Recap: Succession (S4, Ep2) — For the Roys and Their Elite Circle, It’s the Little (Devastating) Things
This article is written by Sam Layton.
It’s always the small things that get you, isn’t it? Succession has this funny habit of making what seem like the smallest decisions come back to bite their characters in the end, and the entirety of the series of earth-shaking final scenes in “Rehearsals” hinges on this idea. Last week’s episode (which I missed due to my very recent arrival at this publication, I’m sure Connor would be upset by my lateness) was all about these grand displays of power and wealth with the PGM bidding war. But this one is much smaller scale, something that (mostly) works in the episode’s favor.
The small thing in “Rehearsal” is Logan (Brian Cox), bitter about his children stealing PGM from him, refusing them access to the copter that’s supposed to take them to Connor’s (Alan Ruck) rehearsal dinner. They arrive to find it (and possibly Connor’s upcoming marriage) already over—which leads to them taking Connor to “a real bar, with chicks” out of pity; which leads to Logan showing up; which leads to him tempting Roman (Kieran Culkin) into switching sides. You see what I mean? The siblings can drop as many billions on as many PGMs as they want, but it’s those little displays of power—aircraft have always represented power on Succession when they’re used as a plot point—as opposed to the big, showy ones that will always cut them off at the knees.
The people we don’t expect are a recurring theme in “Rehearsal”: Take Connor, easily the most useless of the siblings and often regarded as comic relief, and how his fear that Willa might leave him makes him more and more of a nervous wreck throughout the night. Roman’s jabs about how she’s probably “on a bigger, harder, younger dick” certainly don’t help.
“You’re all chasing after dad, saying ‘Love me! Please, love me, I need love, I need attention!’” he snaps, tired of being forced to sit in on these messy, vitriolic meetings when he should be enjoying the fact that he’ll be married tomorrow, if that’s even still happening.
“The good thing about having a family that doesn’t love you is you learn to live without it,” he sighs, and he’s right—Succession has never taken Connor seriously, nor have its fans, nor has anyone, really. And yet, we get to see this man who often serves as an outlet for Logan and Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) abuse erupt with repressed anger. He just wants to get his buyout money and leave, unaware that Kendall has a plan to get Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) to drop the deal entirely—because Connor is never aware of what’s going on, and he’s tired of letting it get to him.
On the flip side, there is someone who very much wants in: Kerry (Zoe Winters), trying to use her influence over Logan to get the position of ATN anchor. The problem? She’s truly awful at it, Kendall and Roman giggling at her attempts, then Hugo (Fisher Stevens) and Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) (the former of whom tries and fails to avoid showing Logan what he’s watching in the episode’s funniest scene) and finally Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), who has been given the order by Logan to take care of it. So of course, Tom passes it on to Greg (Nicholas Braun) with a warning that “it’s like Israel-Palestine, except harder and much more important.” Greg tries to break the news gently to Kerry, but she sidesteps his fumbling murmurs about a nonexistent “focus group” and uses it to bypass his attempt entirely. Nobody (aside from Logan in the latter’s case) really respects Connor or Kerry, but both do things completely outside what we expect of them here, and it’s fascinating.
What’s even more fascinating is the climax of this episode, which, ironically enough, is exactly what we’d expect from everyone involved. Logan’s attempt at an apology and complaints about how “I wanted you there at my party” obviously don’t move Kendall and Shiv (Sarah Snook) in the slightest, but Roman, who breaks the siblings’ agreement of “no contact until an apology” to wish Logan a happy birthday and is tired of their back and forth-ing, sees things differently.
“There’s a Night of the Long Knives coming,” Logan hums to Roman in the episode’s final scene. He wants Roman to run ATN, not Tom, who it seemed he was getting ready to clear the deck for. We don’t see Roman’s answer, but we’ve seen him fold under Logan’s domineering presence time and time again. One of the major themes of Succession (and weirdly, a lot of HBO shows) is that people don’t change without a lot of effort, and it’s unfair to assume that the sibling alliance may be eroding over the next couple of episodes.
Part of “Rehearsal” is on the weaker side—the start of both the Kerry and Connor plots feels a bit slow—but by the back half, it’s kicked into very high gear, providing the quiet drama and shifts in power for which Succession is beloved. Starting with the denied helicopter, it’s an episode full of small, ominous things—Kendall’s call with Matsson, Kerry’s refusal to back down, the revelation that Roman kept in contact with Logan—that could very easily lead to a massive, disastrous rug-pull. They’re like Connor—the overlooked, unthought-about children, waiting for something to go wrong so that they can finally erupt.
This episode of Succession is now available to stream on HBO Max.