‘Succession’ season 2 episode 10 review: A sumptuous, tragicomic finale that sets the stage for another brutal act

The burying of emotion is crucial to the survival of the Roys, writes Fiona Sturges, but it seems compassion and loyalty have been all but surgically removed at birth. Warning: spoilers ahead

Fiona Sturges
Monday 14 October 2019 18:31
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Succession: season two - finale promo

Succession (Sky Atlantic) is all about the chosen one – the clue is in the name. Who, out of the warring Roy children, will show the greatest aptitude, curry favour with their father and, in the event of his retirement, take charge of the family’s vast media portfolio? But, in the final episode of a triumphant second season (fear not, there’s a third in the works) that has already gifted us Logan’s cardigans, Gerri and Roman’s through-the-bathroom-door antics and the concept of hyperdecanting, this conceit is turned masterfully upside down. The shareholders are antsy; there’s an empty platter in need of a head. So who should carry the can for the nightmare that is the cruises division, mired in a scandal involving sexual abuse, cover-ups and troublesome employees tipped overboard, and, in all likelihood, do some jail time?

Naturally, no bloodletting can take place without a stunning backdrop and displays of stomach-churning wealth. And so the Roys, alongside the company top brass, repair to the family yacht in the Mediterranean, which, with its swimming pool, helipad and vast living quarters, monstrously dwarfs all in its path. First on board are Kendall and Shiv, who have come into their own this season thanks to extraordinary performances from Jeremy Strong and Sarah Snook. While we have seen the former reduced to a monosyllabic husk through the manipulations of his father, we have witnessed the latter’s dawning realisation that being smart isn’t enough; getting ahead means binning one’s moral compass.

Terminal desperado Tom is rattled by the impending showdown and his wife’s proposal of a threesome, while Cousin Greg, fresh from a suitably bum-clenching performance at the congressional hearings at which he baffled all present by appearing to talk in blank verse, deals with a bout of foot fungus. And, finally, there’s Roman, delivering brittle wisecracks after being held captive by Turkish terrorists at the Four Seasons (where else?) while trying to negotiate a company cash injection.

Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook have been lauded for their performances in the high-risk drama

There’s a briefly touching scene in which Roman wonders out loud whether he and his siblings might like to “talk to each other about stuff… normally”, prompting howls of mirth. “We don’t have any feelings. What are you talking about?” squeaks Kendall, in a cartoon voice. The burying of emotion is crucial to the survival of the Roys; compassion and loyalty are all but surgically removed at birth. But if the Roy children share a flaw, it’s in yielding to the unconscionable whims of their father and seeking his approval at any cost.

A breakfast meeting in which the assembled holidaymakers mull over who should be the fall guy pinballs beautifully between comedy and tragedy. It’s like Cluedo, though the game is less about whodunit than who should be done in. Logan volunteers magnanimously, safe in the knowledge that nobody could be seen to accept such an arrangement, after which the attention turns to Gerri (“Haven’t we killed enough women already?” observes Roman) and then Tom, possibly with some “Greg sprinkles”. That Shiv doesn’t reject this out of hand leaves Tom puce with panic and heartbreak.

The final decision is relayed gently, expertly showcasing the might and mercilessness of Logan who saves his displays of affection for those he is hanging out to dry. As Kendall is given his punishment, he swallows it whole and then begs for more. On asking Logan if he had what it took to make CEO, he is told: “You’re not a killer. You have to be a killer.” It’s here, perhaps, that Kendall finally wakes from his torpor, and shows the mettle that has been so sorely lacking. At the media conference set up for him to fall on his sword, he instead knifes his father in a sensational Shakespearian twist. Treachery has rarely felt so good. The stage is set for another brutal act, and it already looks like a doozy.

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