“Austerlitz” was something of a downgrade from last week, lacking the tension of the boardroom, but it was nonetheless a scathing peek into the neurotic Roy family’s various resentments and anxieties.
Across the last six episodes of HBO’s Succession, the Roy family have spent so much time hating each other that we’ve rarely had a chance to see how hated they are by the general public. Not so in “Austlerlitz”, which began with an aggrieved bystander throwing a bag of piss at Logan in the street. A bag of piss. I didn’t even think that was possible.
The problem with that, beyond the obvious laundry issues, is that the company’s stock price can’t survive such vehement disdain – especially now that Logan has planted stories of Kendall relapsing in the national media, and Kendall himself has publically filed a lawsuit against his father following last week’s humiliating boardroom escapades.
What is to be done? The solution, proposed by Kendall’s “college drinking buddy”, of all people, is some good old-fashioned family therapy. This immediately struck me as a bad idea, but maybe I’m just cynical. Everyone else seemed willing – reluctant, but willing. It’s almost like they don’t remember how well their previous family get-togethers turned out.
Still, off they popped to Connor’s New Mexico ranch, the Austerlitz of the title, so-called because it used to have a “racially insensitive” name. And things went, I think it’s fair to say, about as well as could be expected. Which is to say that things went terribly.
The beauty of the Roy clan’s endless resentment for themselves and one another is that, in some way, they’re all right. But they’re all so arrogant that nobody can admit it, so the “therapy”, such as there was any therapy at all, consisted of everyone trying to deny self-evident truths as convincingly as possible. It was circuitous and faintly tragic, but entertaining in the way such things usually are. Then Kendall arrived, and things got really entertaining.
Kendall wasn’t there, initially, because he was busying himself hiding away and growing a five-o’clock shadow. But the rumours of his failing sobriety got the better of him, and so he ventured to New Mexico to… well, I’m not sure what his initial intention even was. He arrived in a local watering hole and flashed his black card, and then he made friends with some meth addicts and very quickly became a meth addict (cleverly simulated by the camera lurching to and fro.) The level of self-destructive efficiency on display here was extraordinarily high. As was Kendall.
But High Kendall is a riot. I hope he never sobers up again. Arriving at Austerlitz absolutely off his rocker, he started dispensing weaponised home truths, and in the blast radius the Roys became the closest thing to a normal family we’ve yet seen. They hate each other, of course. But Roman’s obvious concern for his brother, and Logan’s obvious disdain for his son, and Kendall’s obvious understanding of the toxicity of it all – shit, that’s the most honest we’ve seen these people. Even Shiv wasn’t immune; Logan berated her for settling for a man “fathoms below her” just because she’s scared of being betrayed. And he’s obviously right – she spent most of “Austerlitz” cosying up to a presidential candidate who seeks to destroy Logan, and the rest of the episode getting fingered by her absurdly smug goggle-eyed ex.
I always feel like I need a wash after watching Succession, which I suppose is the point. “Austerlitz” played for comedy more than last week’s superbly vicious boardroom battle, but in that context, the family become employees, CEOs and COOs and whatever. Without that layer of artifice, the Roys’ insistence that they can be something that resembles a normal family – that they might even understand what that means – is even more ridiculous. They need the boardroom. They need the company. Without it, they’re lost, like wounded animals that have strayed from the pack. Perhaps a ranch was the best setting for their therapy after all.
“Austerlitz” was the seventh episode of Succession’s first season. Check out our full series coverage.