With season three of Succession now in the books, Vulture is returning to where it all began with weekly recaps of season one.
The single-car accident that upends Kendall’s role in the “bear hug” that could wrest family control away from Waystar could be called a cheap deus ex machina if it hadn’t happened before. History has told us that it’s possible for a powerful person to swerve off a bridge with a less powerful person in the passenger seat and suffer no significant consequences for the passenger’s death. There’s no doubt series creator Jesse Armstrong had Teddy Kennedy and Chappaquiddick in mind when he conceived this clever little deus ex machina in “Nobody is Ever Missing,” because the other connections between Kennedy and Kendall are uncanny. Both were inebriated. Both were not used to driving because they had the wealth for chauffeurs. And both walked away from the accident without reporting it.
On that last part, Kennedy did plead guilty and received a two-month suspended sentence, along with losing the driver’s license he didn’t need for 16 months, but it didn’t prevent “the lion of the Senate” from another 40 years of public service. The difference is that Chappaquiddick at least trailed Kennedy around the rest of his life; for other rich guys like Kendall, such incidents are easier to sweep quietly under the rug, provided that daddy has some pull with the local authorities. The Roys have already moved on from the incident before the next morning’s brunch: “The family line is that we’re not going to let it spoil anything,” reports Greg. And, as for Logan, he’s prepared to spin a false narrative, which is how ATN makes it nut anyway. He’s ready to call it “a sad little detail at a lovely wedding where father and son are reconciled.” With a small catch, of course.
Kendall’s failure was an inevitably, though, because he’s Kendall. But Armstrong pulls off a surprise by not making low confidence in his business acumen his downfall, despite Canadian investment partners that call him “calamari cock ring” behind the back. Stewy and Sandy would think nothing about knifing him, either, to the point where Kendall actively expects it to happen; it would be like a Godfather-esque wedding scene, except instead of killing members of the Five Families, Stewy and Sandy would kill five members of the one family. The Roy children are forever vulnerable to the machinations of more clever people outside the family — see also: Gil Eavis with Shiv — and so some version of this formula seemed inevitable.
The trouble is, Kendall screwing up isn’t enough to eliminate the threat to Logan — even now, as father and son have their forced, damp reconciliation. That’s why Logan strikes two different poses in that remarkable scene where Kendall delivers the “big hug” letter to his father. With his son in the room, Logan expresses only fury: He mostly gives Kendall a withering glare, refusing even to take the envelope before asking, “Do you even know what you’re doing this for?!” (Kendall has no good answer to this because his actual reason is no different from how a needy child acts out against a bad parent.) But when Kendall leaves the room, Logan nearly collapses in the bathroom. His son is not a concern, but his partners are serious players, and this surprise attack, with its $140/share payday to investors, could be enough to work. Having Kendall back in the fold is just the beginning.
But other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? There’s still a wedding happening here, away from the tragedy that unfolds outside of it. And everyone seems to have a good time, with the notable exceptions of Roman, who has watched the hurried satellite launch he supervised blow up, and of the bride and groom, who have a belated negotiation about an open relationship on their wedding night. Shiv finally confesses to Tom what he already knew: she hasn’t been faithful to him. (“I’ve had a little number” is an elegant way to put it.) And what’s more, she isn’t fit for a monogamous marriage, which she calls “the whole box set death march.” Tom is able to toss that information in the same mental trash compactor where he suppressed his suspicions about her affair, because that’s who he is. In that respect, Shiv knew the man she wanted to marry.
The disconnect between them is nonetheless sad and unresolvable, even before Shiv confesses. During the series of deadly wedding-table speeches, Shiv speaks of Tom like she’s never considered him a lifelong romantic partner, but someone who could simply be relied upon, her “rock.” “You’re a good guy, Wambsgans,” she says, “and I like hanging out with you.” Contrast that with Tom’s speech, which is full of more typical wedding-day bromides, like “she’s my wife and she’s my life” and “it’s crazy to cry because I’m so happy now.” There’s a double meaning to that last line, though, in that Tom is still reeling from the certainty of Shiv’s infidelity and must feel like he’s being pushed into a marriage that’s already on a shaky foundation. What does she want from him anyway? Does she even love him?
“Nobody Is Ever Missing” ends with a father’s love, or at least a plausible approximation of it. Kendall is somehow less of a criminal mastermind than he is a business one, and his efforts to slip away from the watery scene of the crash and back into his cozy castle suite are typically haphazard. His footprints are probably deeply embedded in the mud of the riverbank, but that doesn’t matter much since the key card to open his room is left at the scene. And to get into the room, he has to smash a window, which cuts his wrist, and beyond that, someone witnessed him sneaking across the grounds in damp clothes. It’s an open-and-shut case — or would be if his father didn’t have firm local connections.
The scene is one of a wayward child retreating back into daddy’s arms, but the tenderness of that moment comes with the catch that Kendall can no longer be part of the siege on his father’s company. “This could be the defining moment of your life,” Logan tells Kendall as he gently presses him toward the only decision he could make. The “bear hug” is his father’s now, and he will have trouble wriggling away from it again, much as it might comfort him now. Rich kids get out of killing people. Not all of them can shake it from their conscience.
• “You’re my boy. You’re my number one boy.” Logan is sincere when he says this. Kendall may be the problem child among problem children, but he’s the one who occupies the penthouse suite in Logan’s head.
• Congrats to Willa for making a family photo! (Along with Roman’s new girlfriend, who also fellated the groom.)
• Stewy: “Only 15 percent of them, when it comes to it, actually shoot an undefended enemy soldier.” Ken: “He shot first.” This is a well-written show!
• Logan giving a perfectly nasty Logan-y rationale for why the pre-wedding service wasn’t Catholic: “Fucking all those kids. Hurts the brand.”
• Connor seizes his opportunity to “debate” politics with Gil: “I look at your face and, no offense, I see dead babies.” This is enough to convince Connor that running for President might be a more compelling project than possibly setting up a podcast on Napoleon.
• Roman ducking into a room to watch the launch on his phone, only to see it explode and slip the phone back into his jacket pocket? An instant GIF classic.
• Caroline to Shiv at the wedding table, savage: “You’re special, and, after my own fashion, I love you. So I just wanted to say that in public because I’m getting on, and I might not be in good enough health to say it when you remarry.”
• After the scene in “Austerlitz,” where Logan called Kendall “a nobody,” he follows up here with the same theme: “I’m sorry you’re a hothouse flower, but you’re nothing. You’re curdled cream.” Given the aura of despair that hangs over Kendall in quieter moments, there’s something almost lethal about those words.
• Connor’s “Great Dangers” are usury and onanism. Translation: “Unsecured debt and masturbation, the spilling of good seed.”
• Great moment where Kendall, even in his despair, recognizes Greg as a player for mentioning the documents he’d copied on the cruise scandal. “Greg the motherfucking egg,” says Kendall. “You little Machiavellian fuck.”