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The ‘Succession’ Misery Index: America, You Flunked It

Roman Roy in his moment of triumph.
Courtesy of HBO
Shiv Roy Misery Index: 101 (A stammering fool)

Look, Shiv is not the political operative she purports herself to be, and she's barely even the liberal she purports herself to be. But she does recognize when her family's penchant for turning everything into one of their old children's games has actual consequences. She's not the only person who sees how the Roys are damaging the very democratic process with their chicanery, but she is the only one willing to put up a fight against the rising tide of fascism happening in real time. But because this is Succession, it's not without some kind of benefit to her personally. In the end, the question of whether to let the Fourth Reich take over America comes down to what makes the most business sense for each of these characters, and for Shiv, preserving the democratic rule of law would be beneficial in getting this Waystar sale over the finish line and blocking her brother's ascent.

Shiv takes a lot of hits on this election night. She gets the icy-cold treatment from Tom after their big fight—never mind that she's only apologizing to try and get him on her side before electioneering begins. She's repeatedly dismissed by Roman as he prepares "the narrative" on behalf of his boyfriend Mencken, and then finally Greg sells her out. Greg! The guy she used to be able to terrify is now willing to betray her to her face. It's rough, but it's not like she didn't walk into it (seriously, the fake phone call bit?). Shiv is a victim of misogyny no doubt, and she's undervalued and easily ignored purely because she's a woman. But, like a lot of people that suffer as a result of sexism or racism or any sort of phobia in a corporate setting, she's prone to overcompensate to prove that she deserves to be on the playing field. Shiv spends this episode essentially trying to talk logic to baboons flinging poo at each other. She's right that things still matter, but certainly not at their vantage point.

Greg Hirsch Misery Index: 24 (Silence isn't golden enough)

Greg has been on a real heater of late. Given that his story is that of the quintessential way for a white man to fail up in world, it might be more accurate to say that "Gregs" as a general concept have been on a real heater of late. Everyone knows he's annoying and yet he keeps proving to have enough value to stay afloat, if never quite enough to be taken seriously. His time with Matsson and his team, drinking things that weren't drinks and dancing with old men, helps him get dirt on Shiv which he uses to cement his own position (for the time being, always just for the time being). So really it doesn't matter that he can't do his job well or any jobs he's assigned all that well, he knows how to make deals for himself. Greg is the Waystar cockroach. No matter whose hands the company ends up in, he'll probably still be there, in a higher position than he deserves.

Kendall Roy Misery Index: 45 (Poison daddy)

Kendall has what you could call a "come to Jesus" moment. He is at a crossroads all episode: caught between his siblings and his own personal lust for power, between wanting to be there for his family and his own personal lust for power, between democratic rule and his own personal lust for power. Kendall has just enough self-awareness to know that he's taking part in something absolutely dreadful, but not so much that his primary concern ever stops being how that dreadful thing might benefit his brother more than him. I am sure there is a part of Ken that would like to be a good dad, but similar to what keeps Shiv from being a good partner and what keeps Roman from being a human, the poison of Logan is in him. He will always choose himself and his position over everything else in his life, including those children.

For him to have had the heart-to-heart with Shiv in one moment only to find out her betrayal in the next was a cruel, cosmic-scale joke. There is no place for heart or vulnerability or honesty here, just the cold calculation of what makes for the best business deal.

Roman Roy Misery Index: 12 (Nothing has never mattered this much)

Roman is in full devil form tonight. Helping his bestie Mencken win an election under dubious circumstances has brought some swagger back into his life and put a spring in his step. Roman is not good at running a company but he is good at bullshitting, and if you can turn real life into a personal bullshit factory than why not? It doesn't affect you anyways! And if it does, there's always the option of buying your way out.

It's the logic of a spoiled, wealthy 5-year-old, and so precisely Roman's sweet spot. If you treat everything like none of it matters, and then teach the world to behave the same way, eventually nothing will matter and people will act accordingly. Chaos will reign, books will be burned, people without sufficient power and means will bear the brunt of the abuse, and the streets will run red. Luckily, this is only a TV show and not a reflection of our world in any way!

America Misery Index: 100 (The Conheads are coming!)

You thought Paris was over—well, America is right behind it now. A great thing in this episode is how well it captures not so much shock as the sensation of "Wait, we're doing this for real?" amongst everyone in that newsroom. You might imagine they've grown used to feeding bullshit narratives and scary hypotheticals to their audience of old white people, but when faced with something that has actual consequences attached to it, everyone snaps out of cynicism. But only for a moment, these people have jobs to do.

Jeryd Mencken Misery Index: -1 (Koncentration Kamp Kounselor)

Even this Nazi's scary, call-to-arms victory speech was Shakespearean on this fucking show. How can I be terrified when everyone speaks so eloquently all the damn time? Everyone watching has probably guessed this was going to happen for quite some time now. The only real question was how this show would depict a Trump-like election episode without making it obvious and cloying in the ways so much of the post-Trump political entertainment had. I respected the ambition to go macro and make it about the people who profit from guys like Trump or Mencken being in office. Democracy doesn't die in darkness, it dies in the backroom of a conference table, for want of not having the best deal in place.

Honorable Mentions

Tom Wambsgans — Tom was like a fucking Terminator out here. Just cold as ice when he wasn't hopped up on cocaine. I guess they were right when they said "once a good girl's gone bad, she's gone forever."

Connor Roy — Listen, any speech Mencken made was always going to pale in comparison to Connor's. The Conheads are coming, mark my words.

Jess Jordan — Our beloved Jess trying oh so subtly to encourage a Roy member to maybe grow a spine just once was a losing battle, but I'm proud of you for attempting it.

Willa Ferreyra — Yes, the fascism is bad but you are so going to be great at being a foreign ambassador's wife.

Darwin the strategist — Getting wasabi in the eye is a nightmare, and then to follow that with fizzy lemon La Croix? Sheesh. The only thing worse would be having to drink that lemon La Croix.

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