Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for the entirety of “Succession” Season 3, Episode 9.
Key to executing a successful magic trick is misdirection, that deft ability to reroute an audience’s attention towards one thing so that it fails to notice another. “Succession” is not a magic show, but the magicians who write it understand its necessity to pulling off a plot twist that takes you by surprise, yet feels logical and fully earned.
After last week’s episode, the question on everyone’s minds (and Twitter feeds) was: “Is Kendall Roy dead? And even if he isn’t, will he live to see Season 4?” Three seasons of watching Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) devolve from Logan’s (Brian Cox) “No. 1 One Boy” to No. 1 trainwreck conditioned viewers to expect the finale’s big catastrophe to stem from him.
What actually went down isn’t exactly sleight of hand, but it did manage to cap an already riveting episode with a shocking twist. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
The Elephant in the Pool
“All The Bells Say” picks up where the previous episode, “Chiantishire,” left off: at the sprawling Italian estate where Peter Munion (Pip Torrens) is to wed Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter), the mother of Kendall, Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv (Sarah Snook).
There’s a million-dollar question hanging in the air, and the writers take their sweet time answering it: Is Kendall Roy alive?
“Your dad was okay, you know? Your dad was okay,” Logan says as he reads a picture book to his grandson, Iverson (Quentin Morales). Was? Was?!
Meanwhile, the rest of the Roy family is lounging around playing Monopoly (because of course they are). Roman drops a sly reference to the end of last week’s episode, when Shiv tried to blackmail Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) into filing a sexual harassment complaint against him after he mistakenly texted a dick pic intended for Gerri to his father. “I know what you tried to do, Dad,” he says to Shiv. “I thought that would’ve been your dream, Rome, f–ing Gerri with your dick,” she volleys back. Their lightly acrimonious banter and Gerri’s presence signal that everything is business as usual.
Sometimes a character on “Succession” drops a line that doubles as a master thesis for the show, and a short exchange between Connor’s girlfriend, Willa (Justine Lupe) – seated at the Monopoly table, but still an outsider – and the other Roy siblings is the perfect occasion. When Willa accuses Shiv of cheating (which she is), their responses are extremely revealing. Shiv says, “What? I was only cheating so I could win”; Connor agrees that “Cheating is part of it”; and Roman sarcastically quips, “Do you think stealing is what good people do?” A lesser show could never have pulled off such an on-the-nose board game bit, but I digress.
We finally get some answers when Kendall’s assistant Comfrey (Dasha Nekrasova) shows up to announce that Kendall is on his way. Shiv thanks Comfrey for pulling him out of the pool before he could drown, while Roman says she should’ve let him die. An awkward sibling reunion – the first of many in this episode – follows. Kendall, guarded as ever behind a pair of dark sunglasses, tells them he may skip the wedding to meet with his new lawyers… about airing all of his dirty laundry on Instagram. All of the fire with which he made announcements like this at the beginning of the season has been extinguished. Kendall is alive, but he’s never sounded more lifeless.
Moments later, a distressed Logan crosses into view, with Roman yipping at his heels like a puppy. Gerri translates: the DOJ is likely hitting Waystar with “an historic fine” for the cruise ship scandal, while GoJo’s market capital has “overtaken” theirs… meaning that the merger deal may be off.
Logan tells Roman to “Stay here and play with your dick” (too soon!) and rejects Shiv’s offer to accompany his visit to “Hans Christian Anderf–,” aka GoJo CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). Eventually, he agrees to bring Roman along. It seems as though the Dick Pic Disaster hasn’t done the damage Shiv assumed it would, and that her brother hasn’t ceded any power.
Deal Or No Deal?
On the boat ride over to Matsson’s Italian mansion, Logan and Roman have an uncomfortable talk that begins with Logan calling his much-younger assistant Kerry (Zoe Winters) a “good-looking woman” and ends with them putting the kibosh on the aforementioned disaster. “If you need to get straightened out, get straightened out,” Logan tells his son. No wonder the Roys’ family therapy session in Season 1 failed so spectacularly.
Luckily, their arrival to Matsson’s cuts the conversation short. Logan’s barely out of the boat before he asks him whether or not the merger is still happening, earning the younger CEO’s respect. Matsson matter-of-factly tells Logan he’s old and the future of media dinosaur Waystar isn’t looking bright. In a total 180 from Logan’s original offer, Matsson says GoJo would like to acquire Waystar, rather than merging. Logan rejects the sale, but agrees to stick around and swap some of their assets, like trading Halloween candy if each Snickers was worth a cool billion.
Roman doesn’t get to watch, though – his father sends him back to Tuscany. It’s particularly infantilizing because Roman is the one who brought Matsson into the deal.
Catharsis For Connor
Back in Tuscany, Connor, Shiv and Roman stage a makeshift suicide intervention for Kendall. They aren’t buying his explanation that he had “one too many limoncellos” and fell face down into the pool. “We just wanted to let you know that we love you,” Shiv begins.
Kendall doesn’t believe a word of it – and I’d venture to guess that few viewers do either. But Shiv eases into a surprisingly honest (and not mean-spirited) assessment: Kendall is addicted to booze, drugs, relationships, sex, work and their family drama.
Even more surprisingly, it’s Connor who blows a fuse. Angry about being the last to know about the potential GoJo-Waystar merger, he snaps when Kendall says, “Do you have any idea how it feels, as the eldest son, to be promised something and then… just have it taken?” Like a baby strapped to a restaurant high chair, he throws a fit: “I am the eldest son!! I am!” Everyone is taken aback by Connor’s outburst, which turns from rage to something bordering on poignancy in a flash. “You’re hurt? I didn’t see Pop for three years but your spoon wasn’t shiny enough?” he says to Kendall.
Connor’s ego sustains another blow when he tells Willa, who still hasn’t accepted his marriage proposal, that he loves her. “You’re a nice man,” she says, before changing her mind: “F– it!” Connor is thrilled despite her admission that she doesn’t love him back, but hey, why not? The whole thing reeks of Shiv and Tom’s (Matthew Macfadyen) wedding night, when Shiv asked her newlywed for an open marriage. Oh, Connor.
A Wedding, A Confession and a Coup
Caroline’s wedding ceremony is being held up by the absence of one person: Logan. Inside his villa, the patriarch slurps down a green juice while an army of staff members buzz around a makeshift war room. Something big is about to go down.
Nobody is more anxious about his absence than Caroline’s fiancé Peter, who is forever pining for Logan’s favor (and his high-ranking business contacts). “You’ll have to make do with me,” Caroline says.
Greg (Nicholas Braun), seated between Comfrey and a member of Luxembourg’s royal family, provides some much-needed comic relief. Turning to his left, he tells the royal that he loves weddings before turning to Comfrey on his right and saying he hates them: “Kill me now.”
At the reception, Shiv gives the most backhanded wedding speech of all time, calling Caroline a constant pain in the ass and wishing that her and Peter’s marriage is “as rich and happy and fulfilling” as Shiv and Tom’s, which is to say… not at all.
But behind her perpetually cool facade, Shiv is getting antsy. Not only is Roman sidestepping her questions about the GoJo deal (“All will be revealed…”), but now they’ve caught wind that some high-powered financiers have flown into Matsson’s estate. Gerri says nobody knows what’s going on, but a whispered discussion between her and Kerry indicates otherwise.
Roman and Shiv learn that Waystar execs Frank (Peter Friedman) and Karl (David Rasche) have also flown in, prompting Shiv to ask: “Are we being f–d?”
Karl confirms that they are when he lies on the phone about being in New York. It’s not fun to be left out of the loop, but it sure is fun to watch Shiv and Roman band together (for once) against a common enemy.
They call Kendall over for an emergency meeting and tell him what’s going on: Logan is likely selling WayStar Royco, screwing his kids out of all their shares, stock options and board seats.
The next scene is undoubtedly the most powerful that these three actors have shared. Two waiters pass them by, reminding Kendall of the young waiter who died at Shiv’s wedding, after Kendall gave him drugs and drove into a lake while high. He sinks to the ground and confesses to the killing. Roman and Shiv respond horribly even by their standards, making light of the death by joking or minimizing what he did. Roman gripping his arm and Shiv awkwardly petting his head with one hand while tapping on her phone with the other demonstrates the extent of this family’s emotional maldevelopment. Yet in their own way, they each show Kendall they care about him — or as much as they’re capable of showing. Interestingly, Kendall refrains from mentioning that Logan blackmailed him and ultimately covered up the killing.
New Battles Lines Are Drawn
Shiv tells her brothers the plan: they’re going to pay Logan a visit and “tell him we won’t have it.”
Roman is squirrelly about standing up to his father, but Shiv serves him some hard truths: “You think you’re close to him? You’re just his little ratf–er… He doesn’t ever think we will, can, or should take over.”
The clouds suddenly part over Kendall’s head. He chimes in that Logan can’t turn over the company without a supermajority of votes, thanks to a clause in his divorce settlement with Caroline. This is enough to get Roman onboard for a “full coup.”
“How do we feel about killing Dad… mixed feelings?” says Shiv. “Pass me the f–ing shotgun,” replies Kendall. It turns out that what he’s been missing all season is the love and support of his siblings. Vengeful Kendall is back.
Shiv calls Tom to fill him in, saying there’ll be a position for him somewhere in the company once they take over.
Afterward, Tom pulls Greg aside to tell him “things are in motion,” and asks if he’ll join him (but gives no further information), calling him Sporus in a callback to the conversation earlier this season where Tom relayed the story of Nero and Sporus — Nero killed his wife, castrated Sporus and dressed Sporus up as his wife. “I might need you as my attack dog. Like, a Greg-weiler,” Tom says. When Greg asks if he can “get his own Greg,” Tom says “You can have 20.” In a classic Tom-Greg exchange, Tom verbally abuses him in one breath and promises him rewards for his loyalty in the next. Time to see if it pays off.
“Make Your Own F–ing Pile”
Roman, Kendall and Shiv finally get into a room with their father, who immediately tries to send Kendall away. But Kendall stands his ground, and Roman meekly defends his right to be there.
A furious Shiv demands to know what’s going on. Logan simply says it’s the best time to sell the company because that’s what his instincts are telling him. When Kendall asks what the kids are supposed to do now, Logan roars “Make your own f–ing pile!”
Logan reveals why he was drawn to Matsson’s deal: “He rates you.” In other words, he’ll make them prove their worth if they want to retain their jobs, “an opportunity for you kids to get an education in real life.” All three siblings beg Logan to reconsider, like little kids begging their parents for ice cream.
A small but decisive victory comes when Roman refuses to turn on his siblings, but it’s short-lived because Caroline is on the phone. Somehow, Logan got wind of their intention to block the supermajority and convinced his ex-wife to revise the terms of their divorce. But who notified Caroline?
The traitor then comes walking through the door. Tom receives a fatherly pat on the shoulder from Logan before he crosses over to his wife and pretends to not know what’s happening. Shiv, utterly betrayed, stares into space, trying not to let anyone hear her cry.
- “Eighth in line? Greg, if you marry her, you’re a plane crash away from becoming Europe’s weirdest king!” – Tom to Greg regarding his crush on the contessa/princess
- There’s always talk about mouth acting, eyebrow acting, etc., but this episode was a master class in sunglasses acting. Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin and even Alan Ruck had to perform some pretty complex emotions from behind shades that hid their eyes and eyebrows, so let’s give credit where credit’s due.
- Matsson’s casual name drop to Logan – “Zuckerberg – do you know Mark, by the way?” – is one of the episode’s funniest lowkey moments.
- The Roman-Logan-Matsson dynamic nicely parallels the Kendall-Logan-Josh (Adrien Brody) dynamic in Episode 4, in which the power palpably shifts from son to father.
- Roman struggling to keep up with Matsson and his father was also ripe for comedy: he takes a coffee when no one else does, and trips on a step on their way up to a seating area.
- Marcia (Hiam Abbass) gets all of two seconds of screen time, but it’s always nice to see her. I hope the show finds a way to weave her into the narrative next season.
- When Roman and Greg fight over the contessa and she says, “You’re an interesting family,” it’s reminiscent of Naomi Pierce talking about how fun it is to watch the Roys tear each other apart back in Season 2.
- Tom propositions Greg about joining his mysterious mission by saying, “Do you want a deal with the devil?” To which Greg replies, “What am I gonna do with a soul anyways? Boo, souls!” With one handshake, Greg seals his fate as Future Tom. Since his arrival to Italy, he’s been acting more arrogantly, insensitively and callously – in other words, more like a Roy. I would add that the seeds for this arc were first planted all the way back in Season 1, when he told Kendall he would be a good person to keep around if Kendall ever took control of the company. That ambition has always lurked beneath Greg’s bumbling, guileless surface, and I cannot wait to see where the writers take it next season.