In a recent interview with IndieWire, Brian Cox delved into the issues his “Succession” character Logan Roy has with his children, saying, “The endless disappointment is painful to the character of Logan. The fact that the boys and the girls, they can’t see the game. It’s a game, but like all games, even when it’s a matter of life and death, it’s still a game. And they can’t see it.”
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that since.
If the succession on “Succession” is ultimately a game, then who are the players? Well, that’s fairly obvious: Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin). No, I did not forget about eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck). I would never. But come on, Connor? No. Connor is barely qualified enough to play “Chutes and Ladders.”
This is of particular intrigue: Cox said that Logan would happily turn over the reins of Waystar Royco to a child who won “the game.” That it was achievable, if only they would abide by the rules.
Rules? There are rules?
“The kids are just always playing catch up because they’re not understanding the rules of the game,” Cox said. “[Logan] goes, ‘I’ve told you what the rules are. They’re very simple rules, but you don’t seem to be disciplined enough to follow them.’”
I didn’t know there were rules. Rules to being Roys worthy of inheriting their father’s legacy? What are they? When did the children learn them? Do you think they were given tiny board books as children outlining the rules? Who can say, really. Regardless, the gauntlet has been thrown and the Roy children, apparently, have thus far been unable to pick them up correctly. It’s like Mjolnir, but for capitalism.
So the succession of Logan Roy is a game and his children are well aware of the rules they need to live by in order to win the game. But the audience doesn’t. Of course we don’t.
Unless we do.
Is it possible that through three seasons of “Succession” we’ve actually been told exactly what’s necessary in order to succeed in Logan’s eyes? I suspect we have. Which is why I’ve compiled this (certainly incomplete) list of what likely are Logan Roy’s rules of succession.
Jeremy Strong in “Succession”
Rule One: Don’t Bend
Apologies for the crassness, but this is the language used repeatedly by Logan with regards to his business dealings. He hollers about it in the most recent episode, “Retired Janitors of Idaho”: through his haze of piss-madness he bemoans the deal that Shiv is attempting to close, demanding that they give his opposition a taste of their own medicine. “Let everyone know that they bent for me,” he said.
Now, a throwaway line in a recent episode is hardly enough on which to build a rule, but let’s look back into the “Succession” archives, shall we?
“Celebration”: Season 1, Episode 1. Kendall confronts Logan after his father’s casual announcement that he wouldn’t be retiring after all. Logan tells him his change of heart mostly has to do with himself, but admits that he has his doubts about his son as well, proceeding to lambaste him about the deal to purchase Vaulter at great expense.
“I heard you bent for him,” Logan said, “I heard you bent for him, and he fucked you.” Staggering homophobia aside, this is clearly an unspeakable sin in his eyes, the idea that someone could get the better of a Roy or that his supposed successor would let himself be disrespected without harsh retaliation. And in front of other people, no less!
Rule Two: Remember Your Priorities
As Logan continues his discussion with his son in that very first episode, he reveals that he’s judging him for walking away from the Vaulter negotiations in order to celebrate Logan’s 80th birthday. Yup, he’s mad at Kendall for coming to his birthday party instead of putting his head down and closing the Vaulter deal.
This is really the crux of many of the Roy family’s internal struggles: the idea that the work surpasses everything else in importance. This is not a man who would be cutting out of the office early to see your Little League game. For Logan, work is always the priority and someone willing to put anything else above that is not worthy of being his successor.
Brian Cox and Sarah Snook in “Succession”
Graeme Hunter / HBO
Rule Three: Shut Up
Ah yes, the Siobhan Roy special. But first, the groundwork. In “Celebration,” Logan is clearly annoyed by the press happening around Kendall’s pending promotion, in no small part because it’s pretty obvious that the person leaking information to the media is, in fact, his son. Kendall shouldn’t have been running his mouth off promoting himself and counting his chief executive officer eggs before they hatched and he got nailed for it.
This rule has never been more timely than in Season 2 when plans were being made behind the scenes for Shiv to have a path to the power seat when her dad eventually stepped down. But Shiv just couldn’t keep her mouth shut.
In the episode “Tern Haven,” the Roys visit the family home of the Pierces, who own a rival media empire that Waystar would love to purchase. In the middle of the most excruciating dinner party since “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones) asks Logan who he thinks his successor might be down the road. Logan hedges for nearly an entire minute before an exasperated Shiv says, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Dad, just tell them it’s gonna be me.”
This wasn’t a one-off for Shiv. She wields her sarcasm like a sword and is completely unclear on when to sheath it. She makes a faux pas during a panel at a business conference, and she offends one of the Pierce family members during the weekend visit. Even in Season 3, we see her bulldozing inside Waystar, heedlessly wielding her supposed power and alienating people that she needs to ally with.
Kieran Culkin in “Succession”
Macall Polay / HBO
It must be pointed out that Roman doesn’t appear with regard to any of these rules, in large part because he’s yet to be put in a position to be seriously considered for the top job. Right now, he’s lurking, planning with Gerri. He’s hustling and trying to make good for daddy but he isn’t necessarily pushing his father out of his throne, like some other siblings I could mention.
But Roman’s time will come. There will be a moment when he is promised the job, only to disappoint his father in some fashion and have it all ripped out from under him.
For now, these are (probably) the rules to live by, even as they’re almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg. That said, if Kendall and Shiv can’t live by these three rules, what hope do they have of abiding by whatever else is lurking just beneath the surface?
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