‘Succession’ Season 2, Episode 6 Recap: Damage, Control

‘Succession’ Season 2, Episode 6 Recap: Damage, Control

Throughout the first season of “Succession,” Siobhan acted as something of a “floater” in the dynastic struggle going on between her siblings. Sometimes she dished dirt alongside Roman. Sometimes she was simpatico with Kendall. But in this week’s episode, she brings her brothers closer together, uniting them in their hatred of her.

The bile bubbles up at Argestes, a mountaintop gathering of business “thought leaders,” where the Roys plan to announce their deal to acquire Pierce Global Media — a plan that gets scotched when the ticking time bomb of Waystar’s cruise ship sexual harassment scandal finally explodes. A reporter for New York magazine has penned an exposé, revealing how the dearly departed “Uncle Moe” had a habit of helping himself to the ships’ dancers.

Kendall assumed the company had two weeks to respond — and, in the interim, to push through the sale before the progressive Pierces found out the Roys were implicated in such sleaze. Instead, the magazine’s editors get riled up by the last-minute attempts to stall, and they decide to publish immediately.

The bombshell article sets up two intense scenes. The first involves a lunchtime meeting between Logan, Kendall, Nan and Rhea, during which Ken keeps refreshing New York’s website. Even beyond the scandal, something is clearly off with Logan. He is uncomfortably hot (and actually vomits later in the day). He is also fed up with the Pierce family’s nit-picking. Even the time Nan takes to order lunch bugs him. He knows the longer she takes, the more likely it is that the story will break before the appetizers arrive.

Eventually, everyone’s phones start buzzing and the meeting is scrapped. The Roys huddle up to plot a public response, with Shiv flying in to help. She seizes the moment as her way back into the game after having been sidelined by Logan. She aggressively criticizes the “stale pale male” stench in the room while the guys argue that Uncle Moe’s crimes were relatively minor — almost quaint — in comparison to what other powerful men have done lately.

Siobhan initially balks at Rhea’s suggestion that she appear alongside her brothers on a previously scheduled Argestes panel. But she eventually decides to step up, irritating Kendall and Roman. “Why is she even here?” Roman snaps, before adding a more typically childish, “I can see your bra through your sweater.”

This leads to the episode’s second edge-of-the-seat scene: the panel discussion, in which Siobhan, Kendall and Roman toss out Logan’s preferred playbook and try to outdo one another with the extent of their concern. “We don’t want to simply condemn and move on,” Ken says, directly contradicting his dad’s plan. Roman, completely out of his depth, says, “We’ll do whatever anyone wants,” which doesn’t exactly sound like a carefully considered response (though he heard his dad say almost exactly the same thing about the Pierce deal).

Shiv, though, really takes a swing. She waxes rhapsodic about “human decency that transcends management structures” and laments how “sometimes companies develop bad habits.” Most alarmingly, she calls for “a good old-fashioned dinosaur cull.” Logan is at first merely unamused and then outright enraged — especially after his daughter’s tactics fail to dissuade Nan Pierce from killing their deal.

As tense as this episode is, it has moments of levity, mostly involving Tom and Gregory. Tom is excited about unveiling ATN’s new audience-focused slogan, “We’re listening,” until Cousin Greg warns him there’s another potential scandal brewing: Waystar’s set-top boxes have literally been listening, collecting data based on what customers say.

It’s “basically legal,” Greg insists, but not so legal that anyone involved with that decision would circulate it in an email.

These two goofs start brainstorming new slogans. Maybe “We hear you” would be … less active? Like the difference between “Couldn’t help glimpse you changing” and “We put a spy cam in your shower.” They finally settle on “We hear for you,” which Gregory thinks is good because “It’s not clear exactly what the hell it means.” Tom unveils this gem at his Argestes talk, where the slogan is spelled “We here for you” (and where he also defines “the news” as “All the things that are new … the many news.”)

All of this is hilarious. But it also illuminates the stark differences between Tom and his new family. Tom loves everything about Argestes, including the “Airbus Culture and Leadership Walk.” Roman, on the other hand, glimpses that hike on his itinerary and then disdainfully hands the folder to an aide.

Roman is in a weird place right now. He doesn’t have his sister’s social skills, and he’s not an adept student of jargon and ritual like Kendall. He would rather make fun of his Argestes panel (“I’m thinking of no-socking it,” he jokes) than speak earnestly about audience experiences and brand extensions.

But he also needs his dad’s approval, so he comes to Gerri with an unusual proposal. Because Gerri is the official successor to Logan, and because she’s actually useful to the company (“like a competent, kind of clever file cabinet”), Roman suggests they team up, and put themselves forward as candidates for Waystar’s top spots. She’ll be the person really in charge, while he’ll be the “kind of a Jagger Tarzan,” soaking up awe. He would get to act like a boss without actually having to know or care about anything. And she would get “private army in New Zealand” rich.

As always, Roman has overestimated his position within the company, which is so inessential that even after the cruise scandal breaks, he still has no idea what’s going on. (“Brightstar roller coaster rape?” he guesses.) It’s telling that after the Argestes panel, when Logan is furious with everyone, Roman is the one he smacks in the mouth.

But then something remarkable happens: With no hesitation, Kendall gets in his father’s face, yelling at him to back off. It’s such an instinctual move that it’s almost as if muscle memory took hold. This clearly isn’t the first time he has stood up for his brother against their abusive father. Sometimes Ken tries too hard to emulate Logan, as in the opening scene this week, when he angrily knocks the snacks off a lackey’s tray-table on the corporate jet. But being a bully doesn’t really come naturally to him.

Siobhan, on the other hand? Just look at the way she plays head games with her husband this week. First she tells Tom that he’s not allowed to flirt with anyone she knows personally. Then she changes tactics and says he can pursue anyone he wants under the terms of their open marriage but that it might make her jealous. Shiv is doing to Tom what her father has done to her: control him, limit his options and never give him what he really wants. No matter what she may say, in the Roy family’s internal battles, Shiv isn’t neutral. She stands with the king.

The Rich Are Different From You and Me:

  • Gerri keeps encouraging Roman to be a team player, which is how he ends up in a bathroom, pitching a mega-rich, coke-snorting young Azerbaijani man named Edward — whose shoes, according to Roman, are probably made from the skin of human rights activists. Edward doesn’t shut him down but instead wonders if maybe ATN could start spinning the news from his region more positively. When Roman returns to Gerri, he wonders if it would be O.K. to create a front news channel that spews propaganda. “Depends on the numbers,” she replies.

  • Cousin Gregory, who has an uncanny knack for showing up whenever the Roy boys are surrounded by white powder, pops into the bathroom after Edward leaves and overeagerly asks Roman, “You doing the old cocaine?

  • Earlier this week, The Atlantic published a story that might resonate with “Succession” fans. It’s a deep dive into the increasingly contentious relationship between President Trump’s children, who, according to the article, have seen their career goals, political ideals and positions within the family business change significantly as their father has become one of the most towering and divisive cultural figures of his era. Sound familiar?

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