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The ‘Succession’ Misery Index: Big, Big Shoes

1:03 PM EDT on May 1, 2023

Kendall Roy in Succession
Image via HBO
Kendall Roy Misery Index: 12 (The Messysiah)

Let’s play a game. It's called Coke Or Simply Adrenaline?

Our boy Kenny is back in his zone, making moves, calling shots, getting way too amped over bad ideas, and asking for replicas of homes and clouds to be built in a day's notice. He's feeling himself, and that alone is enough to get him high, but it's also fair to wonder if he's not doing a little somethin' as a cherry on top. His persistently overeager and animated nature points towards "coke," but the unlikelihood of his current situation makes a strong case for "simply adrenaline."

Kendall never thought he'd get here again after all the backstabbing and fighting completely decimated him as a human being. It wasn't that long ago that he was an empty husk of a man tearfully confessing to possible manslaughter, but now he's imbued with the power to manipulate the world economy with the worst ideas ever conjured outside of a coke-fueled party for MBA students.

When Karl tries to give him a reality check backstage, it's kind of shock to him. It’s important to remember that these kids were being indulged while Logan was alive, because Logan himself was indulging them. They could moan, grumble, shit-talk, be bossy like their dad, make inappropriate jokes, and skate by on their incompetence; none of it mattered because their name was on the building and everyone fell in line behind Logan. But as Karl hinted, that took years of being in the trenches and creating an atmosphere of fear through bitter battles. Without Logan around anymore, none of these senior people have to pretend these kids are serious. As a result, people are bucking quite openly.

And yet, for all the desperation and definitely illegal stock inflation, Kendall gets his moment. He soared when everyone expected him to crash and burn, so much so that it's enough to wonder if the actual difference between serious and unserious people in this world is just being around long enough for everyone to start buying into your stupid ideas. Either way, Kendall has a little gas now, and that's all you need to start a fire. Every high comes with a good period.

Roman Roy Misery Index: 96 (Weak Monarch In A Dangerous Interregnum)

Everyone in this family is going through their own grief-induced mania, but Roman in particular feels on the verge of a mental breakdown. That might be what it takes to get to the emotional space necessary to take over for Logan Roy, but in the meantime it’s making him erratic, impulsive, and petulant. He’s the least respected of all the kids—which is really saying something—the bratty, permanent underling in everyone's eyes, including his employees.

This episode reminded me of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene from Season 3, Episode 8, where everybody is scattered about for Caroline's wedding. Shiv is with her mom's bridal party, Kendall is having the tensest dinner ever with his dad, Tom and Greg are probably up to some wackiness, and Gerri is looking for Roman. When she finds him, he's all alone, crouched down by some building pretending he's been teasing her partner, but it's clear he's been there awhile, looking miserable and isolated. The preceding episode was his big star turn as the ultimate business machine for his dad, but in that brief moment he's where he often is, whether things are good or bad: alone. That's right where he is again in this episode.

Roman believes in the family unit, no matter how abusive Logan and his siblings were to him, because he's kinda got nothing else. He's weird with people, women especially. He's empathetic to a point, but mostly he's lashing out because he lost the biggest thing in his life and he doesn't know how to be anything beyond Logan's shithead son. There was a time when he might've been turned on by all the things Gerri said to him in this episode, but their relationship has sputtered out so badly that it just feels like nails in the coffin. He's too dead inside to enjoy anything right now, and so by the end of the episode he's back to doing the only thing he's ever been good at: receiving insults from his father, embracing a doctored video with the warmth of Heath Ledger holding Jake Gyllenhaal's jacket at the end of Brokeback Mountain.

Shiv Roy/Tom Wambsgans Misery Index: 59 (Bitey Buds)

Everyone's grief has manifested in different ways. For Shiv, it's been part identity crisis, part desperate search for any man she can emotionally toy with. As bad as Tom's betrayal last season was, it has also, in a lot of ways, rejuvenated her relationship with him. She has to take him seriously, because a man that can hurt her is also a man that's attractive to her. There have been a couple references to her past relationships this season, filling in the idea that Tom was a nice, safe person after the bad experiences she'd been through. The problem has always been that Shiv has no idea what to do with nice or safe.

Under this impending divorce and grief spiral, the two of them can finally communicate and have an honest conversation about their marriage. Tom can finally admit that he's a social climber, and Shiv can accept that because transactions are easy for the Roys. It's love that's hard. Jesse Armstrong has called the Shiv-Tom relationship the entire thesis of the series, and in that bedroom scene you can see what he means. Can you exist in this particular world, and be this type of person, and also still feel genuine love? The evil-villain laughter with which Shiv and Tom punctuated that scene seems to provide an answer.

As for Shiv Pregnancy Watch 2023, she continues to sip gently on alcohol, but still no mention of plans about what she wants to do, or whether she should tell Tom. It's safe to assume she hasn't told him for the same reason she won't commit to trying again with him: She likes having all her options open and keeping what little power she can get, because she's certainly not getting it at the office.

Logan Roy Misery Index: (Still Dead)
Logan Roy in Succession
Screenshot: Succession/HBOImage via HBO

I feel you, man.

Honorable Mentions

Gerri Kellman - You are great at your job Gerri, but I would send some resumes out because you do not want to be at the scene of this impending crime.

Karl Muller - I let your dad boar-on-the-floor me because we go way back, but I'll be damned if you're gonna cook my numbers, Kendall.

Lukas Matsson - Someone please come get Shiv's new boyfriend off of Twitter immediately.

Living+ - Maybe I will never be / All the things that I wanna be / Now is not the time to cry / Now's the time to find out why.

I think you're the same as me / We see things they'll never see / You and I are gonna live forever (probably not, but we're working on it).

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