The theme of this episode of Succession is “leverage,” and not just because it’s the most used word in the entire episode. With power plays being Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox, Medici) love language, it’s no surprise that he’s searching for any opportunity to gain control of the train wreck that is his corporate empire.
Everyone in this episode is looking for some way to establish dominance over someone else, and it’s a tie between Shiv (Sarah Snook, Predestination) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen, Pride & Prejudice) as to which one is trying and failing to do so the most.
For Shiv, her scenes this episode consist of her trying and failing to establish herself and gain any respect within the company, as Connor (Alan Ruck, The Exorcist), the least involved Roy sibling when it comes to the family business, points out that her position is nothing more than her playing at having any control or doing anything of value. Even worse, her father—the man who gave her the position and convinced her of its legitimacy in the first place—even called just to let her know that she doesn’t have his support.
Whereas for Tom, his leverage attempts are generally centered on trying to re-establish the power imbalance that had allowed him to bully Greg (Nicholas Braun, How to Be Single) under the guise of the corporate hierarchy, especially since his wife has now surpassed him on the ladder which, according to him, threatens his masculinity and perception in the workplace, which has already deteriorated.
That being said, this insecurity should be the least of his worries since he’s dedicated his free time to researching various prisons that he would like to aim for if/when he’s arrested for his involvement in the Waystar cruise scandal. As he’s not as rich or connected as the actual Roy family, his concerns are somewhat valid, as he won’t be able to get a deal like Lori Loughlin, who was convicted for her involvement in the college admissions bribery scandal, though his scandal is far more insidious than hers.
Unfortunately for Tom, he was unsuccessful in bullying Greg into rejoining team Waystar like Shiv had asked—his strange metaphor using the story of Nero and Sporus failing to hit its mark—because Logan had gotten him first.
It wasn’t entirely surprising when Greg turned as him choosing Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7) side was equivalent to a second grader packing his things and running away from home: it was novel at first, and he tried his best to stay strong, but he was always going to be home once his candy bars ran out.
It was even foreshadowed when Greg told Kendall about his upcoming meeting with Logan in which he promised not to turn on him and that he’s sturdy, which Kendall tells him to repeat three times before the rooster crows. While a hilarious set up to yet another one of Greg’s utterly confused responses—cock-a-doodle-doo, indeed—it’s also a reference to the apostle Peter who, despite being appalled at the concept, denies knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows, essentially betraying his best friend; as Peter failed to be “the rock,” so too did Greg fail to be the “sturdy birdie.”
Despite there not being any of the goons, stooges, or rough-jacks that he feared would administer a mafia-like beating, it didn’t take Greg long to throw his current legal representation to the wind and agree with all that Logan brought to forth, the man just barely trying to seem like he cares about and even knows who Greg is, all his words laced with threats and insults that he can’t say outright, nor keep fully contained. After a swift semi-negotiation that ended with Greg chugging his rum and Coke before lamenting about how the 60’s were, “Different times. Different times, indeed. Better times? Not for all.”
To add insult to the injury of Greg’s betrayal, Roman (Kieran Culkin, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) pitches a way to take Kendall down a peg in the public eye to Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron, Search Party), managing to track down a homeless man that, during one of Kendall’s birthday parties years prior, was talked into tattooing the birthday boy’s initials into his forehead.
This leads up to a very twisted scene wherein Roman shows no sympathy or real respect for the homeless man’s attempts to clean up his image and move forward with his life and uses a million dollars to compel him to dredge up photos from a darker time in his life; it’s commentary straight out of Squid Game, with the rich exploiting the struggle of the poor to get them to do humiliating and dangerous things for their own gain.
But all that aside, the main plot of the episode centers around Kendall and Logan reuniting to convince shareholder Josh Aaronson (Adrien Brody, Chapelwaite) that the money he lost due to this scandal will be earned back and there’s nothing to be concerned about when it comes to the business.
Josh himself is power tripping during this exchange, even before he steps on screen. From the very beginning, he uses his position as having a four-percent stake in the company to get Kendall and Logan not only in the same room for the first time since before the press release, but to drop everything and fly out to his Long Island mansion home to try and convince him that everything is fine.
The man goes so far as to outright state the amount of power he has and that the two essentially work for him, shutting down all the typical responses and platitudes the two had prepared, as he’s far more shrewd and fiscally responsible than they gave him credit for.
That being said, he was still, at the end of the day, power tripping which, no matter his position, left him in the exact same boat as Kendall and Logan who were trying to win over Josh while getting in enough digs at each other that, by the end of the meeting, there would be a clear winner in their power struggle that would be the #2 to Josh’s position on the power leaderboard.
Kendall struggled from the very beginning, with Josh taking Logan’s side in terms of the public scandal, trying to convince him to back off and quiet down so no one loses any more money, even throwing in a family loyalty angle, though he, unsurprisingly, uses incorrect terminology. Kendall, understandably, feels railroaded, which Logan uses to his advantage, bringing up Kendall’s prior drug use as a way to undermine his mental stability, pointing out that the drugs could be making him paranoid.
Logan didn’t have it easy for long, however, as his current medical issues make it difficult for him to keep up the pretense that he’s as solid as ever, Josh constantly testing him by offering a cart for him to use, which Logan would never accept; he, correctly, believed that showing physical weakness would lead Josh to believe the company itself was also weak.
These scenes establish the nuance of Kendall and Logan’s relationships with each other and the company, as Kendall hates his father, but not as much as the hates the idea of the company going under, though he’s not so desperate as to cave under the first signs of pressure from a shareholder.
This also adds to the stance that Kendall doesn’t care about the victims and the ethical and systemic issues he claims to; at least, not as much as he cares about keeping the company afloat while he tries to take over as CEO. If he was truly as disgusted by the crimes his father was involved with, he would act very differently, even if he was compelled to pretend to play nice; he certainly wouldn’t so quickly offer to ease up on his attacks if his father steps away from his position and gives Kendall the position of CEO with minimal issue.
At the end of it all, however, despite the deep hatred and resentment he has for his father for his entire life experience with him, it still doesn’t cancel out the deep rooted control Logan has over him—and/or whatever general human decency Kendall possess—that makes him care for his father’s well-being when it’s clear he overexerted himself.
Roman blames the medical complication on Kendall who didn’t try and step in and stop his father from hiking, nor bring anything to help should something go wrong, but if anyone’s to blame, it should be Josh.
Logan was goaded by Josh from the very beginning. It was clear to all of them that Logan would sooner keel over and die before admitting that he needed support and couldn’t go on a hike with the two younger men, and Josh mentioned Logan’s condition enough that he should have known this would happen.
Kendall should’ve stepped in and stopped Josh—regardless of any hard feelings or relationship or whether or not he owes his father anything, he should have some instinct to avoid causing someone else deep physical and emotional distress and harm—but Logan would’ve killed him if he had, as it would not only be undermining him and his health, but would be counterproductive to their overall plan, which was to convince Josh that everything would be fine and to stay with the company which Logan is still in charge of.
It was the ultimate power play, as Josh was able to have a “legitimate” example to refer to when asked why he stepped away, since he was unable to fix things during their conversations. He established his dominance and forced the two big players to acknowledge it before stepping away and letting them pick up the pieces, all while getting the last word, as there’s no way Logan can argue against the tangible evidence his heat exhaustion provided.
It seems the Roy’s aren’t the only ones who understand the meaning of leverage, and with their control waning, this could prove fatal for everyone involved.