do we really think Mencken is? For now, I’m putting Matsson low only because he’s lost favor with the Roy boys, a.k.a. the Roys who currently have the power to make things happen.



Shiv has a classic girl problem: She can’t get away with the same tricks as her brothers. Whenever Kendall has lied to further what he believes is the Waystar cause — green-lighting the postmortem smearing of Logan in the press, for instance — it’s all well and “ends justify the means.” But Shiv doesn’t have the magic touch, possibly because she’s just not nearly as effective an operator as she thinks she is. When she gets caught in two very big lies — working with Matsson and only pretending to call Nate to get something solid from Jiménez about the GoJo deal — she is iced out of the sibling snugglefest. Already vulnerable as a not-co-CEO, Shiv screws herself over further by lying to the man whose theme song is literally “Honesty.” She doesn’t even really get to dominate Greg, whom she destroys in a delicious sidebar (in exchange for his silence on Matsson, “I offer to keep all your internal organs on your insides rather than I pull them out your asshole”) because before the night is through, Greg appears to snitch on her to Kendall.

I’ve always thought of Shiv as an Ivanka feminist — a woman who cares about being a woman insofar as it’s the Thing That Makes Her Special, but who also resents being a woman because she knows everyone would take her more seriously if she weren’t, and anyway, she doesn’t care about helping other women so much as she cares about advancing her own personal interests. But Election Night Shiv seems to have slightly more of a conscience, which, unfortunately for her, is a liability around these parts. It’s always impossible to say with these kids what the real motive is, and of course Shiv has more to gain with a Jiménez presidency, given her allegiance with Matsson and her ties to Nate. But still, I bought that she was also quite concerned about Mencken getting the nuclear codes.



The only thing Tom has going for him this episode is those good arches. They’ve been remarked upon! Everywhere else, the man is tumbling. He finds out that his estranged wife has a “business arrangement” with Matsson only to later learn, in a terrible exchange with Shiv, that she is pregnant — and he has been so fully mindfucked by their relationship that his immediate reaction is to ask if that’s even true or if she’s making it up as a tactic. I wasn’t sure Tom would go lower than his balcony work last week, but telling Shiv that she killed her own dad is … definitely lower! (Shiv’s perfect response: “Oh, yeah, sort of. That’s the part I’m going to remember.”) In other relationship news, Tom has to beg Greg to Greg for him again and then shame Greg into doing coke because he feels wounded that Greg would do coke with Matsson but not him. First his wife goes Team Matsson, and now his girlfriend?? It’s too much for one man to bear!

And as Mencken delivers his chilling victory speech, Tom is being blasted on TV for his “premature projections” about the election. Meanwhile, Tom’s on the outs with all the Roy siblings — I think despite Shiv’s betrayal, the brothers are still on her side of the divorce — which means he can’t exactly count on Roman to put in a good word with Hocus POTUS.



Literally nothing she does will make Kendall do the only thing she wants him to do, which is pick up the phone and call his own kid. After promising that he “won’t let the world push [my daughter to whom I have not spoken in many moons even though her grandpa just died],” Kendall goes ahead and does just that. Probably for the best that she didn’t make it to the office just to watch her ex betray his kid and country for the GoJo deal!


The ATN IT department

Your touchscreens go haywire on the air in the middle of a heated presidential Election Night? Somebody is definitely getting fired.



So, that was a tough loss. How do you feel after that?

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Succession Power Rankings: We Didn’t Start the Fire