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'Succession' Season 4, Episode 2: 'Rehearsal'

Logan Roy (Brian Cox) still loves standing and surveying what remains of his empire — or will remain after, he hopes, a big sale.
Macall Polay
/
HBO
Logan Roy (Brian Cox) still loves standing and surveying what remains of his empire — or will remain after, he hopes, a big sale.

Get caught up on Episode 1

Where we stand

Last week's episode found Logan in the rare position of being outmaneuvered by his kids after Kendall, Shiv and Roman snatched Pierce away just when he was set to acquire it. (Who enjoyed Logan's loss more — his worst enemy, Nan, or his own children? Hard to say.) This week, he's ready to complete the sale of (most of) Waystar to Lukas Matsson. But now the kids might get in the way of that, too.

How divorce lawyers imperiled the GoJo deal

Shiv is at the sibs' HQ (for the purposes of this story, the sibs are Kendall, Roman and Shiv) complaining about the programming on PGN with her brothers. They seem not to have had any idea what they were buying when they bought it, which is very on brand. During this cable news roast, she gets an unhappy phone call. It turns out that her first choice for a divorce lawyer can't represent her. That lawyer met with Tom to potentially represent him and is thus "conflicted out" of representing her.

She brushes it off, but then she learns that her second choice also met with Tom. And so did her third, and so on. Turns out this is what Logan did to Shiv's mother, too, so Shiv knows Logan is behind it. Newly incensed, Shiv gets on the phone with Sandy, who's been pushing the sibs to vote against the GoJo sale to force Logan to get more money. The sibs had been uninterested, because they are ready to get rich and get out, and because they need the money from their Waystar shares if they're going to buy Pierce and they can't afford to imperil their windfalls.

But now, Shiv is so angry at Logan that she's intrigued by the notion of tanking the deal to spite him — and maybe to help cover what she knows deep down was the inflated price they paid for Pierce.

Greg (Nicholas Braun) doesn't know exactly why Logan is pacing around, but it can't be good.
Macall Polay / HBO
/
HBO
Greg (Nicholas Braun) doesn't know exactly why Logan is pacing around, but it can't be good.

Maybe everyone does work for Jaws

Elsewhere, Logan is restless from not getting to mistreat his kids, so he takes a trip to the ATN newsroom, the one part of his kingdom he's keeping where everyone is still afraid of him. There, he starts pacing, which Greg describes on the phone to Tom as "terrifyingly moseying." "It's like Jaws," Greg later says, "if everyone in Jaws worked for Jaws." In search of something, anything, to do with himself, Logan gives a fiery speech to the ATN staff that includes his signature combination of withering humiliation and rah-rah encouragement. Humilicouragement, let's call it. His desire to beat the competition is so intense that he stops just short of the Conan the Barbarian "hear the lamentations of their women" speech.

While he's there, he checks in with Tom about a new complication: Kerry has submitted an audition tape, because she wants to be an anchor. At first, it looks like maybe Logan wants Tom to hire her. But then, it becomes clear that Logan knows she's awful and has kicked it to Tom to reject her. Naturally, Tom does the least courageous thing imaginable and kicks it to Greg. That Tom delegates to Greg what he calls a bit of diplomacy more important and more difficult than the Israel-Palestine conflict tells you everything you need to know about Tom. Better a challenging task be done incompetently than done by him.

Greg does his best at rejecting a contemptuous Kerry, who knows exactly what an insult it is in the Roy family when you get your bad news from Greg. It's like being a hyena in The Lion King and getting let down easy by Pumbaa. Greg blames the rejection on a nebulous "focus group," as Tom suggested, but he withers under her cross-examination and she knows what's up: "If this focus group isn't real," she tells him, "I'm going to take you apart like a human string cheese." Love a lanky man and everything, but you have to admit that's a powerful image.

Roman (Kieran Culkin), Connor (Alan Ruck), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) are together, but only sort of.
Macall Polay / HBO
/
HBO
Roman (Kieran Culkin), Connor (Alan Ruck), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) are together, but only sort of.

"Get to the choppa!"

Shiv starts nudging her brothers on Sandy's proposal to tank the sale (not telling them it's because she's mad at Logan). Roman isn't interested, because he has no further desire to be at war with his father. Kendall isn't interested, because he thinks Matsson will just walk, so there's no more money to be extracted. This is all complicated, though, when the sibs' trip to Connor's rehearsal dinner is called off on account of Logan having revoked their access to the Waystar helicopter. They make the trip by car instead, like absolute peasants. Like commuters.

By the time they arrive at Connor's dinner, they're very late, and they run into Willa, who's ... on her way out. Looking wobbly and uncertain, she gives them her regrets through a dazed smile and bolts. Upstairs, they find Connor, who confirms that his bride-to-be has suddenly been beset by doubts, leaving him miserably tracking her as a dot on his phone. Note that as we discussed last week, there's a lot of high drama that's unseen this season. We didn't see Willa tell Connor she was having second thoughts, arguably the most important moment in his life since the pilot. We only hear his report of it.

Rather shockingly, Kendall and Roman in particular take pity on Connor, out of what looks like genuine sympathy. While they rebuff his interest in karaoke, they (and Shiv) are at least willing to go for a drink to take their big brother's mind off his troubles as he wonders whether his wedding is off.

But once they get to the bar for this drink, the sibs aren't focused on Connor, but on the upcoming board meeting and this decision about whether or not to throw a wrench in the GoJo deal. Kendall gets a phone call and sneaks out to take it; it turns out to be Matsson, who's calling just to tell him not to try anything as far as asking for more money. He will walk, Matsson vows, and even though that's what Kendall has been telling everyone, something changes when he hears it. Is it because getting the call makes him think Matsson is panicking, which makes him think maybe there's more money to be made after all? Is it because Matsson is just another person trying to push him around, and Kendall is sick of it? Whatever his reason, Kendall also starts to think about voting no.

Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) does seem kind of like a "hates karaoke" guy.
Macall Polay / HBO
/
HBO
Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) does seem kind of like a "hates karaoke" guy.

I celebrate myself and sing myself

Kendall, Shiv and Roman ultimately give in to Connor on one important point and wind up in a cheesy private room in a karaoke bar. And there, Connor, who wants to sing karaoke because he's seen it in the movies and it looks like fun, offers a rendition of Leonard Cohen's devastating "Famous Blue Raincoat." This is roughly like wanting to ride a motorcycle with the wind in your hair because it looks glamorous on TV and then deciding instead to push the bike across the desert for six hours just to feel something.

Even in the karaoke room, deal talk continues. Roman wants no part of Kendall and Shiv's scheming with Sandy and Stewy. Neither does Connor, who isn't on the board but can't believe his brother and sister want to deny him his money. In fact, Connor is so mad that he texts Logan with a heads-up. This is how you end up with the very unlikely spectacle of Logan Roy making his way to a karaoke bar to ask his kids to cooperate, for crying out loud.

Logan chooses a surprising approach: he's pleasant. He tells them there's no additional money to squeeze, and if they vote no, the deal will just die. But because his children technically have emotions, he tries, kind of, to make a personal appeal. He apologizes about the helicopter, and ... that's about it. Shiv confronts him about the divorce advice he gave Tom, and Logan shrugs that he'd have given her the same advice if she'd asked, perhaps not aware that "I am very fair, I show no particular favoritism as between my actual daughter and her doofus husband" is not what she wants to hear.

Logan has made the mistake of bringing Kerry with him, which is the first indication that he's not really open to anything too deeply felt. But the sibs spot a telling flicker on her face and realize that Kerry's dreams of cable TV stardom have gone poof. They take the opportunity to caution her that this is her future: being let down by Logan Roy. Logan grows tired of this (as he eventually does of everything except money and yelling), and he tells his children this: "You're such f--- dopes. You are not serious figures. I love you, but you are not serious people." And with that, he gets up and leaves.

A rough night in Royville

Shiv goes home, looking at Tom's number in her phone. Kendall goes home, smiling to himself at having bested and frustrated his father. It's interesting; the insults don't even land anymore for Kendall. It only matters who wins. Connor goes home, and he finds that Willa is already there, in bed, ready to embrace him on the night before their wedding. Connor may be the one left out, but he's the only one with a little spoon to cuddle.

But Roman doesn't go home. Roman goes to Logan's, drawn back by his desperate desire to save his relationship with his father. And he learns that Logan, always eager to revive the dynamic where he sets the kids against each other, is ready to make an offer. Logan wants Roman for ATN. He is planning, as he horrifyingly puts it, a "night of the long knives" (a reference to a purge of enemies carried out by ... Hitler). Syd is on her way out, and Logan wants Roman in. "You really want me at ATN?" Roman asks. "More, Romulus. I need you," Logan purrs. He has called off the board meeting. He wants Roman to come with him to talk to Mr. GoJo in person. Oh, Roman. Roman, Roman, Roman. Get out of there! Go find a spoon of your own to love!

Particularly in light of complaints last season that not enough happened, it's remarkable how much is in motion this season after only two episodes. Connor is about to get married. Logan is headed to Europe to meet with Matsson. Kendall and Shiv are ready to kill the deal. The kids have an agreement to buy Pierce. Tom and Shiv are at war. Roman is on the brink of going back to his father's side and breaking up the alliance with his siblings in order to become the king of ATN. Kerry has already seen her fortunes decline, and she's not happy. Greg is dressing better, doing his hair better, and joining Tom in the tentative exploration of proximity to power with all its advantages and pitfalls. You certainly can't argue there's nothing happening.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.