Logan Roy’s defeat in Succession

If there’s anything beyond business that Logan Roy (Brian Cox) has managed to succeed in, it’s blowing the minds of all his children. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is a well of insecurity, even when he knows what he wants and thinks he knows how to get there, which is, “being the boss”. When he opens his mouth, he annoys anyone, he looks like a fool and a 40-year-old man who still believes he’s on the playground. Roman (Kieran Culkin) is the eternal teenager who defends himself using the cover of indifference, but suffers severely from the lack of affection and seeks approval in everything. His trajectory – among the brothers – is remarkable, he is an executive who knows how to express himself better than Kendall (although this is not really a challenge), but he never seems to be firm about what he wants, he follows what everyone thinks and worse, he wants to do what the father would do because he is a fan of Logan first and foremost, but even worse, he only knows how to obey, even with his father being dead. And then there’s Shiv (Sarah Snook) the only child, groomed and often erased by the patriarchy. In the fragile unity formed between the children to face Logan, she is the glue and heart of the association, but Shiv was not discarded by Logan for nothing. In the sale of Waystar Royco to GoJo, Shiv thinks she was more astute than the brothers who are sure they are betraying her (they are not), and fell like a duck in the adulation of Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). In mere seconds, just like us, the businessman clearly read how to play with each of the brothers and it was with Shiv that he played his final card. Ah, Shiv: how can you be so blind?

Actor Brian Cox said in an interview that he believes that of the three, Logan would choose his daughter to lead the business, if “she learned to shut up”. The problem is that Logan’s incomprehensible decision to psychologically abuse his heirs – my version is that he deviously saw in their success his own mortality – resulted in his defeat. Without having a trusted person to lead the business, Logan decided to sell his empire, but he was going to keep his news channel, to maintain his source of power over the people. He found the only person like him in this final stretch, Lukas, who is so much like him that he didn’t even give his children 48 hours to mourn Logan’s death: he made them fly to Norway, divided them, and with Shiv’s vulnerability, apparently got what he wanted.

The Roy children had one goal in life and that was to conquer Logan, with that chance eliminated, which was effectively what brought them together, the future that each one wants for themselves is uncertain and they don’t know exactly how to proceed. Do they sell the company or keep it is the least of their issues.

It’s all Logan Roy’s fault, of course. By making it clear to his children and to the world that no one but himself had the ability to lead, he left his offspring millionaires but lost. The phrase “they are not serious people” is repeated throughout the series (Kendall says Logan’s final words in season 1 when he turns to Roman and says “I love you, but you are not a serious person”). As some point out, by selling Waystar Royco, they will for the first time have the freedom to do whatever they want with their lives. The problem is, they just know they’re out there trying to prove Logan wrong. Kendall wants to be CEO, Roman wants to do what “daddy wanted” and Shiv just wants to punish the two she resents having credibility just for being men. Irritating!

Lukas Matsson is hateful in a universe of hateful people. He has the killer instinct that Logan eliminated from his offspring and is manipulative, and addicted to gambling. He touched all the buttons that Logan left in his children: Kendall’s insecurity of wanting to be recognized as “the” heir, Roman’s need for love and approval, and who, although the most transparent in speech, never does what he says, and we have Shiv, the intelligent and ignored for being a woman, who only knows how to relate to abusive men. It was so easy for Lukas that I am sure he was bored.

Shiv’s seduction was swift and sure. Lukas pretended to open his heart by “needing personal advice”, and told an absurd story of sending ‘blood bricks to an ex, but the point was solely to let her guard down. Lukas mentions he too fell in love with a person who worked with him, that the relationship between the two was complex and abusive, that he is separating, and that he needs someone to understand him. “You’re not judgy,” he shamelessly taunts Shiv, who doesn’t realize he’s just giving away that he’s seen one of her weaknesses which is opposite to what he’s telling her. Even pregnant, Shiv seems to use drugs and drink alcohol (to disguise her secret, obviously and look like a fun person), but the smile that finally a man has paid attention to her is her downfall. Lukas turns the tables when he makes the deadly comparison: “You are just like your father”. There, Shiv is in the pocket.

Shiv represents many women. She is silently humiliated by the macho culture, ignored, diminished, and relegated to the background, something that men don’t even realize when it happens. They feel that making her a query or two is fair play, they are unable to begin to understand where the issue really lies. Roman and Kendall are sure they are including her, but Shiv, who is both abusive and sadistic, openly humiliates and vulnerable them to compensate for her personal pain. Questioning whether Kendall’s name was underlined or crossed out, calling the two the “B-Roll Brothers” is ridiculing them in front of haters. If she doesn’t get the prize, they can’t win either.

Because Shiv feels left out and is reactive to the brothers, she hands them to Lukas on a platter but is so happy to have beaten them that she doesn’t even realize her possible mistake. Lukas serves her in immediate pain: humiliating Kendall and Roman, showing off for Tom (Matthew McFadyen), and feeling like “the chosen one”.

Succession is surpassing Game of Thrones in terms of wicked characters. Shiv, a kind of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) who indirectly brings suffering to her family, is arrogant and spoiled, but Tom is a Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and just like in GOT, is even aware she can’t get rid of him. Worse: she thinks it’s important to have him around. Accustomed to treating him like a doormat, Shiv was surprised to see that she was being used by Tom with a skill she had ignored. He’s sold her to Logan, but instead of breaking up, she’s only heartbroken by the betrayal. He knows and uses everything to his advantage to maintain the status quo. After all, Shiv thinks she’s smart, but everyone knows that in a moment a quick compliment wins her over and that she needs coaxing. Tom is on the prowl and she seems to think (mistakenly) that Lukas is really interested in her. With her brother’s loss seen as a victory, Shiv is glad he took down Kendall and Roman, but that propels her to start looking to regain control of her unhealthy relationship with Tom. There’s the secret of pregnancy, but being partnered with Lukas, she regains dominance or thinks she does. I’m still shocked by Tom’s slapping Shiv, signaling a dangerous curve for physical as well as psychological abuse, and the fact that she knows she can fire him has given her a new perspective. The problem is the distance from the end. There are still five episodes to go and if in five we reach the downfall of the brothers, where else can we go?

Shiv is clearly believing that selling Waystar Royco was a brilliant move: she got rich, got rid of her brothers, and gained a new “partner” in Lukas, who could put her in charge of the business. Why hasn’t she learned her lesson yet? This involuntary pregnancy may still be the character’s only hope for change, although she has little faith in it.

I’m sorry and it hurts to see how much Roman, Kendall, and Shiv are emotional idiots and bad executives, but their defeat is Logan Roy’s moral victory in Succession. If they got over the trauma he inflicted, they would be heroes. And in this cruel fable of the 21st century, we cannot believe that abuse breeds success. I don’t know, but the game is pretty messed up and it’s all Logan Roy’s fault!

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