Each week, two members of the Polygon staff sit down to discuss and recap the latest episode of HBO’s Succession. We tackle the major moments in each episode, as well as provide a character-based Power Ranking of the week’s 10 most important players.
Succession has always toed a thin line when it comes to balancing comedy and drama, but in episode 3, the HBO series reaches a new height. “Hunting” features one of the series’ grimmest scenes yet, one that almost seems parodic in how awful it is, but also neatly encapsulates the dynamics we’ve been seeing playing out all this time.
Is there such a thing as “too far” on Succession, or do we really believe that these people (or maybe the über-rich in general) can really be this awful? Is the show still successfully balancing bad behavior with interesting character development? This week, Polygon’s own Karen Han and Emily Heller dig into the breathtaking central scene, as well as (alas) Connor’s continuing bid for the presidency.
[Ed. note: Spoilers for Succession season 2, episode 3, “Hunting,” follow.]
Everyone reveals their true colors with “Boar on the Floor”
Karen Han: Jesus Christ, this episode. It’d be bad enough just watching all these rich assholes shooting pigs corralled through gun towers, but Logan’s made-up game, Boar on the Floor, which forces the objects of his ire to fight over sausage, is a whole other level of awfulness. He comes up with it when he discovers that somebody has leaked to Pierce that he plans to try to buy them out, turning dinner into a horror movie.
The game is just an exercise in humiliation — and also really brings out both the best and worst of everyone present. In some ways, this is the most cartoonish Succession we’ve seen yet, but it’s impossible to laugh at, and just how smartly written it is keeps it (in my opinion) from actually verging into being too much.
Emily Heller: It’s a testament to the writing and performances that the melodrama doesn’t feel forced. It’s absurd, yes, but we’ve seen in the past 12 episodes that this world is absurd. Logan is a bully, backed into a corner, of course he’s going to lash out cruelly. Kendall is a lifeless sycophant, of course he’s going to throw his brother under the bus. Tom (God love him) is a spineless goon, of course he’s going to crawl around on the floor and whine about someone stealing his sausage.
The show has brought us to this point; while it’s jarring to see how far Logan will go to consolidate power, it’s not surprising. It takes what we already know about these characters, and reveals just how ugly and (self-)destructive they can get.
Karen: I feel like it’s also worth noting that Tom fully has the opportunity to sell Greg out in order to save his own bacon, and actually refrains from doing so. Logan’s also mad that somebody in the family has talked to his would-be biographer, and Greg confides in Tom that it was him. Tom, Greg, and Karl — none of whom are really family, nor rich in comparison to the main Roys — are the ones Logan picks to play his game, and it feels like Tom has a trump card in knowing Greg squawked, yet he doesn’t use it. I know we talked about this a little last week, but it’s really cementing Tom, to me, as maybe the one other decent member of the family besides Greg, especially with how devastated he looks when he comes back home from having had to suffer through all of this to discover that Shiv has slept with someone else.
Emily: Yeah, what’s going on with Shiv? I almost felt like she was lonely — asking Willa if she could hang out with her isn’t a very Shiv move and almost seemed sweet at first — but she can’t help herself from going on a sort of power trip. Of course she’s frustrated about not being invited on the corporate retreat. And notably, it’s only after she checks her phone and sees that Tom hasn’t sufficiently done her bidding that she gives in to Willa’s actor friend’s flirting. She ends up going home with this dude who epitomizes the complete opposite of her world, almost to the point of parody. (When he said, “These days the real news comes from comedians,” I had war flashbacks to my time on Brooklyn Tinder.)
Karen: I took her tagging along with Willa to be an attempt to get her to stop Connor from releasing his campaign video (in which he dares the police to arrest him for not paying his taxes???). But yeah, I don’t think she yet fully understands that this arrangement actually really isn’t okay with Tom, and how much it affects him.
The negative effect on Tom is compounded by how much he suffers on the trip because he’s trying to do something that Shiv wants him to do, and he doesn’t want to do. He has absolutely no interest in telling Logan that buying Pierce is a bad idea, but he’s turned into a patsy by Shiv, and then, through Shiv, by Gerri and Karl as well. The long and short of it is that he’s not really built to be a Roy, which, from Shiv’s view of things, might just be his own problem, but needs work from both of them if they’re going to stay together.
Emily: This family treats people outside of their tax bracket either as pawns or as disposable. Shiv has just done both but Tom just proved he’s unwilling to by not ratting out Greg. It’s so hard to watch him try to be a Roy, when he really doesn’t have the stomach for it!
Karen: It’s kind of the Kendall effect — through the first season, we saw Kendall try to be this person he isn’t, and Tom is having to do the same thing, except he very much could leave this family behind.
Episode 3 power rankings
This week, Logan is exempt from the power ranking due to “Boar on the Floor” privileges.
There is no image that this show has conjured that is more chilling than that of Logan looming over and resting directly upon Kendall’s shoulders. This week, Kendall’s still a zombie, but he’s at least clearly in his father’s good graces, which puts him at the top of the heap for now. —Karen
2. Logan’s biographer
Is there any other show with better guest stars than Succession, especially when it comes to theatre actors? I truly adore Jessica Hecht, and it’s a delight seeing her pop up here as a character somewhat more scheming than she usually plays. I doubt we’ve seen the last of this particular thorn in Logan’s side. —Karen
Judging by how quickly Ray joined in the “Boar on the Floor” chant, one can only assume he was Pledge Master of a fraternity that got suspended for hazing. —Emily
Despite not knowing how off the record conversations work, Greg gets through a highly volatile evening scot-free (minus some scuffed knees, presumably.) And poor Moe died just in time to take the fall for talking to the reporter. Greg is here mostly by luck, but it counts! —Emily
Shiv is far away from the action for most of the episode, but still finds ways to assert some dominance. And by the time Logan gets back from Hungary, he decides “it’s time to bring [her] in.” —Emily
Another Karen “I love” Special: I love Peter Friedman. I also love Frank, insomuch as he fully knows how toxic the Roy orbit is, and is clear-headed about submitting himself to it where a lot of the people around him are not. —Karen
Oh, sweet Willa. All she has to say about Connor’s campaign video is, “He looks cute, though.” Willa is above Connor because First Lady is a much better job than president, imho. —Emily
Connor gets the second Jeff Bezos mention of the show, telling Shiv to tell Logan to “get in line behind Bezos and the Clintons” if he wants to stop his presidential campaign. Will he actually go to jail?
(It’s also worth noting that what Logan has to say about Connor’s video is, “You don’t go shouting about tax. We have arrangements.” Jesus.) —Karen
Each week, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that I would die for Tom. As has been pointed out by my colleagues, this is the opposite of what is meant to happen — Tom is supposed to die for you, not the other way around — but I still would?
It also profoundly sucks to see Shiv call him “just a guy who works for me,” and Logan belittle him by telling him to shut up until he can say there’s a grandson on the way. And let us not forget the best exchange of the night:
Gerri: That’s where heroes are born, Tom, on the battlefield.
Tom: It’s also commonly where they’re killed, Gerri.
Sorry bud, you’re bad at this. —Emily