Logan Roy is dead. But the sadistic games he made his children play growing up are still very much alive.
Looking at the multiple levels of humiliation that the Roy family has endured and the lengths the lifelong sycophants of Waystar-Royco will go to for approval, there's a misconception about the games in "Succession." There's an assumption that these tests of loyalty — like the infamous "Boar on the Floor" — have been cooked up by Logan and carried out multiple times. Thinking there's a traitor in his midst (it's Greg), Logan instructs his colleagues to run around the dining table on all fours, snorting and fighting over a sausage. They had all been hunting boar that day in Hungary, and Logan makes that game up on a whim. It's never something he's actually done before, although it hints at something much scarier. Logan has been inventing games for his children to play for years. With "Boar on the Floor," it's someone else's turn to grovel. And the kids, especially Roman, love watching every second of it.
In the series finale, another game is played to anoint Kendall as the new CEO. Logan isn't around to torture, poke, and prod his offspring anymore, so Shiv, Roman, and Kendall are allowed one final night of childhood innocence when they play "Meal Fit For a King." This is another game they've never played before, but it speaks to the state of arrested development they're all still in. Because of Logan's diabolical schemes, they've never really had a childhood. So they act out in childish ways at the worst possible times.
No wonder they're not "serious people." The problem is, their father made sure of that. They were always his future competition, not his children. For Kendall and Roman, they're still playing one game in particular: the "dog cage" game.
Inner And Outer Pain
In season 1, episode 8, "Prague," there's a crucial exchange between Kendall and Roman that gets to the heart of their hopelessly dysfunctional relationship. Roman confronts Kendall about an inhumane game they played as children where Kendall locked Roman up in a dog cage, forcing him to eat dog food out of a bowl like a cowering animal before he could be let out. Roman was only a four-year-old boy at the time, and the trauma of the "dog cage" game caused him to start wetting the bed and eventually led to Logan deciding to send Roman to military school. Roman has been on the defensive ever since and has never had the chance to properly deal with what happened.
Kendall remembers things differently, of course, saying that both brothers enjoyed the game and that Roman's accusations are completely off base. To him, it was fun, probably because he always came out as the top dog.
Did Logan know about the "dog cage" game, too? In "Prague," Connor recalls that Kendall and Roman enjoyed the game and that their father knew they were playing it. He adds that Logan looked at Kendall and Roman as two fighting dogs where the weaker one is punished and happier because of it.
That barbaric hierarchy is still being played out over and over again between both brothers, and finally comes to a head during a frightening embrace between Kendall and Roman in the series finale, "With Open Eyes."
At Peace With The Chaos
The complex dynamic between both siblings plays out in brutal fashion when Kendall reaches out to Roman and hugs him just before the board votes whether to go through with the GoJo merger or not. It's a touching, awkward bear hug that seems like a genuine show of affection, at least at first.
For two characters with so many levels of complexity, there needs to be some sort of explanation about their twisted brotherly love story and how their entire relationship is contained and exposed in that final, devastating embrace. Speaking with Variety, the finale's director, Mark Mylod, tried to break it all down to the best of his understanding:
"To me — and this is just my subjective opinion — the hug is a relief. It's a loving gesture. It's a brutal and self-serving loving gesture, but nonetheless I think it is a gift that Kendall is giving to Roman to give him the out that he unconsciously craves."
Before the hug turns into something decidedly more sinister, Mylod is absolutely right. Roman looks completely relieved to be welcomed into Kendall's arms. That is, until Roman realizes he's back in the cage again. Mylod continued:
"The awful sadomasochism of the moment is that what starts as a hug is a trap, once Roman realizes what Kendall is doing, that this hug is actually to tear those stitches apart."
The injuries Roman suffered after he recklessly confronted a crowd of angry ATN protestors become something entirely different when Kendall's grip tightens. The gash on his forehead becomes a symbol for the wound that Kendall keeps opening over and over again. It's a damning moment for Kendall, but it's a deeply cathartic moment for Roman that actually helps to set him free once and for all.
An Unburdened Roman
After a lifetime of a constant, never ending merry-go-round of abuse, Roman may finally be free of the Roy family mind games. There's a knowing hint of a smirk the last time we see Roman drinking a martini (Gerri's go-to cocktail) alone at a swank Manhattan bar. The nihilism that Roman showed by confronting the protestors in episode 9 was a form of punishment. After helping his family's amoral network get a fascist elected as President, Roman certainly deserves the licks he takes.
When Kendall hurts him all over again, it's a final gasp of relief after a lifetime of tension. "He deserves that pain, but that pain is also a relief from the responsibility of his destiny to be the CEO," Mark Mylod told Variety. By the end of "With Open Eyes," Roman's other siblings all have their own trappings to deal with. Shiv is stuck in a sham marriage still ensnared by the family business, Connor has to buy his way into being loved, and Kendall is a desperate cog without a wheel.
Roman is the only one that may actually find some semblance of contentment now that he's finally free of a life he subconsciously never wanted in the first place. That aside, Roman will always be suffering from middle child syndrome, so he most definitely still needs a hug.
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The post Succession Finale Director Explains That Violent Hug Between Kendall and Roman appeared first on /Film.