Trigger warning: This piece includes mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation, and some people might find it disturbing.
After finishing this week’s episode of Succession, I was immediately filled with regret for naming my recap of the season’s second episode “Chekhov’s Donut.” Because even more powerful than that box of baked goods was the looming spectre that was last night’s Chekhov’s Dick Pic. But, alas.
In the brilliantly titled “Chiantishire,” the penultimate episode of the series’ third season, the Roy family goes to Tuscany to celebrate their mother Caroline’s (Harriet Walter) unexpected wedding. And what an episode it was, leaving us truly hanging as we wait for the finale next week.
Before we get to go full House of Gucci, we start with a quick wrap up of things in New York. Sandi and Stewy are at Waystar Royco headquarters, and they’re furious about the deal with GoJo. Specifically, they’re frustrated that Logan has decided to partner with Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), who spends his time “microdosing and tweeting about angels.” Coincidentally all we viewers ever get to do is microdose screen time with Stewy and tweet about him being an angel.
We’re not stateside for long, as the Roy clan flies their PJs to Italy — or, as Willa correctly puts it, “Italy! Pizza, pasta, and popes!” The wedding is being held in a truly gorgeous Tuscan villa. You’d think the dazzling surroundings might make Caroline slightly less miserable. You’d be wrong. She’s as cranky and demeaning as ever, and also appears to hate her fiancé, the dapper yet social climbing Peter Munion (Pip Torrens). Caroline also has news for Kendall upon his arrival: Logan has requested that he and his son be kept apart for the duration of the celebration, alternating wedding events to avoid contact.
Kendall, for once, refuses to accept his father’s distance. He confronts Logan, and requests (demands?) his presence at a one-on-one dinner that night. It’s certainly not the most tense scene in the episode, but it is notable for Roman’s behavior. As Kendall approaches, Roman physically blocks him from reaching their father. Thinking back to the Argestes conference last season, where Kendall stepped in to block his father from physically abusing Roman, the youngest Roy brother’s choice here becomes even more devastating. The bridge between Ken and Roman seems irrevocably burnt.
Speaking of Roman, Gerri has come to the wedding with her new beau, Laurie (Thomas Arana) on her arm. This is obviously not ideal for Roman! He does everything he can to make life miserable for the acting CEO, including coming to her room to flirt with her and threaten to sleep with her man. It is then, under the shocked gaze of the painting behind them (hello, foreshadowing), that we find out Roman has been regularly sending Gerri dick pics. She asks him to stop, and he really should have listened.
Out in the garden, a lot is happening. First, Greg is expressing his doubts about his new romantic interest, Kendall’s PR rep Comfrey. His primary concern is her potential lack of depth, to which Tom replies, “The man dying of thirst is suddenly a mineral water critic?” This kicks off a solid few minutes of Shiv and Tom playfully ganging up on Greg, and suggesting he use Comfrey to move up the “date ladder.” It really just feels like we’re watching Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen, and Nicholas Braun joke around and have fun, and is a much-needed breath of levity — especially with what happens next.
We’ve made it through a lot of cringe-worthy moments in Succession (mainly every time Kendall has tried his hand at musical entertainment), but I don’t think anything has made me squirm and cover my eyes more than Connor getting down on one knee — at someone else’s wedding, no less! — to propose to Willa. Not only because ew, gross, but because he is fairly explicit in letting her know that it’s mostly to prevent Politico from writing that she was his hired escort. Dumb AND wrong! Willa understandably does not want to say yes, and uses all her theater skills to put on a happy face for the crowd while giving Connor a definite “maybe.” Poor woman.
The weekend is highly eventful for our main three Roy siblings, so let’s give them each their due attention. First up: Shiv.
Things start going sour for her at her mom’s bachelorette party, which involves traipsing about town in party clothes before drinking and smoking on a balcony. There, Shiv and Caroline sit down for a heart-to-heart. Well… as much of a heart-to-heart as two heartless women can have. The conversation begins with Caroline calling Shiv a shitty daughter, and goes downhill from there. She shares that she should never have become a mother, and instead should have just gotten some dogs, before heavily implying that Shiv would also fail at raising children.
Most notably, Caroline shares her thoughts on her ex-husband. “He never saw anything he loved,” she sighs, “that he didn’t wanna kick it just to see if it would still come back.” It’s the perfect and obvious encapsulation of what we’ve watched Logan do to all of his children, but framed like this it seems to come less from him being a general asshole, and becomes a sign of something deeply dysfunctional in him — something that can never change, and, as we’ll see, erases all possibility of his ever letting up or letting go.
Roman is — at first — having the best time of all. He is chosen to go talk some sense into Lukas, who has been tweeting some Bad Tweets that are causing his stock prices to rise, endangering the acquisition. Lukas is, naturally, staying at a giant Swiss villa on Lake Como. After their pisscapade at Kendall’s birthday, the two men have some level of rapport, but even the occasional fascist-sympathizer Roman seems a little uncomfortable in Lukas’ presence. Major props to Alexander Skarsgård for creating a character so terrifyingly dead behind the eyes that he makes the Roy family look less evil in comparison. After saying a lot of words without much meaning (something about being Swedish, something about loving failure… the anti-Kendall is here!), he reveals his true desire. It’s surprisingly not a blood sacrifice, despite his overall vibe — instead, it is just a merger instead of an acquisition.
Roman reluctantly brings this back to his father in their makeshift boardroom in Milan, and Logan shockingly is on board with it. Every once in a while his ego stands aside so an actually okay business deal can happen! Roman celebrates the only way Roman knows how: by texting Gerri a celebratory dick pic. And it is the dick pic heard ’round the world, as it goes not to Gerri, but to Logan Roy himself.
Kieran Culkin puts on a master class in facial expressions as Roman goes from smug, to questioning, to realizing, to REALIZING. It’s awful and brilliant and hilarious all at once. Logan stops the meeting when he sees the photo, then consults with Shiv (who uses the opportunity to dig the deepest grave possible for her brother), before finally screaming for Roman. “Are you a sicko?” he asks (the answer is yes, Logan). After dressing him down, he dismisses him with a “fuck off.” And so crumbles away Roman’s previously promising chance at taking over.
Saving the saddest for last, we have Kendall. Logan ultimately agrees to dinner, which starts as a standoff around the idea that the son may be trying to poison the father. I don’t like using “Shakespearean,” but sometimes something just simply is Shakespearean. This is that. When the plates are served, Logan calls for Kendall’s son, Iverson, and offers him a bite of his mozzarella. Using your grandson as a poison tester? It’s a power move that is despicable even for Logan Roy.
After this show of inhumanity, the conversation begins. In short, Kendall is waving the white flag. He admits defeat and asks for one thing: to sell his shares and leave Waystar Royco forever. But we all know that’s not possible, for the exact reason Caroline shared earlier. Logan refuses to buy Kendall out, and begins to torment him with the reminder of the waiter whose drowning he caused. If this was potentially the last time we see these two battle it out, it would be a fitting end — a deeply tense and ugly moment that showcases all the abuses the two have flung at one another over the years.
In the episode’s final scene, we see Kendall face down on a pool float, drunk, with a beer in hand. He has nothing left, realizing that his father will always have control over him — both literally and emotionally. Kendall’s kids excuse themselves one by one to go inside, leaving him alone. In a striking shot from below, under the clear water, we watch Kendall drop his beer bottle, sink his face into the water, and bubble out one last long breath.
Is our best boy dead? We have a week to theorize before the season finale. Until then, let’s look at our “Chiantishire” winners and losers.
Sandi: she may have only been on screen for a few minutes, but she packed a punch in that brief time. As the board sits down to meet, Frank shares that Logan and Kendall have been recused given their current involvement in the DOJ investigation. But Logan is patiently observing through the glass doors, to which Sandi quips, “Could we make a note in the minutes that he’s watching us?” Even a little Hope Davis goes a long way!
Greg: okay, yes, he came across a little pathetic as he went from pining for Comfrey to immediately thinking he could do better. But after being relentlessly bullied about his appearances and more for three seasons, my dude is now in Italy thinking he’s a ladies’ man. Let him have this one.
Shiv: I condone exactly zero of her actions in this episode (this whole season, actually). She has been behaving monstrously. Yet, she objectively is the only Roy sibling to come out of last night with even a sliver of a chance at nabbing the top spot.
Gerri: it could also be argued that Gerri lost this week, now that her and Roman’s dalliance is out in the open. That said, when Shiv is trying her usual girl power intimidation on the acting CEO, Gerri shuts her down with a classic “I don’t recall,” making the entire effort feel childish. Plus, she looked STUNNING at Caroline’s bachelorette party.
Tabitha: Roman’s ex-girlfriend’s name is in everyone’s mouth despite her not having been on this show since season two. Her impact!
Willa & Connor: her for having to suffer through that proposal, him because he definitely is not getting married.
Tom: After Shiv’s talk with her mom, she comes back to the villa ready to have a revenge baby with Tom. Honestly, neither of them have any concept of what children are and aren’t for. Tom is, of course, ecstatic — but it doesn’t last long. They try to get into some dirty talk, and Shiv’s opening line (again, OPENING LINE) is, “You’re not good enough for me.” Yikes. Within seconds, she playfully tells Tom that she doesn’t love him. I know this man has historically been the worst, but I also need him to get out of this dreadful marriage.
Iverson: I mean… he had to be his grandpa’s poison tester.
Peter: he doesn’t seem like the greatest of guys, but sheesh! Marrying Caroline? Associating with Logan? Turn and run, man.
Roman: has anyone taken a bigger L in the history of this television show? No.
“I Can Fix Them” of the Week
All right, if there’s a chance this is our final moment with Kendall Roy, there’s no way I’m not going to try to fix him one last time.
Honestly, I never once thought we’d get to the end of this series without losing our best, saddest boy. The signs have been there from the start — we’ve seen him stare longingly and despairingly over too many balcony edges not to understand the path down which he was heading. And it would be all too poetic for drowning (whether intentional or not) to be his demise, after the watery death for which he was responsible.
Really, there isn’t much he could have done differently, so any attempts of fixing him might be for naught. He finally took Stewy’s advice and tried to get out of the company that has brought him so much pain. His only mistake was continuing to love a deeply broken man whose own way of loving is inextricably linked to hurting.
Now, could Kendall be alive? Totally — there’s already been some potential proof from HBO itself. But I personally think that the Kendall-sized gap has been one of the season’s most interesting elements, and seeing his siblings (and especially his father) deal with his loss would be far more compelling television. Plus, it would free Jeremy Strong from the acting prison of his own making.
With one more episode left this season, we’ll soon have our answer!
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