Succession is full of cringe-worthy moments that show just how out of touch its über-rich characters are with reality. Whether it’s Logan Roy tossing out a lavish lobster dinner because of an unrelated bad smell or Nan Pierce ribbing her house staff for never taking a break, their absurd privilege is played for laughs, while still making us acutely uncomfortable.
This week’s episode, “Dundee,” pulls the tension between humor and cringe so tight that it threatens to break forever. When Rhea plans a surprise 50th business anniversary party in Logan’s hometown of Dundee, Scotland, the pomp and circumstance is the most aggressively self-important the show’s gotten yet. We were squirming from the moment Logan walked into his surprise party, saw everyone gathered, and walked right back out.
One moment in particular, though, was so hilarious and horrible, we needed to take a break and center ourselves after such a transcendent experience. We’re talking, of course, about Kendall’s rap.
Ken.W.A. takes the stage
Emily Heller, staff writer: From the moment Kendall stepped onstage, removed his suit jacket (which, incidentally, looked very similar to the divisive suit Jeremy Strong wore to the Emmys), and revealed a Logan Roy baseball jersey, I was glued to my seat. The beat started and I thought, “Surely Kendall isn’t going to embarrass himself this thoroughly?” Then the incredible sentence, “My boy Squiggle cooked up this beat for me,” confirmed that yes, Kendall was, in fact, about to rap about his dad. The anticipation I felt during the fraction of a second between that line and Kendall’s first bars of rapping was like every childhood Christmas, Birthday, and Tooth Fairy collection combined.
Karen Han, entertainment reporter: The rap is honestly so potent that I have pretty much blacked out everything else that happens in this episode. From the lyrics of the rap itself (“L to the O, G”) to everyone’s reactions, which range from mortification to glee, it’s an incredible moment.
I think the thing that gets me is that Strong’s rapping is ... fine, it’s just that contextually, it’s the worst possible choice. Recently, Kendall’s been ignoring what an awful position he’s in by becoming totally obsessed with whoever happens to be his girlfriend at the moment, which seems to give him a false sense of confidence that is really the only explanation for how H.A.M. he goes on the rap. Logan is also totally stone-faced through the whole thing, even when Kendall ends the rap by putting an awful hat on his dad’s head.
Emily: The reactions are just so good and show how thoroughly creator Jesse Armstrong and Succession’s writers understand these characters. Greg excitedly trying to bop along to the beat is so endearing! Roman is snarky as usual and Shiv is just cracking up. Even Gerri’s reaction of shocked disbelief feels so true to J. Smith Cameron’s portrayal. It’s a minute and 40 seconds of perfect character work and I’ve watched it about 17 times so far.
Kendall has been all over the place these last few episodes, from standing up to his dad after Logan slapped Roman to nearly confessing to his mom that he killed that waiter. It’s really like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
Rhea takes the reins
Emily: I am still wondering whose idea this was. Kendall mentions that Rhea asked him to help out with the tribute, so did she suggest...this? It’s hard to imagine that she’d think Logan would enjoy watching his son make a fool of himself, but I’ve always found Rhea’s motives hard to parse. I wonder if she’s just completely unaware of what Logan wants, or if this is a plan to make the kids look incompetent so she can take the company out from other them.
Karen: As far as origin goes, I feel like it’s pretty true to what we’ve seen of Kendall kind of being a hypebeast. On that note, all of the tributes feel pretty on the nose for what we know about the people delivering them: Connor’s is so clueless (“Hey dad, it’s me, Connor Roy, your son”); Roman’s is so glib; Kendall’s is so try-hard; and Shiv’s is actually smart and to the point.
Even Logan seems surprisingly honest this episode; his reminiscences about his childhood are interesting because we know so little about him and because he still plays all of his past so close to the vest. I think this is the first we’ve heard about his dead sister, isn’t it?
Emily: I believe so, and his stony reaction to Rhea mentioning her is really interesting. He’s pulling her in, and making her believe he trusts her more than his kids, but still maintaining some incredibly thick boundaries. Now that she’s been named as his successor, the family dynamics are really going to shift; juxtaposing that announcement with the tribute videos from his kids is brilliant and awful.
I just wonder if Rhea can handle the gig or if she’ll wither under the pressure like Shiv did. I think Shiv sees a lot of herself in Rhea — maybe more than she’s willing to admit — and vice versa, so I’m really curious how their dynamic will play out in these next two episodes, especially since Shiv is basically setting Rhea up to fail. Gerri points out that the new face of the company will have to deal with the fallout from the cruises scandal, and Shiv makes the call to let it happen.
Episode 8 Power Ranking
1. Kendall’s Rap
Born on the North Bank / King of the East Side
50 years strong now he’s rollin’ in a sick ride
Handmade suits / Rakin’ in loot
5-star general y’all best salute
It’s hard to make out this next bit because Roman is talking about how embarrassing this is, before coining the nickname Ken.W.A.
Squiggle on the decks, Kenny on the rhyme
Then Roman talks over him some more before heading into the chorus.
L to the OG / Dude be the O-G-A-N
He playin’ / Playin’ like a pro, see
A1 ratings / 80k wine
Never gonna stop baby / fuck father time
Bro, don’t get it twisted / I’ve been through hell
But since I [stan?] Dad I’m alive and well
Shaper of views / creator of news
Father of many paid all his dues
So don’t try to run your mouth at the king
Just pucker up bitch and kiss the ring
L to the OG, Dude be the O-G-A-N
Make some noooooiiiiiiiise
There is a smattering of cheers.
When I say L you say OG
L to the [silence]
L to the [OG!]
L to the [“You need to stop this” - Roman]
L to the motherfuckin’ OG
Shiv is slowly maneuvering power back into her court. The scene in which she tells Logan to trust his gut is the clearest evidence yet that she’s one of the very few — if not the only — person who understands how her dad works, even if that doesn’t mean she can predict his every move. She’s set Rhea up to take the cruises hit, which would once again leave her as the best option for taking over the company. —Karen
Like I said earlier, I find Rhea’s motives really hard to parse. Does she, like she devastatingly said of Shiv, “think she’s smarter that she is” or is she going to pull this company out from under the Roys? I think its the former but how great would it be if this show ended with Holly Hunter on the throne? —Emily
Marcia asking Rhea if she gets regularly tested for STDs is the ballsiest power move I’ve ever seen, but then she follows it up by telling Logan that he’s boring her and she’s going to leave. Marcia’s quiet French dignity means she can sometimes fade into the background. When she does get those barbs in, though, she goes for the jugular and it’s delicious. —Emily
I love when James Cromwell shows up, and I love trying to untangle the Roy brothers’ relationship — lest we forget, Ewan hates Logan and yet voted in his favor during the vote of no confidence — even more. It’s striking that, here, Ewan takes the time to tell Logan that their sister’s death wasn’t his fault, though the death of the planet is. —Karen
Greg, I’m begging you, please don’t listen to “Uncle Fun.” Take “Grandpa Grumps” at his word and get the heck out of this toxic company. —Emily
I can’t tell how much of Roman asking Gerri to marry him was in jest and how much was in seriousness, and I love it. —Karen
Hello, it’s me, resident Tom apologist. The cruises sword of Damocles is hanging pretty heavily over his head at this point, and it’s unfortunately very, very hard for me to imagine that he’s going to emerge from this all unscathed. Shiv has never really looked out for him all that well, and it’s not like Logan really cares for him, either. —Karen
There is something beautifully poetic about the way Connor’s arc this season has gone from his presidential hopes to having to worry about going into debt because of (potentially mite-infested) stage sand. —Karen
I wish we got to see Willa’s play, because I’m sure it’s a nightmare. Especially since one of her lead actors is off in Scotland stealing hotel soaps and apparently there’s a lot of sand involved. —Emily