HBO’s Succession is an award-winning satirical comedy-drama series that kept fans glued to their screens every single week to see what the dysfunctional Roy family would do next. Created by Jesse Armstrong, the show’s best episodes have won numerous accolades for reflecting the high-stakes drama, political intrigue, and explosive events related to Waystar RoyCo, the global media and entertainment conglomerate each of the family members wants control over.
While massively popular episodes like All the Bells Say and Connor’s Wedding have been talked about endlessly by fans and critics alike, there’s no shortage of underrated Succession episodes that deserve more attention. These often overlooked storylines may not be as exciting or eventful as other episodes in the series, but they provide important moments of character development, reveal small but critical details, and are crucial to the overall narrative of the show.
In Mass in Time of War, patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is weaker than ever, forced to stay in Sarajevo as his children plot against him. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) invites his siblings to Rava’s (Natalie Gold) apartment, insisting that he will win this time with them by his side. Of course, things fall apart when he suggests that he will be the new CEO – that and a well-timed box of donuts from their all-seeing father is enough to spook Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Connor (Alan Ruck), who all end up siding with Logan.
Although some may find the generally uneventful episode boring compared to Succession‘s more dramatic ones, Mass in Time of War is a fantastic representation of the best of the series and points to why it became such a popular show on Max. It delves into the uneasiness, insecurities, and ultimately, selfishness of the Roy children, who are incredibly complex and well-written characters at this point in the series. Despite wanting to be free of their father’s control, they are painfully aware of it and fear it, still believing that the path with Logan will somehow lead them to power.
The siblings continue to band together as the terms of the GoJo acquisition become more and more complicated. Kendall oscillates between the original strategy with his siblings after a call from GoJo’s Lukas Matsson (Infinity Pool‘s Alexander Skarsgård), which he doesn’t disclose to anyone else. Meanwhile, and more importantly, Connor is devastated that Willa (Justine Lupe) is having second thoughts about marrying him. The Roy siblings all go out to a karaoke bar and bond over their stress and misery, which soon turns into a tense confrontation when Logan decides to crash the party.
Rehearsal may be forgettable to most audiences, but a rewatch may help fans rediscover how effectively the episode turns the flawed and horrible characters into sympathetic individuals. They may be wildly rich and often terrible people, but the episode humanizes them by showing how much they’re hurting from the pressures of the present and the ghosts of their painful past. This is especially highlighted by the way Kendall and Shiv demand an apology from Logan for his abusive parenting, which is contrasted with how Roman returns to their father before the episode is over.
Given the riveting events of Succession‘s first season leading up to an unforgettable finale involving Kendall’s accident during Shiv and Tom’s wedding, it’s understandably hard to follow up with an episode that can live up to the hype. Already being called one of Max’s best shows of all time even at that early point, The Summer Palace had a lot to live up to, and it did a well enough job.
The underrated episode sees Kendall reeling from his role in an innocent person’s death, clearly just going through the motions even as he’s answering questions from the press about his sudden decision to abandon the hostile takeover. “I saw their plan, and my dad’s plan was better” – these words sum up how quickly Logan regained power and control over his son and the situation, making viewers question if there was any doubt at all. Kendall’s awkward meeting with Stewy Hosseini (Arian Moayed) later in the episode only hints at how often the Roy sibling will change sides in the guise of strategy when often it’s just desperation or necessity that pushes him.
If there’s one thing Succession excels at, it’s accurately depicting – and in the process, parodying – real-world events and people, whether that’s the way the 1% live or how quickly online news websites rise and fall. This is exactly what happens in the episode Vaulter, where Kendall and Roman are tasked with a performance review of the media startup owned by Waystar. While Kendall thinks the company isn’t a financial black hole and has a ton of potential, Roman believes it’s a failing business and notes that its employees want to unionize. Kendall is left with the task of firing Vaulter’s staff.
It’s challenging for any viewer who’s not familiar with the inner workings of online news websites to immediately identify the clear and scathing parallels Vaulter depicts. From the way acquisitions can transform these once-small startups to how fast they can shut down at the whim of the 1%, the episode is an insightful, accurate, and painful look at online journalism. Plus, Strong’s subdued performance as a son completely under his father’s control showcases the way Succession embraces tragicomedy in its very best episodes.
When fans look for more series like Succession, they’re likely searching not just for political drama, but the emotional and messy family dynamics that come with the dysfunctional Roy family. In The Disruption, the chaos and chasms reach new peaks, with Logan and Kendall each implementing PR strategies to make themselves look better than the other, Shiv still fighting to prove herself within the company, and Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) even offering to be incarcerated in the patriarch’s place should things go wrong with the Department of Justice’s impending investigation. As if it couldn’t get any worse, Kendall sabotages Shiv’s important speech for Waystar by playing Nirvana’s Rape Me for everyone to hear.
The Disruption is a frustrating and even draining episode to watch, which is why most viewers would likely skip it when picking which storylines to revisit. However, it’s also one of the most emotional and intense episodes that shows how no one is really winning while the family members work hard to tear each other apart. Shiv’s scathing open letter about Kendall’s mental state is the perfect ending that emphasizes how twisted the Roy siblings’ relationships have become.
A family sit-down therapy session takes place on Connor’s ranch in New Mexico – what could go wrong? Austerlitz takes viewers on a deep dive into each Roy family member’s past. Meanwhile, Kendall is still deeply affected by previous events that led to him losing his position in Waystar, not to mention the tabloids’ false reports that he has relapsed. Unfortunately, Kendall does relapse and later finds himself in an almost physical fight with Logan. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment reveals that Logan was never going to be one of the great TV dads the Roy children need, as he carries some literal scars from his past, too.
Mixing comedy and tragedy with ease, Austerlitz‘s dark humor and surprisingly emotional moments perfectly capture Succession‘s tone and style of storytelling as a whole. It doesn’t reach dramatic highs and lows like the show’s more popular episodes, but its nuanced portrayal of each family member’s upsetting past helps viewers understand them all a little better. This is especially true for Kendall, whose heartbreaking relapse is masterfully portrayed by Jeremy Strong, making the episode one of his best.
As Kendall’s position in the cruises scandal gets undermined, the rest of the Roys travel to the Future Freedom Summit taking place in Richmond, Virginia. There, they join the conversation and must work together to pick a suitable presidential candidate. In What It Takes, audiences learn exactly what suitable means for the Roy family, whose only concern is to keep Waystar at the top. When they meet the controversial Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), Logan believes he’s exactly what their right-leaning news network needs to stay relevant.
Going well beyond its corporate borders, What It Takes reflects on politics in a terrifying yet convincing way, implying that presidents are chosen behind closed doors. The political dance that goes on between the influential Roys and the aspiring candidates may bore some viewers, but a re-evaluation of the episode will likely showcase the brilliant work that went into its tight script, incredible performances, and spine-chilling parallels with real-world politics.
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