Succession recap: series three, episode two – could Kendall go any lower?

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 two.

After last week’s breathless opener, it was time for our second slice of corporate King Lear. Half the inner circle were still stuck in Sarajevo. The rest were playing mental chess in Manhattan. But who had the upper hand?

Here’s your blow-by-blow breakdown of episode two, titled Mass in Time of War …

As we rejoined the Waystar patriarch in his Bosnian exile, Logan Roy (Brian Cox) was feeling unusually rattled. His main worry was daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook), who’d gone off-grid after failing to secure the lawyer Logan wanted. He couldn’t afford any more family members turning on him. Surely his favourite child wasn’t joining brother Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) bloody revolution?

Logan moved to shore up the rest of his clan. He told Roman (Kieran Culkin) to keep a close eye on newly anointed interim CEO Gerri Kellman (J Smith-Cameron), explaining: “It just had to be Gerri, for today, for right now.” Still dangling the promise that Romulus’s time will come. It’s not often I catch myself going “aww” at Succession, but it was endearing to see Gerri taking a photo of her name on TV news to show her daughters – a reminder that she wasn’t born into this like the Roys.

Logan also instructed Hugo Baker (Fisher Stevens) to reach out to his estranged wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass). He even apologised to whipping boy Connor (Alan Ruck) for humiliating him in season two’s finale, assuring him: “You’re number one, kiddo, you know that.” Number four, more like, but needy Con looked content. For now.

Fallout from Kendall’s patricidal bomb-drop was being felt in New York. Cousin Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) was terrified he’d “tied his dick to a runaway train”, whining: “I’m too young to be in Congress so much.” If it is to be said, so it is.

Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) kept issuing lurid threats: “If you don’t come home to us, Logan’s going to fire a million poisonous spiders down your dicky.” These boys and their penile metaphors.

Kendall tried to settle Greg’s stomach by offering to hire him a lawyer. Gerri sent a company attorney to doorstep him, too. In desperation, Greg turned to grandfather Ewan (James Cromwell), who agreed to set him up with legal counsel. The old campaigner relishes any chance to strike a blow against his brother Logan, but sniffed at Kendall’s public display: “I found his performance histrionic and meretricious. The man’s a self-regarding popinjay.”

His liberal lawyer was more interested in pursuing an anti-capitalist agenda than protecting Greg. Another reminder that everyone in Jesse Armstrong’s dynastic drama, no matter how benevolent they appear, is out for themselves.

At his “hidey-hole” in ex-wife Rava’s spacious apartment – how long before she hoofs him out? – Kendall was behaving manically. His legal team were addressed with such cringey bro-isms as “Wassup!”, “Big things!” and “Mental giants!”

He’d been sent a Trojan horse by investor and college buddy Stewy Hosseini (Arian Moayed) but was baffled by its significance. This soon gave way to glee as sister “Shivvy” visited without the knowledge of husband Tom, let alone her father. Were the two smartest siblings about to team up against Papa Smurf?

He needed allies and wanted Shiv on side. She asked him to return to the family fold. High on his messiah complex, Kendall goaded Shiv that she was “scared to do the right thing”. She countered that his press conference was “self-aggrandising bullshit, a peacock fuckshow”.

Lawyer Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan) urgently needed to confer, but Kendall was more concerned with sibling squabbles than the imminent threat of a subpoena or FBI raid. He had bigger fish to fry – namely pranking Shiv by writing “fuck you” on a piece of A4, knowing she’d poke around for the incriminating documents. Is this all a game to him?

A civil war was no time to be estranged, so Logan summoned his third wife for peace talks. He was too arrogant to apologise for his affair with Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter) but this was as much business deal as reconciliation. And Marcia played hardball.

She’d publicly return to Logan’s side if she and her children were generously compensated. As her stony-faced lawyer said: “These are very large numbers but compared to an acrimonious divorce, announced ahead of a contested shareholder meeting …” Logan certainly married his match.

Roman swaggered in, ostensibly to spy on Shiv. Connor came too (“I thought I heard a clown car pulling up”). Cue the episode’s centrepiece, as the siblings retired to Kendall’s daughter’s room for some privacy. It was brilliantly apt that their adolescent bickering took place in a fairy-lit bedroom, perched on pouffes or sprawled on cuddly toy-strewn beds.

Kendall’s pitch in brief: “Let’s gang up on dad and take him down.” Kendall’s pitch in long form: detoxify the brand, leapfrog tech, become a global information hub, go supersonic. It was like a bizarre TED talk and he’d swallowed his own spin, believing this was some political new dawn.

He concluded: “It’s our time.” “You mean us? This multi-ethnic transgender alliance of twentysomething dreamers we got right here?” sneered Roman, who also found time for hilarious impressions of Kendall and Shiv. In return, she teased him about his sexual dysfunction, hitting his achilles heel as only siblings can.

They appeared to be considering it – until Kendall said he’d oversee the transition as CEO. Roman and Connor bridled. Shiv would only back him if she was Logan’s successor. Everyone took a break to consider their options.

Kendall excused himself from the sibling sit-down, saying he needed to hug his kids. It’s low to lie about that, even for a Roy. Instead, he hopped into a limo for a covert conflab with Stewie and Sandi Furness (Hope Davis) – the daughter of Logan’s rival media mogul Sandy (Larry Pine).

Sounding sickly, presumably still with syphilis (“the MySpace of STDs” – copyright Tom), Furness Snr joined by phone. Kendall offered them serious sway on the Waystar board in return for avoiding a contested shareholder vote. After knowing looks between Stewie and Sandi, they agreed on the condition that Logan was pushed out. Was Kendall about to pull this off?

Tom helped Shiv see that without a proper job at the firm, her position was precarious. Gerri counselled Roman against defecting, warning he’d “get burnt”. All it took was a box of doughnuts, sent by Logan to the kids’ tea party, to spook cowardly Connor. One by one, Kendall’s siblings scurried back to daddy.

Suffice to say Kendall didn’t take it well. He dismissed Connor as “irrelevant”, Roman as a “moron”. The most bitter vitriol was saved for Shiv, the one who really mattered: “Is it cowardice or avarice? It’s because you don’t take over, isn’t it?” He flailed for buttons to press, first claiming she was selling out the abuse victims, then ranting that it was only “her teats” that gave Shiv any value.

Like an entrepreneurial Alan Partridge, he was left shouting at his PA and shuffling into lawyer Lisa’s office, bowed, broken and alone again.

“We need to get back to the city,” decided Logan. “People need to see a bit of family unity.” Good luck with that. The ever-shrewd Marcia casually mentioned that he could use his knowledge of Kendall’s Chappaquiddick-style car crash to stop his takeover bid but Logan, who was culpable in the cover-up, demurred: “You drop some bombs, you get burned too.”

In a rare show of brotherly loyalty, Roman reassured him that Shiv hadn’t wobbled. Logan’s jet landed in NYC for an airstrip photo opportunity. Long-lens snappers captured the reunion embraces for “Captain Cuddles”. They didn’t spot any knives hidden behind backs.

Incumbent CEO Gerri is already looking precarious. Not only is Kendall on manoeuvres, but Shiv has been named president. Logan assured his beloved “Pinkie” that it wasn’t a vanity title. She’d add credibility before the shareholder meeting and be “my eyes and ears at the heart of everything through this shitstorm – but wearing a full chemical and biological suit going by the name of Gerri Kellman.” Slime puppy Roman’s not going to like that.

It has to be this from bon mot machine Roman: “Don’t threaten me, Gerri. I don’t have time to jerk off.”

Rejoin us next Monday for more Royster-doistering and good meme-age. In the meantime, please leave your thoughts and theories below.

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