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The ‘Succession’ Misery Index: Life Isn’t Nice, It’s Contingent

HBO
Roman Roy Misery Index: 150 (The downward spiral)

The meltdown was coming. It was inevitable, from the moment he talked about "pre-grieving" his father's death. Each time we've seen him since, he's had his psyche chipped away little by little, until last week, when his brain could focus on something exciting for a night. But now that's over, and you're sitting next to your dad's casket at his funeral and listening to his brother tell you things about him that you never knew and never would've gotten from the man himself. It's all a lot, if you don't know how to handle it. Shiv can cry in conference rooms, Kendall can deal by trying to recreate the man in his own image, and all Roman can do is listen to deepfake videos of his father telling him he has a micropenis. The thing about love and hate: It's all the same energy just pointed in different directions. At its barest bones it's still a relationship between objects. That's the way affection and abuse can get all mixed up together: It's attention from a person, it's energy devoted to you, it's time spent together. That's why anybody ever needed to coin the term "Stockholm Syndrome."

The Roy kids are always devolving into children in the most embarrassing ways, but Roman's meltdown was almost too childlike to even watch directly, like looking into the sun. You don't feel sorry for him, even if you recognize that kind of pain: Mostly it comes off as both sad and pathetic at the same time. Particularly when the camera cuts to everyone having secondhand embarrassment watching him (even Logan's funeral is still a corporate event). The fact that he's so desperate afterward to reclaim some sense of superiority and masculinity that he resorts to trying to fight protesters on the streets of New York (and gets trampled in the process) only spotlights this nihilistic journey to rock bottom.

Kendall Roy Misery Index: 21 (May his force be with you)

When Logan was alive, Kendall felt the best way to differentiate himself and build his own legacy was to be the anti-Logan, the Logan for the online age, cleaner, slimmer, shinier, gentler, smarter. But now Logan is gone and all the oxygen he took out of the room is back and Kendall has slowly tried to embody the man all over again, with the same desire of outdoing him. A year ago, things breaking down with Rava and Jess (our sweet Jess) might have sent him spiraling into drugs or into himself (which inevitably led to drugs), but now it only justifies in his head his decision to burrow further into the Logan poison as a shield. He's not suddenly any better at business but here's the thing: There's no such thing as being "good" at any of this. It's about whims and feelings and reputations and whether or not you cry at your father's funeral. He's not Logan, but what does that matter, Disney is remaking all their old cartoon movies worse now too and they're still making the same money. Kendall is a born pretender and right now with the old man buried in his tomb like King fucking Tut, Ken is becoming more himself than he's ever been.

Shiv Roy Misery Index: 64 (Voice of the women Logan's been hard on)

Nothing prepares you for the beauty of motherhood like a visit from your own neglectful, evil mother. Shiv is at sea emotionally and mentally, torn between her desires and her feelings, unsure of everything except that she wants to destroy her brothers and "win" to prove some sort of value—maybe to her dad, maybe to herself. That's probably why she's thought about keeping her baby, in order to prove that she wouldn't fuck up a child like her parents did to her. But mostly she's just grasping at anything to keep from tumbling off the emotional edge, and pouring herself into this scheme with Matsson is as good as anything else.

But her deep distrust of her own family is making her team up with men even more untrustworthy. For all her proclamations about the threats against democracy that Mencken posed, it was obvious that it was more about what his election meant for her. So it wasn't surprising to see her schmooze with the Nazi in order to strike any kind of deal. What is surprising is the idea it might have worked, at least in the moment. In fact it's so surprising that there has to be another shoe waiting to drop. It's interesting that Matsson presented the news as Mencken being interested in a U.S. president of ops but not necessarily HER as that president. Could Matsson pull a "guilt-free switch up" and give the job to Greg to keep a Roy and appeal to Mencken's desire for a white male hegemony? It's not unlikely.

Caroline Collingwood Misery Index: -2 (President of the ex-wives club)

One man's funeral is his ex-wife's biggest party of the year. Caroline is the pinch hitter of Succession, and when she arrives she's knocking it out of the park. In the penultimate episode of the entire series, she absolutely showed out. She couldn't be more excited to dance on Logan's grave. Gathering Kerry, Marcia, and Sally-Anne (Caroline's Kerry as she put it) together like they were about to start a book club is the messiest funeral behavior ever. If she was capable of smiling or having any sort of glee, it would've been all over her face throughout this ceremony. Her ability to look at Shiv and know she's pregnant, while offering no maternal guidance or advice (why start now I guess) other than silent judgement, was the cake-topper to the evening. I've been waiting on her all year, and she didn't let me down.

Greg Hirsch Misery Index: 13 (The worst funeral bouncer ever)

Greg might end up failing upwards into president of U.S. operations at Gojo, so I'll give him the respect he deserves. The begging for a meet-cute with the Nazi president was shameful even for him. But it is in keeping with his new gluttony for power, and the thing he has going for him is he's the right kind of idiot. He's not an idiot who thinks he's a genius, or an idiot who pretends to know what he's doing; he is an idiot begging to be groomed and molded into whatever the person in front of them needs him to be. And those sorts of idiots have been amassing power since the dawn of time.

Ewan Roy Misery Index: 35 (The meagerness in man)

Ewan is not a good person. He has profited from the business he claims to hate and is just a generally crabby old man. But he did love his brother in his own way, and that shit gets complicated when you don't actually like one another. That's probably the overall theme of this show. Families: a lot of love but also a lot of hate, especially when they commit atrocious acts. If there is a point to Ewan's eulogy, it's that Logan Roy wasn't some especially heinous figure and wasn't born evil, but rather was a person ruined by his own history and traumas and decisions, and as he grew in stature and chased power and money, he traded away whatever soul he ever had. People make this trade all the time and the world is worse for it; turning any of them into a one-dimensional cartoon afterward might make the critic feel better or special, but it's no comeuppance. No one should cry for Logan Roy. They should instead cry for the way this world materially rewards the choices he made. Ewan may be self-righteous and self-important, but he's also just heartbroken for the baby brother he lost.

Honorable Mentions

Connor Roy — My guy doesn't get much screen time anymore, probably because he has handled this death in the most mature, clearheaded manner (for him, anyway). He planned this funeral, and marriage has been good for him. Now if we can just keep him from any actual power, he'll be just fine.

The senior advisors — Gerri trying to get everyone to finally admit to hating Logan, at least a little bit, was pretty good. I hope she uses her payout to buy an island or whatever rich people do. I think it would probably be best for Frank and Karl to bow out of all of this chicanery now, but business people are such addicts they can't even help themselves. Hugo is already prepared to be Kendall's lapdog again. He can't wait.

Jeryd Mencken — Of course he immediately turned on the kids when he got what he wanted. That's the most predictable thing in the world. They couldn't have done anything about it, really. No one views them as a serious threat, so who cares about fucking them over?

Lukas Matsson — The weird socially inept tech giant is so obviously a doofus, and yet he's just enough of a shrewd politicker that he also keeps failing up. He's an asshole, but an asshole with a giant valuable toy. It makes sense that he gets along with Greg now.

Jess Jordan — Jess, if you need a recommendation, please email me and I will write a letter for all your tireless work.

Tom Wambsgans — Sweepy boy! So tired, awwwww.

Marcia Roy — If Caroline came to be messy, Marcia was at that funeral to slay and put on her faux graceful act. She said probably the only honest thing Shiv heard that whole day, and then she exited stage right. Marcia, you came, you saw, you conquered.

Rava Roy — Poor Rava, having to play middleman for her kids who obviously hate their father and Kendall who obviously wants to pretend his kids don't hate him, or don't have justifiable reasons. Frankly, she should have told her driver to just mow him down. Also, being told you're too online is too grave an insult to stand.

Peter Munion — Daddy's Home!

Only one more of these left. I'll miss laughing at these people's worst moments most of all.

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