‘Succession’ Review: Episode 2 Sees Logan Trying to Start Over — and a Path to Pulling It Off

With Waystar on its way out, can the Royco business titan really "build something better," or is he just a lonely old pirate missing his loyal crew?
Succession Season 4 Episode 2 Brian Cox Logan
Brian Cox in "Succession"
Courtesy of Macall B. Polay / HBO

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Succession” Season 4, Episode 2, “Rehearsal.”]

“This is not the end,” Logan shouts, near the end of his rabble-rousing speech on the ATN news floor. “I’m going to build something better — something faster, lighter, meaner, wilder, and I’m going to do it from in here, with you lot.”

Even before Logan (Brian Cox) wraps his fiery tirade by screaming, “You’re fucking pirates” at a room full of Manhattan reporters, it’s clear he’s won them over. The worried glances shared by Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) have given way to nodding heads and cautious smiles. In the end, applause breaks out, cheers can be heard, and Greg the Egg is grinning. But like so much of “Succession,” the end result doesn’t signify the truth of what’s transpired.

Absent all the brouhaha, Logan is grasping at straws. His impromptu speech is staged on boxes of copy paper. He’s barely three inches taller than Tom. Some of his first words — “I’m going to be spending a lot more time with you lot because I love it in here” — are outright lies. Logan doesn’t want to be here. He wants to be gutting Pierce Global Media and rebuilding it in his own image. Before that, he wanted to be leading the mega-conglomerate formed from the Waystar-Royco merger with GoJo. But Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgärd) denied him the latter opportunity, just as his kids — by outbidding him for PGM — took away the former.

Now, Logan is a man without a mission. A pirate lost at sea, trying to build a better ship without a loyal crew — or, at least, the crew he prefers. Sure, he can still rally a few deckhands, but his first mates are moving on. He can caution Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) that he’s not out the door just yet. He can manhandle Tom and Greg into doing whatever he wants (without, of course, formally influencing anyone to hire his assistant/mistress as a new ATN anchor). And yes, he can scare the bejesus out of his employees — like Santa Claus as a hitman — but his actual power is waning, and he knows it. Last week, he left the saddest birthday party ever for an even sadder birthday dinner, where he pondered life after death with his “best pal” and paid bodyguard, Colin (Scott Nicholson). This week, he spite-canceled his kids’ helicopter so they’d miss their brother’s rehearsal dinner and then split the little trio by stealing Roman (Kieran Culkin) away to work with him at ATN.

These aren’t the machinations of a media mogul; these are the desperate actions of a wayward, unloved retiree — worrying about what’s next while manipulating the only people he still has any power over: his family. On the surface, he can put on a show and get folks riled up. But underneath, he’s just an old man trying to speak his greatest fears out of existence. It’s like Roman says early in Episode 2: “Man, Dad was a god. And tomorrow he’s selling the empire to a 4Chan Swede and dishing out jobs for blowies.”

To say Logan might be happier if GoJo’s acquisition of Waystar does fall through would be a mistake. Logan will forever loathe his children (and their supporters) if they nix his massive deal. Logan needs to protect his legacy and wants to secure a “good” sale on his terms. Unfortunately for him, he’s dealing with “not serious people” whose only ambition is to burn him to the ground.

Well, two of them do anyway. After getting a taste for daddy’s blood in the Season 4 premiere, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) are ravenous for more. In case it wasn’t clear from their shared disdain for PGN in Episode 2’s opening scenes — complaining that the current programming is aimed exclusively at college professors before pitching a pivot to “What is happening in Africa?” that Shiv rightly identifies as “Homework: The Show” — the pair’s bloodlust becomes evident during “Rehearsal.”

Succession Season 4 Episode 2 Kieran Culkin Roman
Kieran Culkin in “Succession”Courtesy of Macall B. Polay / HBO

As Roman and Kendall mock Kerry’s (Zoe Winters) ATN debut, Shiv takes a call from Sandi (Hope Davis), who wants her to consider voting against the GoJo sale. “Maybe we don’t just wave this through,” Shiv quickly concedes. “Maybe it pisses off my dad, but maybe that’s OK.” From that moment on, she’s on a crusade to convince her brothers that pissing off their dad is in their best interest. She brings it up early, only to be dismissed, but sticks with it through Connor’s (Alan Ruck) catastrophic rehearsal dinner, his sad excuse for an after-party (no one should be singing Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” hours before their wedding), and a surprise sit-down with Logan in the kiddos’ once-private karaoke room. Shiv hardly needed another reason to make her father’s life miserable (not after the fun she had in stealing PGN) but she got one when he helped Tom lock up Manhattan’s best divorce attorneys, which puts her in an early hole for the ensuing legal battle. I wouldn’t say Shiv is blinded by rage — she’s nowhere near dumb enough to burn her soon-to-be inherited billions on revenge — but she isn’t seeing all the pieces at play.

Which brings us to Kendall. Everything you need to know about the mental state of Tom Ford’s favorite Buddhist can be contained in two scenes: The first is when Lukas Matsson Facetimes his sleep-deprived “friend” to tell Kendall not to mess around with Stewy (Arian Moayed) and Sandi. Lukas says flat-out, “Either back off, or I’m going to walk.” So what does Kendall do? He hangs up, opens his Messages app, and texts Stewy. It doesn’t actually matter what the numbers are, either. Kendall believes Lukas and sees an opportunity to royally screw over Papa Roy. So he takes it. Later, on his way home, Kendall is all smiles. Why? Well, his older brother (who’s getting married tomorrow) just declared his greatest superpower is being able to survive without love, his dad just called all four of his children “fucking dopes,” and he’s about to torpedo a huge payday (which he needs to pay for PGN, not to mention continue living his lavish life). But none of that matters so long as Logan gets got.

Had either Kendall or Shiv stayed the course, perhaps they’d realize Logan is already out of options — relegated to running a news network he doesn’t even want after being cut out of his larger company and cut off from his kids. (He even admits he wanted them at his birthday! He said a feeling!) Instead, their stubborn insistence on fucking over their father has pushed the wary Roman into Logan’s waiting arms, giving the patriarch not only a card to play against his other kids, but providing him a path back to prosperity. If the sibs’ unified front breaks, what’s to happen to the PGN deal? What’s to happen with the GoJo deal? What’s to happen with their family fortune, if not the family itself? Perhaps Logan was right. Perhaps this isn’t the end. Good luck with the Matsson meeting, I guess.

Grade: B+

Succession Season 4 Episode 2 Tom Greg Nicholas Braun Matthew Macfadyen
Nicholas Braun and Matthew Macfadyen in “Succession”Courtesy of Macall B. Polay / HBO

Greg Sprinkles

Is Tom… a good boss?

No, of course not. Don’t be silly. He’s abusive and temperamental and conniving. In no way, shape, or form would I ever want my financial or personal well-being tied to Mr. Wambsgans, but I’d be lying if I said the question didn’t cross my mind as he briefed Greg on an “incredibly delicate piece of diplomacy.” (“It’s like Israel and Palestine, except harder and much more important” has been a top-level quote since it was deployed in the trailer, and it’s only better now, in context.) After all, as the Disgusting Brothers go over Kerry’s tape — trying to determine the best way to convey she’s terrible on TV without implicating their boss or themselves — Tom is teaching Greg what to do.

He lays out a strategy, covers key talking points, and imparts the necessary information. Sure, Tom knows Greg won’t be able to execute any of these concepts when he’s face-to-bangs with Kerry, but a) even though Tom is much, much better at camouflaging bad news in barely perceptible gibberish, telling Kerry she’s an awful news anchor is, unquestionably, a suicide mission, so why not ask an underling to do the dirty work, and b) Greg has to learn. He needs to know how to have these conversations if he’s going to survive at ATN and, more importantly, Greg needs a skill — any skill, just one, really. I’m not entirely sure what he does all day, but I do know he hasn’t gotten any degrees since we first saw him throwing up in a mascot uniform. If Greg can become a Tom, maybe he can keep wearing suits and ties instead of stinky old animal costumes?

And he should maybe come up with a better phrase than, “The arms aren’t right — they’re a little un-TV.” That just doesn’t sound like executive-level business.

Slime Puppy Time

Roman’s pivot to Logan this week shouldn’t be all that surprising. For one, Kendall and Shiv like to make fun of their brother for being conflict-averse, but there is truth to it. At the end of Season 3, he took some convincing to go see Logan and have it out; much of their plan hinged on Roman standing up for the sibs over their father, and he did.

But the last two weeks have taken the pattern too far. In Episode 1, Roman is the lone holdout backing The Hundred over going after Pierce. He recognizes all the work they put into it, as well as its complete autonomy from their father, and defends the idea until it’s clear Kendall and Shiv are done with it. In Episode 2, it happens again. Shiv and then Kendall decide it’s in their best interest to demand more money from the GoJo deal, despite Roman’s repeated insistence otherwise. He’s ready to move on, to take what’s coming to him, and start gutting PGN. But his siblings aren’t — they’re already bored with their new toy — and they basically bully Roman into joining their next attack on Dad.

Sure, Roman has been in contact with Logan more than they have, and their shared texts play a part in seeding division within the trio. But the way Kendall looks at the messages, contends they’re “a bit warm” and then points to Roman’s sign-off — “take care” — as evidence of baby bro being too nice to their dad? Absolutely hysterical for us, but rightly infuriating for Roman. They should’ve just let the poor kid feel safe. When he doesn’t, he goes back to daddy — back to the man who, before the fallout in Italy, called Roman “100 percent crucial to the [GoJo] transition.” Now Logan has who he needs. Here we go again.

Do You Have Any Jokes?

“He’s wearing sunglasses inside. It’s as if Santa Claus was a hitman.” – Greg, watching Logan prowl the ATN floor

Best Line That Could Still Air on ATN

“Somewhere fun and real, away from the fancy dance,” Connor says, describing where his afterparty should be. “A real bar with chicks and guys who work with their hands — and grease and sweat from their hands and have blood in their hair.”

“I don’t like these guys,” Roman says. “They sound like a medical experiment gone wrong.”

“Succession” Season 4 airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.

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