A recipe for the penultimate episode of “Succession” Season 3: a destination wedding between the estranged mother of the Roy children and a man they’ve never met, a business deal with the potential to forever alter Waystar Royco, a dash of suggestive tweets, a sprinkle of lewd photographs and one too many glasses of wine. What could possibly go wrong?
The episode, which followed Kendall’s chaotic birthday party, was a first taste of the pure havoc rounding out the end of the season. In Episode 8, titled “Chiantishire,” several slow-cooking plot lines come to a boil. All varieites of confrontation – husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, mother-daughter, father-son, slime puppy-Gerri – set up what is sure to be an explosive finale next week.
Every single element of what makes this show great is present here, making it one of, if not the best episodes of the season thus far.
GoJo Puts Logan Back in the Driver’s Seat
If the last few episodes saw Logan Roy (Brian Cox) plodding toward a full recovery, let Episode 8 serve as proof that he has arrived. No more concessions, no more delegating – he’s ready to go “full f—-ing beast.”
His return to form is immediately apparent when he pulls shareholders Sandi Furness (Hope Davis) and Stewy Hosseini (Arian Moayed) aside ahead of a board meeting. After a few minutes of fake niceties – we all know Logan could care less about the health of his enemy, Sandy Furness – Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Logan break the news about their plans to acquire new media conglomerate GoJo. It’s kind of like stealing a cookie from the jar and then asking for permission. Stewy and Sandi are miffed about being “ambushed,” but they’re also concerned that GoJo CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) is unreliable.
“If you guys really, really don’t like it… sure. Kill it,” says Logan, a firm believer in the power of reverse psychology.
They back the deal, proving that their hesitation is more a matter of wounded ego than strategic disapproval. But Sandi has one reservation: Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) noted absence from the meeting. Roman implies that she’s not part of the inner circle at the moment. Clearly, no fences have been mended since last week’s episode, when Roman absolutely leveled her at Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) birthday party. Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) makes a face, but he doesn’t seem that upset at the slight against his wife. Perhaps it’s payback for all the times she’s declined to defend him.
There’s no love lost between them when Shiv and Tom board a private jet to their mother’s wedding in Tuscany, Italy. Following some gentle ribbing (Roman: “What were you doing, brunching with some other sock-puppet girlboss presidents?” Shiv: “You haven’t got a date? No one on Raya wanna come to Italy to sit on your ricotta dick?”) Roman, clearly feeling guilty for how he behaved at the party, tries to unite against a common enemy: their mother’s husband-to-be, “slime badger” Peter Munion (Pip Torrens).
He proposes that they try to talk her out of marrying him, or at least make sure she has a watertight prenup. But Shiv wants nothing to do with it, partly because she isn’t ready to make up and partly because she wants to limit contact with her mother. Man-baby that he is, Roman says he’s going to fire her as soon as he takes over the company. But Shiv beats fire with ice, foreshadowing events to come.
Trouble in Paradise
A procession of beetle-like SUVs shuttle through the sunbaked streets of Tuscany, where Caroline Collingwood’s (the luminous Harriet Walter) wedding is to take place. It takes a second to recognize Kendall’s kids because they’re noticeably older and taller, putting a fine point on just how little they factor into their father’s life. Kendall is sporting a buzzcut in the latest iteration of his identity/existential crisis. Caroline hasn’t even hugged her estranged son when she exclaims, “Goodness me! Did you just come back from the front?”
Kendall is so worn down that he doesn’t bother countering her. Keep in mind that the last time we saw these two interact, Caroline had turned her back on her son when he sought emotional support in one of his lowest moments. You can sense the dead-eyed expression behind his sunglasses.
Without a beat, she informs him that they’ll be divvying up the endless onslaught of family get-togethers so that Kendall and Logan won’t ever be in the same room. Hilariously, she blames this on her “bridezilla” husband-to-be, who insists on having “all the important people” there… even though Kendall is her son and Logan is her “ex-husband who you hate.”
Enter Peter, a fool in lime popsicle pants. Kendall barely says hello before muttering, “See you in a month” to his mother and skulking off.
The others arrive. Like her mother, Shiv speaks flawless Italian whereas Willa (Justine Lupe) exclaims, “Ee-taly! Eat-a pasta and popes!,” reminding us who the outsiders are in this family. (Even better: Connor’s distracted “Yeah, uh huh” when Willa asks if he’s ever met the pope.) Connor (Alan Ruck) is too stressed to soak in their gorgeous surroundings because a Politico journalist is poking into Willa’s past. (She and Connor met through an escort service).
Elsewhere, Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) demands that Roman stop sending her “the items” (dick pics, he clarifies helpfully), especially because she’s accompanied by an age-appropriate male companion, Laurie. So Roman wanders off to his other mommy, and from their first greetings it’s obvious where his issues come from. Caroline is doting until his jealous judgment of Peter – “Another in the line of post-Dad posh English phonies” – gets the best of him.
Comfry (Dasha Nekrasova) pries herself away from work (i.e. soothing Kendall’s ego) just long enough to give Greg (Nicholas Braun) a kiss on the cheek. Like middle-school bullies, Shiv and Tom laugh at him from the sidelines. It’s pitiful (and very telling) that the husband and wife get along best when they’re putting down other people.
Canary in the Twittersphere?
It turns out that Stewy and Sandi’s fears may not have been unfounded. Lukas Matsson is going “nut-nut” on Twitter with emoji-filled posts about “going to Macau.” Waystar’s inner circle draws together as if by magnets, analyzing every character. Is it a move? Is he trying to boost his company’s value?
Matsson, who “doesn’t like using his phone” despite owning a gargantuan tech company, won’t pick up Roman’s calls. Logan later tells his son he doesn’t deal with clowns and sends him across the lake to Matsson’s Italian estate so he can “translate.”
Connor pulls Willa aside for a conversation that seems serious. She seems game for going “back underground” with their relationship in case it interferes with Connor’s presidential run. Instead, he gets down on one knee and asks, “Will you make me the luckiest-man-slash-most-bulletproof-candidate in the world?” Willa says “Yes” with all the enthusiasm of a kid being force-fed vegetables, then asks if she can “have a little think on it.”
In a typically Kendall move, he forces his way into the garden gathering (against his Caroline-approved schedule) and marches right up to Logan. He invites his father to hash out all of their issues over a private dinner. “We’ll get back to him,” Logan says without looking at him. “We’ll get back to you,” Roman tells Kendall.
Caroline and the gals travel to the town center for some kind of bachelorette party. Without any of her family members to hide behind, Shiv can’t avoid a confrontation with her mother. Although she snubbed Roman earlier, she brings up the prenup situation and Caroline says Peter’s “got a big heart” even if he hasn’t had much luck in business lately. She delicately asks Shiv if they might have a nice night rather than ruining it with fighting, but they both know it’s a lost cause.
The conversation shifts from prickly to downright combative when Caroline says, “I might have been a bit of a spotty mother but you’ve been a s—-ty daughter, so.” She reveals that she gave Logan full custody when they divorced in order to “protect her kids’ interests.” (She means financial interests.) She also claims that Shiv chose her father. “I was 10,” Shiv says. “You were 13 and you knew how to twist the knife. You knew then and you know now,” her mother lashes back.
It’s a heartbreaking scene for so many reasons. Caroline hits every one of Shiv’s weak spots, from Logan (“He never saw anything he wouldn’t want to kick it just to see if it would come back”) to the fact that she has yet to have kids (it’s for the best, she tells Shiv). We get fresh insight into how similar they are, but also into why Shiv is the way she is.
Pick Your Poison
Another brutal confrontation awaits at the dinner between Kendall and Logan, who half-believes his son is trying to poison him. (“The Princess Bride” came to mind when Kendall points at one of two identical plates and says “That one’s for him.”) Or maybe he fully believes it – because he has his grandson (Kendall’s son) come taste the pasta for himself. It’s insulting, but Kendall isn’t phased by Logan’s stalling. He lays out his terms for a buyout of his shares: “$2 bill… I won’t even speak at your memorial.”
But then he gets into the why of it all. He’ll never beat his father because “there’s things you’re able to do that I can’t, maybe… you’ve won, because you’re corrupt and so is the world.” Over and over again, he repeats some version of the refrain “Pay up and let me out. I don’t want to be you. I’m a good guy.”
His father won’t let him off easy, or perhaps at all, because he can tell that Kendall is serious about wanting out. “How long was that kid alive before he started sucking in water?” he says, referring to the caterer who died thanks to Kendall in Season 1. The conversation ends when Logan asks how he’s the bad person when he’s always cleaned up Kendall’s messes.
Logan’s “F– off, kiddo” would seem to indicate that he’s won yet again, but Kendall’s desire to completely withdraw from his father – for the first time ever – is a huge blow.
Love on the Rocks
Roy weddings have never been good incubators for romance, so it comes as no surprise that there are problems all around. Driven by the desire to rebel against her mother, Shiv tells Tom she wants to have a baby, then proceeds to dirty talk by saying she doesn’t love him. When he asks her about it the next morning, she says they should make plans to have a baby down the line… in case they divorce or one of them dies. “I may not love you but I do love you,” she says, and Tom’s “Huh?” expression says it all. I already feel awful for this hypothetical baby.
Willa still hasn’t made up her mind about marrying Connor. (“This much thinking can start to get unromantic, just saying,” he says.)
At the other end of the breakfast buffet, Roman totally emasculates Greg in front of the Italian royalty/fermented yogurt entrepreneur he’s trying to impress. “My cousin,” Greg says to her. “A very rude man.”
Roman Visits Matsson
Roman flies out to Matsson’s Italian bachelor pad to decipher his tweets and get an answer on their impending deal. In sweatpants and a plain shirt, the Swedish billionaire doesn’t fit in with his luxurious surroundings. Roman starts to get visibly nervous when he tells him “Success doesn’t interest me anymore…anyone can do that. But failure…that’s a secret. As much failure as possible, as fast as possible.”
After some philosophical musing and joking around (but is he really joking?) Roman directly asks if the deal is still moving forward. “I’m Swedish,” Matsson replies. “I like getting into bed with people but I like sharing it equally.” Then he contradicts himself, saying “I just want to get myself the best of everything.” The man is truly an enigma.
At a meeting between Waystar and their bankers in Milan, Roman breaks the news to Gerri: “I don’t think he’s interested in getting acquired, he’s angling for a merger of equals.” To their surprise, Logan actually goes for it. But before they can move on, Roman makes the catastrophic mistake of sending a celebratory dick pic to Gerri… except he accidentally sends it to his father. Logan goes ballistic, then makes Shiv look at it to confirm it’s Roman’s. (?!)
Shiv fills Logan in on Roman’s weird fascination with Gerri and finds a way to angle the whole thing as proof that he’s a liability to the company. She takes her scheming a step further by pressuring Gerri into making a formal complaint to human resources, otherwise it’ll seem like she “welcomed the sexual harassment.” Logan, furious at being left out of the know, implies that he might have to fire Gerri. Shiv is on a warpath against her brother; it seems as though the tide has finally turned against his ascent to No. 1 Kid.
Back at the villa, Kendall lies face down in the pool, clutching a beer before letting it float away. In a beautiful shot reminiscent of “Bojack Horseman,” Kendall is pictured from the bottom of the pool, ready, it seems, to drown.
The standout lines in this episode were all pretty heavy, and their weight can only be felt by viewing them in context. In keeping with tradition, here are some of the funniest lines on the lighter side:
- “Are you high? I think you should put down the venti ayahuasca Big Gulp.” – Roman in a voicemail message to Matsson
- “Maybe it’s all fine, maybe they just share a big bed together and watch ‘Friends’ reruns and drink milkshakes.” – Tom, speculating about the state of Logan and Marcia’s marriage
- After Comfry kisses Greg, he wonders if there’s “depth” and “substance” to her. Is Greg looking for a genuine connection, or has he adopted the pathos of the rich, that insatiable longing for more? Based on his pursuit of the Italian aristocrat, I’d guess the latter.
- It appears that Shiv is getting better at playing Logan’s game: offer too much and he’ll tell you to f– off, only offer enough to push the right buttons. The parallels between the two of them in this episode are frightening.
- Caroline’s snide remarks about Marcia are a dead giveaway that she is as much responsible for the overblown spectacle of her wedding as her husband.
- The Roys simply can’t keep it in their pants!! Whenever they get a taste of more success, there are always consequences (the unfortunate picture for Roman, the hypothetical baby for Shiv and Tom).
- Roman tossing the champagne over his shoulder onto the unwitting heads of the guests below is just sublime.
- Is Kendall no longer in recovery from his substance addiction? What happened to that storyline?
- Nicholas Britell’s score is always impeccable but it’s particularly skillful in heightening the drama in this episode.