Succession’s third episode, “Lifeboats”, sees the Roy clan spiraling rapidly into ruin as the show finds a more consistent tone and characters begin to develop.
The lifeboats of this week’s episode title are ideas – modern, exciting ideas, like virtual reality or, as new Waystar-Royco COO Roman Roy suggests, porn. “There are no bad ideas,” says his brother, Kendall, during his first board meeting as the company CEO. “That’s a… bad lifeboat.”
If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. Well, you would if you were a member of the Roy clan, who are still reeling from their father’s untimely brain haemorrhage and, more terrifyingly, his on-going recovery. He might have put on his own sock that morning, which is one covered foot closer to swooping back into the company offices and undoing all the progress his children made by relentlessly backstabbing each other last week. None of the kids have seen their father for the better part of a week; by the time they’re allowed to his bedside, he might have got the other sock on.
That’s a worry for Kendall, who was told in the first episode that he wasn’t ready for the CEO position and here, in “Lifeboats”, proves as much. His attempts to negotiate with Waystar-Royco’s creditor, to whom they owe $3 billion that’s on the brink of being recouped if the company’s stock price continues to plummet, don’t go well. This is why he needs the titular lifeboats. The ship is, quite literally, sinking.
Roman isn’t much help. Beyond his terrible boardroom ideas, he still doesn’t seem to have grasped that the responsibilities of his new position include a little more than simply bragging about the responsibilities of his new position – although to his credit he has that latter aspect pretty much nailed. He regales his new no-nonsense personal trainer with promises of chiefly operating, but when he gets to his new office he closes the blinds, stands in the floor-to-ceiling windows and masturbates to the city while uncountable emails pile up on his computer.
Eventually, once the company stock price drops enough that the sharks start circling, Roman’s big idea is to strip off his shirt (literally) and do some “shirts-off shit”, which translates to selling off chunks of the company and laying off swathes of the staff. It’s hardly a long-term solution, but it’s a step in the right direction – only problem is, Roman and Kendall are going to need to tell their father about it, and he doesn’t want to see any of them.
That includes Shiv, who quietly hires an old fling to run a background check on Logan’s wife Marcia, who is the only person to have seen her father since his release from hospital. Some dirt gives her the confidence to storm in and demand an audience with her dad; a scene that cleverly upends Shiv’s expectation of a loving reunion when Roy, delusional, tries to make Shiv give him a handjob.
That, somehow, is a better outcome than Kendall experiences. Summoned to see Logan after a day spent selling equity in the company to a cokehead buddy and a night spent between the legs of his wife, who still seems intent on breaking up, Kendall’s attempts to set Logan’s mind at ease aren’t taken particularly well. Logan can barely speak, but still manages to huff, “You are a fucking idiot.”
Some of the dialogue in “Lifeboats” crackles, and Succession has a surer grasp of its tragicomic tone here. I wish Cousin Greg and Tom had more to do in the company’s theme park division, and less of Roman would be a fine thing, as he’s the character who seems determined to rely on a shtick rather than develop in any meaningful way. But Kendall is rapidly becoming almost likeable. He’s a desperate man toiling in the long shadow cast by a cruel and unfeeling one; a guppy in a pool of sharks. I hope there’s room on the lifeboats for him.