Recap: Succession (S4, Ep7) — A Miserable Party Reveals Everyone’s True Nature

One thing I’ve found when it comes to watching Succession live is that it really benefits from two watches. With every episode being over an hour of ludicrous wealth, lots of cursing, and general nastiness, it can be a lot to focus on at once. Earlier episode “Kill List” was originally going to be rated two-and-a-half stars before I wised up and gave it a second go, and even worse, an episode as excellent as this week’s “Tailgate Party” was only going to get three.

But then I watched it again, and yes, “Tailgate Party” is excellent, about as good as last week’s “Living+” and the earth-moving “Connor’s Wedding“. Succession characters all have one major negative trait that defines them, and the Roy siblings and Tom (Matthew Macfayden) certainly display those traits by the end of this episode. Early on, Tom gifts his kind-of estranged wife Shiv (Sarah Snook) a scorpion in honor of their upcoming pre-election night party (“Because…it’s funny.”), and when considering what the characters do in this episode, the gesture feels like it’s alluding to the fable of the scorpion and the frog, where a titular scorpion would rather die than not give in to its nature. Throughout “Tailgate Party,” we see that idea represented across multiple characters.

The most amusing of these characters is probably Greg (Nicholas Braun), who oozes through this episode with his typical brand of sleaze. The funniest scene in the episode is easily when he’s tasked with firing hundreds of Waystar employees over a video call and mumbles about how “this is a very sad day” before hanging up and rewarding himself with a “nicely done.” When aspiring Waystar owner Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) crashes the pre-election party and Greg is sent to go entertain him, he joins in on the group bullying of Matsson’s (he calls Greg “Gary” at one point) already harassed PR woman without a second thought. Throughout the series, Greg has taken every opportunity possible to snake his way up the ladder, so of course he’d go along with whatever Matsson wants.

Roman (Kieran Culkin) has always been a bit of a bottom-feeder too, but his desires have more been focused on attention and reactions rather than power. Of the three important Roy siblings, Roman is given the least amount of focus in “Tailgate Party,” but what we do see of him speaks to this part of his character well. In the previous episode, he impulsively fired longtime Waystar employee Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) and is now forced to do damage control regarding letting her go. But “damage control” isn’t really a suitable job for a guy who is usually the reason damage needs to be controlled, so of course he just starts acting petulant.

“I could have gotten you there,” she sighs before leaving, and the idea that this person who was such a constant source of emotion for Roman is turning his back on him is enough to make him engage in every Roy’s favorite pastime: bullying his brother Connor (Alan Ruck). While trying to influence the upcoming election so that vaguely fascist Republican candidate Mencken (Justin Kirk) can snap up Connor’s voters, he tries to send his brother out of the country until the election is over. (“I could it open it up like Nixon did China,” Connor muses on the topic of going to North Korea.) But when push comes to shove, Connor decides to stick to his wife’s advice and keep out of the toxic pool his siblings and father would shove each other around in, no matter how much profanity Roman spits at him. The brothers make for perfect foils to each other here; one is a man who refuses to get out, and one is doing everything he can to stay out.

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) gets even deeper into the role of his late father here. When his ex-wife tells him that their daughter was harassed because of who her father is, he’s concerned, but he deflects any possible blame. He invites Nate (Ashley Zukerman), the man Shiv had an affair with near the beginning of the series, to the party because he may be useful, not all that concerned with how his sister might feel about it.

“You’re not Logan. That’s a good thing,” Nate insists to Kendall after he fails to bribe him into taking down Matsson. Maybe it’s this conversation, maybe it’s the damning information about Matsson’s inflated subscriber numbers that he learns in this episode, or maybe it’s the way Roman and Shiv have failed to trust him throughout the season, but near the end, Kendall declares intent to cut them out and run the company by himself. Kendall has always sought independent power, whether that be from Logan or his siblings, so this was unfortunately something foreseeable.

But by far the most shocking and disturbing part of “Tailgate Party” is Tom and Shiv, and an apocalyptic argument that ends the episode. Sleep-deprived and frustrated by Nate’s presence and rumors of his firing, Tom confronts Shiv on the balcony of their apartment, and things get out of control fast. She accuses him of emotionally manipulating her with his marriage proposal because Logan was hospitalized when it happened; he accuses her of undermining him professionally, and by the time that he tells her “I think you are maybe not a good person to have children” while unaware that she’s pregnant by him, it’s all over.

“I don’t like you,” is the best Shiv can muster, both actors doing an excellent job making their characters look completely beaten. She goes inside, leaving Tom to contemplate what just happened.

“Tailgate Party” is one of those Succession episodes where it feels like almost nothing happens, but it communicates much about the characters through their actions. All of these people are bound to their worst trait, and it keeps them constantly at odds with each other and unable to reach a resolution—and that’s what keeps Succession moving.

“You kill me,” Tom says early in the episode as he gives Shiv the scorpion, “and I kill you.”

This episode of Succession is now available on HBO Max.

Sam Layton
Sam Layton

Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.