Succession season 3, episode 2 recap – “Mass in Time of War”

October 25, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO, Weekly TV
4.5

Summary

The Roy family’s deep-rooted dysfunction prevents them from coming together in “Mass in Time of War”, as the patriarch continues to loom over their lives.

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4.5

Summary

The Roy family’s deep-rooted dysfunction prevents them from coming together in “Mass in Time of War”, as the patriarch continues to loom over their lives.

This recap of Succession season 3, episode 2, “Mass in Time of War”, contains spoilers.


At the heart of the Roy family, there has always been profound dysfunction. It wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest it stems from abuse, both actual, classic, everyday abuse, and the unique flavor that only the scions of an indescribably wealthy and powerful man suffer. For the Roy siblings, being the favorite is implicitly tied to inheriting the throne. Just as Logan’s interest in his children is determined by how he can use them, their yearning for his love and attention is determined by how likely they are to become him, at least reputationally. In “Mass in Time of War”, they all assemble to decide, ultimately, whether they’re going to side with Kendall or their father in their ongoing feud for the future of Waystar-Royco, and predictably, they all choose to side with themselves.

Succession season 3, episode 2 recap

But the path to self-success in Succession still goes through Logan Roy, despite everything that has happened thus far. Kendall has a better case than ever. Whether they chose to acknowledge it or not, they all knew what was happening aboard Waystar’s cruises. They knew what their father and his lackeys were giggling about in boardrooms; dancers sleeping their way into their careers, and illegal migrants being churned up in machinery. Kendall has documents that prove all this happened. He has, genuinely, a way to not only usurp his father but to renew shareholder faith, save public face, and reinvent the company for a new world, with all of them at its helm. The only issue is that none of them other than Kendall is prepared to believe that Logan can truly be toppled. They all want to turn against him, but after a life spent watching their father get his own way, they don’t even dare to dream that he’d stop now.

It all comes down to that dysfunction – and yes, that abuse. Logan’s children are all, to put it simplistically, scared of him. They’re scared of disappointing him, of inadvertently killing him, of ruining their chances to be the next version of him. But it’s all fear, at the end of the day. They see Logan as a kind of evil deity, all-knowing. Despite none of them having told him about their clandestine meeting at Kendall’s ex-wife’s house, none are surprised when he sends over a complimentary box of donuts and a note. They do, though, wonder if they might be poisoned. It’s played off as a joke, but it speaks to a larger, sadder truth, that these children all believe their father would sooner kill them than allow them to take his place.

What none of Logan’s children realize is that they have all essentially become Logan anyway. They haven’t taken his seat at the head of the table, but they’ve inherited his cutthroat instinct for success at all costs, and in each other, they don’t perceive brothers and sisters but simply rivals, all with weaknesses that can be exploited for their own gain. In being forced to survive together under the heel of what is, for all intents and purposes, a tyrant – it’s no accident that a picture of Saddam Hussein pops up when Logan calls Shiv’s phone – the Roy clan have quietly cultivated the only survival instinct that he respects. They’re all willing to stab each other in the back.

This is why, despite the fact that Kendall is clearly right about most of what he’s saying, nobody can envision a scenario in which they work together. After assurances that what has been discussed will stay in the room, they all go their separate ways to make phone calls, telling their closest allies – Tom for Shiv, Gerri for Roman – what’s going on, asking for advice about what they should do. The only part of Kendall’s pitch that they even listen to is the bit about who’ll take charge. Since, at this point, any moral high ground that any of them might have once possessed has already been surrendered, they’re all on equal footing. They’re all equally qualified for the position, even if they’re not qualified at all. None of them are Logan, and that’s all it takes for a company that has been synonymous with one person to feel like it has been rejuvenated. So, they all decide that if they’re to side with Kendall, they want the top spot. And none of them are willing to let any of the others have it, even tokenistically. So, the negotiations go nowhere.

In most shows, the fact it takes a full hour to arrive at this essentially pre-determined point would probably be seen as a downside, but not here. There’s a deftness to how the bickering is presented that reveals everything we need to know about each character’s headspace and their various dynamics. There is lip service paid to Shiv being unavoidably painted as a woke diversity hire, to Roman’s sexual peccadilloes and unhealthy relationship with Gerri, to Connor’s general uselessness, despite his general comfort with knowing everything that he does. Kendall thinks that by picking at these weaknesses he can bring everyone around to his point of view. He claims that, whether he loves Logan or not, his father would have sent him to prison, and would do the same to all of them. He’s right. They know he’s right. We know he’s right. But it’s still not enough.

It’s funny, but also quietly tragic how nasty things immediately become when Kendall realizes they haven’t bought what he’s selling. Insults are thrown back and forth. The house of cards crumbles. Those weaknesses that were just moments before being gently presented as justifications for an alliance become targets of opportunity. Connor isn’t needed. Roman is a moron. Shiv’s teats are the only things that give her value. It’s a brutal turnaround, though a sadly inevitable one.

The genius of “Mass in Time of War” is that by the end of it, we also believe that Logan can’t be toppled. He spends the episode quietly making his own moves, deciding on his own grand return, his kids once again fawning over him as he emerges from a private plane as though he never went away. As far as they’re concerned, he never did.

You can stream Succession season 3, episode 2, “Mass in Time of War”, exclusively on HBO.

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