Everyone is human, even media magnate Logan Roy, as we’re reminded in the foreboding episode four of this Succession season. Negotiations are beginning with Sandy and Stewy (Frank and Karl are hard at work over Whole Foods hot boxes), whose takeover bid threatens the Roys’ future at Waystar, while Logan and Kendall must run damage control on an investor who may go rogue.
Multiple characters – Logan himself, Tom, Shiv somewhat, Kendall somewhat – end the episode on rocky ground. Their journey there is, of course, packed with barks and bites (what does an animal in a trap do but lash out?).
Here are the ten best insults of the week, as things take a shaky turn for multiple players in Waystar Royco, not least the patriarch himself, who must reckon once again with his own mortality.
Roman Roy RE: Kendall Roy
Extremely stupid, extremely effective. Also, do the writers just have a huge flip chart full of puns on the word “woke” in the corner of their office?
9) ‘Conference call jokes are just the best jokes, huh?’
Roman Roy to Kendall Roy
This is the second jab in a quick one-two between The Artist Formerly Known as Kendall (henceforth, Little Lord Fuckleroy) and Roman, in which the younger comes out better. On the conference call Kendall’s been forced onto, on which pretty much every Waystar exec is lying in wait, Kendall calls them “The fucking Sergeant Pepper of corporate America,” in the sort of weakly tapped-in pop culture joke he often makes. Roman’s response, which goes one better and undermines the whole sorry exercise, is, undoubtedly, victorious.
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Logan Roy to Greg Hirsch
I have never seen a human sound more like a big cat than when Brian Cox as Logan half-purrs, half-growls the word “Greg” at his great-nephew, having summoned him to his lair for a delicious, uh, rum and Coke (“What Greg wants, Greg must have,” Logan snarls) and a big talking-to. Quite impressive to make someone’s very name sound like an insult, but if anyone can, it’s Pope Big Dick.
7) ‘The forgetful cunt’
Logan Roy RE: the President of the United States
Something quintessentially Logan Roy about calling someone a “cunt” while pairing it with an adjective that sounds like it comes from a 1970s English storybook.
6) ‘Tom Wambsgans: minion wrangler and shit eater’
Tom Wambsgans RE: himself
Tom, faced with the prospect of being sent to prison for the historic crimes in Waystar Royco’s Cruises division – which he, until quite recently, headed up – is having what we in the business call a meltdown. He’s scrolling prison blogs, ranking correctional facilities in order of personal preference and getting worried about his access to fine wines.
He’s also tasked by Shiv – sent to do the bidding of Daddy this episode, and for the most part failing – to strong-arm one of the family network’s news anchors into turning the heat up on the President, and to persuade Greg into accepting Waystar’s in-house legal representation. He manages one of the two (the latter, while also realising that his grip on Greg, who seems to have happily come to his decision himself, is loosening), thus earning him his self appointed title, the episode’s greatest – and somewhat saddest – self own.
5) ‘What’s up, Ancient Grains?’
Kendall Roy to Frank Vernon
Can’t shake the idea that Kendall was browsing a store where bread costs about $15, had his eye caught by “ancient grains” and decided to keep that in his pocket for his next call with Frank. It was a blink-and-you’d-miss it moment, but masterful all the same.
4) ‘Fucking King Kong come out to dance for me’
Josh Aaronson to Logan Roy
Adrien Brody slips perfectly into the Succession-verse as Josh Aaronson, a faux-outdoorsy billionaire whose shares in Waystar represent an important piece of the pie if the family is to keep the company out of Stewy and Sandy’s clutches. Brody spars with both Kendall and Logan ably, but his killer line is saved for the biggest dog in the fight. It’s rare that Logan will do the bidding of anyone but himself; Aaronson knows he has him cornered.
3) ‘Low blood sugar’
Kendall Roy RE: Logan Roy
It’s quite easy to forget that Logan is an elderly man, and that Succession began with him in ailing health. Before things get really serious this episode, Kendall uses his dad’s age against him, getting in this cutting remark in front of Aaronson – though ultimately (i.e. when you see Stewy – ankles out, no fucks – and Aaronson embracing on the tarmac) you get the sense that it hurts his cause.
2) ‘Accountability’s a fucker. The feds find your nipple clamps, Karl?’
Kendall Roy to Karl Muller
Shot, chaser. Vintage stuff.
1) ‘I’d castrate you and marry you in a heartbeat’
Tom Wambsgans to Greg Hirsch
Forgive me for once again giving the top spot to Tom Wambsgans, but the speech he gives Greg about Emperor Nero is the best of Succession: on-point characterisation, silly grandiosity and great jokes. Despite the fact that Tom is ultimately an eel of a man – slippery and altogether unsubstantial in any way that really matters – Matthew Macfadyen imbues him with an irresistible hopelessness as he spirals through the stages of grief, towards accepting a prison sentence he feels is inevitable.
He has, he informs Greg – who has become the only person around to whom he can be truly honest – bought a long book about the Romans to read while he’s doing his time (a delightful detail: of course Tom thinks of a prison stretch as an opportunity to get in some reading about a random, intellectually-adjacent topic). In flicking through, he has come across the story of Nero, who killed his wife and castrated his favourite servant boy to replace her.
The metaphor is clear, and Tom’s compliment to Greg, his own favourite servant boy, is so backhanded as to be truly insulting, but the sad smile on Tom’s face, unhappy and domineered as he is in his marriage, makes this the best, strangest, funniest moment of the episode.