Fly Guy Code: A Definitive Ranking of Every Episode of Succession

With Succession Season 3 arriving this weekend, Abe Beame and Jayson Buford give the definitive guide to the show's best episodes.
By    October 15, 2021

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Abe Beame might not sleep for a week just to rank every Biggie song in existence or binge-watch prestige TV.

Jayson Buford is the type of fan to venture behind enemy lines and watch America’s biggest rivalry clan in pinstripes in the middle of Massachusetts.

Several weeks ago, I was minding my own business when the Roman Roy of the POW clan texted me out of the blue to ask if I wanted to participate in writing recaps for Succession with him this season. As the remote, desert-inhabiting, doomsday-prepper Connor of the family, I responded by asking, “What’s a recap?” At which point I learned there’s an entire industry that has been built up around recapping and responding to and theorizing breathlessly about what episodes of prestige television mean on a weekly basis, and we were now going to throw our hats into this bottomless ocean of reactionary content.

So here you go, another reliable place for two third-string Monday morning quarterbacks to scratch their heads and attempt to translate what this all means in the grand scheme of things. My thinking, as always when I write for this site, is this will be fun. Jay and I discuss these cultural moments in a text thread on a weekly if not daily basis, why not open it up for a select few readers to point and laugh at?

As for Succession itself? What can I possibly say about this show that anyone who has clicked on this link doesn’t already know? If you buy Justin Timberlake/Sean Parker/Aaron Sorkin’s argument that we all live on the internet, Succession is our latest bible, a church we attend every Sunday that briefly brings order to a chaotic universe. A *deep breath, bites cheek” Shakespearean tale about our celebrities and Gods, the super rich, rendered by Ivy League middle-class writers room imagining the ripped from the headlines family members of a dynastic media conglomerate as both the best and worst versions of their real life counterparts, portrayed by one of the best ensemble casts we’ve ever seen.

A fun Twitter prompt is what the world would’ve been like had The Sopranos, or The Wire, or to a lesser extent Breaking Bad or Mad Men been around when the instant reaction take industrial complex was in full swing (Author’s note: I joined Twitter at the beginning of the pandemic so I’m guessing it wasn’t quite like this), but we don’t have to wonder anymore. There’s barely any offices left, and even fewer “water coolers”, but starting this weekend, we’ll be able to experience the sensation of a zeitgeist show, coming back after what Tom Wambsgans might refer to as a chunky delay, at the exact perfect moment.

This is what we’ll all be watching and rewatching Sunday night, what we’ll be talking about Monday morning until Kyrie Tweets something stupid, or a theater kid on Tiktok makes a rap about how being a gifted child explains capitalism. Frankly, this is exactly right. It’s a fantastic show. A funny and grotesque occasionally moving mirror held up to society, the perfect show for this moment, possibly the best since those other shows I mentioned, an instant contender for pantheon television.

When putting this list together with Jay, I experienced a glitch in the Matrix, a deja vu that brought me back to the beginning of this year, as I attempted to order perfection: ranking every song Biggie ever made. This is only 20 episodes of a still-airing television show, but it was equally stupid and quixotic. The margins are similarly slim between first and last. There are no bad episodes of Succession. Some fall back because the tone is slightly off, or the action between explosions slows, or Jay and I might question the treatment of a specific character. But basically, one through twenty are individual hour-long masterpieces, and I feel comfortable saying that without falling prey to hyperbole.

The list will be presented as our recaps will operate throughout the season: brief exposition, with a back and forth discussion between Jay and I. Hopefully, it will give you some insight into our process — like Biggie’s catalogue, this show is incredibly arbitrary in its perfection, so we all draw different things out of it. For me, it’s not unlike the MCU. I am interested in the show’s grand narrative, which to me, is the story of a blood-soaked Oedipal drama between a father and son. With each subsequent rewatch it becomes increasingly clear that’s what the show is about, and as you’ll see, anything that detracts from telling that story gets docked in our rankings, and I imagine that will inform the lens with which we watch this new season. Jay and I don’t always agree, but through blood and bone, we manage to find consensus.

Anyways, enjoy this list. Please direct any questions, comments, or concerns to @jaysonbuford, and I hope you’re all as excited as we are for a thoroughly dumb and irreverent 10 weeks of inebriated theories and arguments concerning this great television show.

20. Dundee

Episode: 18
Written by: Mary Laws
Directed by: Kevin Bray

Recap Logan’s “homecoming”, a glorified attempt at ginning up some positive press the monarch is characteristically unwilling and uninterested in participating in. Rhea plans an ill-fated surprise party, Kendall raps, and Shiv gets her revenge.

Abe:: As you’ll see, we were not high on “The Rhea Saga”, to borrow from X-Men parlance. But for me, this episode is dead last for its mistreatment of Kendall. His muted, somber tone is consistent this entire season, until now, when he is uncharacteristically, borderline manic, and, you know, raps.

There are some compelling arguments for why this happens. Did he become unmoored after having his nose rubbed in his great sin, leaving Andrew Dodds to drown in the car that Ken drove off a bridge when Logan forces him to visit the dead kid’s poor family? My theory is Naomi is a kind of Rosetta stone when it comes to interpreting Kendall throughout the latter half of this season. This is why he oscillates wildly between the “Simon and Garfunkel” song/zoo trip in episode 17 that Logan unceremoniously cancels, and leaping aggressively on Jennifer at the preview of Sands at the beginning of this episode.

All these arguments are valid, and probably could be well argued by the writers room, but the execution was a swing and miss. “Dundee” has its moments (particularly Shiv’s machiavellian sabotage of Rhea), as all episodes of this incredible show do, but by “DC” and the subsequent season finale, Ken immediately reverts back to broken son/beaten dog. On rewatches, it sticks out.

I also have to mention that despite its atonality, the potential Marcia breakup was one of the show’s most ruthless moments. For all the fireworks and lyrical, poetic vulgarity put into their constant cutting insults, Marcia telling Logan “You’re boring me” is my vote for most devastating.

Jay: Other than the shocking ‘’L to the OG’’ moment, this is a largely forgotten episode. That was a homerun but other than that, this was a 3-1. My theory on Kendall’s change is that after seeing the dead kid’s family, he decided that he was going to self-medicate with women and stanning for his father. Logan forcing Ken to visit the kid is a way of making him less comfortable, less confident. It goes to what Naomi says at the end of the season: ‘’He loves the broken you.’’ This episode goes down notches for me with the Ewan and Logan storyline, which is my least favorite storyline in all of Succession. It is something that isn’t needed. It gives both Logan and Ewan an out and a backstory no one asked for. They should be pricks because they’re both old and white. We don’t need a long lost sister to also be a part of their story. Roman asking Gerri to marry him, and then the crass proposal of ‘’I’ll abduct you and force you to live with me’’ is up there with classic Roman slime puppy behavior in an otherwise forgettable episode.

19. Return

Episode: 17
Written by: Jonathan Glatzer
Directed by: Becky Martin

Recap: The family travels back to London to secure Lady Caroline’s suddenly vulnerable equity in the proxy battle. Rhea helps Logan back out of his promise to Shiv, and takes center stage as a viable candidate to take over the company.

Jay: This is a good episode. A testament to Succession that this is second to last on our list. Part of that is because I prefer the show when all of the main characters are involved in the same plot. Those are always the best because they show the power dynamics in each and everyone’s relationship. That is more of the idea of the show than different subplots for each character. Felt that this episode is a great Jeremy Strong performance. His range as an actor is off the charts: He’s appealing and shy when forced to take a dick pic by Naomi, and his body language is soul crushing as he tries to tell his mom the crime he committed last season. The way he goes high to low within his character is as smooth as a Nirvana transition. That’s Jeremy Strong as an actor. It somehow exists as one of his best episodes, and one of the least compelling for the other characters. Tom and Greg hangout all night and burn the papers that Greg had kept in the first season. (Greg remains a resourceful ass dude). One of my favorite gags in this: Gerri telling Roman that she has to see if there is any dirt on him if he is serious about their Gerri/Roman dream ticket.

Abe: As I mentioned above, this is when Rhea, somewhat surprisingly in the moment, hijacks the narrative for a brief portion of this season’s final act. Holly Hunter is great, and Rhea Jorrell is a fantastic invention, but at least for now, she was a red herring, a B or C plot distraction elevated to an A to run out the clock before Kendall’s game change in season 2’s final moment. With the possible exception of ending Marcia and Logan, which would be a tremendous loss to the story, as well as the show in essentially fridging the great Hiam Abass, what really changed as a result of Rhea’s brief and terrifying reign? She’s empty calories. The show treading water until we get to the protein in episode 10.

18. Life Boats

Episode: 3
Written by: Jonathan Glatzer
Directed by: Mark Mylod

Recap: Ken’s struggle to salvage the company, with the stock price plummeting, and a covert puddle of piss left by Logan on the carpet of the company’s ledger in the form of a secret $3 billion dollar loan he’d taken out, tied to the stock price. Stewy enters the fray. We get to see Kendall in action, what his regime might have looked like, and of course, Rome jerking off in the clouds above Manhattan.

Abe: An episode not without its charms. With the crisis, Ken is instantly thrust into CEO mode, wheeling and dealing, saving the company from potential financial ruin (good), while failing to read the interpersonal tea leaves and inviting a wolf in Sandy via Stewy into the henhouse (not as good). It also lays potential groundwork for shady personal trainer sexual abuse scandal tied to Rome. But this next suite of episodes land where they do because Succession simply doesn’t work, at least as currently constructed, without Logan. Much like his own family, he is the planet creating the orbital path each character follows, and without that planet, the show is effectively defanged.

Jay: It’s definitely missing Logan. He’s someone who can flip the tenor of an episode on a dime, based on pure intimidation. Brian Cox’s terrific performance shows someone who is in charge of everyone else, while completely unaware of himself. It’s scary, keeps you on edge as a viewer, and the rest of the characters feel it as well. You need him in this episode. This episode, I might add, is the first appearance of Shiv’s ex-boyfriend/sexual partner, Nate, and their dynamic, even in an early episode like this, was full of sexual tension. One thing this episode deserves credit for: Being the first time I saw how much of a star Matthew McFayden was. “Why the fuuuuck, are you wearing a pair of deck shoes man?” is still the best line reading in Succession history. Tom Wambsgans is a try-hard class traitor non-pareil.

17. Shit Show at the Fuck Factory

Episode: 2
Written by: Tony Roche
Directed by: Mark Mylod

Recap: The siblings hunker down in what they perceive as a sub-optimal hospital as a post-stroke Logan fights for his life. It’s a sneak preview of the palace intrigue to come, as they debate Logan’s state of mind when he made the seismic changes to the company that occurred in the pilot, moments before the stroke.

Jay: Always enjoyed this one. One of those stage plays where everyone is on the same side. Roman and Shiv’s big sister/little brother dynamic is in full form here. Shiv has an ability to punk Roman and his small frame, and Roman’s words always sting Shiv harder than anyone else’s. You also start to see the reasons for the other siblings not fully trusting Kendall. Kendall is making back alley moves to get to the top job in his father’s absence, while Shiv lists all the reasons he shouldn’t be there – which are the same reason as Logan’s. Kudos to this episode for having the ‘’control the narrative’’ scene too. Also: Is Willa the biggest glo up out of all the Succession characters? She went from being someone who was kicked out of family meetings to being on the boat at the end of the Season 2. I want that Willa glo up.

Abe: Not a ton to say about this one. It’s some mid, which means it attains a balance of raw giddiness few shows in the history of television have ever achieved. It’s also near as good as we ever get from the show of my dreams featuring the great Judy Reyes as a fixture in the Roy corporate structure. My favorite part of this episode is it’s a fictionalized tick tock of an incredibly rare crisis situation that has ramifications over the future of a company that equals the value of many countries’ GDPs. In the same way shows like The Sopranos articulated the mafia’s mundane, retail grift, we got our first peek into how Succession will give us access to the inner workings of a large and inscrutable-from-the-outside corporate machine.

16. Sad Sack Wasp Trap

Episode: 4
Written by: Anna Jordan
Directed by: Adam Arkin

Recap: The first real emergence of Connor, with his responsibility running point on the Roy Endowment Creative New York Ball. Logan is back in public for the first time since the stroke. Bill retires, handing the reins to Tom as head of Cruises, and we get the first inkling of the crisis that slowly overtook the plot of the show over the course of two seasons. Logan steals the keynote speech duties from Kendall, emphatically insisting he’s recovered and won’t be handing over control of Waystar anytime soon.

Abe: This episode was the beginning of my suspicion that Succession is low-key a show about the perils of a country being ruled by its increasingly ancient and senile octogenarian plutocracy. That it’s a cautionary tale showing us the logical dangers that occur when you have people born in 40s running industry and government. Logan isn’t fit to pour a cup of coffee, let alone make sweeping pronouncements that will determine the future of his company and millions of lives. As evidence of this, the speech he rushes to the podium to make wasn’t even necessary, Ken wasn’t planning on snaking him by rushing his public retirement announcement, it was a joke Connor misinterpreted from the teleprompter, and no one bothered to investigate any further.

Jay: Logan returns and immediately reinforces his power over Kendall by crashing the meeting with Stewy. Good observation by Beame about plutocracy. It’s also good at showing the Michael Jordan-like behavior that Logan has. Logan can barely move, but out of sheer will, he freestyles his address on the stage and shows Kendall what it means to be a psychopath and seize power in a vacuum. This episode is good at showing that goodness that Tom Wambsgans desires, but is constantly undermined by his own need for acceptance. This time, it’s Gerri who shows him up.

15. I Went to Market

Episode: 5
Written by: Georgia Pritchert
Directed by: Adam Arkin

Recap: Thanksgiving with the Roys is about as fucked up and chaotic as you’d imagine. Meet Uncle Ewan, a liberal but predictably miserable, grouchy old bastard. Ken attempts to lay the groundwork for the vote of no confidence amongst the shareholders. Greg is sent on a gallows run to destroy the pertinent Cruises documents, giving him a blackmail nuclear football that will resurface throughout the subsequent two seasons, and eventually detonate.

Jay: Not a huge fan of this episode. I debated with Beame a bunch about this. It’s good – no doubt – many strong moments, such as Roman being upset about the movie being shown. It’s a good look at his insecurities and failures before the show. Kendall’s son, amusingly named Iverson, has some kind of neurodivergent learning disability and gets hit by Logan. I wonder if Logan did this because on some level, he had shown Kendall the same type of tough love when he had the chance. In any case, he is wrong. This is the first episode where you get to see Greg’s grandfather and Logan’s brother, Ewan, and their long standing beef over their children. Ewan feels like a cheap character at times to me, someone who does not have the balls to be like Logan, but is still rich and constantly complains about what other rich people do. Still, he wouldn’t hit his grandson, which is what Logan does here. It does show the characters at their absolute worst. Shiv is callous with Tom, Kendall can’t close the deal and he’s unable to protect his family from his Dad.

Abe: It’s a stealth episode that I wanted to rank higher, but such is life when you’re competing against these 20, relatively perfect episodes. It shows several characters at their absolute worst. Roman cuts off Grace because she watches The Biggest Turkey in the World, a movie he tried to kill when he worked at the movie studio, that went on to become a gigantic hit. It’s his insecurity, callousness, and childish pettiness, as he dumps her without looking up from his phone. Ken completely fucks up his approach to Ewan, attempting to coral Logan’s mortal enemy to his side of the coming no confidence fight, which should’ve been a slam dunk. Shiv attempts to bully Tom into signing an unconscionable prenup and belittles his “lawyer”, or his mom, giving us an indication of just how disposable she sees him. Marcia is at her most conniving, Lady Macbethian best/worst, conning Ewan to travel 12 hours from Canada for dinner because her instincts are stronger than even Logan’s (sometimes I think Marcia is actually the toughest/strongest character on the show), and she sees betrayal on the horizon. Connor actually buys himself a girlfriend. And for all his many sins, I’ve never hated Logan more than when he criticizes Rava and Ken for managing Iverson’s apparent neuro-atypical condition, then purposely fucking slaps him as he suffers a senior moment. Truly stomach-churning shit.

14. Celebration

Episode: 1
Written by: Jesse Armstrong
Directed by: Adam Mckay

Recap: We open on Logan Roy on his 80th birthday, confused in the middle of the night and unsure of where to piss. Cut to Kendall Roy, on the way to what he believes will be sewing up the deal for a new media company called Vaulter and his impending coronation as head of Waystar Royco. Meet Romulus Roy, the fuckup middle child, having just arrived home to kind of hang around and make profane jokes after fucking up his opportunity with COO Frank Vernon at Waystar’s movie studio in LA. Political consultant Siobhan Roy and her boyfriend, Waystar executive Tom Wambgans, attempt to tackle the impossible task of getting Logan a gift he won’t hate (as Tom covertly picks out an engagement ring).

Meet Connor Roy, Logan’s first child from a previous marriage, who does nothing but spend money, hoard resources, and study Europe’s fascist ghosts. And there’s Greg(ory) Hirsch, a penniless fuck up grandson of Ewan Roy, who has been fired from the Waystar management training program for smoking weed and getting sick in a mascot’s costume, and needs to get back in. It’s all pretty straightforward. Pay no attention to the trust agreement, no need to run it past a lawyer, just some estate planning, a formality, really.

Abe: Pilots are always tough, particularly when you have the work of introducing your audience to a cast of actors that were relatively previously unknown (feel free to quibble with this for Cox, Culkin, and MacFadden, but, you know, fuck off). Of course, Succession delivers one of the best pilots in recent memory. There will be subtle adjustments to some of the characters as the actors settle into their roles and the writers settle into the characters, but it’s minimal. The tone is established from the cold open, and events fly by at a clip you may not have caught on first viewing, but are there, and will have major reverberations going forward.

Jay: This should be higher! Pilots are tough – but check this out. It does tremendous work preparing the field for battle. For how much I love Roman’s livewire physicality, Shiv’s ass and her nervous tics, and Tom’s comedic timing: The show is about Ken and his father. The tech bro ambitions of Kendall colliding with his dad’s stark old school conservatism. Dad thinks Kendall isn’t tough enough. Ken didn’t lawyer the change of trust. He didn’t close the Vaulter deal. He bent over for Lawrence when challenged. And he got fucked. Kendall doesn’t think that the company is growing. He wants to change the brand’s direction. All of these conflicting views are immediately pinging off one another in the dining room scene when Logan, having just taken an unceremonious piss on Kendall’s future, questions his manhood (‘’Do you wanna hit me, Ken?’’). It’s a top 10 episode, one that sets us one for Ken achieving final form as the killer his father thinks he craves later on.

13. DC

Episode: 19
Written by: Jesse Armstrong
Directed by: Mark Mylod

Recap: Even more shit hits an even larger fan on cruises, and the curtain falls on Rhea. Pennsylvania Senator and Shiv’s former employer Gil Eavis is the lead inquisitor in a Congressional hearing designed to provoke soundbites and headlines, and Tom delivers them. Shiv sells her soul. Rhea belatedly discovers her perhaps disingenuous and conveniently timed moral compass. Logan attempts to throw Ken under the bus. Ken picks the bus up over his head and hurls it back at Gil, but it’s too late.

Jay: How good is Sarah Snook on this show? Shiv’s body language is excellent. You see it in “Tern Haven’’, when her impulsivity gets the best of her once again. Here, she is pitch perfect in the witness scene. It never feels like intimidation. Instead, it’s corporate feminism talking. She epitomizes the girl boss epidemic here, telling the witness to the cruise horrors that they will fix the company together, *from the inside*, instead of being used by Congress. It works even though she is selling bullshit to a mark. She handled that moment with the confidence and grace that makes you think that she could do the job that she swears she can do. Roman as a hostage in Turkey deserves kudos here: “You would marry Gerri? You sick fuck: Gerri?”

Abe: Something we’ll be addressing in depth shortly is how Succession has effectively upended the “explosive penultimate episode” model of television. Any number of the prestige shows on the tip of your tongue trained us to understand the shit goes down before the closure and aftermath provided by the finale. Succession gives us no such refuge. The casualty of this approach is the centerpiece penultimate episode hasn’t really occurred on the show…..yet.

There are certainly moments. The show tells us the hearing is what makes the finale’s blood sacrifice necessary. If you find Rhea to be more than a B plot red herring, this is the conclusion of her arc (for now?). And as a given, it’s hilarious, with tragic moments lesser great shows couldn’t achieve over the course of 200 episodes. This is the first time, basically all season, Shiv does something to make her father proud, not coincidentally the worst thing she’s done on the show, presumably in her life. In the moment, Tom’s complete nosedive makes him the logical blood sacrifice in question, a jab setting us up for the haymaker, which would have plausibly put Shiv in pole position and “validated” her heinous sin.

But in a rewatch, it’s an episode without the weight you might want from the cordoned off area we’ve come to expect showrunners to present as their penultimate, in one of the best seasons of television this century.

12. Vaulter

Episode: 12
Written by: John Brown
Directed by: Andrij Parekh

Recap: As close as Succession gets to James Cameron. Imagine Kendall as a cyborg sent back from the future to destroy the past. Not to save the world, but because his dad told him to. After both Ken and Rome are tasked with scoping how Ken’s big acquisition is working, or not working, Logan decides to shutter it. We get to watch the process and the fallout as Ken, like Abraham before him, is tasked with killing his firstborn by a chaotic and remorseless deity.

But we see the toll it takes on Ken, and we see the coming tragedy for Shiv. Having proven his fealty to his father, Ken is promoted to sit in the office, like a dog at the foot of the bed “to help with the proxy battle”, at the exact moment Shiv bails on her job, and a possible impending chief of staff position, to pursue the fake offer from Logan. The episode ends with Ken expressing his self sabotage death wish by stealing batteries from a bodega, before he hops on the back of a motorcycle he’s not allowed to drive, and speeds off into the night.

Abe: With the pilot’s chair secure, in a way that it wasn’t during the first tumultuous season in which much revolved around a power struggle, the second season of Succession has a lot of procedural elements — the murder we seem to be leading up to is the death of a multi-billion dollar media empire. This season is about mergers and acquisitions, what decisions a conglomerate makes in a pivotal but still day to day basis in its operation. Vaulter is a great test case. Logan decides to gut it as a sunk cost.

What’s great about this show is I believe I’m about to express the correct read on what happens here, but I can’t be sure. It’s left as ambiguous and unknowable (which, or course, it is), but. Ken takes a microscope to the numbers and sees they’re soft, propped up. But he sees potential with a course correction, which, if we value the opinion Shiv at least puts forward to Ken, is the “correct” path rather than setting the spent money on fire. I at least feel confident in saying what follows is bad process.

Rome shows his canniness, both in understanding he can’t pull the same wisdom out of a spreadsheet his brother can, and that it’s in his best, selfish interest to put Ken in a position to fight for his prize purchase, betraying his objectivity and loyalty to the company. This strategy backfires when Ken dons the hood and sickle, but it’s a) sound chess, and b) a great way for the show to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the two Roy boys in the octagon: Ken. the on the spectrum Harvard MBA, Rome the strangely disarming self-deprecating fuck up who can get into your pants over drinks — even though it’s going to end with you calling him a slime puppy as he finishes into a monogrammed penthouse hand towel on the other side of the bathroom door.

It also shows Logan at his petty worst. Treating thousands of lives and billions of dollars, not to mention his son’s physical and mental well being, as a hazing ritual. A punishment to level like going to bed without supper, at the very moment his company needs to be perfect. In the first episode of this season Ken says, “They think you’re emotional, unstable, not necessarily logic driven, they think you’re getting weaker and you’ll crack under pressure.” Again, maybe Rome is right, and Vaulter is a worthless piece of shit and a huge mistake they were “smart” to gut, but if he wasn’t, it’s a Russian nesting doll of tragedies.

Jay: Kendall Roy is a beaten dog that can only whimper in front of his father. Which makes his ghoulish capitalist move that ‘his dad told him to’’ at Vaulter all the more haunting. We live in a media world that is in a constant state of being whittled down by big name companies like Waystar Royco. Vice just let a bunch of staffers go a few months ago for no apparent reason, other than that they are probably “pivoting to video” again. To see Kendall gut Vaulter with no benefits for the staff, no vacation time, and as unceremonious as his coffee order, is to see real life playing out. Succession is a show about ripped from the headlines satire, but here, they blurred the lines between TV and real life in a way that spoke directly to many of us. An all-time chilling, dead-eyed Jeremy Strong performance.

11. Pre-Nuptual

Episode: 9
Written by: Jesse Armstrong
Directed by: Mark Mylod

Recap: On the precipice of Shiv’s wedding, some of the Roys collide with the Wambsgans. Hilarity ensues. It’s perhaps easy to forget now, but the Gil v. Logan rift was a thing in the first season, and it’s mined here, kind of like Shiv’s fathers, the one she was born to and the one she chose in defiance — having a mini square off followed by a cynical ceasefire that Logan is too put off to shake on. Ken prepares for the coming bloodbath. Tom tries to stave off the voice in his head, and Greg, screaming as loudly as possible that the call is coming from inside the house and he needs to run for his life.

Abe: For the reasons I listed above, I don’t care for this episode as much as my young associate (I’m sure it has nothing to do with the amount of time we get with Sarah Snook in a dress), but such is the nature of friendship, collaboration, and compromise. It’s largely for the reasons I listed above. This is an episode that more or less keeps its powder dry for the finale. Marcia delivers the line of the episode, and maybe even the season, if not the series: “He made you a playground, and you think it’s the whole world.” But, you know, there’s no such thing as an episode of this show without a top 20 worthy list of devastating lines.

One thing I do want to briefly float, since we’re in this space and I haven’t seen it elsewhere, is my theory that this episode is low-key the birth of the cruise ship scandal. We see Shiv, whispering sweet nothing lies about the glorious future of their marriage to Tom to placate him, to ensure the wedding is happening, but also to pump him for the dirt on cruises as she takes notes on a criminal conspiracy. So far, it’s all happened off camera, but Nate and Gil both go hard at her to get them some dirt on Waystar in this episode beforehand. Is it so far-fetched that she delivered the red meat that got leaked to New York mag, then exploited for the congressional hearing?

Jay: Can you blame me for loving Sarah Snook in that Lady Macbeth dress? Watch as she tries to stop Nate from spilling the beans. Marvel as she lies to Tom’s face while she gathers evidence against Waystar and the cruise ship scandal. Shiv is great in this episode. This is another great Jeremy Strong performance, who went on a Harden run in the second half of the first season. Kendall and Stewy are making their move to take over the company as they begin tying up loose ends on the eve of the wedding. Because he has no discipline, Ken starts to spill the beans to Frank about the takeover, albeit vaguely. Soon, we realize that it has been leaked to the press and they will be forced to start the process quicker than they ever imagined. Wambsgans, who is the fifth most important person at his own wedding, is reliably outstanding. (Hilarious how his family keeps on insisting on telling people that they made a contribution to the wine. That’s so Wambgans. The Succession writers are expert at finding these small but illustrative touches). After deciding that he wasn’t going to go, Logan shows up to the wedding and causes commotion. It’s not the final episode, but it’s a worthy appetizer.

10. Safe Room

Episode: 14
Written by: Georgia Pritchert
Directed by: Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman

Recap: The fuhrer (sorry) over an alt-right, white power anchor leads to a crisis on the floor at ATN. We meet Rhea for the first time, innocuously enough, to serve as Waystar’s man on the inside of the Pierce deal. Ken hits what is probably his absolute bottom, shown with a touch of heavy hand, on a rooftop staring at the embrace of cold, hard concrete miles below, three separate times. Greg and Tom have an epic, toxic bitch sesh, and Shiv and Ken have what might be the most real and tender moment that show has delivered to this point.

Abe: A clarifying episode, one that belongs to Kendall on its face, but might be one of the few owned by Tom. We see the cracks in his facade, how much his one sided relationship is killing him behind his corporate pearly smile that looks exactly like a scream. We also get to see Shiv adjusting to the reality of her Faustian bargain, that this won’t be the red carpet rollout she had hoped against hope to expect, that her promised anointment can and eventually will be fucked.

But this episode simply wouldn’t be here without its closing moments. With how starved this show is for openness and real intimacy between its characters, one of the most devastating I’ve ever seen on television. Because these characters are wrapped in layer upon layer of pain, sarcasm, scarred wounds and pathos, because it’s never clear if they even like let alone love each other, seeing the concern, the mutual wilting, the cessation of hostilities between brother and his little sister, absolutely leveled me. And just as devastating was Ken’s inability, even in this stripped down moment, to come all the way into the open with his guilt and sin. He knows on an innate level he can’t give Shiv that silver bullet she could and probably would turn on him at some point if necessary. And he’s right.

Jay: This isn’t my favorite episode – the office shooter scenario is out of left field and serves as cheap provocation, but that scene with Tom and Ravenhead is some of the best comedy the show has delivered. Kendall has been reduced to Logan’s sherpa, dishing out his medicine and causinge and Shiv to wonder what the hell is up, as this is supposed to be her first day on the job. Tom and Greg come up with another classic scene, with Greg being pelted with water bottles by Tom for suggesting he wanted to open up their working relationship at Waystar Royco. After Greg uses the cruise documents as blackmail, Tom seems genuinely impressed with his protége’s handling of the situation, basically teaching him how to sell his soul with glee. The confrontation with Shiv and Kendall at the end of the episode is a great scene between Snook and Jeremy Strong, a pairing that we haven’t gotten enough of. Seeing Snook’s face fall when she realizes how far Kendall has fallen, is the type of interaction that makes Succession more than “just” a show about American wealth and its discontents.

9. Argestes

Episode: 16
Written by: Susan Soon He Stanton
Directed by: Matt Shakman

Recap: Above, I bemoaned the lack of explosives in episodes 9 and 19. If you want to know what I consider fireworks, simply glance up at the night sky and witness: 1. The Cruise Scandal Breaking, 2. The Dissolution of the Pierce Deal, 3. Shiv cramming her foot in her mouth to the ankle, 4. We Here For You-Gate.

Jay: “Argestes” bursts with energy throughout, despite being set outside the “typical” settings of a Succession episode, if there is such a thing. Part of this is Shiv’s arrival, which gives the episode a jolt. Snook is fantastic in the presentation scene, as a one woman wrecking ball. We saw Logan hit Kendall’s son in the Thanksgiving episode, but that could be chalked up to the stroke that Logan was recovering from at the time. This time, when he hits Roman, it isn’t just the slap of the century, both in the slap, and Kendall’s immediate, near frenzied reaction, it is a disturbing physical manifestation of the abuse that the Roy siblings have felt since they were kids. Kendall screaming ‘’No! Don’t fucking touch him’’ is a reflex, something ancient and ingrained, not just an older brother defending his younger brother. He’s been there before.

Abe: There’s a movie that isn’t as good or as funny as it should be from 2014 called We Came Together, a kind of Scary Movie for rom-coms starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, and directed by the great David Wain. I’ve forgotten most of the beats, but the one joke I always think of when I remember the movie is this recurring spoof on the idea that “New York City is like another character.”

Argestes is the realization of that bit, as this spoof on the Sun Valley Lodge Conference brings a unique tenor to a momentous episode. It’s what Succession has been incredibly nimble and innovative in doing: bringing us to these exotic locales and giving us access to a bunch of rich assholes performing rich asshole rituals we’ve never really considered before. But what makes the show special is rather than resting on a goldmine of a setting, it’s just a backdrop, the nature walks and panel discussions are moving paradigm shifting moments in the series forward. Also, and this will be a recurring theme as we get closer to the top for me, an indelible highlight is the final shot of Logan, sweaty and bellowing, with his cool and control dropped entirely, showing his true ogre face as the car pulls away with Nan and the Pierce deal in tow. Tattooed on my smooth brain.

8. Hunting

Episode: 13
Written by: Tony Roche
Directed by: Andrij Parekh

Recap: At last, Logan at full terrifying speed. Logan as Lenin, Logan as Satan. The introduction of the Pierce deal to inoculate Waystar from the viral bearhug, and its botched initial steps, are the perfect fuel to dump on an already raging bonfire of paranoia, insecurity, and rage. It results in a sadistic game in Hungary — that haunted burial ground of facist monstrosities. Brother betrays brother, men of education, refinement and dignity are reduced to oinking swine boxing each other out for sausage, and Shiv tries to talk Connor out of running for president and fucks an actor. But come on folks, let’s make this simple. Say it with me: Boar. On. The. Floor.

Jay: Connor Roy is often the forgotten Roy child because he doesn’t have anything to do with the company. On a pure line-by-line basis, he is often the funniest though: ‘’Go ahead and arrest me’’ being some of the best satirical work that the writers have done.

I have a confession though: Boar on the Floor is not my favorite work that the series has done. It’s shocking, one of those moments that convinces a skeptic to watch a show about rich people doing horrific shit to each other. It doesn’t move me emotionally though. It feels like an out of body experience, but not an experience that is the core to the show. One part that did get me is Roman’s face when Logan tells him that he is a moron. The Slime Puppy of Succession becomes a lost puppy. All Roman wants to do is impress his father.

Abe: The episode begins with a doctor warning Logan the medication he’s on can have side effects on his mental and emotional state. It’s an aspect of Logan that I don’t think we discuss enough, this man is being medicated to a state that is probably taking him far beyond the limits of his logic and reason, both in thought and deed. I think it’s very intentionally included here.

At this point, it’s a meme, it’s sewed into our hearts and minds, it’s a bumper sticker, it’s a fact of life. But at one point we’d never heard of Boar on the Floor. Perhaps the writers of the show set out to create an iconic moment and conversation piece. Perhaps it was an intentional act of legend building they knew would become a pop culture moment. But many set out to create such moments. Very few succeed.

7. Prague

Episode: 8
Written by: John Brown
Directed by: SJ Clarkson

Recap: An incredible distinction: The Worst Bachelor Party in the 400-year History of New York City.

Abe: This episode will be remembered for its profane humor, but it’s a low-key elegant construction worthy of Dante. Each of the main players face their own private infernos, forced to confront their limitations and weaknesses in the most direct and profound way imaginable, as shitty music pounds incessantly, designer drugs are passed freely, and everyone is into fringe poly stuff (besides expressing romantic love and hugging).

Jay: This should be number two. What is crazy about this episode is how rotten everyone’s soul is by the end. It wasn’t ‘’this was crazy and I am ready to sleep it off’’, it was the sleep it off that comes after ‘’I swallowed a load” or “I realized that my siblings are the reasons why I am traumatized.’’ Seeing Roman recount the horrors of being locked in a cage as a kid, thrust into Darwinian games he didn’t understand to prove himself to his father. Good observation on the fact that everyone confronts their limitations. Kendall realizes that with the last name Roy, he can never go out on his own and be one of the cool kids. He is stuck in a prison of his father’s making for the rest of his blood sucking life.

6. The Summer Palace

Episode: 11
Written by: Jesse Armstrong
Directed by: Mark Mylod

Recap: Something is literally, as well as metaphorically rotten in Denmark the Hamptons. Traumatized by the devastating events both personal and professional that had occurred in the last 48 hours, Kendall is summoned from a spa in the mountains, where he’s drying out, to deliver a defense of his father, fending off the bearhug from Sandy and Stewy, on the news. Logan then calls a summit at the Roy ancestral summer home to debate what is to be done about this challenge, and the impending doom Waystar and its entire business model is facing.

Logan summons Shiv and Rome to weigh in on the matter in private. Both kids know their father well enough to know he wants them to placate his ego and tell him to fight, and they do, with their own wildly divergent pitches for the future of the company. Of course, Logan decides to fight the odds, and common sense, and the future, and strap in for war, but not before promising Shiv the throne.

Jay: The Ballad of Kendall Roy here is incredible. They wake him up from the place where he is decamping at, Iceland? It could be anywhere, purgatory, hell. He is immediately told to go on television and call off the dogs that are attacking his father, two days after yet another attempt to kill him, and publicly back Logan. Not only does he do this, in the process of it, he gets a nosebleed. It’s a hectic and heartbreaking first few minutes for Jeremy Strong. This season sets up to be more about Shiv than the last season, which featured Shiv in plot lines that largely did not have to do with her family’s business. Succession was great in the first season but somehow improved in season two, with Shiv in the fray as her brothers eat away at one another. Snook plays the scene with Logan perfectly, as usual, not wanting to believe that what he is saying is real and getting caught up regardless. Once Logan has you believing in something, he has you wrapped around his finger.

Abe: It must’ve been so hard to get back in a room and imagine how the fuck you follow up something as shattering as the conclusion of the first season. Armstrong’s genius, in what sounds like a trick he’s repeated going into season 3, is not to give the characters any room to breathe or reset. You’re launched right back into the teeth of the plot you may have assumed a normal show would take some time away from to regroup, setting up the next season’s arc.

While there was a feint suggesting this season was going to belong to Shiv, it was about Ken’s slow descent to his absolute bottom, being broken on the wheel and finally, perhaps truly remade as a killer in his father’s image. And yet even now that we know in that closed study, the promise Logan made to Shiv was empty, that he was selling hollow dreams, it’s still affecting. What’s more, in his conviction and demonic possession, it hits you in a way that explains the myth of Logan and how he achieved his empire. It also articulates the power of Succession.

Shiv’s disbelief, her fear, her wariness, her distrust of her father, her not wanting to get hurt, is so tragic because she’s 1000% right. She keeps pinching and re-pinching herself, and Cox is masterful as Logan, and the writers are so fucking eloquent and truly evil: “This is real. Remember this slant of light. Remember this. This is it.” This is how you get schmucks like me to invest in what happens to a fictional, diabolically evil dinosaur company. You write poetry. You create characters who can be obnoxious, and malicious, and terrible, but you’d still take a bullet for in these little vulnerable moments when you get to see how broken they are, and how much they want this one thing, and what that one thing means to them, not for the conventional reasons you and I might want it or something like it, because they’re numb and blind to our mundane human desires, but because to them it actually represents something completely different that we all, every single one of us, spend our entire lives wanting, but always has and always will remain just beyond our grasps. And we are all their frustration, and endless disappointment in knowing not even everything is enough.

That’s the brilliance of all of this. It’s being seduced by vile people doing vile things. It’s in their ancient wounds and pathetic needs. It’s in their hope as they buy into more lies they know are lies on their face, but go ahead anyway because they so badly want them to be true. It’s in the slant of light.

5. Austerlitz

Episode: 7
Written by: Lucy Prebble
Directed by: Miguel Arteta

Recap: The Roy family unites on Connor’s ranch to finally heal. Or, Logan needs a PR coup with his brand in the gutter and uses his children as props. Either/or. It contains one of the shows most blatant metaphors, the rockstar therapist, coming to help purify the emotional depths of the Roy family, mistakes the shallow end of the pool for the deep end, and dives face first into the pool floor, knocking out his teeth and allowing Logan to discount any semblance of the progress he was never actually attempting to make.

Shiv defects to Gil and Nate, betraying both Logan and Tom, and irking Marcia, which was a potent rivalry in the first season that lingered in the second but was more or less shelved by Rhea.

Ken’s wounds are open post the failed no confidence vote. He fulfills prophecy by falling off the wagon after Logan deploys “Operation Black Sheep”, planting a story that he’s incoherent and back on drugs, which fucks with his custody rights and is the gentle nudge he needs to truly spiral out, smoking meth with extras from Spun, then making mischief at Austerlitz, surrounded by family, watching in riveted horror.

Jay: Kendall comes back like a fucking menace in that infamous family therapy scene. It makes Ken look completely different than he did in the pilot episode, where he struggles to stand up to his father. Here, he is doing it, off his rocker and filled with righteous indignation. A personal favorite of mine is when he tells the meth heads that he is smoking with: “No, he’s cool. That’s my brother, he’s alright” even after Roman backed out during the takeover scene in the previous episode. Those are the little moments that Succession constantly nails. The gravitational pull between loving your brother and being disappointed by him.

Abe: This is another “Logan is a piece of shit whose depravity knows no limits” episode. The cardinal sins are the initial scam of the therapy escape itself, which honestly in retrospect is kind of threadbare as a plot contrivance knowing who Logan is at this point and how little patience he has for this sort of pandering bullshit, even with the prospect of turning the tanker with a plummeting stock price, then the media hit on his own son that preempts his fall, but I’m particularly sensitive to the swipe he takes at his daughter in front of her fiance. It’s just an incredibly mean, raw and shitty thing to say to anyone, let alone your only little girl, about the guy she’s going to marry.

Just want to point out two more incredible, crushing last shots of Ken, in his element, tripping balls on a mountain in the desert, reveling in his nothingness — and Logan, coming out of Connor’s pool in one of the more controversial shots we’ve seen on the show. His back is lashed with scars, many of which look fresh? I’m afraid I’m a bad viewer and there was some earlier explanation for this. Maybe it’s just bad makeup and they’re meant to be ancient souvenirs from evil uncle Noah? It’s one of several plotlines, I think, Succession has teased without fully capitalizing on. But as a visual one two punch, it’s devastating.

4. Which Side Are You On?

Episode: 6
Written by: Susan Soon He Stanton
Directed by: Andrij Parekh

Recap: The vote of no confidence. Ken fails to take his inheritance forcefully because of his own lack of conviction, but also because of fate, because the Gods of television refused to give him what he views as his birthright, thanks to a looming terrorist threat that downs his war chopper.

Shiv casts a vote of no confidence of her own as her fiance teaches Greg how to be rich at dinner and drinks — sowing the seeds of betrayal with Nate and Gil by extension, prepping Tom for the safe that will fall on his head at his wedding in episode 10.

Abe: A Shakespearean tragedy in miniature. A tragedy of human frailty, of circumstance, of cruelty, of incompetence. It is high, riveting drama as fraught and tense as Jack Bauer defusing a ticking bomb. The vote itself is one of the most unbearable things I’ve ever watched. Logan is looming on each shoulder, pressing all his weight down on his thumb laid on the scale. He bullies Roman out of placing the vote that would seal his fate and execute a plan that was in many ways, conceived by Rome himself.

For me, it’s the moment that I knew I was locked into this show for as long as they wanted to continue making episodes, that I was with these characters forever. Logan’s resilience, here and in another episode that is about to appear on this list, were as shocking as say, Sean Bean being decapitated on Game of Thrones. Much in the same way, it’s being deconditioned to believe things have to follow a certain logic and morality, that you can throw out the beats you think you see coming down the pipe and wait to be floored by this show again and again.

There are theories on the internet that posit reasons why Ken risked it all to go sway Sarita and her mother, I’ll leave it to you to go find them. We may never know, and with many things on this show, perhaps better to leave it in the past’s murky backwaters. But once again, I’m drawn to that final shot of Jeremy Strong in the middle of a crosswalk, dazed by the 24 hours that just transpired, numbed and destroyed by the joke played on him by the Gods and the writers’ room, as the unknowing and uncaring city teems around him. And Logan, benched by the President of the United States at the episode’s outset, finally gets his call answered, an illustration of how petty and threadbare his desire to remain in power truly is. He doesn’t care about his family or his company, he just needs someone, no matter who it may be, to pick up the phone when he calls.

Jay: Abe, sometimes you reach a day where you set out to accomplish something, and it’s simply not in the cards. Everything breaks bad in otherworldly fashion, that makes you believe in a God that is vengeful and angry, specifically at you. The Ball hits the Green Monster twice. The helicopter that is almost surely working on any other day is blocked by an emergency in the sky. The brother you thought was a lock to take your side in the takeover meeting cowers away because of your father’s fury. You realize you didn’t actually prepare for the worst because you had no conception how bad the worst could be. Then, your father punks you on the way out. All you’re left with is your fragile ego, adrift and suddenly without a home, a lost soul in the downtown Manhattan streets. Sorry, Ken.

3. Tern Haven

Episode: 15
Written by: Will Tracy
Directed by: Mark Mylod

Recap: Meet the Pierces. A thinly veiled roman a clef for the Sulzbergers, the dynastic media inverse of the Roys. Most of the episode occurs at their own ancestral home, Tern Haven, where they liberally quote Shakespeare and delight as the Roys, most prominently Shiv, self-immolate. In the end, the failing New York Times makes a deal in principle, because Logan comes in with an exorbitant, comical, crazy brave, fuck you money offer they can’t refuse.

Jay: Armstrong does a great job of making the Pierce family, just as, if not more insufferable than the Roy family. Their PHD’s a poetic recitations function like coarse vulgarity does for the Roys; Nan Pierce acting as if her chef has the choice to stop cooking and join them is a soft touch exposing her as a centrist liberal tone deaf asshole. Never forget that Adam McKay is an executive producer on this show.

Can we talk about three actors in this episode? J. Smith Cameron’s Gerri is a great supporting character, someone who is always in the thick of the plot even if it doesn’t necessarily revolve around her. Her face when she tells Roman to get in the bathroom so they can continue their psychosexual relationship is great, then the eyeroll, the body language after he finishes is *chef’s kiss*. Sarah Snook’s livewire performance is great here. Shiv turns into Roman: she can’t sit still, she blurts out things she shouldn’t, and she is fraying under the pressure of the spotlight, the opportunity, and her father’s withering glare.

Then there is Strong’s work in this episode that won him the Emmy. Seeing him on a bender with Naomi Pierce, sealing the deal for the family with his plea to her: Get out while you can.

Abe: One of the best tricks this show has to play is its ability to reach across the aisle and shit on its lib elites with the same force it shits on its protagonists. This show is equal opportunity in its conviction that these people are all monsters. The Pierces are a marvelous, elegant construction and some days I’m mad this show isn’t about them (HBO, rather than spinning off the houses of every blacksmith and scullery maid on Game of Thrones, I’ve unearthed a cost effective alternative). Succession is often reaching for this chaos within the comedy of manners, packing the room with disparate personalities and letting them run wild to see what happens. They execute every time, but they very rarely achieve transcendent, ethereal cringe, as they do here.

2. Nobody Is Ever Missing

Episode: 10
Written by: Jesse Armstrong
Directed by: Mark Mylod

Recap: I mean, how do you recap the Book of Revelations with a few pithy sentences in a blurb? Kendall confronts Logan with the bearhug at his sister’s wedding. Kendall drinks from Stewy’s firehose of drugs until Stewy suddenly and unceremoniously cuts it off. Kendall pursues his appetites with a catering waiter Logan had abused and fired for spilling champagne hours before. Ken crashes the car in a pond which kills the inebriated waiter. Shiv gets married at some point. Ken is confronted with his sins by Logan and dissolves, crawling back into the womb and staying there for most of the next 10 episodes.

Abe: Something I think about a lot is Stewy’s role in this. It was Stewy who Sandy says will have issues with Kendall taking CEO. Ken tells Stewy he spoke to Frank about the bearhug, then hours later Stewy claims the bearhug needs to be moved up to the day of his sister’s wedding because Frank allegedly spread it all over the place. It’s Stewy that gets Kendall drinking and sniffing that night. Of course, no one could predict what would’ve happened on that country road, but there’s a lot of building to that very moment, and Stewy has a direct hand in all of it. Do we have any reason to believe his intent is genuine? Should we listen to a single consistently incredible line delivery from Arian Moayed? Does any of this really matter in the grand scheme of things? Not yet, at least. But I find it a fascinating theory if the writers are just leaving the breadcrumbs there for tinfoil hat types like me to collect.

Oh, also this is one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen. I had it as my number one, but allowed Jay to talk me into moving it back a single spot. Again, this remade the modern idea of what a season finale is and what it can be. The shock of Logan’s final triumph still gets me everytime, when it seems like even with that horrific accident, Kendall will survive and claim the throne. The kind of perfunctory nod Logan gives to his body man to come drag the corpse of his son out of his arms to toe tag. The way Jeremy Strong finds a way to physically show us his soul crumpling, it’s just incredible, magnificent shit I can never unsee and wouldn’t want to.

Jay: Wasn’t a huge fan of this episode until I watched it again. It is a Greek Tragedy set in Succession world. Abe has a theory that Stewy gets Kendall coked up on purpose? Not my take. I think Stewy rages hard but knows when to stop. He isn’t an addict. Addiction is hard. It means downfall. It means not knowing your limits. Even the most rabid member of Team Kendall can tell you that he doesn’t have discipline. Kendall was right there, close to taking the crown from his father, now he is his number one boy again.

1.This Is Not for Tears

Episode: 20
Written by: Jesse Armstrong
Directed by: Mark Mylod

Recap: Logan gathers the family to decide who will be offered up to appease the shareholders and stave off Stewy and Sandy. The shareholder who speaks for what seems like a valuable plurality wants Logan to take the rap and stepdown. Of course he can’t abide by that, so another politburo show trial commences, with the outcome never really in question. Ken is offered up as a sacrifice, Abraham again, but this time he kills his child, only at the last second it’s his own child, not angel (Depending on how you feel about Greg), that spares his own life, by killing Abraham.

Jay: What Kendall does at the end of this episode is an act of love. It’s an act of respect. The central battle has always been whether Kendall was a killer. Could Kendall know when to play his cards? Is Kendall tough enough to deal the final blow? After Logan plays Russian Roulette, he knows there is only one way, his number one boy has to go. He has to take the fall. The scene where Logan tells Kendall that it has to be him is some of the finest camera work that Succession has done. The color is off to the point of dullness. Kendall’s face looks haggard.

It makes the build up to what he does at the end all the more shocking. Was it Greg that put the idea in his head? Was it Logan’s rejection of Naomi? Was it something Ken had been developing since the end of season 1? Whatever it was, Kendall means business now.

Can we salute Matthew McFayden again? “I wonder if the sad I get without you would be less than the sad I get from being with you.” That line is delivered somberly from such a fake tough guy like Wambsgans it undoubtedly breaks your heart, no matter how much of a clown you think he is.

Abe: Succession is composed of many bottle episodes, but none are as intimate and claustrophobic as this one. It’s Squid Game, Hunger Games, Battle Royal, Cannibal Holocaust, take your pick, as the robots keep whacking each other’s heads, attempting to decapitate peer, lifetime associate, friend, or family member for Logan’s approval. In the end, Kendall loses. He was always going to lose. But what does Logan’s final smile mean? Does he actually love his son? Is he savoring the coming combat? One last blood soaked war with his own kin?

Sometimes I think Naomi is the lodestar, the tea leaves that predict the second half of this season. Her constant dismissal by Logan, his refusal to put his grievances behind him and accept her as someone good for his badly hurting child, seems to inform much of how Ken reacts as Logan’s headlock gets increasingly and unbearably tight.

By my estimation, I’ve watched this episode five times, and each time I’m left with my jaw hanging open, stunned by its craft and power. Sometimes, my wife will pick up dinner on her way home with our kids, and claim that she forgot I was cooking, and I will say something along the lines of, “My wife keeps a watchful eye over every bite of food her family consumes, and the notion that she would allow a single meal, or even a snack, to be eaten without her explicit approval, is utterly fanciful.” And then she rolls her eyes and I have to box up a freshly prepared meal and my kids eat Popeyes or whatever. But that is how intrinsically this episode has been woven into the fiber of my being. How often I circle back to it, and how excited I am to see what comes next.

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