[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Succession” Season 3, Episode 8, “Chiantishire.”]
Episode 8, “Chiantishire,” may forever be referenced in shorthand as, “The One with the Errant Dick Pic”; its history defined by the jaw-on-the-floor level of terror felt as soon as Roman (Kieran Culkin) sends another one of his “items” to Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), only to soon realize that an image of his “ricotta dick,” as Shiv (Sarah Snook) referred to it early in the hour, instead traveled to the phone of his father, Logan (Brian Cox). Culkin’s burrowing-under-the-table mortification makes for an indelible image, destined for great future uses as a meme conveying only the utmost embarrassment, and the ramifications of Roman’s slipped swipe will certainly factor into next week’s finale, as Gerri suddenly finds herself with an axe over her head (of course, the senior female employee is the one Logan first thinks of letting go) and the once-formidable son is now, again, little more than the shameful family degenerate.
But the penultimate entry of Season 3 is far outweighed by its tragic conversations than its single awkward one. With the whole family together for the first time since Shiv and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) got hitched, the Roys (plus Harriet Walter’s soon-to-be Caroline Munion, née Cunningham) couldn’t be more divided. Caroline’s request to Kendall (Jeremy Strong) — that he keep so much distance from Logan that he’s not even part of the party — is replicated throughout the family: Shiv and Tom hang with Greg (Nicholas Braun), while Roman tries to protect his “mum,” but this group of five clots and separates again and again. Meanwhile, Connor (Alan Ruck) is off with Willa (Justine Lupe), Logan isolates himself, and when Kendall comes back, he has to slash through these invisible barriers like a dull knife hung up on each serrated edge.
Episode 8 also has a lot to get through. One has to wonder if the pandemic-shortened production led to combining events meant for multiple episodes into one or two. After all, a lot of this week’s substantive information is conveyed through hefty, direct conversations. At 64 minutes, “Chiantishire” is bulkier than your typically tight “Succession” entry (both of the previous penultimate episodes are under 60 and, without “previously on” reels and previews, only the finales have stretched longer). It lumbers a bit, as it moves between emotionally weighty back-and-forths. In another season, any of the bombs being dropped may have been given a little more space to detonate.
So let’s look at the three pivotal conversations, all of which took place between parents and their children, or prospective parents who may not make it another nine months (let alone 10 years).
Shiv and Caroline
At what looks like the world’s loneliest bachelorette party, Shiv and her mother finally collide, and waste no time drawing out their knives. Sure, Caroline requests they simply share a cigarette and “not do any sniping,” but Shiv’s primary language is “attack,” and their barbs only grow sharper with each passing comment. Caroline, as much as she enjoys playing the victim, almost immediately calls Shiv “a shitty daughter,” a “piece of work,” and her “onion” (aka the source of all her tears). It’s all while accusing her adolescent daughter of ignoring her adult mother, rather than the other way around, before putting a bow on their broken heart-to-heart by implying she wished Shiv had never been born.
Frankly, it’s astonishing anyone could fit so many soul-shattering remarks into a single three-minute conversation, but buried among the many words no parent should share with their offspring is a truth that feeds Shiv’s anger. “You were 13, and you knew how to twist the knife,” Caroline says. “You knew then, and you know now.” While we can’t speak to Shiv’s capabilities 20 years ago, she’s certainly capable of pinpointing weakness and exacerbating that pain today. And she does exactly that with Tom, by teasing the baby he very much wants (and her mother says she’s unfit to have) and then taking things one horrible step further.
Graeme Hunter / HBO
Tom and Shiv
Since the Season 2 finale, it’s been clear Tom and Shiv’s marriage is on the rocks. They try to overlook their issues (since neither is capable of the vulnerability and humility needed to assess their own emotions, let alone consider their partner’s). Tom got a bit distracted while worrying about his impending prison sentence, but there’s no shaking his beach-side fear that “the sad I’d be without you [might] be less than the sad I get from being with you.”
At the same time, Shiv’s typical reaction to feeling hurt is to pass that hurt onto someone else. So after getting waylaid by her mother, she needs to shake that pain off onto someone else. And when she’s told she’s better off not having kids, the poor sucker teed up to receive her passed-down hostility — intended or not — is Tom, her at-home punching bag. Few words have trickled out so slowly, so venomously, and so honestly all at once: “You’re not good enough for me,” Shiv tells her husband. “I’m way out of your fucking league. That’s why you want me. That’s why you love me… even though I don’t love you. But you want me anyway.”
“Sometimes I think,” Tom says the next morning, “Should I maybe listen to the things you say directly to my face when we’re at our most intimate?” Yes, Tom, you should. And even if you don’t, I doubt you’ll be able to unhear that particular sentiment.
Logan and Kendall
Compared to Shiv’s tandem talks, Kendall and Logan’s highly touted sit-down is somewhat tame. Without the ending coda, where last week’s birthday boy passes out face-down in his vacation pool, one could be forgiven for thinking the two warring parties were back to square one — or whatever you call it when Logan is in control and Kendall is waiting, plotting, or otherwise in stasis. But between his fall-down fallout with Roman last week and Logan’s refusal to buy out Kendall’s shares this week (plus the caustic reminder of covering up the caterer’s death), everyone’s favorite sad boy is deeply, deeply sad again.
To be clear, he has reason to be. Logan admitting his vicious birthday card wasn’t an actual offer, just a bit of “fun,” is bad enough. But Kendall also had to watch Logan use his own grandson, Iverson, as a guinea pig; Kendall knows the food is fine, but how disgusting is it for Logan to — even in jest — feed a possibly poisoned piece of cheese to a troubled child? If Kendall really did just now realize the “black bile” his father weaponizes for “silver dollars,” then he also just watched him feed it to his own son. That level of soulless behavior would send me on a bender, too.
Together, these three conversations form a tragedy trifecta — remarks too poisonous to heal without significant treatment. Roman’s careless sexual harassment will create similar waves (though this is a company well-versed in cover-ups), which should mean substantial change in the finale. The Roys are broken. There’s no easy path forward for any of them, nor are there clear allies anymore. Kendall is as alone as anyone could possibly be. Roman is on the outs with his dad, and the deal he’s bartered is way beyond his understanding. Shiv shouldn’t even be able to count on Tom anymore, and as much as she’s enjoying Roman and Gerri’s fall from favor, she’s not exactly on good terms with daddy. And on top of all those personal splits, there’s a deal on the table that’s “bigger than anything you’ve ever contemplated [and] will reshape the company entirely.”
So, no big deal. Same ol’, same ol’. But maybe, just in case, it’s time to buckle up, fuckleheads. The finale is next.
Graeme Hunter / HBO
Greg, for God’s sake, you’re nine feet tall — you don’t need a “date ladder”!
(Also, let this be a lesson for anyone arguing Greg is the one Roy family member you can root for, sans reservations. They’re all bad! Even the guy suing Greenpeace!)
The A+ F-Bomb
“I can win any bout with a boxer-fuck, but I don’t know how to knock out a clown.” – Logan, while trying to assess whether Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) is of sound mind and body before agreeing to a “merger of equals” with GoJo.
Another part of Episode 8 that can’t go overlooked: In the words of Kendall Roy, Lukas is an absolute “nut nut.” He literally tells Roman, directly to his face, that “success doesn’t really interest me anymore […] as much failure as possible, as fast as possible — that’s interesting.” And Lukas said this immediately after making a move that positioned GoJo as an equal partner, rather than an acquisition, to Waystar Royco. Does Roman really not realize that Lukas could only be teasing this deal to see how fast he can make Waystar Royco fail?
Best Line That Could Still Air on ATN
“Can I think about it?” – pick your poison: Is this line “better” (aka, more painful) when Willa says it to Connor after his truly awful proposal, or when Shiv says it to Tom, after he asks if she would want him to raise her children if she dies?
“Succession” Season 3 is available to watch on HBO and stream on HBO Max. The Season 3 finale (Episode 9) airs Sunday, December 12 at 9 p.m. ET.