With season three of Succession now in the books, Vulture is returning to where it all began with weekly recaps of season one. Rewatch along with us and check back every Sunday night for the next pair of episodes.
Let’s pause to consider the terrible but unavoidable cognitive dissonance facing the Roy children in “Shit Show at the Fuck Factory.” Their father has suffered what could be a stroke or a brain hemorrhage or an aneurism or whatever Google suggests has caused him to lose consciousness and wind up in the ICU. And so, naturally, Kendall, Roman, Shiv, and Connor are facing the very real possibility that their 80-year-old father might not recover. At the same time, Waystar is a family business, so they have to have an uncomfortable conversation about who might take over in the event that their dad dies. And they have to get a statement out before the markets open, lest the shareholders panic.
For the record, each of them seems upset about what’s happened to Logan. Briefly. Kendall appears to get choked up on the ride to the hospital. But there’s opportunity in this crisis, too, and that consumes them through 98 percent of this tense episode, which uses the waiting rooms and suites of a hospital as a pressure cooker for family drama. The Roy siblings want to make sure that dad has the best possible care: The ICU doesn’t seem fancy enough! Shiv is on the horn with a better doctor who can surely give them a more acceptable diagnosis! (Marcia, for her part, flatly rejects such interventions.) But really, Logan’s incapacitation means the cat’s away and the bungling idiot mice will play.
The first thing to do, in Kendall’s mind, is to reverse all of Logan’s explicit wishes, particularly when it comes to Kendall running the company. Who knows what kind of mental state he was in when he expressed a total lack of confidence in his son, right? “Words are just nothing, complicated airflow,” he says of his father’s wishes, and now’s the time to reassure investors that another Roy can take charge and lead the family firm into the future. The small problem for Kendall is that no one respects him, much less fears him, so when he wakes up Lawrence from Vaulter to order him to not cover company business — “Your pecker’s in my pocket,” he warns — Lawrence immediately orders a hit piece whose unflattering headline is the title of this episode.
The question of who takes over is far from settled, however. Shiv offers her opinion in what she believes is her dad’s voice: “You lack killer instinct. You’re wet. You’re green. You’re intellectually insecure. You’re not emotionally strong enough. You have addiction issues.” But then, Shiv herself isn’t a great candidate because she hasn’t had any kind of role within the company. Roman, perhaps the most sycophantic of the siblings when it comes to Logan, is better positioned within the company, but Kendall calls him a “dipshit,” which seems like a fair assessment. When Shiv and Roman break away to quietly confer on the matter, Roman slaps Shiv in the face and she throws him against the wall. To paraphrase Kendall, “the socioeconomic health of multiple continents” may fall to these dumdums, which is not what anyone wants. The show may be called Succession, but there’s no one fit for the throne.
It’s possible that no one should want it anyway. When Kendall and Roman come to the conclusion that they, as bros, should be CEO and COO — “We’re the ones with the nuts to fucking revolutionize,” says Kendall — the older executives nod at the news, but Waystar general counsel Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron) immediately takes Kendall aside to tell him what he’s won. The company is carrying $3 billion in debt, owed to a deal on parks expansion that Logan made in the ’80s, and his creditors will come calling if the stock price dips below $130 a share — which seems certain to happen if Logan dies and Kendall takes the helm. It’s a poison pill that Gerri herself wasn’t willing to swallow, and now Kendall, in his hubris, stands to inherit an empire that will immediately crumble at his feet.
And yet the stakes are arguably higher for poor Cousin Greg, who believes Logan has offered him a job of some kind, but in the meantime only has $20 left in his wallet — a bill Shiv yoinks in order to buy herself a soda. When Marcia asks him to go back to her home and fetch Logan’s PJs and slippers — a favor mostly orchestrated to get this weird doofus out of her orbit for a while — Greg doesn’t have the money to pay cab fare. This simple task turns into an odyssey when Roman asks Greg to bring back the contracts for the family trust, which he wants signed to surprise the old man when he awakes, but Shiv, who doesn’t want to sign, asks Greg to pretend he couldn’t find them. “What’s the chain of command here?” Greg asks Shiv. “Are you the more senior sibling?” In the end, it doesn’t matter. Greg’s no-win situation becomes an accidental win, which seems true to a kid who stays in the picture, even though he doesn’t belong there.
“Shit Show at the Fuck Factory” seems like an unusual choice for the second episode of a series, if only because Succession promises to be about corporate and familial wrangling, but detours away from the expected boardrooms and penthouses of New York. But it works brilliantly for that same reason: The Roys are thrown into an environment that they immediately (and stupidly) consider unsuitable, but nonetheless convert it into a base of operations. Logan’s possible death is a well-planned-for corporate event, with all sorts of press and social-media obligations and markets to soothe.
But he doesn’t die. He wakes up. And he’s already furious about what happened in his absence.
• Though the show doesn’t make any obvious one-to-one comparisons to real-life media families, Roman grousing about “a good deal of rejoicing at our father’s demise” on social media screams Rupert Murdoch. It will not be a sober occasion on Twitter when Murdoch’s health declines.
• Tom’s efforts to propose to Shiv in this situation lead to two hilariously awkward moments, one where he talks to Marcia about asking an unconscious Logan for his blessing (“I know he can’t reply, but would he appreciate the gesture if he was told about it later?”) and the other when he takes a knee outside the hospital bathroom. Tom thinks that a proposal might lighten a sad occasion. Shiv counters, “I’m not gonna give you a blowjob when your dog dies.” Point Shiv.
• The siblings’ habit of slinging vicious one-liners at each other leads to a funny moment when Roman hits Kendall with a particularly savage insult (“I think what he meant to say was he wished mom gave birth to a can opener, because at least then it would be useful”) and then gives his sister a look like, “Too much?”
• The sterile hospital environment does not prevent Kendall from getting an erection when his ex-wife gives him a hug. Even his body is intent on humiliating him.