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 six.
The shareholders’ meeting was done. The Raisin’s administration was dusted. Time to pick a new president. Here’s your itemised hotel bill for episode six, titled What It Takes …
Some Succession fans have grumbled that this season needed to get out of the boardrooms and back on location to vary the pace. Well, we finally got a change of scene, albeit not a terribly exotic one. The Roys were on a private jet (the precious PJs hadn’t been grounded just yet) to a secret summit in Virginia – a murky minibreak for the political elite, rightwing intellectuals and “corporate observers” to select the next president.
Logan Roy (Brian Cox) was recovered from piss-madness and back to full power. His cosy chortling with assistant Kerry (Zoë Winters, whose role is gradually growing in prominence) led son Roman (Kieran Culkin) to conclude: “They’re clearly fucking.” Strategy for the weekend? “Hit anti-tech positions hard” and put in a “new friend at the top” who would turn down the DoJ heat. Logan was prepared to play the victim by claiming the cruises scandal was being politicised and starting rumours that the deputy attorney general had a grudge. Boo-hoo. So unfair.
When Shiv (Sarah Snook) tried to clear the air after last week’s humiliation, Logan blamed his outburst on ill health. Shiv was wary of Roman being Waystar’s mouthpiece at such a gathering, smugly gloating: “I’m just glad we still have a company to act on behalf of, thanks to me.” Once again, Logan looked deeply unimpressed by his only daughter. The Romulus v Pinkie rivalry was building nicely.
“Hey, paper people!” Whistleblower Kendall (Jeremy Strong) was being prepped in a mock-interview by his legal team, cockily making light of their questions. His lawyer, Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan), tried to coach him but he instead gave her a wishlist: “Immunity for me, taskforce for Waystar, my dad deaded.”
With barely concealed frustration, Lisa outlined the parlous state of play. Waystar was now cooperating with the inquiry, or at least pretending to, and the incriminating documents weren’t as explosive as hoped. Kendall didn’t like the sound of this. He’d burned too many bridges for his corporate coup to flounder.
When the real thing came around, Kendall bridled at being cross-examined and accused the DoJ of fearing Logan. When Lisa gave him a talking-to, he liked that even less. Petulantly deciding she was “a toxic person”, Kendall fired her, and went back to planning his 40th birthday bash. Theme? “End Times: Weimar meets Carthage meets Dante meets AI and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.” Oh, Kendall.
“Hey Miss Libtard, how do you like spelunking in the elephant’s asshole?” Welcome to the Future Freedom Summit, run by major GOP donor Ron Petkus (estimable character actor Stephen Root). This was a backslapathon where “white cis males” joked about being cancelled and reassured each other it was “a safe space where you don’t have to pretend to like Hamilton”. Oh, how we fake-laughed.
“Is it just me,” asked Shiv, “or in a roomful of Timothy McVeighs, does Connor suddenly look like a Roosevelt?” Wannabe statesman Con (Alan Ruck) was happily schmoozing “Conheads”, while girlfriend Willa Ferreyra (Justine Lupe) rolled her eyes – not least when Petkus, AKA “Larry Lech”, took a shine to her. “We’re just showing a bit of collective leg,” smarmed Connor.
White House aide Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Linda Emond), AKA the Pantsuit Barnacle, blamed the Roys for toppling the Raisin. There were six months to election day and they needed a nominee. Bring on the political beauty parade.
From a gossipy Brit known only as “Glen the Brexit pervert”, Roman learned that his mother, Logan’s second wife Lady Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter), was remarrying. The siblings’ new stepfather-to-be was care-home CEO Peter Munion (Pip Torrens). Another Thick of It callback – remember Peter Mannion MP?
Naturally, Roman’s reaction was to lord it over Shiv and Ken because they didn’t know. They were not-very-cordially-invited to the couple’s wedding in Tuscany – a family outing which will presumably provide the series finale. As Logan said: “La-di-dah!”
Up in Logan’s palatial suite, “the ATN primary” was being conducted. But which candidate to endorse? The safe bet was incumbent VP Dave Boyer (Reed Birney) but he was dismissed by Shiv as a “second-rate individual” and by rivals as “Martin Van Boring”. There was also his lip-licking habit, which had shades of “Blinky Ben” from The Thick of It. Indeed, this entire episode rather recalled a Veep special. To secure ATN backing, Boyer promised to control Big Tech and rein in the DoJ. Logan left him hanging. Cue more nervous lip-licking.
“Dirty little pixie” Roman backed dark horse congressman Jeryd Mencken (Angels in America’s Justin Kirk), a far-right libertarian with whom he enjoyed edgy, almost flirtatious banter. Mencken rattled Roman when he dubbed Logan “Admiral Grope-Boat” and said he was “no longer relevant”. Yet Roman still saw Mencken as an “Overton window-shifter” with whom they could work if tamed. Fox News and Trump, anyone?
Shiv hated Mencken’s “YouTube provocateur bullshit aristo-populism”. She preferred silver fox Rick Salgado (Yul Vazquez), a centrist who cheekily promised to imprison her dad so she could become CEO. Connor called Salgado “Señor Dickless, captain of the Campa Bay Cuckaneers”, while Roman sneered that Shiv was merely being “woke” by supporting the Hispanic candidate.
As for Connor? “I like Connor Roy.” Con’s siblings were agog that he was even being considered. Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) eventually fronted up: “I owe it to my country to say you shouldn’t make Connor president.” Attaboy.
Shiv privately suggested they “pivot party” but there was no chance of Logan switching allegiance. As the debate heated up, she began to overreach, talking over her father and rowing with Roman. Once again, Logan looked unimpressed.
In their suite, Shiv and husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen, who has been quietly devastating this series) were sampling wine from their biodynamic vineyard. He wanted to discuss the prospect of jail time, and once again, Shiv closed him down. “I’m sorry,” Tom said. “Does my impending imprisonment bore you?” Short answer: yes, babes, a bit.
Shiv made conciliatory sexual advances but broody Tom rebuffed her, shrugging: “There’s not really any point when you’re still on contraception. It’s just like throwing cake batter at a brick wall.” Sad and sleepless, he took Greg to a nearby diner for “bland food training”. Worried he was about to get burned by Kendall, Greg was equally preoccupied with prison.
Heart-rendingly resigned to his fate now, Tom’s office nickname had gone from “Terminal Tom” to “the Christmas Tree” because crimes were being hung on him like ornaments. He agreed to take a bullet for Greg, letting him “hook your bauble of corporate wrongdoing on my branches”. The twisted bromance was back, baby.
Back in the diner of blandness, Kendall and Tom had a covert powwow. Ken’s case was weakening, which called for drastic measures. He offered Tom immunity from jail if he testified that Logan signed off on corporate criminality.
Tom wavered, then declined. (Better the meal ticket you know …) As he walked away, Kendall took a photo to prove they’d met. Tom returned to his five-star suite to help pick the next president. Kendall was left in a grotty roadside car park, wearing the black cap of self-loathing and alone again.
Logan played mind-games with Boyer, asking him to fire the deputy AG and bring over a can of Coke. Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Roman reached an understanding with Mencken despite – or perhaps because of – his verging-on-fascist views. Roman assured his father: “You came to market to buy a milk cow but we found ourselves a T rex. The guy is box office.”
When Mencken brought “the old battle-toad” that symbolic soft drink, kissing it for dramatic effect, his ascendancy to ATN approval was sealed. As Roman sipped from the soda can of victory, Shiv protested that Mencken was downright dangerous and her opinion counted for more, urging Logan to consider the political climate. The stubborn contrarian replied: “Climate said I was going down. Climate said I should just step aside. Guess I’m a climate denier.”
Next morning, it was time for a family photo with the chosen one. Shiv refused until Logan pulled rank, asking: “Are you part of this family or not?” Shiv buckled, with the caveat that she wouldn’t stand next to Mencken. As soon as the shutter clicked, she strode off with a face like thunder. The all-seeing Sauron eye of her father watched as she went.
Romulus continues to “creep on the come-up”. Logan began the episode saying he was “maturing” and ended by telling him: “You did good this weekend, son.”
Tom lays it out for Kendall: “My hunch is you’re going to get fucked. Because I’ve seen you get fucked a lot. And I’ve never seen Logan get fucked once.”
With so many power-players gathering, this episode recalled the Argestes business summit at the same point last season. At least Logan didn’t slap Roman this time.
This episode was directed by Succession regular Andrij Parekh, who last helmed was season two’s Hunting, AKA “the Boar on the Floor one”.
Rejoin us next Monday to dissect Kendall’s 40th birthday bash. In the meantime, paper people, please leave your thoughts and theories below.