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‘Succession’ turns the Roy boys from princes into power-mad kings

<i>David M. Russell/HBO</i><br/>Jeremy Strong
David M. Russell
David M. Russell/HBO
Jeremy Strong

By Brian Lowry, CNN

There was so much to love about the sixth episode of “Succession,” in the most cringe-worthy of ways, it’s frankly hard to decide where to begin. The most indelible image, though, with apologies to “Game of Thrones,” was one of the Roy boys becoming power-mad kings in the wake of their father’s death, yet somehow snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

The episode opened with the familiar face of Logan Roy (they’re still paying Brian Cox, after all, so why not?) crankily pitching a real-estate brand, Living+, via a posthumous video, which the company intends to present at its Investor Day. Yet their soon-to-be owner, Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård, revving up his Emmy campaign), is sour on the idea, using sister Shiv (Sarah Snook) as a back channel to express his dissatisfaction after the contentious negotiations with brothers Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin).

As visuals of “Succession”-level excess would go, it’s hard to top Matsson strolling across the tarmac, barefoot, from one private jet to another, where he referred to Shiv as his “girl on the inside.”

Even after Matsson’s enriched bid to acquire Waystar Royco, Kendall and Roman are still trying to undermine the deal, and perhaps more significantly, demonstrate their ability to fill their father’s shoes.

In one of the more overt expressions of that angst, Roman schlepped out to Hollywood, impulsively firing the head of the company’s movie studio (guest Annabeth Gish) during a meeting, then bristling when Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) told him he couldn’t do that.

“I need you to believe that I am as good as my dad,” Roman snapped, to which Gerri responded, cuttingly, “Say it or believe it?”

While Roman wrestled with apparent delusions of grandeur, Kendall was exhibiting his own, seizing upon Living+ as the lifeline that would boost the company’s stock price and potentially allow them to retain control over the company.

Gung ho about the idea, Kendall sought to engineer a last-minute presentation to pitch it, complete with questionably spun profit projections and a vision for an on-stage replica of Living+ that couldn’t be fabricated in time.

The naysaying led Shiv to question Kendall’s “hare-brained schemes,” Roman to back away from endorsing the idea and everyone else in the Waystar hierarchy to prepare for the worst, especially when Kendall incorporated footage of his late father during his stammering opening.

And then, shockingly, the presentation actually went well, causing the Waystar brain trust to abruptly change their tunes, and Kendall to exult with a cleansing dip in the ocean that certainly didn’t suffer for a lack of symbolism. It was as if he was washing off the stain of failure, establishing himself, finally, as his own man.

Even that recap doesn’t really do justice to the episode, which incorporated a number of smart moments, including the suggestion that Waystar’s conservative news division, ATN, created a toxic environment for wooing talent to the movie studio, an issue that arose in the past during Rupert Murdoch’s stewardship of Fox.

The writers also continued to explore the complicated interactions between Shiv and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), who keep flirting with and hurting each other (literally, in one moment) in near-equal measure.

Plus, there was that little throwaway line in which Gerri says about Matsson, “Nobody minds a genius acting weird,” which carries with it plenty of recent real-world echoes, adding, “His reputation is priced in.”

Where do the Roy boys and Matsson go from here? That remains to be seen, but there’s already been plenty of genius in the buildup, during an hour that should only enhance the price of “Succession’s” awards stock.

HBO, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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