“Return” introduces a new contender in the line of Succession, and for the first time, it isn’t someone from the Roy clan.
This recap of Succession Season 2, Episode 7, “Return”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The bizarre affairs of the Roy clan have always been so compelling that it never really occurred to me that the next in the line of Succession might come from outside the family — and it probably never occurred to the Roys, either. But by the time Succession Season 2, Episode 7 finally gets around to establishing Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter) as the potential next in line to the Waystar throne, it all makes cruel sense. This is a show about a family perpetually on the brink of implosion — of course, their greatest threat would be the person they were too suspicious of each other to notice.
Logan (Brian Cox) needs Rhea’s competence and expertise because he famously despises his kids; even in this episode, he happily agrees to send them to England every year to spend Christmas with their equally detestable mother, Caroline (Harriet Walter), so he can keep his summer estate without antagonizing his ex-wife into starting a shareholder revolt. Rhea, having been fired by Nan (Cherry Jones), sees the opportunity. She positions herself close to Logan by giving brutally honest assessments of his children and their viability as his potential successors. The only real threat is Shiv (Sarah Snook). It was useful for him to pretend he would hand the reins of the company to her despite not actually having any intention of doing so, and that’s what he did, but Shiv isn’t willing to let him wriggle out of his word. The problem for her is that Rhea’s assessment was totally accurate: She isn’t as clever as she thinks she is.
With Shiv — though perhaps only temporarily — out of the running, Succession Season 2, Episode 7 can devote time to Logan torturing his other children: in this case, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), who is forced to return to the scene of his own Chappaquiddick when Logan, fearing negative press from the family of the deceased waiter, decides to visit rural England to press some flesh and pose for some flashes. There’s no real reason for Kendall to be present for this other than his father getting off on rubbing his nose in it, which is especially evil considering Kendall has done nothing but his bidding since the incident. As per Rhea: “It’s like you’ve put him in a big diaper and now he can **** himself whenever he likes.”
All the tragedy of “Return” is bundled up in Kendall attempting to deal with this in the only way he knows how: Throwing money at it. But him cleaning and drying his own glass after accepting a drink has a more profoundly crushing effect than him stuffing cash into the mailbox. This is a man who has been convinced his whole life that he’s a burden; to his father, to the company, to his wife and children, to himself. He can’t bring himself to be a burden to these people, those the man he killed loved the most, in even the tiniest way. When the episode opened with him seeming genuinely happy about his new sort-of relationship with Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), we should have known it couldn’t last.
What’s somehow even more tragic is that when he tries to unburden himself to his mother, she tells him she’s too tired to listen, that they should continue the discussion over eggs in the morning, and when he wakes up he finds her gone. These people have nobody, only whatever version of themselves hasn’t been whittled away by their use as collateral in the machinations of truly diabolical people. The same can be said of Succession as might be said of a car crash much like the one which continues to haunt Kendall. You just can’t look away.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.