kill list

Succession Power Rankings: In Cold Blood

Logan’s true heir, meet GoJo’s petty king. Photo: Graeme Hunter/HBO

Has Logan Roy been dead not quite two days? Time for a family trip!

Right in the middle of the Roy family’s darkest hour, Lukas Matsson and the GoJo gang have decided to disrupt their own corporate retreat in the name of making the Roys fly out to meet them and figure out whether … well, nobody’s sure why Matsson is doing this exactly. Probably it’s to get a sense of whether the Waystar and GoJo corporate cultures mesh? Or he’s just pulling their strings because he can? Or both are true, and he’s a dick? Lots of options!

Meanwhile, Connor’s taking care of funeral arrangements, Tom and Shiv are being flirty, and the nation of Norway is putting its best foot forward. Let’s find out who’s up (Matsson), down (Kendall), and entering the charts (a very sleepy robot) this week!


Lukas Matsson, petty king

Every so often, characters will allude to what a hungry young tyro Logan Roy was back in the day, when he upended the print and TV industries with his appetite for cheap and tawdry news. Succession isn’t the kind of show to do whole flashback episodes — though if it wants to, I won’t complain! It’s all relentless forward momentum, yet this episode does take us back to Logan’s younger days in an extremely oblique fashion.

It’s not like Lukas Matsson is some incredible genius. It seems like he’s a great programmer, but when it comes to making business decisions or fostering corporate culture, he’s just following his gut. He has so much money and power that everybody has to dance to his tune. He’s just like Logan was back in the day. And when people try to push back against him, Lukas calls their bluff with a shitty little grin.

Lukas gets what he wants in this episode, which is mostly to push Kendall and Roman until they break. Does he really want ATN? On some level, he must know that it makes money, but on another level, he wants it because the idea of him having it prompts emotional reactions in the Roys. When he makes an offer too good to refuse — $192 per share — he makes it to the “old guard” even if under the guise of making it to Kendall and Roman. He’s pulling the CEBros’ strings and making them miserable. And there’s nothing they can do about it.


Roman Roy, sad little boy

Roman would surely tell me to rank him much, much lower this week. Matsson’s dicking around with Roman and his brother finally causes Romulus to break. In what might end up being Kieran Culkin’s Emmy clip, Roman issues an emotionally charged monologue, in which he admits to wanting to blow up the GoJo deal. He hates Matsson, he says. He’s furious that they’re in Norway when their dad has just died and Matsson didn’t even give them a week out of compassion. If Matsson tells the board what Roman said, he’ll insist it was a negotiating tactic, but it’s not. He really just hates the Swede that much.

Yet it is a negotiating tactic, even though Roman doesn’t intend it as such. It leads to Matsson making a deal so good that nobody can refuse it, even as Matsson is doing so in a manner that utterly destroys any illusions of authority Roman and Kendall have.

Sometimes, the winner on Succession is just the person who expresses something like an honest emotion and cuts through the withering fog of cynicism and irony. This season, more often than not, that has been Roman, and for both his accidental (and unwanted) business success and Culkin’s monster of a performance, he takes second place.


Shiv Roy, Logan’s true heir

I’ve remarked a few times this season that Shiv strikes me as the Roy who has absorbed the most of what made Logan such a good businessman: a kind of sociopathic self-regard masking itself as trying to do best by one’s family. And lo and behold, where Matsson finds Kendall and Roman lacking in the Logan Roy–likeness department, he compares Shiv to her dad semi-favorably. She shrinks a bit from the equvalency, but it does seem to tickle her.

Note that earlier in the episode, when Kendall and Roman are at loggerheads over whether to sell ATN, Shiv simply says to get rid of it. It’s a toxic asset. They don’t need it. (They should just keep one of their dad’s old sweaters. It’s “less racist.”) Sure, some of her decisiveness is likely driven by wanting to get back at Tom, but she does have decisiveness. After all, we know how often Logan’s decision-making was driven by spite!

Plus Matsson’s clearly into her, Shiv and Tom’s mild flirtation continues apace, and everyone will soon realize that all roads in this little scenario increasingly run through Shiv Roy. Maybe they won’t realize it before she takes control for herself. Wouldn’t that be something?


Ebba, keeper of secrets

I don’t actually know if Ebba, Matsson’s PR person and former lover, has a freezer full of the GoJo head’s blood. That story might have been a tactic from Matsson to suss out Shiv’s loyalties. But given how chipper Ebba seems about being stuck in a boys club that has, nevertheless, left her with a guaranteed cash settlement should things become so bad she has to walk, I’m choosing to believe that she has at least one blood brick.


Kendall Roy, paper doll

In the very first episode of Succession, Logan takes Kendall aside to give him a little advice: In the end, what matters most in negotiation is who has the bigger dick. (Metaphorically speaking. But possibly also literally speaking — this is Logan we’re talking about.) Kendall, who ditched the Vaulter negotiations for his father’s birthday party, looked weak. It doesn’t matter how many advanced degrees you have if you look weak.

Core to Succession’s argument is that any real success in business is mostly tied to dumb luck and a willingness to seem like a sociopath. Kendall has read every book on business there is, but he’s really bad at seeming sociopathic — even when he tries. “Kill List” sees him trying and trying to get the upper hand on Matsson and failing every time. When the deal is finally done, it’s in a manner that has cut him out entirely. Even if he seems like the hero, he has failed to assert his independence. His authority is paper-doll thin. Even Roman was more vital to the deal happening! In the end, Matsson just doesn’t give a shit, and Kendall does. That will be our sad CEBro’s undoing every time.


Tom Wambsgans, Minnesota-core

If anybody is going to have his tailspin halted by going to Norway, it’s Thomas Wambsgans, a known Minnesotan who almost certainly has some amount of Scandinavian heritage toddling around in his DNA somewhere. (Wambsgans, by the way, is a German surname, which is a thing that you and I just learned together!)

Does Tom pull out of freefall? Yes. By the end of the episode, he has learned that even though ATN is selling to GoJo, his name isn’t on the list of proposed cuts. He lives to fight another day, and he and Shiv are talking about getting dinner. Plus he’s maybe, probably, going to be a dad, even if he doesn’t know it yet. Do I know why Tom pulled out of freefall? Not really. He mostly embarasses himself on the Norway trip, trying too hard to fit in with the GoJo gang. Maybe his core Scandinavian-ness just shone through?

Shiv/Tom shipper forecast: 

Tom: Your earlobes are thick and chewy. They’re like barnacle meat. How was your little chat with Lukas?

Shiv: It was good. I mean, it was boring, but he’s very conventionally attractive. He’s broad. I used to think you were broad, but compared to him, you’re wiry. You’re like a fucking spelunker.

Swoon! Things are looking up for my fav couple!


The many strapping men of GoJo

They’re all, like, lumberjacks and Olympians. Truly, Scandinavia is sending its best! Speaking of …



Sweeping outdoor vistas! Aerial trams! Beautiful saunas! Lush mountain trails! I’ve never been to Norway, but this episode (along with the wonderful 2021 film The Worst Person in the World) convinced me that I need to book a trip immediately.


Gerri and Karolina, survivors

The aforementioned list of proposed cuts that doesn’t have Tom on it? It doesn’t have Gerri or Karolina either! Now, Gerri is reading the list, so she could be doing some sort of psyops or something, but this show generally doesn’t do big, twisty reveals. I think it’s safe to assume that Gerri’s whole tenacity-of-the-cockroach thing is going to find her firmly ensconced in GoJo’s legal team and that Karolina will help Ebba prepare a scathing memoir while carefully cataloging all of Lukas’s blood. Things look good for the women of Waystar!


Greg Hirsch, another family member??

Maybe the episode’s funniest scene involves Greg sidling up to a gathering of GoJo folks and Tom, offering some thoughts from what he has read in The Economist, then getting roasted by Lukas and his compatriots, who find it hysterical that there’s yet another Roy family member at the summit. Honestly, why is Greg there? Nobody can quite say!

Yet when Kendall needs to start spreading rumors that the deal is falling apart, who else can he turn to? If nothing else, Greg is available when you need plausible deniability that has a Roy-adjacent face stamped on it.

Also: “Quad squad” is kind of a cute nickname, and Kendall, Roman, and Shiv should be honored to be in said squad with Greg, who is on the smallest of upswings.


Connor and Willa, funeral planners

We get but a single cutaway scene with Connor and Willa, who have been left behind in Manhattan to line up Logan’s funeral, even as Connor’s upset he can’t be out there campaigning in the battleground states. Nevertheless, he’s going to do this job justice. He says he’ll “go in the embalming room and throw my weight around.” If there’s one place to make your voice heard, it’s an embalming room. Keep speaking up, Connor! America needs you!


The U.S., in its late-imperial period

Is France doomed? Who cares? According to Tom, not the U.S.! “We’re late imperial and we don’t know [if France is doomed], because we don’t want to know. We have our own Paris, and when it burns, we’ll build a new one.” USA! USA! USA!


Hugo, Karl, Frank, and others, the walking dead

You know who is on the list of potential cuts? Basically all of the guys in the old guard. On finding out, they react exactly as you might expect. (Hugo: “That slalom motherfucker!” Frank: “Naturally, it’s just speculation.” Karl: *raises champagne glass* “Let the good times roll!”) Nicholas Britell’s score turns solemn and contemplative during this scene. Most of these people are absurdly rich, and they will surely be fine with their golden parachutes. But they’re still losing their jobs. Who will they be without those jobs? And for Hugo, who has a daughter who might be guilty of insider trading, will losing his job be the beginning of something much worse?

The scene serves as a synecdoche for the many, many people who will lose their jobs because of this merger, the majority of whom won’t be able to afford it. The working and middle classes exist on the extreme periphery of Succession, but the show always knows they’re there, and while the Roys and Matsson play games, real lives are caught in the middle. Were I a betting girl, I’d say this idea will move closer to the show’s center as the series wraps.


Logan’s corpse, possibly in a kilt

While the impulse is understandable, it seems like a bad idea to put the old man in a kilt for a funeral. Let’s hope Connor can stop that from happening, or else Logan’s ghost might awaken from his days-long slumber. Speaking of …


Kalispitron Hibernation

See the movie everybody’s talking about! When the robot Kalispitron is awakened from his hibernation, will anyone survive his wrath?

Critics are saying:

“It’s intriguing!” —Ebba

“It’s the big one. It needs to be, strategically. There’s a few issues.” —Kendall

“The first two hours of the movie is a sleeping robot, but we can fix it.” —Roman

“A triumph of experimental cinema! With a massive budget and an even bigger canvas, Kalispitron Hibernation refuses easy answers and welcomes audience bafflement across its three-hour run time. Oscars all around!” —Emily St. James

Succession Power Rankings: In Cold Blood