'Succession' Sick Fuck of the Week: 'All the Bells Say'
Souls are boring!
SPOILERS FOR THE SUCCESSION FINALE BELOW!
The Roy children (well, three of them—Connor IS the eldest child! But we’ll get to that) scramble their collective jets after their dad goes dark following a meeting with GoJo honcho Lukas Mattson (an alluringly low-wattage Alexander Skarsgård), who offers to buy Waystar outright as opposed to a supposed “merger of equals.” And for much of the finale, Roman and Shiv are zipping around their mother’s gaudy wedding to a guy she doesn’t seem all that interested in but who dotes on her nonetheless (wonder where we’ve seen that…) trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
News is slowly trickling in through backchannels: Greg’s underling Slack is lighting up with assistants bitching about their bosses (who are acting as advisers for a new deal) buying up all the hotel rooms and complaining about their shitty pillows; Frank and Carl have ascended on Italy but are pretending to be in New York; Gerri is surreptitiously summoned from the reception by Logan’s power haircut (and apparently future host of a new Roy spawn) Kerry. Once they start to piece it together, Roman and Shiv try to corral Kendall (who uh, survived...falling? Into the pool? The family seems to think it was a botched suicide attempt and given his mental state this entire season, we have reason to believe them) into helping them stop the sale of their family’s company.
It was a manic, jittery finale with genuine moments of pathos and true Succession-tier one-liners (“No de no, my friend”) that led into another deeply satisfying final-act reveal that had me actually jumping off my couch in excitement. Let’s find our sick fuck!
Connor, the poor, idiot, eldest Roy child (and DON’T YOU FORGET IT), finally sticks up for himself with his siblings, even if in the end they still neither seem to respect or even consider him—he’s totally absent from Roman, Shiv, and Kendall’s attempted coup. Although he does technically eke out a win this week: Willa, iconically and powerfully on a whim, says “fuck it” and agrees to marry Connor. “How bad could it be?” she asks. (I’ll be thinking about the way Justine Lupe plays that moment—her face sinking in slow-motion—all week.) Both of them are too sad to be our Sick Fuck! If anything they’re too sane compared to the competition this week.
Let’s touch briefly on Caroline, who does her kids absolutely dirty by reneging on the one provision (votes on the board) in her divorce agreement with Logan that gave them the chance to stop the sale of Waystar. I’ve never seen such an unrelenting lack of maternal instinct or care on television (see: her telling Shiv that she wished she had dogs instead of her own children) and her commitment to being a demon born in hell is compelling for this week’s Sick Fuck. But her sick fuckery is more rueful indifference to the concept of motherhood than anything actually vicious. Onward!
It’s time to discuss Greg. Everything’s coming up Greg! In addition to successfully getting onto Comfrey’s radar, he’s also bumbled his way into the contessa’s. Greg’s growth this season has been more subtle and behind the scenes, but slowly but surely he’s coming out of his wide-eyed phase and learning how to lean into his family’s name (and power) to his advantage, albeit to middling success thus far (see: suing Greenpeace). The Italy trip has proven to be a bit of a blossoming period for the younger cousin, where he’s shouldered considerably less abuse from the fam, with Shiv and Tom even playfully ribbing him for his burgeoning love triangle. He’s accidentally played the long game by never having enough of a spine to pick a side, drifting perilously between Kendall and Logan and just deciding to stay seated while everyone else kept playing their musical chairs. And so, he is seemingly finally rewarded in the finale when Tom makes Greg, with the closest this show can come to tenderness, an auspicious deal to join him (without actually telling him) in double-crossing his wife and extended family and fully aligning himself with Logan. Greg is very much not our Sick Fuck but he knows he wants to be! (“What am I gonna do with a soul anyway?”) That’s growth.
And now, Tom. Tom!!! Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, TOM! It’s always the quiet Midwestern ones that turn out to be the most cunning, Machiavellian fucks (and not just when they’re in Italy). The finale culminates in what appears to be Tom’s full-on heel-turn, where he is very strongly implied to have sold Shiv and her brothers out to Logan. (Shiv’s face in the finale as it dawns on her….chilling!) The breadcrumbing and foreshadowing of Tom’s sicko mode this season was like the rollout of a fucking Taylor Swift record, dotted with hyper-textual and subtextual clues. I got suspicious when he started laying on the crocodile tears after offering himself up as the fall-guy for the DOJ investigation. With the finale’s reveal, all the groundwork he did to get himself into Logan’s inner sanctum (with or without Shiv) flashed before my eyes, Usual Suspects-style. Where the Roy children tend to go for intensity in winning over their Logan, Tom opts for consistency, slowly feeding him moments of fealty: He volunteers to take one for the team in the government case against Waystar; when Logan loses his mind from a UTI, and Tom assists him, he calls him “son”; when the DOJ case is miraculously dropped, Logan makes sure to tell Tom “he’ll remember” his act of loyalty; when Kendall tries to flip Tom, he makes it plain: “I’ve never seen Logan get fucked once.” Concurrently, he’s been testing Shiv, with whom he has what can (at best) be generously described as a tenuous marriage. But at every opportunity Tom gives Shiv to show him any semblance of respect or adoration, he is brutally rebuffed (their dirty-talk in the last episode...yikes). And so it would seem he has finally decided to treat his marriage the same way Shiv does: as one of convenience. The show did such a good job of browbeating Tom for so long that it made his apparent turn against Shiv all the more satisfying. Tom is very much a Sick Fuck, in perhaps the sickest of ways, especially if he gets to play out his psychosexual (actual sexual?) Nero-Sporus fantasy with Greg. But he is not THE Sick Fuck of the week. Close though! His Sick Fuck stock is rising.
No, the honor of the Sick Fuck of the Week is a three-way tie between Kendall, Roman, and Shiv. These absolute fucking idiot children. At long last, they have finally come together in a truly united front to try and topple their dad. In perhaps the most excruciating scene in the show’s history, the three assemble in a dusty Tuscan alleyway, next to some garbage cans, and finally have it out. Kendall, a completely broken man, turns into Voldemort ash as he confesses to his involvement in the death of the waiter from Shiv’s wedding. Roman lightens the mood by refracting the truth of Kendall’s admission through his broken mirror of a conscience to let him off the hook; Shiv remains completely aloof and on her phone. Mark Mylod, who directed the finale (and many other episodes of the show) was on his Adam McKay shit for this scene, darting around the kids like cable news covering a warzone. Here’s the shot:
When in Italy, go baroque! Each of them have their own special weakness when it comes to their dad (Kendall chokes; Shiv goes too, hard too soon; Roman self-sabotages), but they have one shared special genetic trait: They’re smart enough to pick fights, but not clever enough to win them. These kids are not closers, man! After all these years, after all these dogfights and all the people trying to take Logan down, did they really think some contractual procedure would be enough to stop him from selling the company? Grow up! It’s exciting to see them finally united, but even their combined powers aren’t enough to overcome Logan, who does, in fact, “always win.” And that is why they are the Sick Fuck of the Week, for having deluded themselves this pathetically.
How the show proceeds from here will be interesting. While they’ve introduced Tom as a potential new adversary for the kids, Logan remains the top dog. But how long can we do this? It’s been the dynamic of three seasons now, and while the show has impressed me in the ways it manages to reinvent the same essential fight at the heart of the show, we can’t do this for five, six, God forbid seven seasons. To give creator Jesse Armstrong credit, I do think the show’s team is smart enough to know this and has at least thought about how it all ends (the way they paced the Tom storyline this season is the big feather in their cap to me). In the meantime, souls are boring!