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‘Succession’ Sick Fuck of the Week: ‘Lion in the Meadow’

Who wore the crown this week?

Macall B. Polay/HBO

Here we are again: another Succession recap, another shot for a new character to reclaim or claim the title of “Sick Fuck of the Week.” I’m going to be honest — the past couple of episodes have felt like a bit of filler for me, letting characters sort of spin their wheels while nothing particularly transformative happens. This makes sense — we’re into the mid-season rising action phase, and pressure is slowly building on pretty much everyone. But at the same time, it seems like there’s a few of the little Roy freaks who haven’t had too much to do. Let’s jump in.

  • Shiv is always a contender for Sick Fuck of the Week, as she’s firmly established herself in the past two seasons as possibly the most ruthless and evil of the Roy children. But she doesn’t quite have it in her this week, as the comeuppance of Pinky appears to be coming. Shiv sees her power undercut and eroded by Logan, and basically everyone else at Royco, and does what she does best: takes it out on Tom. Sick, for sure, but kind of pitiful when you consider what she’s been capable of in the past.
  • Kendall nearly kills his dad, to hear Roman tell it, but I also don’t think he’s got it in him this episode. He and Logan play what in the industry is called “fuck fuck games” and musical helicopters for most of the establishing section of the episode, setting up the show’s biggest exterior setpiece thus far: an absurd, tortured “hike” through major shareholder Josh (Adrien Brody)’s seaside estate where Logan nearly expires from heat exhaustion while father and heir experience emotions near each other and remind us repeatedly that Adrien Brody is Jewish. Kendall is in his most Kendall-y here, largely flailing to keep up and looking panicked and insincere, but with occasional flashes of inspiration (taking the first plane and then not waiting on the tarmac so he gets one-on-one time with Josh, “meep meep”) that he largely fails to capitalize on whatsoever. By the end of the episode, Kendall has largely been reduced to what he’s always been: a conflict between being his father’s son and his father’s heir — with the former always winning out. The day it doesn’t, I think, is when Logan dies for real.
  • Tom is on the verge of a complete breakdown. Tom could be Succession‘s Sick Fuck of the Week, but only in the literal interpretation of “sick,” because our boy Wambsgams is not doing so hot. Impotent at ATN, constantly belittled by his wife, and now, inexplicably, preparing to go to jail, Tom is the middle manager in the Logan->Shiv->Tom->Greg human centipede of abuse that filters down through Waystar Royco. And yet, even as Tom attempts to shift his shit down on Greg, you get the sense that he can’t quite do it — he fantasizes about Roman emperor Nero killing his wife and marrying his slave boy in one of the episode’s funniest interactions, perhaps foreshadowing where the inevitable collapse will fall out.
  • Greg is not the SFotW, nor has he been, nor will he be anytime soon. Instead, he’s largely relegated to comic relief this episode, as usual, giving us one of the funniest “guys drinking alcohol from crystal decanter in big business meeting” scenes I’ve seen, and once again being forced outside of his comfort zone (does Greg have a comfort zone?) by Tom. But here’s a prediction I have: when Greg’s hour comes, he’ll be truly sick. I think — if I remember correctly — Greg still has a copy of “The Documents” that prove the paper trail of everyone involved with the CrimeCruise debacle. I’m not even sure if it’s coming this season, but Greg’s turn as the sickest of the Roys is just over the horizon.
  • Our runner-up this week is Roman, who is once again criminally underutilized in this episode. However, the screen time Roman does get is perhaps the most emotionally painful interaction of the episode, when he hauls a formerly homeless man he paid to get Kendall’s initials tattooed over his forehead into a conference room and vivisects him like a bug in order to get dirt on Kendall. Roman often shows more human emotions than his sibling Roys, and there’s even occasional indications that he is capable of forming actual attachments to people (speaking of which, WHERE is Zack Cherry’s Brian, whom Roman I believe lifted out of the management-training hell last season. Bring him back!). But despite these moments of humanity, watching Roman interact with a person who he has deemed “not a person” can be one of the most brutal things to watch in the show. Him peeling back the tattoo guy’s bangs, while the man, clearly trying to make something better of his life, squirms and sweats, was excruciating. As far as “sick” behavior goes, Roman almost took the crown this week.
  • But there can only be one king. Logan is this week’s Sick Fuck. This might be a controversial choice, given that Logan ends the episode infirm and unwell, having finally reached a physical breaking point while on his and Kendall’s ill-fated hike. But before, after, and even during his ordeal, the Lion in the Meadow lashes out all around him, clawing back his own children at every possible opportunity. In about three sentences, he eviscerates and undermines Shiv, siding with the lunch-chowing good-ol’ boys when Shiv tries to flex on them, and then once again asserts daddy-dominance over Kendall, at the cost of his own health. The windswept lunch with Adrien Brody (look, that character was just “Adrien Brody,” we don’t have to dignify him with his character’s name) was one of the episode’s most wrenching moments, as Logan repeated “he’s a good boy. It’ll be ok. I love him. He’s my number one boy.” over and over again, battering Kendall down with both the superficial approval he craves (but can’t trust), and with a veiled threat: this is a mirror of what Logan said as Kendall cried in his arms after killing the waiter at the end of Season 1. Logan knows that to some extent, Kendall is still his. And he hasn’t wasted a chance this season to keep proving that. To do so in this — an episode where he’s at perhaps his most vulnerable, makes him still the sickest of the Roys, and our Sick Fuck of the Week.