Last week on Succession, Shiv wrote an open letter, Tom made Logan an offer, and Kendall learned he wasn't in on the joke. This week, Tom got existential, Roman found Tattoo Man, and Logan and Kendall were forced to play nice for Adrien Brody's benefit. Succession is a show all about how people jockey for power (and process trauma) — after the video below, check out our spoiler-filled season three, episode four Succession Power Rankings.
1. "Succession (Main Title Theme)": Let's take a moment to recognize the most powerful player in all of Succession: Nicholas Britell's hall of fame worthy theme song. It's one of the unwritten rules of television that you can't have a truly fantastic show without an instantly recognizable, iconic theme song—think The Sopranos, The Wire, Cheers, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc. (I'm sure there are examples that prove this is false, but I don't wanna hear 'em!)
But how many of those shows have had multiple articles and YouTube videos trying to deconstruct just why the theme is so addictive? There is practically a cottage industry devoted to understanding the undeniable grip the song has. Here's how music theorist, psychologist and lecturer Stefanie Acevedo explained it to Time Magazine:
"The piano, played in a high register, adds a sense of 'urgency or tension,' she says. This main melody is in a minor key punctuated by dissonant chords; some of the piano keys are even struck out of sync, producing a 'messy' sound. The use of 'extreme registers' on the piano—that’s the big contrast between the high and low notes—and Britell’s distortion of the bass line 'rock the foundation of the theme,' she says, signaling drama. There are also two string layers at play: a 'low ostinato' pattern (a repetitive musical phrase) gives the theme forward momentum, coupled with high strings that echo the piano motif with a 'very raw, shrill, almost out-of-control tone.'"
Britell explained the song's evolution to Vulture, saying he was very influenced by hip-hop and the way the genre absorbs and transforms other sounds and songs: "If you listen to ’90s hip-hop and earlier, and an instrument is sampled from an earlier song, often the character of the sound changes a bit — and often, it gets a more interesting sound in the process of being sampled. So I wanted the piano line to feel like that, like it was from some weird place," Britell said.
"By de-tuning it a bit and running it through these filters, I was able to get the sound of a piano line that’s doing some weird blending stuff," Britell continued. "It gave the piano a sound that just felt really strange to me. In a good way! There’s actually quite a few pianos in the theme. There’s a piano doing the melody line, there’s some pianos hitting the chords, and there’s even a couple pianos in the background that you might not even hear."
The other fun thing about it is that everything looks cool when you play Britell's song and throw a Kodachrome/vintage filter over the images. Seinfeld has been Successionfied. So has Arrested Development, Star Wars and the Kardashians. So has the Royal Family, the Murdochs and the Trump family. Hell, even somebody's Smelly Cats seem extra dramatic with the theme music playing.
2. Josh Aaronson: Adrien Brody makes his first appearance as a Waystar investor who has been "shaken up" by the FBI raid and is thinking of switching sides from the Roys to Sandy and Stewy as a result. Despite the fact he only has a 4% holding in the company, it's going to be pivotal going into the shareholders' vote.
Though not feeling confident about "betting on blood feuds," he brings Logan and Kendall together for some much-needed quality (screen) time. Much of the episode consists of Josh acting as something between a marriage counselor and family therapist to Logan and Kendall on a few long walks, but the two Roys stumble in their attempts to impress him.
Josh comes across initially as a more stable Kendall, but by the end of the episode it's clear he's far more like Logan. He's lost 10% of his 4% holding, which comes out to $350M—and all he cares about is getting that money back and making sure people like Logan and Kendall don't underestimate him.
"End of the day, you work for the shareholders, for me," Josh says. "But I think that you think that I'm some dipshit who had a lucky night at the casino, who acts all fancy and then makes you eat fucking rodents for my pleasure. But I have a gun at your head. And I need to know if this is gonna be a functional situation. And I'm sure you're gonna say yes, it is gonna be a functional situation, but I'm gonna need to hear you say it's gonna be a functional situation."
Josh has all the power over the Roys in this situation, and although it seems like maybe they've swayed him, Logan's health scare scuttles that entirely. Just before Kendall takes off, he sees Josh hugging Stewy on the tarmac. The Roys are headed into the shareholders' vote at a grave disadvantage.
3. Fucking King Kong: Last week's raid may have just been a warning shot, but Logan starts off this episode feeling he needs more protection—the Westchester Judge Fuckers aren't enough, Michelle-Anne is putting him off, and he is particularly angry at the president ("The Raisin owes me everything...the forgetful cunt has gone AWOL!"). He's agitated and scrambling to get his house in order, and worst of all, he needs to get Kendall to join him on this trip to appease Josh.
Josh seems satisfied that he was able to get Logan to come to him: "Fucking King Kong comes out to dance for me." The dance doesn't go so well though. Logan's initial pitch to Josh falls through—"All upside from here. Safest option: back me, sit tight counting your gold in your castle here, and I'll make you whole"—and all his attempts at exuding a confidant, calm attitude don't go far.
Finally, Logan sees a play. Josh wants a sign that he and Kendall aren't fucking around when they say they can work this thing between them out, so Logan swallows his pride and summons up emotions he hasn't accessed in a long time.
"It'll be okay because he's a good kid," Logan says. "He did what he thought was best, I think he went too far, but he's a good kid..he's a good kid and I love him. There'll be a big number, we'll pay, he'll mewl and cry, it'll all be okay. And maybe it'll be him one day. It's in his blood. He learned it all from me. And maybe he's the best one of all of them. So yeah, it'll be okay."
How much of that did Logan say to appease Josh, and how much did he really mean? "Yeah, well, you'll say anything to get fucked on a date, won't you," Logan says later when Kendall presses him on his "nice speech." But Logan did give a mysterious smile when Kendall turned the tables on him at the press conference last season, so there is a part of him that clearly respects that Kendall made a move. Maybe even sees a glimmer of himself in him.
However, Kendall still lacks the killer instinct to be able to take out his dad, even when his dad is making it easy for him by breaking down on their walk. The two men quietly bicker as Josh runs ahead, poking at each other's vulnerabilities. Logan brags that he has The Raisin under his thumb, the family in his corner, "little Greggy," and the Tattoo Man in the tank. "Face it son, you've lost," he growls while barely breathing.
Despite losing Josh, despite this health scare, and despite having to spend quality time with Kendall, Logan ends the episode with a huge win: the president is calling him apoplectic about ATN coverage. Logan is still running the show.
4. The Beatles: While trying to convince Josh to stick with them, Kendall keeps trying and failing to connect with him on a bro-to-bro level, most hilariously when he brings up the Fab Four. "The Beatles put out some of their best shit while suing each other, right?" Kendall says, like he just came up with the smartest argument ever. "Good band," Josh says. "Great band," Kendall counters. "Good band," Logan says, putting the nail in the conversation. On this count, I side with Kendall.
5. Little Lord Fuckleroy: Kendall is riding high with his hanger-ons to start the episode, watching TV coverage of the Waystar raid which he "manifested" last episode. He balks at helping out his father with Josh initially, but Frank is able to convince him there's an opportunity here for him if he plays it right.
As one might expect at this point, Kendall doesn't play it right. His pitch to Josh, like most of Kendall's pitches, is a blend of technobabble and Silicon Valley buzzwords. Josh is thoroughly unimpressed, and Kendall tries appealing to him emotionally ("Outside of this, I like you") which is even more desperate. (Having said that, I certainly hope Josh considers attending Kendall's "big nervous breakdown of a party" for his 40th, it does sound like a blast.)
Throughout the day, Kendall increasingly senses that he's the third wheel here; Josh is far more interested in what Logan has to say, and Logan takes every opportunity to needle Ken: "Are you okay son? Some of those drugs you do can make you paranoid, is that right?"
When his father calls him a "good kid" multiple times, we can only imagine the rush of emotions flooding through Kendall. Is he for real? Is he playing Kendall again? Does Ken want him to be for real? Can they really come back together? Is his father proud of him? Will he get a kiss from daddy?
Josh briefly leaves the scene and we're treated to an excruciating minute-long silence with just the two Roys on screen. All we get are furrowed brows and absolutely no direct eye contact.
As they walk back, and Logan really starts sticking it to him, Kendall goes on the offensive, and tries to say the most hurtful things he can think of: "You've lied so much you don't even know anymore, your brain is a scrambled egg," Ken says. "Look at you, you're 600 years old and you've pissed off your fucking boyfriend the president, and he's sending the feds on you and you're wriggling but you're in too deep. Everyone knows. And now you're trying to counter, you put Shiv in there, and she's a fucking dipshit, I hear no one respects her, everyone's digging her out, you're losing control and everyone hates you."
But once he realizes his father is really unwell, he turns back into the worried, dutiful son, literally carrying his dad back. It's here they seem more similar than ever, both Roys in their signature plain black baseball caps. Their sniping on the walk and Logan's heat exhaustion has fully bungled the deal with Josh. Kendall is truly an expert at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Roman calls him to break the news that Josh has zero faith in post-dad leadership. "You tried to assassinate our dad with the sun. Do you have a fetish for nearly killing dad, like just the tip but just for killing dad?" Roman asks. "We're about to lose the shareholders because you wouldn't give our dad a timely fucking Evian. Good day."
6. TFW You And Your Dad Are Hanging Out And Everything Is Totally Normal And Everyone Is Having A Great Time:
7. Shiv Roy: This isn't as embarrassing a week for Shiv as last week's episode, when Kendall completely ruined her first town hall meeting by blasting "Rape Me" (she had her revenge with the vicious open letter about her brother's "misogynistic rants and comparisons to world historical figures"). But in a lot of ways, this week was worse because it exposed her weak spots.
We already knew she was a terrible wife to Tom, but hoo boy, this may be a new low for her. When Tom reveals just how terrified he is about the prospect of going to prison, going on a rant about prison wine, all she does in response is say, "I don't know what I can say to you," then rush him out of the room so she can take a call from her dad.
The problem is that she may not have as much power as she first assumed, and it's Connor of all people to open her eyes to it: "Remember when you had the play post office and you used to stamp all the mail that came into the house? This is a little like that, isn't it Shiv?" Her father berates her for interfering with Karl and Frank and giving him another "toothache." His pep talk to her only seems to confirm Connor's words: "I gave you a destination, I can't walk you there okay?" Logan says. "Nothing is a line. Everything everywhere is always moving forever. Get used to it."
But to her credit, Shiv funnels her frustrations into her meeting with Tucker Carlson stand-in Mark Ravenhead, where she unleashes her inner Logan in order to get him to comply with their new narrative about the president.
"In a sense, this conversation is already over, it's just a question of how many times we scream the word fuck at each other before you do what we want," she says. "What if I go public with this, full court press? Incredibly embarrassing for you," he responds.
"Yeah, but the thing about us Mark, and you should know this by now: we don't get embarrassed," she coolly declares. Is it really a good thing that Shiv only seems to succeed when she conjures her father's most ruthless tactics?
8. Gerri's Love Life: Gerri has a date with an ex-DOJ dude who definitely isn't Montgomery Clift or the Ghost Of Christmas Past, and Roman is clearly a little jealous, which in Roman's case, comes out as inappropriate sexual jokes: "You said he wants to back channel you in the parking lot?"
Compared to their incredibly messy, weird and kinda romantic liaisons last season, Gerri really has kept Roman at a bit of a distance this year—she is very clear about her boundaries here, though it's unclear if it's because of her new position as acting CEO, or if it's because it's getting in the way of her living her life.
But no matter what, Gerri always provides Roman with good advice. She is the one who ultimately convinces him to not use the Tattoo Man pictures. "How does this advance my personal position, you need to think about that 24/7. You should get that tattooed on your forehead." She might not be back channeling with him, but she always has his back.
9. Roman Roy: On the one hand, not a great week for Roman between his thwarted Tattoo Man play (an "indecent proposal" that seems like a truly awful frat prank) and Gerri keeping him at arm's and foot's length. "What I cant take my footwear off? What, I can't masturbate at a time and place of my choosing? You are building a police state here Gerri," he complains. On the other hand, he's still filthy rich, he coined the name "Wokeahontas" for Kendall, and nothing he did hurt his position in the company or with his dad. So overall, this was once again a solid episode for Roman.
10. Majestic Shots Of Private Helicopters Flying Past The Skyscrapers Of Manhattan: Succession sure loves its b-roll.
11. Sturdy Birdy Cousin Greg: It's never a good sign when Logan requests an in-person meeting at his apartment with you, which Greg is well aware of. "I have this stupid worry that I'm gonna go over and there'll be goons and stooges and rough jacks there to administer a beating," he says, and of course Greg would be worried about rough jacks.
However, for once, Greg has some juice! He's in the game! His one-on-one scene with Logan has plenty of hilarious moments: the way Logan growls "Greg" giving it ten extra e's, Greg asking for a rum and coke ("What Greg wants, Greg must have"), him saying hanging out with Kendall is "purely social." But it also shows he's learned enough from hanging out with the family to know when he should shut up and think things through.
"Look at you, shaking like a fucking leaf," Logan says after Greg asks what he can get for signing with the company. "Listen, you have some leverage, just a little. So why don't you fuck off, and think about what you want to ask for to come onside, and I'll see what I can do, okay?" Greg chugs that rum and coke and leaves with the funniest line reading of the episode: "I don't know how you did it back in the '60s. Different times. Different times indeed. Better times? Not for all."
We later hear from Logan that Greg has signed with the company attorney, and find out in his scene with Tom what he wanted: to run Parks, which is where we saw him at the start of the show puking in a dog costume. Things are looking pretty good for Greg, though nothing good can happen to Greg without Tom have Feelings about it. (More about Tom's Feelings below.)
12. Connor Roy Needs Some Pie Here: As the somewhat forgotten fourth sibling, Connor is almost always used as comic relief. It's often a gift, because Alan Ruck is so good at nailing the fussy, pedantic, spoiled details that drive Connor and his libertarian ambitions. "I wanna be a good little boy, and I want to be useful, but I think I need me some pie here," he tells Shiv. His lack of real world experience has been used against him politically, so he wants to come into the company, hit three or four major achievements, and then get out in time to run for president in four years. Honestly, I think he would be pretty good hosting a wine show on Gourmando, ATN's food network.
But he's insulted by Shiv's crumbs. He notes that he does have some juice with the family, even if he's mostly overlooked by them. He has a megaphone now, and he can always say, "Hey guess what? I recall my father was a nasty, racist, neglectful individual. What is it they used to say around here? No Blacks, no Jews, no women above the 4th floor!"
Although he's mostly a clown, Connor's outsider status among the business and family allows him to offer some perspective and nuggets of truth to the others, and he does that again here when he completely nails the fact that Shiv is basically Logan's errand girl.
13. The Paul McCartney Of Lackeys: A special shoutout to Frank, who proves himself to be the Most Useful Lackey Of The Week when he is able to convince Ken to take the meeting with Josh & Logan. "If your dad has to step away, you get to show Aaronson who you are," he whispers, although he leaves out the part where Aaronson, like everyone else in his orbit, is totally disappointed in who Kendall really is.
14. The Sgt. Peppers Of Broken Corporate America: Ken calls in for a meeting, and look at that, the whole gang's here! Frank! Hugo! Karolina! My main man Karl! Have the Feds find your nipple clamps yet, Karl? I'm just kidding! As Roman would say, "conference call jokes are just the best jokes."
Oh, and if you're wondering why Frank is the "Paul McCartney Of Lackeys," it's because he's obviously the cutest member of the group.
15. Terminal Tom: In case it's not clear from all the names he calls himself this episode—they include Shame Sponge, Minion Wrangler, Shit Eater and the unforgettable Terminal Tom—Tom is not doing well this week. I think when he offered himself as a sacrificial lamb to Logan last episode, there was part of him that still was holding out hope it was unlikely; once the FBI raid happens, reality comes crashing down.
So he's obsessively researching prisons as if they were colleges he is applying for ("I'm leaning toward FCI Otisville as my number one," he says as he flips through his binder of prisons), and getting frustrated at Shiv for not sharing his interest. "I just keep hearing a lot of really good things about it. Kosher vending machines and sturdy bunks," he notes.
It's bad enough that Shiv is completely uninterested in Tom's existential crisis; she's also treating her husband like her employee, telling him to thumbscrew Greg and get Ravenhead to fall in line. "In terms of optics, I should probably not take orders from you, much, because of corporate governance...like in terms of the org chart and my masculinity," he argues. "It undermines me if I look at the wall and the org chart suggests you are being fucked in the ass by your wife."
Late in the episode, Tom has his final breakdown as he spirals out about getting "deep into the prison blogs" and the difficulties of making prison wine. He knows there are no fine wines in prison, you don't get to choose what eat or do, and his wife shows she really isn't focused on him. She'll get to enjoy that first cold white wine before dinner while Tom will be trying to turn ketchup into something drinkable.
But in a lot of ways, Tom hits his lowest low with Greg, after he pours out his heart and then Greg refuses to chicken fight with him. (More on this scene down below.) Is there anything worse than getting rejected by your wife and best friend in the same day?
16. Tattoo Man 😞: It's the feel bad storyline of the season! Funny little story...about 15 years ago at Kendall's bachelor party (an ironic bar crawl on Bourbon Street, ugh), the group tried to come up with various disgusting endeavors before settling on getting a homeless person to get Kendall's name tattooed on his forehead. "Yeah, we got Kendall's initials on a rando," Roman summarizes.
Roman thinks this is gonna be the big thing to take down high-and-mighty Kendall, but once Tattoo Man comes in, it's just so sad and underwhelming. It turns out the guy had the initials removed to "improve employment potential and social acceptability," but he still brushes his hair forward to block the faint outline of ink.
Of course, Roman demands that he and Hugo examine his forehead up close, which is the nadir of the scene. Anyway, as awful as all this is, at least Tattoo Man walks away with a million dollars for photos of him with the tattoo that will hopefully never be released in the public.
17. Sophie and Iverson: Good news: Kendall's kids made their first appearance of the season this week! Bad news: it was on an iPad being held by Kendall's assistant Jess Jordan (more on her here), and Kendall was too busy getting cajoled into hanging out with his dad to even say hi to them (at least on screen). Hey, at least he got them a...giant rabbit who doesn't live with them? Is that what kids are into these days?
Creepiest Tom Innuendo Of The Week: Though Logan and Roman clearly relish every chance they get to volley inappropriately sexual and imaginative profanity against people, it feels like Tom as been getting saddled with the creepiest dialogue of the entire family this season. And unfortunately for Greg, he is often the target of it.
Tom's spiral in Greg's office produced two such unforgettable, horrifying images. First, he tells Greg the "amusing notion" that occurred to him: "You're gonna be running a theme park, here's me going to jail. You're gonna be living in a magical castle, and I'm gonna be down in the dungeon somewhere sucking off ogres for fun cards."
And then Tom accurately relates the story of Nero and Sporus (Greg: "This is not IP I'm familiar with.")
"Sporus was a young slave boy, he was Nero's favorite...Nero pushed his wife down the stairs and then he had Sporus castrated and he married him instead. And he gave him a ring and made him dress up like his dead wife...I'd castrate you and marry you in a heartbeat." It's tinged with sadness, slightly touching, and wholly disturbing all at once.
Celebrity Succession Fan Of The Week: It's not surprising that many celebrities love Succession—but what's really cool is that apparently some dead celebrities love Succession! Courtney Love revealed this week that she had given the show approval to use Nirvana's "Rape Me" in last week's episode, and she thinks Kurt would have been a huge fan.
“I was in the room watching (agog) as this song was written in about an hour, and I’ve never been so proud of approving one of Kurt’s songs,” Love wrote on Instagram. “This cue in Succession is as if they truly understood KC. What he was screaming his heart out … without specifics … about. I’m sure wherever he is he’s proud of this. #rapeme #kurtdcobain #nirvana #disruption #myfavoriteinsidesource.”
Family Members In Absentia: Besides a brief appearance at the start, we didn't really get to spend much time with any of Kendall's entourage (including Naomi Pierce). No Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven or Sophie Iwobi, two of last week's new players. Still no appearance from Willa Ferreyra, Connor's better half, Marcia Roy, Logan's better half. No Lady Caroline Collingwood, no Rava Roy, and no Lisa Arthur. No Stewey, Sandy or Sandi. Big Gramps Ewan Roy wasn't in this episode, nor was his intransigent lawyer Pugh. And worst of all, no Mondale the dog.
Did Anyone Get A Kiss From Daddy This Week? Hmm, well Kendall definitely got some incredibly uncomfortable hugs from Daddy, but no kisses were gently lain upon his cheek. In a lot of ways, the small moment when Logan hands his phone to his assistant (whose name escapes me!) to let her hear what it sounds like "when the president loses his temper" is the most intimate Logan moment of the week (give or take Kendall holding his dad up from behind).
Next week on Succession, Logan deals with a UTI, and the dreaded shareholders' vote takes place. Until then, if Succession went full '90s sitcom, it might look a little like this: