The Roy clan is back in “The Summer Palace" and the darkly comedic family drama is on full display.
Obscenely rich and richly obscene, the Roy family of HBO’s darkly comedic family drama Succession is back for Season 2, and more deplorable than ever. Why do we love watching awful people behave badly on television? If you encountered a family as awful as the Roys live in person, you’d be appalled by their sniping, vulgarity, and general lack of regard for anything other than their massive egos and bank accounts, but somehow this band of contemptable buffoons has us enthralled. It’s the guiltiest of TV pleasures, like bingeing on ortolan every Sunday night. After a failed coup, a Chappaquiddick-like incident, and an ill-advised marriage, the Roys enter Succession Season 2 more strained, yet dependent on one another to stave off the slings and arrows of their many powerful adversaries. Follow along with Den of Geek this season as we chart who’s leading the line of succession, determine who’s behaving the worst, and sing the praises of the series’ one pure soul, Cousin Greg.
This is the Succession Sibling Watch for Season 2 Episode 1, “The Summer Palace.”
Only a mere 48 hours after taking a young man’s life in the Roy family’s own version of the Chappaquiddick incident, Kendall is quickly whisked away from what appears to be an Icelandic rehab facility and thrust back into the great game. Forced to back out of his deal with Stewy Hosseini and Sandy Furness because he needed his father’s family fixers, Kendall is firmly back on Team Logan as its “number one boy,” officially cucked. Wide eyed and nearly catatonic, Kendall sleepwalks through cable news appearances, corporate pow wows, dressing-downs from his father and siblings, and a particularly awkward meeting with Stewy and Sandy. He’s toeing the company lines and PR team-approved talking points like a frightened hostage. The only time this dude seems remotely awake is when he’s taking a little aggression out on poor Cousin Greg for buying him “park coke.”
More embarrassing or soul-crushing than, say, not being trusted to drive your own motorbike or begin referred to as Mr. Potato Head to a room full of subordinates, is finding out that Kendall possibly never needed his father’s help to begin with. A family stooge Colin briefs Kendall on what happened after his car-crash and reveals that the authorities never once considered that a second person was in the vehicle. Kendall was likely in the clear without any of Daddy’s assistance. Once again, Kendall has had his balls clipped by Logan and may finally realize that the king can never be dethroned while he’s still living. To reference another HBO series about powerful families, he’s been turned into Reek.
The only Roy child not blowing up rockets, snorting away their last shot at independence, or getting lost in the sweet, sweet chase of Napoleonic artifacts, Shiv is the obvious choice to succeed Logan if the old, foul-mouthed cockroach should ever die. Finally, Logan seems to notice this too, and he asks Shiv if she’d be interested in officially being named as his successor to satiate the Waystar Royco shareholders. At first, Shiv plays hard to get, feigning disinterest and taking pot shots at the old man in the way that only a truly independent child could. However, when Logan threatens to sell the company on the spot by shooting out a reckless tweet, Shiv makes her true feelings known and accepts the position. Logan decides to get her up to speed quickly then announce her to the board, but in the meantime, the two agree to keep their plan under wraps. While the plan moves forward behind closed doors, Roman and Kendall will serve as co-chief officers, with Gerri standing in as successor for optics.
Shiv is thrilled by the news, lambasting her father for not asking her sooner, but her happiness seems to spell out the inevitability that this all does not go according to plan. People don’t tend to get what they want on this show, whether you’re a Roy or not. Perhaps Logan made a similar agreement with Roman behind closed doors or has another plan up his sleeve, but the neat and tidy nature of this arrangement almost ensures that all is not what it seems. Somewhere inside Shiv’s heart, she probably knows this too.
Why can’t we all have the unearned confidence of Roman? Despite spectacularly failing at his one Waystar business project, Roman still feels entitled to be named Logan’s successor. It’s been more than established that Roman has little to no business acumen, but when you can posture and shit talk as well as he can, you might be able to even convince yourself that you should be the one calling the shots at the head of a multibillion-dollar media conglomerate. Roman is so unmoved by his own shortcomings that he’s seen drifting and texting in the middle of the press conference to announce the horrible failure of his rocket launch. He might be quick with a creative putdown or a savage turn of phrase, but this guy is no CEO.
Roman feels particularly threatened by the unexpected reappearance of Kendall, who he double-crossed in an effort to earn more of Daddy’s affection. Though he doesn’t know the specifics of Kendall’s return to the fold, Roman is incensed and barely questions why his brother has gone full monotone sycophant. The worst news for Roman here is learning that he’ll share COO duties with Kendall, who he considers “a fucking neutered hound dog.” Ah, what a way with words.
Who can be bothered by this family politicking when there’s a sweet little treasure trove of Napoleonic artifacts to bid on? The only succession that Connor is interested in at the moment is of the Napoleonic kind. You see, he’s got a nice cache of Napoleonia coming his way, including Napoleon’s dismembered penis, but that’s just a feature of the collection, not the headliner, you see. The real collectors aren’t much interested in it, but it is an attention-grabbing curio, isn’t it? No word on how Connor’s plans for a presidential bid are coming, but his Napoleonic bids are going swimmingly, thanks for asking.
Rounding Out the Family
After sheepishly agreeing to open up his marriage on the night of his wedding once it was revealed that his bride to be was cheating on him, Tom is forced to cut his honeymoon with Shiv short as Logan’s reported plan to sell the company makes everyone head to the episode’s titular Hamptons home. This is all stuff that Tom will grin and bear though, because he’s just happy to be a part of the Roy family and the wealth, power, and influence that comes with them.
Tom’s immediate focus is to continue climbing the corporate ladder and get out of Parks and Cruises and into a department that’s more exciting. In her behind-closed-doors meeting with Logan, Tom thinks that Shiv is negotiating a larger role for him, but that’s the smallest little piece of business the pair discuss. Shiv tells Tom that he’s being promoted to Chair of Global Broadcast News, which Tom is ecstatic about. Little does he know that in her pitch for how she’d fix the company, one that ostensibly impressed Logan, Shiv made it clear that she planned on cutting the news department of the company loose. Something tells me Shiv may be thinking about doing something similar to Tom as well.
My biggest complaint with this episode? Not enough Cousin Greg, of course! At the end of the episode, I felt like Kendall being given park coke. What is this shit?! There’s not remotely enough Cousin Greg in this line! (Snorts it anyway.) Greg’s attempts to both connect with his extended family (I die every time Greg moves in for any sort of affectionate greeting) or bro-down with his cuz feel painfully real and thus incredibly entertaining. His bumbling, disbelief that some rando in the park might not have cocaine suitable for a multimillionaire prolific addict is almost sweet in its naivety. Oh Cousin Greg, how we’ve missed you so.
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Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.