Before we get into this loopy episode in which the Roy boys spiral out impressively, we need to have a chat about Cousin Greg.
A lot of ink has been spilled in the last four years about the lankily absurd Gregory Hirsch. It’s been a popular theory since the start of the show that Cousin Greg will prevail and find himself, if not the head of Royco/Waystar, in some position of power. However, that has never had anything to do with the man’s skill. In fact, far from it, Cousin Greg has been a stand-in for incompetence failing upwards thanks to family ties. He’s the ultimate nepo kid — or at least nepo cousin.
But what if we’ve all been wrong all along about Mr. Hirsch? Videos and sites like this have also ruminated to no end about the Shakespearean aspect of Succession. With all the intrigue, betrayals, and elevated conversations, it’s a valid comp. Cousin Greg has always fit into that mold as a comic character: a jester, a Falstaff. But lately he’s been seeming less like Rosencrantz and/or Guildenstern and more like the smart, manipulative Iago. Between his sudden switch into confident petty tyrant with a film editor and his brutal needling of Tom, I’m starting to suspect that Cousin Greg is much more cunning than the stuttering dolt he’s presented since he arrived in the first episode. Methinks perhaps Greg is but dumb north-northwest and when the wind is southerly he just might be able to discern hawk from handsaw. Hmm?
A couple weeks ago, everyone presumed the dream (“dream”?) that Cousin Greg would become king of Waystar/Royco was dead. Our Fave Cuz showed up mysteriously in the secret document Frank uncovered with a question mark beside his name. When summoned, he went full Cousin Greg, stumbling over his words as he tried to use Logan’s scribbling of his name to nab a spot as Kendall’s second-in-command. Of course, his stretch for glory only brought laughter from the powers-that-be. But what if he was purposely lowering expectations? With the aura of non-threat combined with his lineage, he can bide his time. Frank, Karl, and Gerri were fearful about the legally binding possibility of the document. If Gregory Hirsch has simply been feigning (or accentuating) his Cousin Greg-ness, could he also use his inclusion in the note to his advantage.
Enough about Cousin Greg (there can never be enough about Cousin Greg!). The bulk of this episode chronicles the boldfaced stupidity of Kendall and Roman Roy. They’ve managed to hold it together for a few weeks. However, it all fell from their grips this week as Kendall descended into mini-madness, obsessed with the Living+ department of the company. Meanwhile, Roman just started firing anyone who threatened his fragile ego. A friend suggested that both brothers are almost impossibly dumb, but I’d suggest that while Kendall is just an empty suit, Roman’s idiocy is more of an emotional nature.
So, as per the title of the episode, we are introduced to a concept Waystar/Royco had lying around called Living+. From what we can tell, it’s originally idealized as an assisted living home using tech advances — and Hollywood magic — to ease the anxiety of our golden years. We’re introduced to it by an unfinished tape of Logan Roy reluctantly selling Living+ over a blue screen. Logan says “I’m very excited ” He’s not. An offscreen voice gives him notes. She’s certainly on an unemployment line somewhere. Living+ is kind of an obvious dud. Matsson knows this. But does Kendall?
It’s hard to tell whether Kendall’s all-in enthusiasm is for true or part of the tank that still might be or might not be happening. Shiv is right to worry that Kendall has “that gleam in his eyes.” And she’s not just being Roy-brand[TM] catty when she calls them out on their spiraling. It’s somewhere between tender and simple good business sense. She sees she’s on the Titanic and is trying as gently as she can to explain that maybe they should not eagerly steer into the big chunk of ice in the distance. But Kendall has brought matching flight jackets for the brothers and is going full bore promoting Living+ to the investors. Roman’s taking his name off the project.
It’s a rare moment in this episode where Roman does not give into his inherent cowardice. It ends up hurting him, but he does take a stand that was probably the right one for the time. For the whole of “Living+,” Roman has given his fragile ego full rein, firing Joy (who runs their movie division) then “firing” Gerri (this time of his own accord) when she calls him out for his impetuousness — and of course for its effects on their shareholders. Roman had been on a pretty solid run. I could even get behind his tirade to Matsson. For one thing, Matsson’s awful. But mostly, I couldn’t really blame him as it was not an awful play and it was honest. He never wavered and played his hand forcefully instead of whimperingly.
So, is Shiv the only competent Roy child? She’s had a few good weeks and her charm machinations are primarily responsible for the GoJo deal not falling through. Most of her time on screen this week is dedicated to the creepy rekindling of Tom & Shiv. Not that we’re opposed to that. Will Shiv wind up on top? She’s probably the least bad of the Roys, but she’s still a mess. And, ultimately, the WarGames rules apply to the Succession games. The only way to win is not to play. Shiv is still playing.
- It’s fitting that we see all three Roy children who count (sorry Connor) genuinely savoring blue screen dad, eagerly eating up his last insults. Of course, Roman even borderline fetishizes it, twisting his dad’s words for a deepfake of maximum brutality.
- Kendall Roy comes across so incompetent this episode (even when he’s winning), that you almost wonder when he drinks.
- From this time on, Mark will (apparently) never speak another word. Again, who the fuck was Mark?!
- It’s another week and another reminder never to fuck with Karl. This week he put the sledgehammer down on Kendall. “You’ve got my dick in your hand, but I’ve also got yours” and CFO Karl will “squeal” if Kendall’s made-up numbers embarrass him or if the Roy boy tries to fire him.
- On a similar note, Roman Roy tried to fire Gerri. Doesn’t he remember what happened to the last fool who tried that? It just happened three episodes ago.
- Full (and massively unnecessary) disclosure: a few years ago I worked for a prominent corporation where the head of our lab proposed our next project be a technologically-enhanced home. Even I thought it was a questionable idea. We were all laid off a few weeks later. Am I a better businessman than Kendall Roy?
- “You know how shitty and heartbreaking it is being locked up on a cruise? How about that but you stay in the same place the whole time.” Lukas Matsson is a huge asshole. But he’s not dumb… or wrong.
- Shiv: “Boys, you’re not good at this.” She means lying in this case, but it could also be the motto of this show. An anonymous stage manager captures it well also with her premonitionary aside: “in the end, the boys couldn’t achieve anything.”
- Kendall are you sure you saw the clouds in Berlin? Are you sure it wasn’t nowhere?
- We try not to spoil the whole episode here, but we have to say that it’s pretty crucial that Cousin “Pitch Bot” Greg totally saves Kendall’s bacon. Disgusting Brother #1 is back on track.
- It’s also worth noting how much the dynamic has flipped between Tom and Cousin Greg. Could you imagine season 2 Greg telling Tom his speech essentially sucks in multiple ways, including outright saying “it’s not good.” Well, maybe, but not with this confidence. And Tom would come back with some perverse knife twist.
- Buuuut… it may not just be Cousin Greg’s rise in conviction that has Tom’s tongue. He’s in the process of the weirdest marital dance with Shiv and he may simply not care as much about his weaseling anymore.
- OK, SPOILER ALERT: Kendall’s made-up numbers and pie-in-the-sky defense of a loser project works. Kendall wins the day, credits crazy promises as the key to victory.
- Tom, after Kendall’s speech ends: “How am I supposed to follow this. He’s just promised them eternal life.” He pivots to Oprah-ing (“you get [an eternal life] and you get [an eternal life]”). It’s not terrible. And Cousin Greg is right; no one is going to remember it anyway.