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The ‘Succession’ Misery Index: Raised By Wolves

Succession/ Courtesy of HBO

Shiv Roy Misery Index: 65 (Pinky Learns To Dance)

Welcome to Shiv Pregnancy Watch 2023: Did she drink that whiskey? Did she take a bump? Did she drink that glass of champagne? Unless that tumble down those steps last week did the trick, Shiv is likely still pregnant, which means she's still carrying around the news like a boulder, being sunk to the bottom of the corporate ocean she's given her life to. Pregnancy represents everything she's come to fear in life: vulnerability, the prospect of being like her mom, having her career held back, being chained to Tom forever. One of those fears has already started to become reality. Last week, without daddy there to cast a protective shadow, she shriveled like a raisin as the business ogres started moving chess pieces and tantalizing her brothers by waving "the big chair" in their faces. She was the odd girl out and she knew it immediately, no matter how much they placated her by promising her involvement on everything. This week, (which is only a day later in show time) that bitterness remains, expressing itself in the form of scoffs and eye-rolls as her brothers attempt doing a business.

What exactly is she being iced out of, though? Shiv's not really into doing any actual business; she's only good at convincing herself that she's making power moves and playing the angles by delivering a few wry one-liners. Logan would never crush documents, so why should she? This is why no one will ever take her seriously, particularly as a woman who knows nothing. Men who know nothing get to be president, or at the very least run Twitter.

By the end of the episode, she's feeling high on the private jet, convinced that her late-night meeting with Lukas Matsson is what swung the deal and sending him celebratory texts in secret. She's completely wrong, of course, but that's what this episode was all about—how little control these characters actually have over their own lives, and how little their actions actually mean.

Kendall Roy Misery Index: 20 (The C.E.Bro)

R.O.Y, we runnin' this shitshow. Kendall is back on his bullshit! He got to see a paper with his name on it (never mind that it was probably crossed out and from four years ago), and he's ready to hit that Royco narcotic one more time. He's an addict, he can't even hide it. He's got the rap music (Jay-Z's "Takeover" might be the best needle drop of the show) going, he's got that dumb Kendall walk on full tilt, and he's telling people to fuck off again. He's going to show his dad that he can be the killer, once and for all, at Chairman Matsson's Re-education Camp.

The thing to understand about Kendall is that at his most delusional he really thinks he could be Steve Jobs. I get it, it's not like he wasn't a charlatan, too, but it actually does take some skill to be that good at being one. The chief skill is that people need to actually believe in you. And Kendall: they don't believe you, you need more people. His mopey, hang-dog face looks weathered, washed out on years of drugs and abuse and disappointment. It's not the face of a leader, that's for sure.

When he tries to sabotage the deal with Matsson, his failure is entirely predictable. And also really, really funny. Succession is so good at trapping you with these characters and their perspectives for long periods of time—hey, maybe Shiv really is making big-brain moves over a glass of scotch; maybe Kendall is finally going to bring one of his crazy plans to fruition—only to pull the rug out at exactly the right time. Kendall and Roman landing the best deal for the company, something they could only make happen by trying to accomplish exactly the opposite, is one of the best jokes this show has ever told.

Roman Roy Misery Index: 152 (The Fifth Stage Of Pre-Grieving: Grieving)

Logan was right about these dummies: they’re not serious people, and everyone knows it. Once Kendall and Roman's secret plan is immediately blown up during their mountaintop meeting with Matsson, Roman devolves into a puddle of raw nerves, slinging one-liners at half speed, jaded and sedated by the grief that has finally arrived thanks to Matsson's ribbing.

Roman's tirade is only tangentially about Matsson. He might as well have been screaming at God. He's mad at the world, he's overwhelmed by the job, and he really hates this guy who thinks he's gonna replace his dear daddy. The other Roys are desperate to be Logan, but only Roman wants him back so he can be his No. 2 again.

A lesser version of this show would have insisted on putting some narrative weight onto Roman's moment of catharsis. For once, a character was speaking plainly and with emotion, making clear exactly what he wants and telling everyone how he plans to get it. The writers could have allowed Roman's rant to achieve its desired effect, to tank the whole deal and make life worse for everyone involved but also leave him and his brother with a sense of satisfaction. This show never misses a chance to hold these characters in utter contempt, though, and so Roman just has to watch his words roll off Matsson, and then be congratulated for giving his new nemesis everything he wanted in the first place.

Karl Muller, Frank Vernon Misery Index: 50 (The Village Elders)
Screenshot; HBO
Lukas Matsson Misery Index: -1 (The Hanna-Barbera Business School Professor)

What a fucking little shit. He's so good, the way he lords over his minimalist cabin castle like the king of gorpcore, always attended by a merry band of faux-intellectual Swedish sycophants. He's just big and handsome enough to be properly intimidating and swaggering, while also being just enough of a giant weirdo that you buy into his own daddy issues and bad-media ideas.

If you're actually good at business, sitting through the mom-and-pop bullshit of the Roys might be pretty annoying—Roys popping up all around you like incestuous Wayans brothers, no good conversation, no good jokes, no good offers. Asking for ATN is a petty slap meant to communicate to these kids how little anyone takes them seriously. It's smart business to just take the whole enchilada, and it's also a knife in the gut. He played them like a fiddle the whole time.

Tom Wambsgans, Greg Hirsch Misery Index: 70 (Brothers Without A Country)

Tom has been like a wandering puppy dog looking for a new owner. When the kids turned him away, he shifted to trying to impress Matsson in spectacularly humiliating fashion. Non-Americans love it when you sit down near them and start talking really loudly. That's Tom's best attempt at his own poor Logan impression, it would seem. That guy is gonna be some poor kid's absentee father potentially.

As for Greg, he's starting to get hip to the fact that Tom isn't much of a life raft anymore, and he's making maneuvers of his own. He's trying and failing to use the family card to get in with the siblings, as though he isn't a permanent human footstool to them. But bonus points for trying, I guess, and putting that one issue of The Economist he read to work.

France Misery Index: Sacré Bleu! (The Old Baguette's Last Days)

Apparently, you're not making it France. Sorry to tell you. Unlike us, post-imperial America, where we're inventing a new Paris.

Connor Roy Misery Index: 15 (Appeals To Conservative White Clevelanders)
Screenshot: HBO
Honorable Mentions:

Gerri Kellman - has yo-yo’d from the verge of being fired to potentially being folded into the Matsson administration. She always comes out on top.

Karolina Novotney - Men lie, women lie, but Karolina just gets the job done.

Hugo Baker - I hope you saved enough of that money that you totally didn't tell your daughter to get by selling Waystar stock before Logan's death went public, because you'll need it.

Kalispatron: Hibernation - *Kendall voice* Yeah, it's uh, really good. It's like Transformers meets the Fast and The Furious meets John Wick meets the Marvel cinematic universe. It's very fuckin', uh, Tarkovsky without the pretension. We're uh, expecting big things

Honorable Honorable Mention:

Kerry Castellabate Misery Index: 200 (The Worst Subway Ride Home Ever)

Last week, on our break, I couldn't talk about Kerry. It's hard to feel bad for people on this show, at least in any real way. But there was something about Kerry being thrown out of Logan's wake and out onto the streets that felt particularly bad and gross. It's a lesson in the ways this world works: one minute you're next to the king, riding high and the next his actual wife is kicking you out of his home and you have nothing. The only thing tangible in this world is power and status; Logan could've been secretly giving her gold bricks to hide in her apartment and it still wouldn't have prevented what happened. Kerry being reduced to a delirious puddle of tears trying to scoop the fallen items from her purse, while babbling about Logan's promises to marry her was just pathetic. It wouldn't be a surprise if that was the last image we get of her.

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