“What It Takes” finds the Roys shifting focus from family drama to determining the future of the American republic, although even that is really just more family drama.
This recap of Succession season 3, episode 6, “What It Takes”, contains spoilers.
It’s easy to believe that the leader of the free world is determined in a luxury hotel suite and not the polling booths, which gives “What It Takes” an uncomfortable touch of believability. Not that Succession is particularly outlandish at the best of times; our collective belief in how far the powerful and privileged are willing to go just to maintain their power and privilege is what keeps us invested, after all. But pivoting from an almost slapstick episode in which the Roy siblings tried to parse their delirious father’s potentially company-destroying rambling at a shareholder conference to actually weaving the fabric of American – ahem – democracy is a lot even for this show. It’s impressive how malleable Succession is; how funny it is on its face and how deeply terrifying it becomes when you think about it too much.
Succession season 3, episode 6 recap
It goes without saying what Logan gets out of hand-picking the next president. But it isn’t quite as clear how his children stand to benefit. For Connor, it’s about self-promotion. For Roman, it’s all about daddy’s approval, as ever. But for Shiv it’s about something more – about proving her worth, sure, about feeling as though she’s a valued part of the family and the company and has actual expertise worth listening to, but also deciding whether or not she is fundamentally incompatible with her father and brothers – and potentially her husband, too.
I still don’t know what Succession wants me to think of Connor Roy. A clear point is being made about him having a surprising amount of popular support, and nobody seems to find him as ridiculous as I or his siblings and spouse do. Yet the idea of him actually running for President is floated, laughed at, and eventually dismissed by Cousin Greg, of all people. Logan’s arched eyebrow at the suggestion is the most serious it ever becomes, which is to say not serious at all. The battle instead becomes one waged between Shiv and Roman, who pitch in with GOP candidates from polar opposite sides of the political spectrum. Their candidates become extensions of themselves and their worldviews almost immediately, so the debate about who should be the next Commander-in-Chief becomes what all things on this show inevitably do – a petty sibling rivalry.
Shiv is backing Rick Salgado (Yul Vazquez), a conservative who nonetheless leans close enough to the center to be able to reach across and limply shake the hand of someone on the other side. For Shiv, whose political consulting in previous seasons was on behalf of someone who was Bernie Sanders in all but name, this is as far to the right as she’s willing to get. The fact that Salgado also offers to make her Waystar’s next CEO and explicitly flirts with her can’t hurt either.
But Shiv plays her hand too early and too obviously. She tries to make a case for Salgado’s political base and then, incredibly, his morals, which becomes increasingly desperate as the evening goes on until she’s literally teary-eyed and defeated. Little of this rang all that true to me. For someone like Shiv to take a firm moral stance, much less push the value of one on her father, of all people, just seems hopelessly naïve. She believes – and we’re expected to believe – that she’s much smarter than that. And yet when she’s forced to take a photograph alongside Roman’s candidate, Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), in order to endorse his run, she immediately, pathetically shelves her principles at the merest suggestion from Logan that she might not be “part of the family” if she doesn’t.
Mencken, for what it’s worth, is better for the bottom line, because he’s a toy fascist who’ll appeal to ATN’s older-skewing base while also enticing younger viewers with incendiary political rhetoric – he also has what seemed to me to be pretty obvious sexual chemistry with Roman, though one imagines he’d keep that quiet were it true.
All this is almost incomprehensible to someone like Greg, who hasn’t been around the Roy family for long enough to realize that these swanky conferences are the real heart of American political power. And that has bigger implications since it also means that Logan’s influence isn’t just contained within the walls of Waystar – just how he ruined the current president, he can pre-select the next one based on furthering his own ends, which at this point are stymying the investigation into the company cruise division and the proliferation of big tech. Those two things could both ruin him, but it’d take someone believing he could be ruined, and that’s a stretch. It’s a stretch too far for Tom, for instance, who, despite his terror at his impending incarceration, can’t quite bring himself to pitch in with Kendall. “I don’t mean to be insulting but, having been around a bit, my hunch is that you’re going to get f*cked. Because I’ve seen you get f*cked a lot, and I’ve never seen Logan get f*cked once.”
And there you have it.