In Episode 2 of Season 3 HBO’s “Succession,” Roman (Kieran Sulkin), Shiv(Sarah Snook), and Kendall (Jeremy Strong).
David M. Russell/HBO

Every week on HBO’s “Succession,” the drama surrounding the Roy family and their media conglomerate, Waystar Royco, often reduces me to fits of laughter. The Roys bumble their way through scandals, doing whatever the exorbitantly rich person’s equivalent is to slipping on a banana peel.

Whenever someone who struggled with the show’s first season wonders if it’s worth sticking it out, I always emphasize that the show is hilarious and cleverly self-aware. It mirrors real life while not directly replicating itFinding the right balance between reality and escapism is key. Even the most uncomfortable moments and devastating revelations are also wickedly funny, like when the Roy siblings trade lacerating insults in mocking voices, instead of actually talking about their feelings and being real humans — because they do not know how.

Sometimes, there’s nothing funny about it, like in Sunday night’s episode, “Mass in Time Of War.” “Succession” has always been about the brutality of growing up in a family in which relationships are purely transactional, and this week’s episode reminded viewers of that in each of its major developments.

Jeremy Strong’s Kendall unsuccessfully tries to convince his siblings to board the rival company. This is the next stage in Logan (Brian Cox)’s coup against his dad. It was launched in the last moments of Season 2. (Kendall’s plans rarely, if ever, succeed, so this one was doomed to fail.) Throughout Sunday’s episode, he covertly invites Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck) to his business bunker, aka his ex-wife Rava’s apartment (poor Rava, who now is apparently responsible for housing and feeding half of the show’s characters — she did not ask for this!The following is the transcript.

Connor (Alan Ruck), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) in episode 2 of season 3 of HBO's "Succession."
Episode 2 of Season 3 of HBO’s “Succession” features Connor (Alan Ruck), Shiv(Sarah Snook) & Kendall (Jeremy Strong).
Macall Polay/HBO

As the siblings each abandon their plan, Kendall unleashes an infernal torrent of insults. He reminds Connor of how “irrelevant” he has always been in the family. Connor is the only child from Logan’s first marriage, while his younger siblings are bonded by being from Logan’s second marriage. He’s also the only Roy sibling who has not been directly involved in the family empire (like Kendall and Roman) or built an independent career (like Shiv, formerly a political operative). Instead, he dabbles in vanity projects bankrolled by Logan (decanting wine, funding his girlfriend Willa’s off-off-off-Broadway play “Sands,” running for president).

Increasing the volume each time, Kendall repeatedly tells Connor: “You are not wanted!”

Roman believes Kendall may have gone too far. “Like he hasn’t heard that enough in his life,” he tells Kendall, as Connor slinks away in disappointment.

He admits that Kendall saved his worst tirade against Shiv. He claims that Shiv, a fake progressive Shiv, is a self-interested fool (which is quite fair). “Is it cowardice or avarice?” he asks, before suggesting he wanted her for the alliance “only ’cause you’re a girl.”

“Girls count double now, didn’t you know?” he sneers. “It’s only your teats that give you any value!”

Roy fights can be brutal, uncomfortable and still hilarious. This one was just flat-out mean and stomach-turning, even for “Succession.”

This week also marked the long-awaited return of Logan’s estranged third wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass), whom he cast aside and betrayed in Season 2. When Hugo (Fisher Stevens), one of Waystar’s PR executives, explains that Logan and the company leaders want Marcia to help Logan repair his image by publicly appearing by his side, Marcia reveals that she has a plan too. Marcia lists some of her financial requirements and suggests a possible divorce. Marcia is an expert at the game.

Marcia (Hiam Abbass) knows how to play the game.
Marcia (HiamAbbass), knows how to play this game.
Macall Polay/HBO

This episode had plenty of belly laughters. In a completely on-brand move, Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) — who, like almost everyone on this show, is in need of a high-powered attorney — finds a law student friend, Lia, to advise him. Poor Lia has no idea what she has gotten herself into and the severity of Greg’s legal troubles (“You want me to text my professor?” she asks Greg). Later, Grandpa Ewan (James Cromwell), Logan’s brother and one of his fiercest critics, begrudgingly helps his grandson find a lawyer.

Gramps wants to make a profit from the transaction, just like any Roy. He enlists his personal lawyer, who wants to use Greg as “our little wedge” to take down Logan and Waystar Royco and “expose the structural contradictions of capitalism as reified in the architecture of corporate America.” (Greg the Egg is now Greg the Wedge.)

Like a lot of people, before I became a “Succession” super fan, I struggled with the first season, wondering what could be appealing about a show in which everyone is terrible. Then, I discovered that’s precisely the point. But still, it’s human to try to find someone to root for. For me, the show shifted in Episode 6 of Season 1, when Kendall’s first attempt to oust his father failed in spectacular fashion, precipitating his downward spiral for the rest of the season and into the next one. Dare I say, I sympathized with him — maybe?

However transactional and conditional they are, the bonds between the Roy siblings have always been at the core of some of the devastating moments of “Succession.” Early in Season 2, at his professional and personal nadir, Kendall asks Shiv for a hug. Confused, Shiv reaches out for an awkward, half-assed hug — before she realizes Kendall, now crying, really does need a hug. It’s sad. It was sad.

It’s almost.


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