Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Succession season three, which airs on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK. Do not read on unless you have watched episode seven.
Kendall’s big 4-0 turned out to be a big no-no. Here’s your full party postmortem for episode seven, titled Too Much Birthday …
At least he didn’t rap this time. We opened with Kendall (Jeremy Strong) rehearsing his rendition of Billy Joel’s Honesty – later covered by Beyoncé – for that night’s birthday bash. Even more worryingly, it was a high-concept performance involving messianic Kendall being hoisted aloft on a cross.
The venue was a shiny warehouse-style conference space. Because nothing says unbridled hedonism like escalators and glass walkways. He ran through the guestlist with his hangers-on, pretending he didn’t care if the “sibs” were coming. This party was going to “highly egalitarian”. Hence the heavily guarded VIP area.
Up the Royscraper, Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen, this season’s MVP) was scrolling through federal prisons, while the exec team debated the acquisition of tech firm Gojo, a deal first mentioned by Kendall in episode four. The discussion descended into yet another squabble between Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin). With Kendall ostracised, his younger siblings scrapping for supremacy has become the default setting.
First, though, fizz was served. Gerri Kellman (J Smith-Cameron) had heard from her DoJ contacts that Kendall had exaggerated the explosiveness of the incriminating documents. Waystar were likely to get away with a hefty fine, nothing custodial. Tom could close those browser tabs. He wasn’t going to jail. “I’ll remember,” growled Logan (Brian Cox). Tom offering himself up as “the blood sacrifice” might yet prove a smart play.
No longer “Terminal Tom”, he celebrated by visiting cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) in his broom cupboard. He proceeded to flip Greg’s desk and cathartically vandalise his office, before kissing him on the forehead. Tom couldn’t enjoy the moment without making it weird.
Slight snag: Gojo founder Lukas Matsson sent “sherpas” to the meeting instead. Furious Logan insisted the deal was off and PA Kerry (Zoë Winters) chimed in: “He thinks he’s a genius but he’s made one good piece of tech. Fuck him.” It was now accepted that Logan was having an affair with Kerry. Just the 50-year age gap, then.
Logan sanctioned vice-chair Frank Vernon (Peter Friedman) to look at acquiring rival news giant Pierce again, which felt like a retrograde move. Matsson was due to attend “Kenfest” that night, so Shiv and Roman agreed to go and court him. Logan gave messenger boy Romulus an envelope for Kendall. Something told me it wasn’t a Purple Ronnie card.
Party time! To enter, so to speak, guests walked through a pink “vulval art” tunnel, which hardly helped Roman’s Oedipal issues. The concept was a journey through Kendall’s life: from nursery, through childhood (He-Man lunchboxes, reconstruction of his treehouse), to his media career and burning down daddy’s office. He was particularly proud of a gallery of spoof newspaper front pages. Connor took umbrage at his headline – “Connor Roy elected president (of shitting his own bag)”, referring to soilage on a camping trip – and demanded it be taken down.
It was a theme park ride around Kendall’s unhappy upbringing. Can’t think why Zadie Smith and Chuck D didn’t show up. Not even Josh (Adrien Brody) or Stewy (Arian Moayed) found room in their iCals.
All series, Greg Sprinkles has been making eyes at Kendall’s PR assistant, Comfry (Dasha Nekrasova). Tom told Greg she was out of his league: “It’s like a haunted scarecrow asking out Jackie Onassis. She’s a goddess and you’re a 9ft Cro-Magnon man.” Thanks for the pep talk, wingman.
The leggy princeling’s ardour was further cooled when Comfry warned that she might have to orchestrate a smear campaign against him as part of the legal battle. Greg turned all gallant gentleman (“Thank you kindly, fair maiden”), recalling season two’s Senate hearing (“If it is to be said, so it is”).
When embittered Kendall warned off Greg from pursuing an employee, Greg limply punched a big screen showing the host’s image. This was turning into a John Hughes movie. Happily, imbued with party spirit, he asked anyway and Comfry said yes – partly as two-fingers up to Kendall. Greg admitted her acceptance might be down to “rancour or pique” but was too ecstatic to care. Where’s John Cusack with a boombox when you need him? All he had was Tom, gurning on a cocktail of happiness, envy and the wrong drugs.
Kendall was already thrumming with tension. The wheels came off when he opened that envelope from his father. A birthday card bore the message “Cash out and fuck off” with a share purchase document to sign, buying Kendall out of Waystar for $2bn. Kendall shakily dismissed it as a “Trojan mindfuck”. Girlfriend Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) suggested he take the money but he was far too embroiled in the family psychodrama.
When Kendall realised his siblings had only turned up to woo Matsson, the hurt host refused to let them into his VIP treehouse and schmoozed him himself. We finally met “the Odin of coding”, played by Alexander Skarsgård as a surly techbro only interested in the three Ps: “Privacy, pussy, pasta.”
Next came an awkward exchange between Ken and ex-wife Rava (Natalie Gold). Rava told Kendall their children made him a present, but when he looked for it it had gone awol. She also advised him to take the buyout – partly in the hope that Waystar would stop sending their goons to dig for dirt on his parenting.
The Ken-doll began to see his slo-mo car crash of a social gathering for what it was. He desperately suggested “rescuing the vibe” by roping in Springsteen or flying a jetpack through the retractable ceiling, but it was all in vain. He sweated the small stuff, demanding the DJ play from his approved playlist and becoming oddly obsessed with Connor’s refusal to take off his coat. Kendall told his team that it “shouldn’t look like an asshole’s birthday party” – although that’s precisely what it was. He cancelled pint-sized tribute act Tiny Wu-Tang Clan and pulled the plug on his plan to crucify Billy Joel. “That’s a fucking relief,” said PR consultant Berry (Jihae Kim) with faultless comic timing.
Our host headed to the gifting suite to find his kids’ missing present. After rummaging manically through the pile like a spoilt kid on Christmas morning, he wound up sobbing on the floor: “This is so pathetic. I wish I was … home.” Oh, Ken.
Roman blagged his way into the treehouse to track down Matsson. Gaming on his phone like an overgrown teenager, Matsson bluntly enquired: “When will your father die?” He had reservations about the prospect of battle-toad Logan looming over him, but Roman assured Matsson that his company would retain a separate corporate identity and that all communication with Waystar would go through him. Waystar’s legacy content library and Gojo’s killer streaming app were a match made in media heaven.
Roman suggested sealing their accord by pissing on much-maligned platform StarGo – a stunt that appealed to Matsson’s puerile side. They put Roman’s phone in the urinal, opened the app and Matsson “streamed” on to the landing page, which was still loading two minutes later. The snickering pair shook (unwashed) hands.
The scene continued the urinary theme of recent weeks – see “piss-mad” Logan a fortnight ago and Connor’s boast last week that he “pisses policy laser”. In fact, Succession’s tinkle fixation can be traced back to its very first episode, with Logan going on to pee on Kendall’s office carpet and protesters pelting him with plastic bagfuls of the stuff. Something you want to tell us, Jesse Armstrong?
Which was more heartbreaking? The missing present or the push? Puffed up with success and in full evil pixie mode, Roman goaded his siblings. Shiv was simmering with rage at being excluded from the Kendall buyout move, downing vodka, kicking off her shoes and dancing out her demons. Roman dubbed it “the dance of the sugar plum failure” and accused her of being secretly disappointed that Tom wasn’t prison-bound, meaning she’d still have to “share her apartment with the old meat wardrobe”. Probably some truth in that.
As Naomi led Kendall out, Roman turned his sights on the broken birthday boy. He freely admitted that Waystar were spying on Kendall’s kids and when Shiv said it had crossed a line, he dismissed them as “stuck-up cunts who can’t bear to see me win”. As a final flourish, Roman pushed over the departing Kendall, leaving him grovelling on the ground again.
We left Kendall on his apartment balcony, wrapped in a childhood blanket. For 25 sad seconds, the camera lingered on his haunted face. His party had been pooped. His lawsuit and self-delusion were crumbling. I’m increasingly worried for his welfare. Too much birthday indeed.
Roman continues his rise after bringing the Gojo deal back on track. Trouble is, it’s making him insufferable.
Party host Kendall smugly asked his siblings “Who isn’t here?” to which they replied: “Your dad, your mum, your wife and kids, any real friends.” Brutal.
Rejoin us next Monday for a dysfunctional family trip to Tuscany. In the meantime, Tiny Wu-Tang Clan, please leave your thoughts and theories below.