Succession’s fourth episode, “Sad Sack Wasp Trap”, ably delivers the season’s best comedy and, by the end, it’s best plot and character swerves. HBO’s latest series is proving to be another winner.
This review contains spoilers for Succession Episode 4: “Sad Sack Wasp Trap”
There’s a picture of an arsehole floating around in “Sad Sack Wasp Trap”, this week’s episode of Succession. It belongs to a client of Shiv’s, and threatens his political future, in no small part because a zoomed-in picture of a proud anus tends to imply a worrisome question: What, exactly, went up it after the photo was taken?
Was it a finger? A fist? A dildo shaped like Richard Nixon? These aren’t questions I thought I’d be grappling with first thing on a Monday morning, but they’re questions that crop up in “Sad Sack Wasp Trap”, both to Shiv and her perfect cheekbones, and to Judy Reyes as a media executive who is trying to decide how to present an arsehole to the news-watching masses. “What do we call it,” asks a colleague, “an intimate part of his body?”
On the subject of arseholes, Logan Roy’s is planted firmly on the chair in his office. After Kendall sold off a large chunk of the company last week to his slimy, coke-bumping weasel chum, the Roy patriarch has evidently decided to expedite his recovery. Before the title credits he’s learning to walk again; after them, he’s at work. You can’t fault him for effort. But is he compos mentis? He’s certainly switched on enough to rehire Frank as a babysitter for Roman, which the latterly virulently and hilariously despises, but he’s also looking to buy into highly competitive data mining, which Kendall describes as a “gold rush”. “Oh yeah,” sarcastically slurs Logan, “and who wants gold?” His reasoning is relatively sound, but then he does, admittedly, hobble to Kendall’s office and piss all over the floor – a nice throwback to his (and Succession’s) introduction in the premiere episode.
Tom, meanwhile, has contracted, in his own words, “a virus”. Apparently, for a while, unofficial Waystar-Royco company policy dictated that when someone committed a heinous crime on one of their luxury cruises – sexual assault, rape, murder, all what Greg describes as “the bad ones” – in order to avoid bad PR the perpetrator isn’t dropped off at home, but at a Caribbean or South American port where there were so-called “friendly authorities.” Thus, the problem disappears. Except it doesn’t, at least not entirely, because in “Sad Sack Wasp Trap”, the file full of those problems is plonked on Tom’s lap.
These various roads all meet at the “Sad Sack Wasp Trap” itself – the company’s annual foundation gala fundraiser where Kendall is scheduled to give a speech. Connor, sneakily reading the teleprompter, learns of Kendall’s intention to announce his father’s retirement during that speech, which he reports to Logan, who decides he’ll be giving a speech instead of Kendall, which Connor quickly reports back to Kendall, thus throwing the whole event – and the company’s reputation – into some jeopardy. Connor also has a problem with frozen butter, which, backstage, he likens to those experienced by African Americans to the black dance troupe that has been hired to perform at the event.
The speech itself is a thing of beauty, delivered wonderfully by Brian Cox and playing on the expectations of both the assembled Roy clan and the audience, who are both expecting racism, nonsense, or both. They get neither. Logan welcomes Tom to the family, extolls the virtues of his children, and officially announces that he is “back”. Then he shuffles back into the crowd and tells Kendall to fuck off.
Now that Succession has a much better sense of the kind of show it wants to be, it’s really becoming that show; a scathing indictment of the one-percent, sure, but also an odd examination of family that, each week, continues to impress in surprising ways. “Sad Sack Wasp Trap” closed, as usual, with a montage of the various family members going about their business: Roman’s weird sex-life, which manages to incorporate the lowly waiter he humiliated earlier in the evening (not in the way you think); Marcia instructing the car’s driver to keep circling the block, to allow Logan, who has fallen asleep in the back, to continue to rest; Tom, newly convinced that his fiancé, Shiv, sold out his plan to deal with the company’s cruise-ship wrongdoing; and cousin Greg, being congratulated for really revealing Tom’s secret. “I aim to please ma’am,” he says. The matter of Succession is a complicated one.