Advertisements
TV TV Reviews

Succession Episode 6 Review "Which Side Are You On?"

Succession Episode 6 Review - Which Side Are You On

This title of this week’s episode of Succession asks which side are you on. But it’s a trick question. Everyone’s on the same side: Their own. As Kendall scurries around trying to drum up support for his planned vote of no confidence at the next Waystar-Royco board meeting, he visits his smug, coked-up rich guy buddy for a guarantee that he’ll be on-side with Team Future. “I can promise you,” he says, “I am spiritually, and emotionally, and ethically, and morally behind whoever wins.”

We’ll get to who wins in a moment. Before that, though, we should consider just how neatly that one line encapsulates every major character in Succession. Any screenwriting class in any corner of the globe would tell you that such a fact is somehow wrong; that the principle cast shouldn’t ever be possessed of the same values, personality traits, and flaws. You’ll be told how every story needs a relatable figure, someone for the audience to get behind and identify with. That person doesn’t exist in Succession. Nobody is likeable or relatable. It shouldn’t work. And yet – particularly in “Which Side Are You On?” – it not only works, but works spectacularly well.

Why is that? You could point at the quality of the screenwriting or the acting, and you’d be half right, but the real reason is that the focus on the Roy clan is a trick. The show isn’t really about them; it’s about the ostensibly ordinary people on the periphery who get sucked into the whirlpool of their ambition. It’s about those people and their principles trying to come up for air. How do old-fashioned notions like honesty, loyalty, fairness and generosity survive in such an airless, oppressive environment? Can they?

“Which Side Are You On?” suggests that, in some way, they can. And the unlikely recipient of that karmic bounty is, of all people, Logan Roy himself; the richest, the least tolerant, the most privileged. Succession repositions him as a man not worthy of sympathy, but worthy of some begrudging respect. He is, after all, a man of principle. He sits atop a squirming nest of vipers, but he’s a different kind of predator, the kind that’ll look you in the eye and let you know it’s about to eat you. The outcome is the same, of course, but the flavour is different.

This is why the latter half of “Which Side Are You On?”, which concerned the long-awaited board meeting, was such a masterful half-hour of television. After watching Kendall and Roman schmooze their way around the city, laying their silver tongues on the shiniest shoes they could find, the audience had earned their seat at the boardroom table. We got to watch it all go wrong. Why else do you stack dominoes if not to eventually watch them tumble?

Kendall, stuck in traffic and unable to make the meeting on time thanks to a terrorist attack that he was, of course, glibly dismissive of, had to phone in and propose the vote of no confidence over the boardroom speaker. Without him present, nobody could hide behind him. Logan refused to leave or remain silent during the vote, constantly fixing people with his withering glare and berating them for their dishonesty and manipulation. Roman, having spent much of the episode convincing Lawrence (Rob Yang) that he was the big dog in the company, stayed true to his word by mostly whimpering at his master. Lawrence, to his credit, abstained from the vote.

It was comical, in a way, but also faintly tragic and fist-pumpingly cathartic. As the confidence of the board ebbed away, Logan drew it within himself, like a demon. He seemed to swell and darken, not as if from the illness that had led to the vote in the first place, but as though he was healing in real-time, becoming stronger and smarter and more terrifying. His voice deepened. He remained utterly unconcerned, no doubt because he already knew what “Which Side Are You On?” gradually revealed to be true: These people are cowards.

It was pathetic, really, to see Kendall and his usurpers so thoroughly and easily defeated. By the end of the episode, half the board had been fired. Ewan, Logan’s brother and historical enemy, voted in his favour. He couldn’t stand the betrayal.

That generation of Logan men are many things, but they’re not Judases. If only Greg was there to see his example, and not that of Tom, who had taken him out for the evening to “be rich” while his fiancé, Shiv, got her feet rubbed by an ex-boyfriend. When he woke up in the morning, the first thing on his mind was whether “it happened.” Turns out it did, but not in the way he was expecting. He might be the show’s comic relief, but he’s also the most parasitic pretender of them all. Any sympathy he might have garnered from being constantly emasculated and manipulated by Shiv went the way of the deep-fried songbird that he eagerly gobbled the previous evening. Chewed up, swallowed, forgotten about. Good riddance.

“Which Side Are You On?” ended with Logan receiving an apologetic call from the President as Kendall roamed the streets, lost and, suddenly, as much of a loser as the ordinary folks he has spent his life berating and ridiculing. Welcome to our world. Better luck next time.


“Which Side Are You On?” was the sixth episode of Succession’s first season. Check out our complete series coverage.

 

Advertisements

8 comments on “Succession Episode 6 Review "Which Side Are You On?"

  1. Lucero Anders

    You mean Kendall “scurries around trying to drum up support…”

    • Jonathon Wilson

      I did indeed mean that. Fixed. Thanks for the catch.

      • Lol I certainly wouldn’t describe this show as “Masterful”. The writing is C+/B- at best. Tom’s being rich is like a super hero was abysmal. The only thing this show has going for it is how despicable every single character and how cringe-worthy awkward they make each scene. Its like a fiery car crash you can’t look away from…

      • Jonathon Wilson

        Perhaps masterful is a bit hyperbolic, but I was referring more specifically to the boardroom scene, which I thought worked really well.

        I always got the sense that Tom’s embarrassing bullshit was entirely intentional; he’s supposed to sound like a shallow moron, because that’s exactly what he is, and the only person dumb enough to listen is Greg.

        I agree about everyone being awful, but I don’t see it as poor writing in this case. The cringeworthiness (totally made up a word there) is mostly the point, as I see it. But who knows. I haven’t been blown away by the entire season but I thought the most recent episode was pretty great.

  2. I wouldn’t say the writing is bad, but I can’t help but compare it with other HBO offerings. Yes, they succeeded in making Tom sound cringey, but imagine what Silicon Valley could have done with a similar premise. Imagine if Brian Cox could chew on Veep-caliber dialogue in his brutal putdowns instead of merely grunting “fuck off”.

    The boardroom sequence was definitely the show finally realizing its ambition. Brilliantly directed, dramatic and darkly hilarious. Let’s hope they can sustain it going forward.

  3. Great article. The show is fascinating and live the boardroom drama. Thank you.

  4. Pingback: Succession Episode 7 review - "Austerlitz" | Ready Steady Cut

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: