The Roy clan prepares to go to war with itself as, “Pre-Nuptial”, everyone assembles on the eve of Shiv and Tom’s wedding.
Love is in the air in “Pre-Nuptial”, the ninth episode of HBO’s Succession, as is bitterness, rage, jealousy, betrayal and weed smoke, as the Roys assemble at a castle in the English countryside on the eve of Shiv and Tom’s ridiculous sham wedding. In attendance is Lady Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter), a stiff upper lip with a body attached, and the mother of Logan Roy’s children. She roams the garish halls like a spectre of old-fashioned British propriety, breaking the ice with attendees by asking how long they think the marriage will last. Most are too polite to say it’s unlikely it’ll even start.
Also in attendance is Senator Gil Eavis (Eric Bogosian), Shiv’s employer, fishing for information that will allow him to publically assassinate Logan’s character. It’s up to Shiv to find it for him – and she knows just where to look. Good old Tom, having pressed the flesh with Nate Sofrelli (Ashley Zukerman), the smug worm with whom Shiv is having an affair, is more than happy to divulge the juicy details of Waystar-Royco’s cruise ship cover-ups for her promise of faithfulness. Poor guy. He already knows she’s playing away, he just can’t admit it to himself. Even Greg is on the case, but his revelations of Shiv’s infidelity are met with denial and catty violence from Tom. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him, really. But Matthew Macfadyen’s dopey, sad sack face seems worthy of pity, if nothing else.
And it doesn’t help that the woman who made him ********* into his own mouth last week is also knocking around in “Pre-Nuptial” as the guest of Roman Roy, who has taken something of a shine to her. He’s an oddball that fella. Apparently he also has some weird sexual hang-ups, which leads the lady, if such a term even applies in this case, to openly laugh at his suggestions of their own marriage. He’s another one who I can’t help pitying. Roman’s the most openly unpleasant of the Roys, the one who seems nakedly, proudly sadistic, but he’s also the one who most seems the product of neglect. He’s the smallest, the youngest, the weakest – the runt.
And Logan casts a long shadow. When he finally arrives – he wasn’t planning on attending, but his public image wouldn’t survive the hit if he didn’t – his mere presence draws eyes and whispers that follow him through the halls. Brian Cox has been stellar in this role all throughout the season, and continues to be in “Pre-Nuptial”, which has him spar with Gil and Shiv, show occasional glimpses of humanity, and ultimately strike a deal with his enemy that is, presumably, in the best interests of them both. Shiv’s eagerness to gloat about her cover-up scoop tipped her hand. Being called a “spoiled ****” by Marcia likely won’t be the only punishment she receives for attempting to ruin her father.
God only knows, then, what might happen to Kendall if his planned hostile takeover of Waystar-Royco doesn’t succeed, which seems a likely outcome at this point. Thanks to some leaks the whole plan has had to be accelerated, leaving Kendall plotting the downfall of his father at his own sister’s wedding. Then again his sister has been sleeping with her ex who works for her new boss who is trying to ruin her father, and her fiancé, her father and his wife, and even her cousin Greg, know all about it. Kendall’s plan to take over the company is, like, the fifth or sixth shadiest thing that happened in “Pre-Nuptial”.
The best thing, though, was a short, low-key scene in which Roman, Shiv and Kendall snuck away for five minutes to smoke a joint in the castle’s watery guts. They laughed and wrestled and hugged and got high, just a little, just for a moment, and you could almost imagine how each of them might live a normal life. Didn’t last, obviously. But for a couple of minutes they were brothers and sisters, not mortal enemies. Nobody said so, but as all the seedy side-plots converge on next week’s inevitably explosive finale, this might be the last of these moments that they ever spend together. I hope they remember it.
“Pre-Nuptial” was the ninth episode of HBO’s Succession. Check out our full series coverage.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.