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Succession S3E2: War is Coming & Its Going to be Ugly

“Mass in Time of War”

Photo: David M. Russell/HBO ©2020 HBO. All Rights Reserved

The following contains spoilers to Succession S3E2, “Mass in Time of War”


Succession S3E2, entitled “Mass in Time of War”, was everything I love about this series. Some of the sharpest dialogue on television (or film). Some of the most clever one-liners and hilarious setups I’ve seen anywhere. Family dynamics on full display, years of scar tissue and emotional abuse there for us to observe and dissect. And through all of the laughs and hi-jinx, there’s this dramatic tension, this game being played on a larger level with very high stakes. As always, we’re about to get into heavy spoiler territory, so if you need a refresher on last week, you can click here and if you haven’t seen Succession S3E2, you’ve been warned.

It’s a Family Thing

This episode was built around a rare union of the Roy siblings, Connor included, without the presence of their father. Succession wisely refrains from having all of the siblings alone together too often, treating it as an event of a certain importance. We learned here that Kendall had approached Shiv, Roman and Connor each to come, although they each had their own motives for accepting his invitation.

Kendall gave his siblings his best pitch to join him and take on their father. That this revolution, led by the adult Roy children, could represent a fundamental change in how the company operates. That they could reject their father’s selfish and corrupt business practices and lead a company free of the toxicity that has plagued them for as long as any of them could remember.

Season 2 of Succession especially had a ripped from the headlines feel and this conversation very much spoke to the way people are currently debating big business as a whole and what those business are doing / can get away with. There’s a desire from some to hold businesses more accountable and to clean up a culture of greed and corruption. Kendall was speaking to those conversations here. Whether or not he wanted to be a true advocate for change or if this position is one he thinks would be advantageous is unclear, but given who these people are, it’s likely the latter.

To Kill Dad or Not to Kill Dad

While Kendall was obviously all onboard with taking their father out, his siblings spent the episode trying to determine what the best move for them individually was. Shiv and Roman sought out the advice of those they trust the most—Shiv called Tom and Roman called Gerri. At various points in the episode, we saw them both come to the realization that if they listened to Kendall and banded together, they could take their father out. Kendall’s plan was solid but required unity.

Which is what makes Shiv, Roman and Connor’s decisions to not join Kendall so interesting. On the surface, it seemed for Shiv that her reasoning for not joining her brother is the realization that she wouldn’t be in a position to inherit power. Joining Kendall means a lifetime of playing second in command. Siding with her father means she can play the waiting game and position herself to be waiting in the wings when Logan does crumble.

For Roman, it was more complicated. Gerri got to him during their phone call. I wrote extensively last season about how Gerri is the only person Roman trusts, as a result of having absentee parents his whole life. Gerri is this mother-like figure to him, the one person who hasn’t lead him astray and genuinely seems to care about him. When Gerri pleaded with him to stay with her, that more than anything, was Roman’s reason for rejecting his brother’s proposition to him. His instincts told him to trust Gerri above any loyalty to any member of his family.

Roman calls Gerri for advice on Succession
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Connor, the eldest child and the one who has suffered the most at the hands of Logan, simply doesn’t want to be involved in something this dramatic. Is there a part of him that still wants to earn his father’s approval? Absolutely. For Connor, he knows he’s always the sidelines sibling, the one who will only ever get what’s given to him. And for him, what he wants most is to win his father’s love and affection. The only way to get that perhaps, is to not participate in the ending of his father’s career and remain in his comfortable, if not frustrating role on the sidelines.

And Then There Was Greg

Cousin Greg continues to occupy this role on the show where his awkwardness makes for some of the best comedy, yet he continues to drive the narrative forward. He’s much more than comic relief, even if he is hysterical. That strength of character writing is one of many examples why Succession is, to me, television’s best show today. S3E2 sees Greg crumbling under pressure and his own paranoia. Tom continues to torment Greg, in one of the most complex relationships on the show. Deep down, I do think Tom cares for Greg and is probably even protective over him to some extent, but Tom is swimming with the sharks, his wife Shiv included, and that means all bets are off.

Greg leaves Kendall’s makeshift war room at his ex-wife’s home to return to his apartment in an effort to regroup. He brings an attractive woman home with him, who we learned is in her first semester of law school. Greg asking this new law student questions about his potential legal jeopardy was funny enough in of itself, but when a corporate lawyer arrives and spooks Greg even more, he cranks up his requests for advice from her. “I dunno, I can text my professor if you want” was a line that could’ve been played much more over the top in a lesser show, but here it was done in a natural and subtle manner, seeming genuine and not sarcastic at all, which made the reality of Greg’s situation so much more funny.

Ewan and Greg await a lawyer on Succession
Photo: David M. Russell/HBO ©2020 HBO. All Rights Reserved

Of course, Greg would turn for help in this episode, from his grandfather Ewan, played by the formidable James Cromwell. Cromwell brings such a strong presence to the role, where you believe he’s the one person who can truly take on Logan Roy, his estranged brother. And take on Logan is exactly what he plans to do. Ewan does offer to help his grandson, setting him up with a lawyer who is every bit as anti-capitalist as he is. The obvious implication here is that Ewan is coming for his brother, but I don’t think this is good news for Kendall or Greg either. If Ewan is sending in a lawyer to dig up dirt on Logan to weaken him, it’s inevitable that Kendall will get caught up in this too. This episode went out of its way to tell us that Kendall always knew where the bodies were buried and doesn’t have the plausible deniability that his younger siblings do. If Logan goes down legally, there’s a good chance he’s taking Kendall with him. While Greg’s hands aren’t as dirty as others, his grandfather would certainly sacrifice him to take down his brother.

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha

Returning this week was Logan’s estranged wife, Marsha. I’ve always been a fan of the character and was hoping that the humiliation she suffered last season—watching her husband’s public affair with Rhea—wouldn’t be the end for her. At last, she is back, as part of a PR ploy to show Logan happily with his wife. Only his wife had a list of demands that all had to be met for her to play the role of happy wife on a public stage.

I do think that Marsha’s return, even if it was bought and paid for, emboldened Logan to some extent. Previous seasons have showed that he loves her, even if he doesn’t always respect her. Then again, he doesn’t respect anyone. I’m not sure if I see Marsha playing a role in his potential downfall. I think she’s gotten what she wants out of this deal and she doesn’t like his kids, so I don’t assume she’ll be a threat to Logan. Logan did gain a certain sense of confidence after she returned, leading to their return to NYC and confrontations to come on the home turf.

Upon their arrival to New York, Roman greeted his father while Shiv coldly waited in the car. Logan snubbed Gerri who attempted to greet him as he got off the plane. She is his new CEO, mind you. When Logan got in the car, he could tell Shiv wasn’t happy with her and he did what he always does with her: Tells her that she’s really the next in line and here in this instance, that Gerri is merely in place to take the fall. Is he telling the truth? It’s hard to say. I could easily see him setting Gerri up as a fall woman but at the same time, how many times have we seen him lie to Shiv’s face, promising her the big job when its time for him to go?

Final Thoughts

This episode seemed to draw some battle lines. I do think Shiv, as hurt as her feelings might be, is going to back her dad until the very end. To her, waiting in line behind him seems to be her most clear path to the top. Roman, despite all of his mentions in this episode about not wanting to take his father down, is going to be the one to identify the plot to take down Gerri and firmly side himself with her in this power struggle.

Kendall has unforeseen troubles on the horizon with Ewan, but I’ll take that a step further: his old pal Stewey wants a measure of revenge. At some point this season, Stewey is going to be a major problem for Kendall and might even be what prevents him from winning this war. Stewey represents the outsiders here, the small glimmer of hope that this company can be taken from the Roy family, and what an interesting twist that would be, if Stewey makes a major play this season amongst all the infighting to take the Roys out?

Next week, the war is on back at home and all of the players are back in one place. What do you think happens next? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Andrew Grevas

Andrew is the Founder / Editor in Chief of 25YL. He’s engaged with 2 sons, a staunch defender of the series finales for both Lost & The Sopranos and watched Twin Peaks at the age of 5 during its original run, which explains a lot about his personality.

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