Succession episode 2, “S… Show at the F… Factory”, continues to be darkly funny but fails to make the tribulations of a one-percent media family all that interesting.
This review contains spoilers for Succession episode 2: “S… Show at the F… Factory”.
Even though I rather liked last week’s premiere episode of Succession, I can’t say I was particularly enthused about tuning in again today. Must be something about the trials and tribulations of the one-percent that I find a bit distasteful. Luckily, Succession episode 2, “S… Show at the F… Factory”, seems to agree with me. Set mostly in a hospital as the Roy clan debate what to do about their unsympathetic patriarch’s recent collapse, it doubled down on how utterly unlikable everyone involved in this show is.
This is intentional – most of the time, anyway. The main problem is how awkwardly it all meshes together, tonally, as winking satire rubs right up against melodramatic sincerity, sometimes in the same scene. I don’t mind not having a point-of-view character to root for; I’m not one who suggests that characters need to be “relatable” in order to be compelling. It’s just as well in this case, really, but it’d certainly be helpful if the Roy siblings were at least interesting, and none of them seem to be.
Picking up where we left off, Kendall gives it legs to the hospital, and everyone tries to deduce what happened. The debate includes the definitional specifics of an aneurism vs. a brain haemorrhage vs. a stroke, typical discussions of enlisting the finest doctors in the land, and an earnest suggestion of cryogenically freezing Roy until someone builds a new robot body for him. Most of this is funny, but it must be said that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these are discussions of a dying man and not, say, a cartoon character.
What’s more important, at least to the Roys, is who is going to run the company in the meantime. The current “standing plan”, as explained by long-time general counsel Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron), would be to place Kendall as the company CEO and Frank as the COO; this is obviously complicated by the fact that last week Logan fired Frank, promoted Roman, and expressly declared that Kendall wasn’t prepared for the role. So, you know, awkward.
Plan B, cooked up by Kendall, is to just proceed with the prearranged plan on the grounds that Old Man Logan wasn’t in his right mind. Problem is he needs to get his siblings on board for that to happen, and his siblings are exclusively deranged self-serving androids.
Shiv and Roman, for instance, have precisely zero interest in allowing Kendall to seize any power whatsoever – and this is after they have a full-on fight in the hospital’s lecture room that includes a slap to the face and a headlock. Succession episode 2 isn’t at all subtle about these people still being children; that they’ve spent so long in the lap of luxury to make standing on their own two feet seem an alien concept.
The general source of drama in “S… Show at the F… Factory” is that whatever idea a character comes up with is immediately put up against the exact opposite idea. When the doctor calls with a diagnosis, Shiv (still a ridiculously on-the-nose nickname, by the way) wants to move Logan elsewhere to consider other options, but Marcia shuts that down. Cousin Greg is sent over to the townhouse to retrieve some personal effects, including some papers for the siblings to sign. Then he’s told to conveniently forget them by someone else. And so on and so forth.
It must be said that this isn’t particularly interesting; it feels contrived, and in these hour-long episodes, there’s a lot of time to fill with various schemes. Even when the reality of Waystar-Royco’s debts are revealed, with 3 billion dollars secured against the company’s stock, meaning that when the stock hits 130 the loan can be recouped in full, thus bankrupting the company, it’s still difficult to care.
It’s difficult to know where to pin the blame. The writing is uneven, and the actors, however game, all seem to have received different memos about exactly what kind of show Succession is. The best part of “S… Show at the F… Factory” is the very end, when, as the Roy family all fall asleep after a hard day of stabbing their father in the back, Logan wakes up. He’s still the best part of this show, and he was barely in Succession episode 2 at all. I hope he gets better soon.