With season three of Succession now in the books, Vulture is returning to where it all began with weekly recaps of season one.
The pre-credits sequence of “Pre-Nuptial” focuses on Tom Wambsgans, the great midwestern rube, as he prepares to marry into a family that’s already targeted him as a fall guy and a cuckold. There’s still some dopey, optimistic part of him who believes that Shiv, his wife-to-be, actually does care for him and that he can gain enough respect from Logan and the Roy siblings to get a significant foothold in the family business. But now, as he watches luxury car after luxury car pass over the bridge to the British castle where the event is taking place, Tom has reached a breaking point. His parents (and the Fly Guys!) are on a bus that’s too heavy for the bridge, so they’ll have to walk up the driveway, bags in hand. And his mom is a little thirsty.
Tom turns to his wedding planner and a season’s worth of fury gets unleashed. “I hope you’re happy now, Charlotte, because my mother is dying of thirst,” he says. “And I’ve just picked up a bag. I’m carrying a case on my wedding eve!” Never has a more ridiculous tantrum been thrown, but Charlotte happens to be someone that Tom can yell at without consequences, the underling his privilege allows him to abuse. He’s feeling his power, however pitifully limited, because that’s what marrying into the Roy family has earned him. He also needs everyone within shouting distance to know that the groom’s family will not be treated like paupers, but it’s too late for that. They’re hauling luggage like chumps.
Other cold realities make themselves apparent to Tom on his wedding eve. He can’t help but notice the way Nate escorts Shiv away for a talk with Gil, with his hand finding a familiar place on her lower back. And when Nate follows that up with an introduction, assuming that Shiv has mentioned him before, that seals it. Tom has “won the Shiv-off,” as Nate playfully phrases it, but even this dope from Minnesota can put one plus one together and figure out that Shiv’s colleague, who she insultingly refers to later as one of Kendall’s friends, is actively sleeping with her. Tom takes Shiv aside the night before the wedding to ask if their relationship is real, and he quietly resolves to live off the thin gruel of her assurances, all while she’s plugging him for information on the cruises scandal that might be useful to Gil. And he gives it to her, like the feckless twit she assumes him to be. Later, when Greg (or “Greg the Egg,” as we can now call him) tries to be a good friend by telling about seeing Nate and Shiv together, Tom tackles him. He will swallow this indignity like his own semen.
There’s no corner of these pre-wedding receptions that isn’t buzzing with terrible vibes, so much so that Caroline, mother to all the relevant siblings (sorry, Connor), has been asking guests, “How long do you give it?” Shiv has invited Gil and Nate to the wedding under the assumption that her father would not make the wedding, but she’s under pressure to deliver something incriminating about ATN, which keeps pushing its insinuations about Gil’s responsibility for his wife’s death. As savvy as Shiv appears, she never seems to realize that her last name is the only reason Gil wants her around as a consultant, and the position is staked on her rebellion against her dad. The cruises scandal is the wedge he needs to get ATN off his back, but Tom and Greg are on the hook now that the information is in the ether.
The biggest threat to everyone, however, is Kendall’s latest attempt to bury his father, which by his own incompetence could happen on the dad of his sister’s wedding. Feeling insecure about how the Canadian equity partners feel about him as CEO, Kendall tries to ask Frank about them, but the way he phrases the question makes it immediately obvious to Frank that he’s spearheading a hostile takeover of the company. So to keep the move from leaking to the press — and to take advantage of Logan’s decision to attend the wedding after all, thus putting him off the grid — Sandy makes it clear that the “bear hug” must happen right away. Kendall knows that his entire family will despise him for this wedding present, and Sandy can only cooly respond, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some dicks.”
The key scene in “Pre-Nuptial” has the Roy siblings, again minus Connor, sneaking off to the boat enclosure for a joint together and setting aside their differences for a moment. Roman gets in a small dig about Kendall being on the outside of the company, watching him do great things, but insults are the accepted tenor of Roy discourse, brushed off just as easily as they’re delivered. In this bittersweet few minutes, away from the toxic orbit of the wedding and their father, the three can act like real siblings and look remarkably comfortable doing it. Kendall, knowing this may be the last time he’ll ever have a moment like this with Roman and Shiv, tells them he’s happy for them and asks for a group hug.
Entering into the finale, there’s a sickening feeling that this reception is merely a warmup for the main event. Tom has resolved to marry a woman who’s not only having an affair, but who’s invited her lover to the ceremony. Kendall is about to lay siege to his family’s company, suspecting that his own role as CEO at Waystar post-takeover may be a sticking point for investors. Gaming out what might happen after the takeover bid is announced, Kendall initially sounds optimistic about how they might pull it off before giving further thought to his father. “Hostile, hostile, hostile,” he says. Given the nature of every single interaction in this nasty little episode, outside that respite with his siblings, he has every reason to expect the worst.
• Two things that are, in Tom’s words, “not very wedding-y”: 1. Greg brings up the fact that Roman is dating the woman who fellated him at his bachelor party. 2. Corporate coverup of crimes and institutionalized sexual abuse.
• Happy that The Fly Guys were forgiving enough to getting shut out of the bachelor party to make Tom’s destination wedding. Is another humiliating snub in the works?
• “Look at you. You’re very plausible.” Stewy has a head start as the most breezily savage character on Succession, but Caroline shows potential to gain ground. It only takes a couple of lines to cut poor Greg down to size, too, by bringing up an embarrassing childhood nickname and the fact that his dad “used to try to sleep with all the men in Sausalito.”
• Willa says Connor doesn’t do anything. Connor’s furious retort: “I’m on the verge of setting up a podcast on Napoleonic history.”
• Marcia does not say much, but when she does, the acid content is comparable to the blood in the Alien movies. Nothing like calling the bride-to-be “a spoiled slut” on the eve of her wedding.
• For a man who runs a right-wing propaganda network, Logan throws Gil a bone by gazing on the wedding castle and offering a toothy assessment of Great Britain: “This country’s nothing but an off-shore laundry for turning evil into hard currency. And now it just lies here, living off its capital, sucking in immigrants to turn it and stop it getting bedsores.”