Despite its lengthy hiatus post-the season two finale, Succession’s season three premiere throws the viewers and characters right back where they left off and to consider the aftermath and where to go next. Of course, what better way to remind audiences that, for all the dramatics of the finale, the Roy family are still who they are, and that won’t change.
When it comes to Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7), no matter how immense a catalyst his press conference denouncing his father was, the audience has to remember that his press conference is generally the exception, not the rule, and he doesn’t always have the best plans or luck when it comes to corporate politics, especially with his fixation on being the trendy cool guy who wants so bad to be on top of all the memes that he focuses more on the data analytics of meme shelf-life and relevancy than he does the actual content.
While best left in the back of the repressed memories closet, it’s important to remember that this is still the same person who thought a rap song would be a great way to pay tribute to his father at his surprise party.
It’s made clear early on that, for all his press conference was a great move, he didn’t really have much by the way of a plan; stabbing Julius Caesar was a great way to let off steam and make a point, but it still left a mess to clean up, and it certainly didn’t mean whomever did the biggest stab was going to instantly take over.
But Kendall didn’t seem to take that into consideration, or even that this attack against his father may have cost him his position in the company, as that had to be pointed out to him by Karolina (Dagmara Dominczyk, The Lost Daughter), head of Waystar Royco’s PR team, whom he promptly kicked out of the car then threatened when it was made known she wasn’t fully on his side. It begs the question of what was going through his mind as he stared at the ceiling, sat in the hotel bathtub.
But the fun doesn’t stop after Karolina’s exit—where she dutifully proves her point that saying nothing is more effective than Greg’s constant cries of “no comment” when being bombarded by journalists—as the car ride also saw Kendall working with Greg (Nicholas Braun, How to Be Single) and Jess Jordan (Juliana Canfield, Y:The Last Man) to figure out next steps and gather their team. This, of course, led to Greg’s hilarious attempt to get a reading on Kendall’s social temperature—though considering he was trending #1 above tater tots does actually count for something—and to show just what kind of adversary Kendall is up against; Logan Roy (Brian Cox, Medici) was an abusive monster when Kendall was on his good side, and after the events of the past two seasons, it’s clear he will never go down without a fight; especially when the enemy is his son.
This is made abundantly clear as Logan and the rest of Team Waystar scrambles to figure out the best course of action on their own as they figured out which non-extraditing country they were going to.
Other than when he asked his other three victims—oops, ahem, children—whether Kendall had told them about his plan, he handled this situation the exact same as all the other situations from past seasons which, while an acknowledgement that Kendall’s move was a powerful one, thus earning him some respect from his father, it further illustrates just how ruthless and vile Logan is that he’s almost disowned his son after this move; he threatened to turn his bones into bread then lashed out when he heard Kendall say he didn’t want to see his father in prison. Whether or not Kendall meant it, it says something about Logan that he can’t fathom caring enough about a family member to pull punches; not that this is a new concept, Logan sees his children as objects to wield and control rather than actual people, no matter how hard they try to please him.
A subtle, yet hilarious exchange that reminds viewers of Logan’s lack of paternal instinct no matter what the situation is when he began to deputize the various people he trusted—read: his children— to cover and look into parts of the company. He had given instructions to Shiv (Sarah Snook, Predestination), Roman (Kieran Culkin, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), and son-in-law Tom (Matthew Macfadyen, Pride & Prejudice), then sent everyone off to start. It was only when Willa (Justine Lupe, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) called Logan over that he remembered he had a fourth child and gave Connor (Alan Ruck, The Exorcist) the job of overseeing the tarmac they were standing on.
This was also shown when they were discussing who would be interim CEO and Frank (Peter Friedman, The Path) mentioned that Logan was most likely considering a kid or Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron, Search Party), and the subsequent discussions never once even considered Connor as an option, which has been a running theme for the past two seasons, but is always important to note since he’s still under Logan’s control and harbors as much trauma as his siblings do.
While Kendall setting up his base of operations at his estranged wife’s home was definitely a choice, his decision to invite his current romantic partner to said base of operations was an even bigger choice; for his sake, he better hope he makes different choices when it comes to this current situation.
Or, better yet, he should hope he can stay on the good side of the communications professionals he kept talking over so they can actually make sure he succeeds as the whistleblower they perceive him to be; Kendall better hope they don’t jump ship once they realize he doesn’t actually care about getting justice for those abused by the system established on his father’s cruise ships.
The same is true for Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan, Hit & Run) who was a major point of contention between Team Ken-Doll and Team Waystar, as both groups were advised to go with her, but only one of them could have her. In a surprise turn of events, Lisa opted to work with Kendall—though their meeting was just preliminary, so nothing was truly final—but she still made a point when she didn’t give Shiv an inch when they had their meeting, and hadn’t denied working with Kendall when Shiv confronted her about it. While this implies that Lisa aligns herself with wanting to hold Waystar accountable for the harm they’ve caused, she’s not entirely unaware of Kendall’s angle, pointing out that his goal is to do this takedown but in a way that makes sure he isn’t implicated and the company is still successful enough that he doesn’t lose his position as shareholder or any of the benefits; only time will tell how she ultimately feels and acts to this situation, but for now, it seems she’s on Team Meme.
Unfortunately for Shiv, this breach of girl code—besties don’t represent the brother trying to take down the company their bestie is trying to inherit—costs her the interim CEO position, despite it not being Shiv’s fault that Kendall got to Lisa first and is in a position that better aligns with her values; values such as: covering up sexual abuse and negligent homicide is bad.
While it was already shown from the beginning of the episode that the kids are once again ready to tear each other’s throats out in exchange for their father’s approval, Logan has clearly used Lisa Arthur and the CEO position as a way to pit his children against each other once again, especially to drive more of a wedge between Kendall and the rest of his siblings. The fight for the interim CEO position—much like last season’s meeting to determine who had to take one for the team and be the “blood sacrifice,” which was what led to Kendall’s betrayal in the first place—was nothing more than a power play by Logan to sow the seeds of chaos and distrust amongst the players in his team to make sure they have no choice but to stick with him, as they aren’t on good terms with each other; all while keeping his hands clean and remaining the neutral bystander to the antics of all the people beneath him.
Lisa Arthur was also a way for Logan to make sure Shiv didn’t get the position of interim CEO—as he didn’t actually ever want to do so, despite what he’d have them all believe—and to ensure he still looks like the reasonable father who demands results and doesn’t manipulate his children to further his own agenda at their expense. When she was first suggested, Logan had seemed open to the idea, but it was clear he was doing that more for show, as all his decisions for how to proceed were the opposite of what everyone said Lisa would suggest. While it’s not yet clear if he already got word that Kendall had gotten to her first, Logan probably knew in some regard that Shiv wouldn’t have been able to get her help in the first place and, even if she had, he most likely would have found another way to take the CEO position away.
He only gave it to Shiv to further drive her and Roman apart, as he had listed Roman as a contender for interim CEO but after just one phone call where Roman shoots his shot, Logan takes him out of the running entirely, and while his expression is one of shock and he refuses to elaborate, it could be argued that it’s because he’s surprised it was that easy to take Roman out of the running entirely, as he never actually wanted him to have the position; he just needed to look like a “good” dad and say he considered it, so they don’t turn on him.
Overall, this episode was a great premiere and reintroduction to the world as a whole, picking up right where it left off and setting up so many future conflicts it’s hard to keep track of them all, though it’ll be no trouble watching them all unfold.