Succession recap: series three, episode three – ‘Paranoid Kendroid’ wages war

Kendall serves up more unconvincing psychobabble and rage-fuelled stunts, leading to all-out war with a humiliated Shiv. What a cracking episode

Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Succession season three, which airs on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK. Do not read on unless you have watched episode three.

A large bowl of snake linguine with a side order of sibling betrayal? Don’t mind if we do. Here’s your guide to the eventful third episode, titled The Disruption …

‘I’m happy in my headspace’

We rejoined the game of billionaire brinkmanship with rogue son Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) lunching a journalist and revelling in the “shitshow” at Waystar Royco. Advertisers were bailing. Interim boss Gerri Kellman (J Smith-Cameron) was “a time-server who’s way out of her depth”. Ken was cutting an immunity deal with the DoJ and determined to “plant a flag” inside the family firm.

Over a shaved fennel salad, Kendall feigned amusement at TV satirist Sophie Iwobi’s (guest star and real-life comic Ziwe) recent monologue about him. As for the vexed question of his siblings, he insisted: “I’m just really happy in my headspace. And I hope they’re happy in theirs.” Always with the unconvincing psychobabble.

Iwobi had become Ken’s obsession. He made a roomful of party-goers watch her next takedown of him, insisting it was great to be “part of the conversation”. He was still rewatching the clip the next day. Along with vanity-searching his name on Twitter, it was half ego, half masochism. Worst of all, he was determined to appear on Iwobi’s show, The Disruption, just to prove he was in on the joke. His PRs looked nervous. Rightly so.

Waystar were on the defensive

Acting up ... J Smith-Cameron as interim boss Gerri.
Acting up ... J Smith-Cameron as interim boss Gerri. Photograph: Macall Polay/HBO

“How’s your headspace?” That was the new catchphrase of sarky Roman (Kieran Culkin) as the top team gathered to strategise. Back from Sarajevo and ensconced at Waystar’s Manhattan HQ, patriarch Logan (Brian Cox) was snapping at Gerri and reversing her decisions, worried that “our acting CEO is getting too fucking acting”. If Kendall dared come in to plant his so-called flag, Logan would punch him on the nose. Reasonable.

New “El Presidente” Shiv (Sarah Snook) promised to scope out big bro’s plans at that night’s journalism dinner and would lead a town hall event to reassure staff. Comms chief Hugo (Fisher Stevens) had drawn up print ads responding to the accusations. Tagline: “We get it.” “A bit like those ladies on the cruise ships got it?”, scoffed Roman. Shiv agreed: “It’s a bit like, yeah yeah, we get it already, stop moaning about the rapes.” Back to the drawing board.

The next phase of the propaganda campaign was the siblings doing stage-managed interviews, “sharing memories and feelings about their dad”. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, the FBI wanted to serve subpoena documents but Logan told them to “fuck off”. Gerri counselled him to co-operate ahead of the upcoming shareholder vote. Nope, still “fuck off”. Well, he’s got a catchphrase hasn’t he.

Greg was being bullied from both sides

Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) was trying to straddle both sides of the feuding family but pleasing precisely nobody. Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), always happy to punch down, pranked him with fake cyanide pills, before showing “the leggy princeling of ATN” to his new office – a glorified store cupboard.

Despite being self-conscious about his “small wrists”, Greg couldn’t contain his excitement that Kendall was gifting him a high-rolling watch. Except there were crossed wires. He was merely “hooking Greg up” and the watch would cost him $40,000. Greg went through with the purchase to save face, which became even more galling when the Swiss timepiece stopped ticking. What’s the time? Cringe o’clock.

Kendall v Shiv: round 1

After a snarky exchange with old flame Nate Sofrelli (Ashley Zukerman) – still crackles of chemistry there? – Shiv confronted Kendall at the journalism bash. She asked him not to scare the horses ahead of next week’s shareholder vote, assuring him they had the same aim: fix the company from the inside.

Still high on his messiah complex, Kendall smirked: “He made you get all dressed up for this? I’m sorry for you, Siobhan.” She was now the one doing daddy’s bidding. As he gloated, she glowered.

When she reported back, Logan wanted his only daughter to help rehabilitate his image by declaring he “isn’t some dirty old man”. Cue a wary exchange where Shiv gave a deeply unconvincing answer to “Do you trust me?”. She knew about criminality in the cruise division from Tom but Logan played it down, promising he could handle it. Did his political influence extend to the law?

Wambsgans the sacrificial lamb

Drunk and maudlin after a lawyer meeting, Tom seemed certain he was jail-bound for his part in the cruise cover-up. Ever ambitious, he hatched a plan with Shiv to “find some benefit” in his predicament by going to Logan and offering himself as a sacrifice. All heart, Shiv demurred for all of 10 seconds before admitting the idea was “kind of genius” because “either way, you bank gold with my dad”.

In a whispered conversation at ATN, Tom offered to be the fall guy. “I’ll step up and go down,” he vowed. Logan looked bewildered by the fact that his son-in-law didn’t want anything in return. Oh, Tom. He can’t even play the hero properly.

Kendall v Shiv: round 2

Stage fright ... Shiv (Sarah Snook) has her speech sabotaged by Kendall.
Stage fright ... Shiv (Sarah Snook) has her speech sabotaged by Kendall. Photograph: Macall Polay/HBO

Against advice, Kendall headed into the office to “send shockwaves” and not let “dad dominate the battle space”. Panic stations ensued, with staff scrambling as Kendall – key card revoked – tried to gain access to the building.

Kendall’s tense progress through the office included greeting a mailroom worker with “Wassup bro, doing the heavy lifting?” and a stilted chat with Tom, telling him “Another life is possible”. When Kendall sent his sidekick out with a shopping list, we knew something was afoot.

At the town hall, Shiv addressed employees about “corporate responsibility”. “We get it,” she said (cut to Hugo looking proud). However, her smooth speech was soon drowned out by Rape Me by Nirvana blaring from speakers placed on balconies around the atrium. As security struggled to turn the music off, Shiv was forced to abandon her speech. Even more embarrassingly, the shambles was being live-streamed to Waystar offices worldwide.

Incandescent with icy fury, Shiv marched into Kendall’s office, saw the empty speaker boxes and proceeded to viciously spit into her brother’s notebook. A stunt from their school days, maybe. Now it meant war.

Kendall v Shiv: round 3

Backstage at The Disruption, Kendall was running through the jokes he’d had scripted for him. In an excruciating scene, he gatecrashed the writers’ room, telling them “Hurt me, I can take it”. Can you, though, Ken?

Minutes before he was due on-air, Shiv delivered her killer blow. In a faux-concerned open letter, she questioned Kendall’s mental health, calling him “a drug addict, serial liar and absentee father with a history of problematic relationships with women”. It was so brutal, brothers Roman and Connor (Alan Ruck) had refused to co-sign it.

A quietly devastating 90-second sequence saw Kendall walk off down the corridor of the TV studio, his face falling from false grin to haunted despair, still clutching those cue cards as he slumped to the floor in a server room and watched Iwobi “empty chair” him on-screen. A bravura performance from Jeremy Strong, beautifully soundtracked by Nicholas Britell.

‘Open up. Let them in. We’re cooperating’

A dysfunctional tableau … Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen).
A dysfunctional tableau … Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen). Photograph: Graeme Hunter

Roman could barely conceal his boredom during his interview with ATN Business, but waxed lyrical about a fly fishing trip to Montana with his father. Heartbreakingly, this turned out to be a repurposed “multi-use happy childhood memory” – Connor had actually taken him. What’s more, the old man rubbed Roman’s nose in it, cruelly sneering: “Aww, I wuv my daddy. I never figured you for a faggot.”

This dysfunctional family tableau was interrupted by 20 FBI agents storming the building. Logan issued his usual response, only for Gerri to tell him: “These are the ones who don’t fuck off. This is a search warrant.” Not only had the deputy attorney-general been spooked by Logan’s shady pow-wow with senior White House aide Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Linda Emond) but Kendall told his lawyer to push for a raid to show “the government’s not gone soft-cock on big corp”.

With cameras outside, it wasn’t wise to resist. Looking defeated and suddenly old – like in Sarajevo – Logan finally relented. Across town, Kendall watched the raid footage on his phone with the glimmer of a grin.

The heir apparent

Still Shiv – but only just. Logan put Gerri in place for “optics” and wanted to keep Shiv clean because she was the long-term successor. But with Feds kicking the door down and hostile investors hovering, how long will it be Logan’s decision to make?

Line of the week

Sophie Iwobi’s string of nicknames for Kendall: “Oedipussy, Wokestar Royco, Paranoid Kendroid, Benedickhead Arnold, Snitchie Rich, a jar of mayonnaise in a Prada suit …” Oof.

Notes and observations

  • This cracking episode was directed by Cathy Yan, whose credits include DC’s Harley Quinn film Birds of Prey, making her the first Asian woman (and only the second woman full stop) to helm a superhero movie.

  • In that stretch limo with champagne on tap, naturally Kendall and his crew were listening to Money All the Time by Balance.

  • Shiv and Tom’s pantyhose-eating pet pooch was named Mondale, after Democratic politician Walter Mondale who died in April. Perhaps this was Succession’s way of paying tribute.

Rejoin us next Monday to see whose headspace is happiest. In the meantime, please leave your thoughts and theories below.


Michael Hogan

The GuardianTramp

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