Succession, which is about to retake the mantle of the best show currently on television, tells the story of the Roy family and its titanic media empire. The show’s first season followed the family’s patriarch, Logan Roy, as he struggled, King Lear-style, to divide his empire among his children and hand over control. The season was full of twists, turns, and shifting alliances that could be dizzying to keep up with.
With the second season starting on Sunday, we’ve put together a summary of everything you need to know from the show’s first season, just in case you’ve forgotten all of the ins and outs of the characters’ constant backstabbing plots and dubious business deals.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Succession season 1.]
Choosing an heir
Succession’s first season starts out with Logan Roy, one of the most powerful and influential people in the world, preparing to retire and hand off the Waystar Royco media empire to his son Kendall. The announcement is supposed to be made during Logan’s birthday dinner, with all of his children in attendance. However, in a move that shocks everyone, he chooses to stay on as head of the company, as he feels that Kendall isn’t ready to take the reins. Logan’s doubt is in part motivated by Kendall’s past drug abuse, despite his son’s recent sobriety.
Just a few hours after announcing that he would remain CEO, Logan has a massive brain aneurysm. He’s rushed to the hospital, where he survives but is comatose. The entire family, still gathered for his birthday, accompanies him to the hospital. While there, Roman, Logan’s youngest son, and Shiv, Kendall’s younger sister and Logan’s only daughter, fight over whether to grant Logan’s third and most recent wife, Marcia, a spot on the company’s board, as it was one of the last things Logan asked for before he fell unconscious.
Meanwhile, Kendall takes control of the company at the insistence of Gerri, Waystar Royco’s general counsel and one of maybe three people at the company who knows all of its secrets. Kendall’s temporary appointment is designed to keep the markets from selling Royco stock and causing a free fall. Logan eventually wakes up, and though it takes him a while to regain his strength, he comes back to the company, pushing Kendall out of his interim CEO spot.
Logan Roy returns to Waystar
As he retakes power at his company, Logan begins promoting other, notably non-Kendall, members of the family to important positions. Roman becomes head of studio, Tom — Shiv’s fiancé — becomes head of parks, and Cousin Greg, who’s been estranged from this side of the family for most of his life and only showed up at Logan’s birthday in search of a job, finds himself catapulted into a role that essentially amounts to Tom’s assistant. Shiv, meanwhile, continues her career as a political adviser, and moves to the campaign of a Bernie Sanders-like politician whose views are deeply antithetical to her father’s.
With Logan making seemingly reckless decisions, and Kendall’s shot at future CEO-ship slipping through his fingers, he forces a vote of no-confidence in his father. This vote is aided by Stewy, an old college friend of Kendall’s. While Kendall was the interim CEO, he took a sizable VC investment from Stewy to help bail the company out of a debt that Logan had kept hidden. The vote fails after Kendall gets stuck in traffic and can’t actually make it to the meeting in person. In Kendall’s absence, Roman, who had agreed to support Kendall, instead votes with his father, swinging things in Logan’s favor.
In a desperate bid to make the family seem unified after the disastrous vote, the Roys take a trip to visit Connor, Logan’s oldest son, who tries not to involve himself in the family business at all, at his estate in New Mexico. Instead of attending the PR stunt/family therapy session, Kendall finds himself spiraling into a relapse, and ends the trip smoking crystal meth with two wolf-T-shirt-wearing locals at their house — which is also full of other wolf-related items. When Kendall finally arrives at Connor’s compound after Roman pulls him out of his bender, he gets into a shouting match with Logan and wanders away.
Kendall’s bear hug
A few weeks later, at Tom’s bachelor party, Kendall hatches a plan with Stewy and Sandy, the owner of Waystar Royco’s biggest rival. The plan is to forcibly take control the company from Logan with a “bear hug,” an offer that overvalues the firm so much that the board has no choice but to accept.
Kendall approaches his father with the bear hug offer at Shiv and Tom’s wedding — which is hosted in an honest-to-god English castle. Logan responds by flushing the offer sheet down the toilet. After a blow-up at his entire family, Kendall spends the evening hanging out with one of the wedding’s catering staff in search of cocaine. A stray deer on the road sends their car careening off of a bridge and into the water below. Kendall escapes the sinking car, but the other man doesn’t.
The next morning, Logan reveals that he knows everything Kendall did the night before, and Kendall bursts into tears. Logan says that he can make everything right — as long as Kendall calls off the deal with Sandy, leaving Waystar Royco in Logan’s hands.
As it turns out, Kendall isn’t the only Roy sibling to have had a disastrous evening. Roman forces a new satellite to launch earlier than planned, leading to a critical malfunction that caused the rocket to explode on the launch pad. Meanwhile, Shiv admits to Tom — on their wedding night — that she’d been having an affair with a campaign co-worker, but explains that it’s over now.
And there you have it: an extremely abridged summary of Succession’s first season. While we didn’t cover all of its twists and turns, this should help catch you up before the show’s excellent second season debuts on Sunday, Aug. 11, at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.