Feelings definitely do not get hurt in this episode of Succession. In fact, feelings aren’t hurt enough in this episode, they should stop pulling their punches and really make their characters suffer, they can take it, they can take a joke, don’t even worry about it.
This is the mindset of Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong, The Trial of the Chicago 7) the entire time and, just like a middle school boy who was told to toughen up and hide his feelings like a man, doesn’t mean what he says at all, but doesn’t know how to draw the line without making things worse for himself socially, which he would rather die than do.
He tries to laugh everything off, making everything into a joke and trying to convince himself and everyone else that he can handle the truth and is happy with discourse, as it keeps him relevant, but despite how hard he tries, some things hit too close to home and he reveals just how much these things hurt.
This was shown even as early as the first scene when he was having lunch with a reporter. During the interview he references a bit done by comedian Sophie Iwobi (Ziwe, Desus & Mero) about him called “Oedipussy”—aka the best name of a skit ever—and asserts that it doesn’t bother him but instead appreciates the criticism. While the reporter doesn’t quite know how to respond to this particular point, she turns the tables when she asks how his relationship with his siblings are and whether they’ve spoken.
This is when things take a turn and the masks slips, showing the aftermath of last episode’s argument as all his siblings fearfully sided with their father over him; the man who’s more than happy to throw his children under the bus if it means he keeps his company and success.
This particular instance informs every aspect of the episode: Kendall wants to take down his dad and prove his point to the people he cares about most that he’s not in the wrong, all while maintaining social relevance at all costs, even if he has to fight back tears along the way.
This isn’t just for the times a more serious comment hits a nerve and his mask slips; it’s for all the jokes, nicknames, and negative comments made about him, no matter how targeted they aim to be. He even says to Comfry (Dasha Nekrasova, The Scary of Sixty-First), one of his hired communications liaisons, that negative press still keeps him relevant and they should treat it positively, which is the general mindset for many public figures, especially in politics.
The issue about Kendall, however, is that he takes everything personally. He tries to overcompensate by insisting that he can take it and throwing himself head first into the line of fire, actively searching for bad comments on Twitter and telling the writers of the comedy show he was going on that their jokes should go as hard as they can.
This latter situation takes place at the end of the episode and clearly establishes what the issue is. When Kendall goes to talk to the writers of The Disruption, Sophie Iwobi’s show, he tells them to hurt him with their jokes, that he can handle anything they throw at him.
As one of the writers and a producer say, these jokes are just part of the show which is meant to be fun, even if it is poking fun at him, it’s just the way things go for shows like this; in short: it’s nothing personal. The point isn’t to hurt Kendall, it’s to get a laugh from the audience and make larger commentary using him as a talking point, there’s no inherent animosity in these jokes; of course, there very well may be, but that’s not the case off the bat for anyone and everyone going in on him.
For Kendall, everything is personal.
His father’s business model centering on pragmatism over sentimentality, which is shown time and again, with Logan trying to make Kendall the sacrificial lamb, a role Tom (Matthew Macfadyen, Pride & Prejudice) has offered himself up to take, Shiv (Sarah Snook, Predestination) acknowledging that it’s a genius plan but insisting that Tom couldn’t, though they both lean into the idea due to its angle and leverage.
Despite this emphasis on things just being for the job, none of these people are robots and the Roy children in particular are extremely emotional, just good enough at being practical when it comes to the business to have it not be an issue. When it comes to Logan (Brian Cox, Medici) especially, the natural instinct is to recoil, which is why it’s so hard for Kendall to keep cool when his father or his siblings, who all sided with his father, are brought into the conversation; or, as seen in the heartbreaking scene where Kendall hides out in one of the studio’s booths and watches Sophie read out lines from the letter with her added commentary, when his darkest parts are brought up and he has to acknowledge some of the terrible things he’s done, such as the car accident in the first season. No matter how hard he can try, sometimes he can’t just smile and brush it off.
It’s the Roy children’s propensity for letting their emotions boil over and drive their actions—all the rationalization comes afterwards, the brain is not as in charge as they would like it to seem—that lead Kendall and Shiv to cross the various lines that they do; and, when looked closer, their attacks hardly take each other into consideration.
Kendall’s interruption of Shiv’s speech with Nirvana’s “Rape Me” isn’t an attack on her, nor is it a targeted point to fully acknowledge the heart of the cruise scandal itself; as shown in this episode, no one truly treats this situation with any real respect or consideration, with the tweets supporting Kendall all about the support rather than the reason for why, and the way Roman (Kieran Culkin, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Shiv criticized the attempts at a public response that Hugo (Fisher Stevens, The Blacklist) pitched.
The core reason of the interruption was to undermine and embarrass Logan, letting him know that Kendall won’t just go away. Shiv was just in the line of fire during this attack, which she’s probably aware of. The open letter in response was retaliation for Kendall both embarrassing her during her first speech as President of Domestic Operations, as well as choosing his fight against his father over their relationship; she had genuinely considered joining him to take down their father, yet he didn’t hesitate to let her be humiliated for the sake of his agenda. This isn’t anything new, the Roy children have always been goal oriented, ready to take down anyone to get to the top—especially if that means being in favor with Logan—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt any less every time it happens, especially after the heart-to-heart they all had previously.
Logan, of course, reserves front row seats to the entire thing. It’s easy to picture him rubbing his hands together and laughing maniacally as he watches Kendall and Shiv’s back-and-forth, as he readily uses it to his advantage, using the attack as a point to Shiv that he’s right in the end about Kendall and why she should be against him. But even without all the ammunition and dirty work his children are handing him on a silver platter, Logan just likes knowing he has his children under his thumb. He can see them do his bidding, even at the expense of each other, if it means making him happy.
He doesn’t even try to hide that he’s a bad dad, not unless he feels he has to in order to get what he wants from his children. If he won’t benefit from pretending that his family are more than just useful pawns in his game, he won’t even try to keep up the act for consistency’s sake, which is shown in Roman’s plot thread.
Forced to go on a talk show to talk about how close he is with his father, Roman struggles to answer any of the potential questions thrown at him to prepare, even though the questions are as basic as mentioning even the vaguest of positive memories he associates with his father. In the end, Roman tells a story about a fishing trip that he and Logan supposedly went on, though Logan himself openly admits to not remembering any such thing; this, of course, comes after he congratulates Roman on staying out of Shiv and Kendall’s beef, then insulting him for going on TV and doing exactly what he wanted him to do, because what kind of father would he be if he doesn’t call his son a derogatory slur and belittle him in every conversation they have.
Roman then reveals that it was actually Connor who took him fishing, but that it’s a multi-use, feel-good childhood memory that he can use whenever he has to, which Logan doesn’t bat an eye to; they both know he’s a bad dad, but they also both know that Roman will never be able to truly retaliate against him for it, nor would be even try, because Logan has that much control over him.
Though it seems that this control is being challenged by a power that may be greater than even Logan Roy can handle: the U.S. government. As Tom hilariously said in the middle of his dinner speech, “It would seem that some agents of Federal Law Enforcement are raiding the premises right now, so if you see them, uh…that’s what that is.” Comedic points aside, this final scene is crucial not only for the overall season but even just this episode, as Logan goes from his consistent “fuck ‘em and fuck off” attitude to finally caving and agreeing with his staff to cooperate with the DOJ.
With the king shaken and new lines in the sand, there’s no telling what will be left in the aftermath of this siege.