Spoilers follow for Succession season four, episode seven, “Tailgate Party.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that you could still interpret Cousin Greg as a bumbling, empathetic moron just trying to get by. The lankier Disgusting Brother started out Succession as the closest equivalent to an innocent, albeit one introduced puking through the eyes of a Doderick costume, and you could even argue that he provided the show with a much-needed source of earnestness. This is likely the quality that drove certain corners of the viewership to theorize Greg as the endgame for Succession: Either he’d rise to the top of Waystar Royco or become the ultimate arbiter of its destruction.
But that’s not where we seem to have ended up. By “Tailgate Party,” Greg’s transformation from bumbling outsider into artless corporate shill is near total. He’s become an incorrigible horndog who doesn’t second-guess directives to carry out a virtual mass firing or pressure a stage technician into doctoring a video for the purposes of investor manipulation.
He’s also become much less interesting to watch in these past seven episodes. Greg always served as a reliable source of comic relief and plot machinery for the show — who else is going to shred those cruise documents? — but there’s been a kind of repetitiveness to his appearances this final season. He’s still out there executing the will of other characters (see again: virtual mass firing, video doctoring) and drumming up more awkward situations to modulate the emotional flow of a scene (see: fornicating in Logan’s apartment, attempting to cozy up to Matsson’s crew), but none of it feels particularly additive to his internal narrative. At this point, Cousin Greg is little more than a human joke prop.
Which is a bummer, because I dare say Greg was once fairly dynamic as a character. At the outset of Succession, he played a fleeting role as an ostensible audience surrogate, functioning as a kind of semi-relatable yardstick upon which you could project empathy as he dimly stumbles through the ornate Roy family history yet to be understood by us. To some extent, his is an arc of corporate ascent, as he weasels his way through the tiers of power in part due to relentless strategic association. He found a place in the dramatic firmament as the Guildenstern to Tom’s Rosencrantz, with whom he shares an outsider status and forms a genuine (though semi-abusive) bond. It was actually pretty exciting to see him align with Kendall, who was among the first to notice the cousin’s shrewdness. “Greg the motherfucking egg,” says Kendall in “No One Is Ever Missing,” after Greg indicates he had copied the documents proving Waystar Royco leadership’s full knowledge of the cruise scandal. “You little Machiavellian fuck. I see you.” Those moments suggested flashes of something possibly larger behind his blank-faced demeanor, inspiring a sense of potential within Greg as a character. Yes, maybe he could become smart and savvy enough to work his way up the succession chain.
Alas, not so. It’s entirely possible that we’ve come to the endpoint of Greg’s character development in the series, which seems to land on one defining trait: his moral pliability. My colleague Nate Jones once described him as “human tofu,” referring to the bald-faced manner in which he’s eager to adopt the viewpoint, flavor, and objectives of any party that could grant him some modicum of power. This season, we see it the most in “Honeymoon States,” as he drifts about trying to find a foothold in the post-Logan era. “Oh, God, here come the waterworks,” he says, in his half-hearted way of emoting, attempting to ingratiate himself with Marcia as they watch Kerry’s breakdown.
You could argue that Greg’s narrative arc additionally corresponds with a moral descent from relative innocence into corporate “banality of evil” territory. But that would depend on you believing he had much moral fiber to begin with. Let’s not forget that prior to the events of the show, Cousin Greg already stood to become quite rich — that is, until Ewan, his grandfather and Logan’s brother, diverted his hefty inheritance to Greenpeace as penalty for Greg throwing his lot in with the Waystar Royco crew. Which is to say, Cousin Greg chose this life, and faced with Ewan’s ultimatum, he kept choosing it.
This article originally appeared in Succession Club, our subscriber-exclusive newsletter obsessing over all the minutaie of the final season. Existing subscribers can visit this page to sign up. If you’re not a subscriber yet, get started here.
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