(The bid for power has intensified in season 3 of "Succession," meaning now more than ever, anyone can come out on top. As the war rages on, we'll be tracking the rise and descent of the Roy's, their allies, and their never-ending list of enemies.)
Last week, amidst his swirling rage and frustration, Logan Roy (Brian Cox) quietly stared off into the distance, struck by a concerning thought: are my children rallying against me? As the Roy family dynamics slowly revealed themselves in season 1, "Succession" fans watched the children struggle under the weight of their father's power. And slowly, we came to believe that if they could just band together, perhaps they could overcome him and make a real grab for everything they want. So when they're finally in a room together, hashing that out for themselves, shouldn't we feel a sense of relief? Why then is "Mass in Time of War" one of the show's most disheartening episodes yet? Believe it or not, we may have underestimated Logan's power.
However simple this conversation may seem, Kendall's (Jeremy Strong) efforts to sway his siblings to his side are fruitless. Even when Logan's not in the room, his impression on their lives is unmistakable. Though they can gather and agree that their father is a monster — the man behind a company that's committed unforgivable crimes — Shiv (Sarah Snook) can't squash her longing for her father's approval. Roman (Kieran Culkin) has seen the news reports and understands all the cards stacked against his father, but can't envision a world where Logan doesn't manage a win. Even Kendall goes from arguing about their father's inevitable demise to asking his lawyer to prepare an uncharted flight to Venezuela, in case his father "just shuts this all down."
They're all torn between fear and twisted allegiance, unsure if they can actually pull off a team up. And worst of all, even if they could trump their complex feelings about their father, they can't bring themselves to trust one another. As the episode-long conversation unfolds, tension is thick in the air. Who will lead them to victory? Who deserves to be on top? When they actually stop bickering long enough to suss out some answers, they don't like what they hear. Sharing a win isn't as tantalizing as dominating alone. Can't imagine where they learned that lesson. So when "Mass in Time of War" comes to a close, here's where everyone shakes out:
10. Kendall's Missing Kids
Iverson and Sophie Roy are more than a figment of your imagination, I promise. They once inhabited the screen for silly antics such as dancing at a wedding, in wake of their father committing a murder or being slapped by Logan, as he approached new levels of unwell. Now they're just names tossed around by their father, who needs an excuse to escape his siblings so he can scheme elsewhere.
All things considered, these two are better off not sharing the screen with the rest of their family, who have nothing good to offer them. Rava (Natalie Gold) is no doubt taking great care of her children, far away from her ex-husband's manic insanity and the parade of suits tromping through her home. Mostly, I'm upset with myself for momentarily believing that Kendall was taking a break from climate change rants to actually hug his children — but as true fans recall, Kendall doesn't actually know how to give a hug. So all in all, it's a small loss for his kids, who will probably be okay later in life… Eventually. I mean, sure, Sophie's father needs a sec to remember her name, but once Rava finds a way to evict him from the premises, the kid has a pretty rad room to get back to.
9. Tom And Greg
Tom's (Matthew Macfadyen) fate may be tied to Shiv, but right now his closest mirror is Greg (Nicholas Braun). As the Roy battle rages on, these two outsiders teeter in the balance, trapped in a purgatory state that seems primed for disaster.
Tom and Greg are tied to powerful people, who may protect them out of some fondness but could just as easily toss them under the bus. Worst of all, the temperamental keepers of their fates are emotionally traumatized Roy's, leaning on them to lift their spirits. But they still have a few things going for them: Greg has just enough dirt on everyone else to keep himself relevant. The papers he provided caught Kendall's attention, and bought him a place in the inner circle. He's up to date on the latest spirals and chaos, and his connection to Tom also presents the possibility of currying favor with Logan. He shares the news of Shiv's arrival at Rava's apartment, which Tom ultimately keeps to himself, but who's to say this won't become a regular thing? Similarly, Tom is welcomed into Logan's war room and can feed Shiv the latest, whilst keeping her secrets to himself.
They're both still seen as disposable, if convenient to have around, but the little power they have has the potential to become more. They can rise higher in the ranks, at the expense of burning a few crucial bridges (Kendall? Logan? Shiv?), or they can continue to sink to the bottom. Greg is in slightly better standing right now — his options are abundant. Though he's not a particularly meaningful get for either Logan or Kendall, especially with the papers handed over, options are limited. Greg is one of few people on Kendall's side, so he'll happily provide him a lawyer. Meanwhile, Waystar still wants to cover its tracks — including lowly servants like Greg. Plus, our favorite lanky cousin has the ear of his grandfather Ewan (James Cromwell). As for Tom, he's caught between Logan and Shiv, following commands, doubting his position and trapped in a constant state of worry — if the company goes down, so might he. Jumping ship is an option, but comes at the expense of his marriage. Is that a sacrifice he can actually make?
On the bright side, Tom and Greg have each other — and the rapt attention of the entire audience, thrilled to see them share even a phone call.
Bonus points to Greg for being a relatable king: "Oh god, oh man, what now?"
8. Lisa, Jess, And The Rest Of Team Kendall
Shiv offered her good friend Lisa (Sanaa Lathan) a bitter farewell last week, capped with some condescending advice about not betting on Kendall. In the moment, she was mostly expressing her anger at being cast aside and losing to her brother… But she also had a point.
Much of the support Kendall has received comes from those on the outside looking in. Strangers glimpse the situation — Sandy and Stewy, FBI involvement, sexual assault accusations — and understand how dire Logan's situation is. Yet, everyone with the slightest insight knows better than to bet on the self-destructive prince of disaster, Kendall. He's gotten close to this victory many times before, and squandered the opportunity. Why should this be any different? Meanwhile, Logan Roy understands how to survive. Team Kendall is starting to see this for themselves. Everything is stacked in Kendall's favor, except for ya know, him. Kendall is his own biggest enemy — we see it as he puts his focus in all the wrong places, ignores his lawyer's advice, and snaps at his loyal assistant. If he continues down the path of anger and paranoia, he might just tank this for a third time. And bring them all down with him.
Comic relief shouldn't be confused with incompetence. "Succession" taught us that lesson through Roman and Cousin Greg, characters responsible for the biggest laughs and best memeification, but also snuck up on us as serious players in the game. As for Connor (Alan Ruck)… Well, calling him competent might be a stretch, but we shouldn't completely dismiss him.
For much of the episode, Connor is brushed aside: Roman rolls his eyes when his brother first arrives, noting, "I thought I heard a clown car pulling up." When they debate splitting the spoils of war, Connor is a leftover addition. Later, the harshest dismissal comes from the man who invited him over in the first place, as Kendall screams, "You're not wanted." In the grand scheme of things, having Connor on Kendall's team is a big get for the PR of his plan, but doesn't matter when it comes to the scheming and logistics. But that's still enough to get Connor in the room and involved in the discussion. And when he's the first to opt out of Kendall's alliance, his brother is quick to say it doesn't matter — but doesn't it? If even Connor can't muster the faith to bet on Kendall, why should anyone else?
Bonus points to Connor for understandable paranoia: "Dad has sent some perfectly innocent — and I'm sure safe to eat — doughnuts."
6. Kendall's Corporate Manifesto
This man was not kidding, he may have actually typed out a manifesto. Kendall quotes the hypothetical manifesto as he paces around Rava's house, uttering words like "omni-national" and phrases like "leapfrog tech." It's not hard to imagine him sharing a table with Bill Maher, talking through his plans to end climate change and save the world before ranting about how liberals are standing in the way of progress. Say what you will about Kendall's general insanity and the improbability of his ideas actually coming to fruition, but unfortunately, it all sounds pretty realistic. His ideas are absolute madness, that indeed sound dreamed up by the son of a multi-billionaire but … at least he has a plan? It's rooted in a desire for power rather than an ounce of actual empathy, but it's more than Roman, Shiv or even Logan have put out there.
So props to his little speech for taking up most of the episode's dialogue … even though it failed, in the end. But more on that below.
Girls count double now, but that's not enough to save Shiv from disaster.
Perhaps because she built a career outside of the company or because she wore the thin veneer of leaning liberal, Shiv used to stand apart from her family's constant struggle for power. She seemed the most competent and the least distracted by desperation — but all that changed when Logan promised her a real shot at the top. Though every fibre of her being knew not to trust him, she still did. Because she wanted it that badly. And since then, she's been on a constant downwards spiral. She continues to battle her worst impulses in "Mass in Time of War," weighing her options by which gives her the best opportunity to seize power. And sadly, neither of her options are great — Kendall wants to steal Waystar for himself, and Logan seems to believe he'll live forever to rule his empire. Both find her lack of experience glaring, so why hand it over? They want her vicious instincts, the ability to say they won her over, maybe most of all, bonus points for having a liberal-leaning woman at their side. But they don't want her to rule, so what's her path forward?
One of Kendall's oddest approaches to winning his sister over is telling her she's a bad person. He argues that he has replaced her as the morally upright sibling, saying, "Right one, I'm the real you." And while that could certainly use some unpacking, Shiv's response is secretly revealing. Flippantly, she replies,"Sure, you're the real me. And I'm the real you." And folks, she might be right. Shiv is trapped in the same position as Kendall, when we first met him: she believes herself capable and deserving to lead Waystar out of its current disaster. Worst yet, her father has promised it will go to her, and she still believes him. Mid-episode, she pulls a classic Kendall and calls Tom not for advice, but for affirmation: "You can see it, right?" Whether or not there's a place for her in her brother's new age reimagining of the company, she sticks with her father, knowing she has his attention and believing him to be her best bet.
In the end, Logan makes the same promise he's always made: you're next, just not right now. She gets a significant upgrade when he offers an actual position at the company, but it's only sort of real and mostly serves to keep her close. She's told that Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) is only CEO as a shield of protection for the family, but this only seems partially true. And it's not too far from what Logan told Roman at the top of the episode: it could be you, but Gerri was right for now. If Shiv actually believes him, then she was right — she's the new Kendall, trapped exactly where her father wants her.
Bonus points to Shiv for the harshest of burns: "You can't hide under the covers with Mommy. You love showing your pee-pee to everyone, but someday you're actually gonna have to f*** something."
4. Kendall AKA Plastic Jesus
Nothing but respect for our fearless leader, Kendall Roy, the man who will end corporate corruption and save the world from climate change. That's right folks, the messiah has returned and he's just another manic daddy's boy. But instead of performing grand miracles, he spits words like "epiphenomenal" and gathers his siblings to debate the best way to murder their father…. Metaphorically, of course.
In "Mass in Time of War," Kendall comes down from the crazed high he was riding in the season premiere, a little more leveled as he delivers his episode-long sales pitch. One by one, his siblings gather in his ex-wife's living room (and later in his daughter's bedroom), so he can sell them on Team Kendall. Unfortunately, a salesman he is not.
Kendall kicks things off by telling Shiv she's morally corrupt and spends the rest of the episode offering salvation. Join Team Kendall! Pay your dues and wash your hands for absolution! He argues that though he doesn't actually need them, he wants to offer them a way forward. Ya know, as one of his new lackeys. He'll split the spoils of course, but he wants to be King Potato and that's not up for debate. Above all, he tries to sell them on goodness — saving the world and doing the right thing. "Do you think human beings matter?" he asks Roman, as though he's never has an actual conversation with his brother before. Doing the right thing is all fun and good in theory, but that's not who the Roy's are. Kendall should know that — given his every action has been for ego, vengeance, and power — but he unfortunately believes he's a good person.
Perhaps if he opted to divide and conquer, he could've pitched the things his siblings actually want. Connor just wants a couple million bucks to help his campaign and save him from Broadway debt — an easy enough promise if Kendall actually manages a takeover. But Shiv and Roman want to rule the world, or at least Waystar, which he can't promise them both if they're in the same room. DIdn't he learn anything from his father? Lying is the only way to win. But Kendall never plays along and never even pretends their leadership is on the table. He pitches himself on top and them as his underlings, an idea they were primed to decline.
As things crumble, the Roy's hop off his crazy cruise one by one. In turn, Kendall crumbles and starts burning bridges — throwing hurtful words at everyone around him. And while he's on his little temper tantrum, the rest of us are left to wonder about the problem Logan has had with his son since season 1: Kendall isn't ready. And three seasons in, after making an explosive, cutthroat move, if Kendall isn't ready now, will he ever be?
Bonus points to Kendall for the line of the night: "Is it cowardice or avarice? I'm intrigued."
Extra bonus points for summing up the show: "I dunno what I think about dad… I love him, I hate him, I'm gonna outsource it to my therapist."
Point deduction for yelling at Jess (Juliana Canfield). We can forgive the literal murder he committed but not this.
3. Roman And Gerri (And Their Undying Love)
"Stick with me, Roman. We have something going." The Rockstar and the Mole Woman have something that very few characters on "Succession" can mirror: a fully functional partnership. Roman is acutely aware of his limitations, signing on for an apprenticeship under Gerri to turn his promising instincts into something greater. To become CEO, he needs to improve. He has the self-awareness to recognize that (very impressive, given the Roy's share a delusion of grandeur). Gerri has yet to lead him astray, her advice often getting him back in his father's good graces or else saving him from whatever emotional turmoil is bubbling beneath the surface.
And while Gerri is meant to be a raincoat for the Roy's, Roman offers a level of protection. He jumps to her defense (maybe a little too often, given Shiv's eagle eyes) and may actually have her best interest at heart. By far, the best thing this pair have going is the fact that their dynamic, for all its weirdness, is pretty straightforward: they hold a certain fondness for once another and communicate with ease. When Roman calls Gerri for advice, he knows she's compromised by self-interest but also trusts her promises. Unlike Shiv and Tom, an actual married couple, these two aren't in a constant state of opposition. They make each other better and both bring something to the table. Plus, they're a constant pleasure to watch.
Bonus points for romance: "Don't threaten me Gerri, I don't have time to jerk off."
Logan spends much of the episode scrambling. His son recently stabbed him in the back, his daughter is ghosting him, and his remaining two sons, (including first-pancake Connor) are getting tired of his bullsh*t. It doesn't help that his wife is on the verge of leaving him, returning now for the opportunity to drain a couple million bucks from his wallet, because the optics of a public divorce would be bad. The hits keep coming — he's also had to concede control of his power to waiting-in-the-wings Gerri and now, his children are meeting up to discuss how dead he is… And yet. Even while the FBI hover like crows and his empire is attacked on all fronts, Logan Roy still has the ability to order a box of doughnuts and strike fear into his children's hearts.
Without a doubt, Logan will spend much of the season uncomfortable, infuriated, and taking hit after hit, but he will always be a f***ing beast. As Roman astutely notes, these are relevant doughnuts. They prove that Logan's power is beyond money, public opinion, reputation, or even presence. He's made an impression and seared it into the minds of everyone in his life. Even when they have a blade to his throat, they can't help but doubt — can I actually pull this off?
If everyone believes he is all powerful, then he pretty much is. It won't be enough to keep him in the CEO chair or even keep him out of jail, but it's enough to stop his children from uniting in a sure victory. It's enough to stop them from succeeding, and enough to forever stunt their growth. Logan may lose in the end, and end up behind bars with his company ripped from his hands, but as long as he wields this power against his kids, they'll never be the ones succeeding against him.
Ice Queen Marcia (Hiam Abbass) has returned. Logan's estranged wife makes a grand entrance in this episode, returning when her husband is at his most desperate. She took a break from his bullsh*t back in season 2, when his sort-of romance with Rhea (Holly Hunter) peaked her anger. She delivered a harsh, "you're boring me," then ceased to exist. And now, with a devious glint in her eye, Marcia has returned. She's staking her claim on the infamous trust that started the series, taking a couple million dollars, securing the future of her children and, just for the fun of it, bringing up Kendall's dalliance with vehicular manslaughter. Marcia could light the whole world on fire, if she wanted to. And who would stop her?
Bonus points to Marcia for breaking Hugo's spirit: "She's a wh*re and it's not my problem if she wouldn't finish him."
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