Succession review: Episode 3 marked the Roys hitting a new low – have they ever been so cruel?

This week’s episode also saw Kendall – or “Bootleg Ross Geller” – finally meet his match

Philippa Snow
Monday 01 November 2021 06:33
Succession season 3 teaser

Reports of New Woke Kendall™’s death last week were, unfortunately, greatly exaggerated. If you found yourself able to stomach his exclaiming “f*** the patriarchy” at a crowd of paparazzi in the third episode of Succession season three, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am; ditto the vaguely disgusting way he describes doing an interview as “opening [his] kimono,” or the way he tells a horrified reporter that he is “good in [his headspace]” and hopes that his family are “good in theirs” with the cold, dead eyes of a shark.

Kendall’s newfound insistence on being a masochist-messiah takes centre-stage this week, the difference between him and his younger, freakier brother Roman turning out to be that Kendall does not, in fact, like to taste the metaphorical whip at all. As much as he crows that a backlash is the same thing as “being a part of the conversation,” things go sourer and sourer for him as he offers himself up to be analysed and ridiculed by all and sundry. A game called “Good Tweet, Bad Tweet” that he plays with his publicists in the back of a limousine quickly turns ugly, his face slackening like Droopy Dog’s as soon as someone reads a genuinely nasty tweet. When he ambushes Shiv by playing Nirvana’s “Rape Me” on the PA at the conference she’s arranged to reassure the staff and shareholders of Waystar Royco, it is obviously meant to be a reference to the sexual assaults covered up by the Cruise Division. Still, the lyrics are not a million miles away from Kendall’s own journey of self-abasement and humiliation this week: “Hate me/Do it, and do it again/Waste me/Rape me, my friend.”

An Iconic Guest

Although an honourable mention must go to the anonymous in-show Twitter user whose Bad Tweet describes him as a “bootleg Ross” (as in “from Friends”), Kendall’s funniest, most apt new nickname is bestowed upon him by a talk-show host, Sophie Iwobi, who is played by the uber-fashionable and razor sharp comedienne Ziwe Fumudoh: “Oedipussy” is another of Succession’s numerous and ongoing references to incest and Greek myth, and as perfect a summary of Kendall’s blend of obsequious nervousness and Daddy-murdering ambition as we’ve heard yet on the show.

Kendall – acting like the kind of person who inadvertently makes themselves the main character of the day on Twitter by insisting that they’re not offended, actually – decides that offering to do an in-person appearance on Sophie’s show will help to rehabilitate his image, and then backs out about 15 minutes before the interview is set to take place. It is funny to see Kendall — something of a meme in real life – become a millennial punching-bag within Succession’s actual universe, but I am half-convinced that the episode might have landed even better had we been given the chance to see him keep this particular date with destiny. Ziwe rose to fame, as well as earning her own late-night show on US cable channel Showtime, as a direct result of possessing exactly the opposite qualities to Kendall: a self-aware brand of cool, fearlessness and a capacity to come up with the right quip on the fly, a tendency to move at 1.5 speed in debate and conversation. It would have been interesting to see Succession put the two in the same room, Ziwe’s character expanding on what she describes as Kendall’s terminal case of “Caucasian rich brain” face-to-face, and Kendall no doubt unable to do much other than maintain that frightening, empty smile.


This week’s “Eggwatch” segment is, I have to guess, the most literal it is ever going to be: Greg “The Egg” finally decides to side with Kendall on the understanding that he’s going to be bribed with a very costly watch, only to realise that he is expected to stump up the $40,000 price himself, and that Kendall’s endorsement of his purchase was merely symbolic, not financial. It is classic Greg, a farcical misunderstanding that serves only to lay bare his difference from the core Roy family, both in terms of means and in terms of his understanding of the world of actually rich men. Another notable moment for our favourite luckless string-bean: the scene in which an unusually domineering Tom, bursting suddenly into his office, offers him a small white pill and tells him that it’s cyanide. “Logan says we have to take these,” he says solemnly, watching Greg nearly combust before he offers a correction: “It’s a mint, you doofus.”

A Greeting Card from Hell

This week’s episode contains—somewhat astoundingly, given the hideousness of some of their previous actions—the cruellest behaviour from the Roy kids yet, at least in terms of how they treat each other. After Kendall’s aforementioned act of sabotage with Shiv, she writes an open letter that describes him as “a drug addict, a serial liar, [and] an absentee father, [with a] history of his own problematic relations with women,” and then tries to convince her other two brothers to sign off on its release. That Roman calls it “pretty horrible” ought to confirm how far below the belt Shiv is now aiming; when she snaps at him that “we all have to do things we don’t want to sometimes,” she has failed to comprehend that her decision to hit back with such great force is entirely motivated by her feelings and desires, and has almost nothing to do with sound strategy or rational thinking. Shiv has always been the most mysterious of the Roy siblings, often treated better by her father than her brothers either because she has the advantage of being underestimated as a result of her gender, or because Logan sees something more ruthless in her than he has ever seen in any of his boys. When he calls her to heel by emphasising that she is his “only daughter,” it certainly feels as if it is the former reason—when she ends up being the only one to sign off and go public with the letter, things get murkier.

Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook in ‘Succession'

In the Roy family, being the winner is more or less the same thing as being the most frightening person in the room. This week, Kendall succeeds in terrifying his family simply by showing up at Waystar Royco, his ability to scare them rooted in his evident and mounting mania rather than in the intimidation tactics typically used by his father. Shiv, though, in countering with the letter, proves herself to be a more deliberate monster. Sarah Snook tends to play Shiv with pouts and smiles as subtle and unplaceable as her character’s earth-toned and unbranded cashmere, the result being that Shiv passes herself off as cool-headed even when she’s scheming, dreaming of becoming a girlboss-ier version of her despot father. It remains to be seen how much of a difference her attack on Kendall makes to the security of Waystar Royco, anyway, since although in the last minutes of the episode we see him utterly humiliated, we also see the company’s HQ being raided by the FBI. “Tell them to f*** off,” Logan—who we saw earlier mercilessly antagonising, via an aide, the actual President—tells Gerri, puffed-up and hubristic. “These,” Gerri replies, as we see agents storm the building, “are the ones that don’t f*** off.”

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