The 'Succession' Insult Index, Episode Nine

“You bust in here, guns in hand, and now you find they’ve turned to fucking sausages.”

14 December 2021, 2:09pm

What a show, what a season, what an episode. Succession by now has a reputation for pulling off huge moves in its season finales, and, well: Womp, there it is. By the end of “All the Bells Say”, the Roy siblings are out in the cold to fend for themselves, their company sold and their coup foiled, Tom and Greg remain inside, brothers in arms, and Logan does what Logan likes to do: Win. 

It was a beautifully orchestrated finale coming off the back of a run of about four perfect episodes before that, with lived-in performances across the board (and in particular, Jeremy Strong, whose acting process has been the recent focus of so much fuss and nonsense, once again accessing something so deeply real and sad that he’s surely one of the greats of television acting), and an exciting last-minute twist that set us up for some serious psychosexual marriage drama in season four. Before we get there, though, let’s buckle up for the final time, fuckleheads, and appreciate the finest insults throughout this bloodbath of an episode: 

10) ‘So what is it son? Are you scared of pussy? Is it all screens or up the ass with you or what?’

Logan Roy to Roman Roy

Regardless of the changing family dynamic, it wouldn’t be a Succession episode without a reference to Roman’s… strained relationship with his own sexuality. By his dad.

9) ‘Let me grab a couple of kids’ menus and I’ll be right back.’

Kerry to Roman Roy

Kerry’s growth throughout the season from a silent assistant to a possible major player in the Roy family – and the only one who really, genuinely has Logan’s ear – has played out slowly and naturally. By this episode, she’s confident enough in her position that she bests even Roman, the insult comic of the family. There’s a sense with Kerry that she doesn’t take the kids seriously because Logan doesn’t either, so whenever she talks to them, she’s breezily above it all.  

8) ‘My mom’s getting remarried to a bowl of porridge.’

Roman Roy RE: Peter Munion

A classic Roman Roy joint for the final episode. 

7) ‘He’s in the spawn chamber issuing his hell seed.’

Roman Roy RE: Logan Roy

Probably the funniest aside this episode was the few minutes spent on Connor and Willa’s suspicion that Logan’s maca root and almond smoothies are being made for him by Kerry with the aim of producing a new Roy heir, topped off with this lovely image conjured by Roman, which seems to conceive of his father as Satan himself.

6) ‘He’s widely known, I think you’d agree, Roman, that you’re a self-admitted – sorry, I don’t know how you’d say this in your language – but a, a, uh, a sexual pervert.’

Greg Hirsch RE: Roman Roy

In among all the bumbling, Greg did actually manage to land some sort of blow here. Between that and being recruited as Tom’s “Gregweiler”, he had a pretty good episode, and one that definitely sees him solidifying his standing a little. With Logan’s kids largely out of the picture, might he need a helpful great nephew on hand?

5) ‘Slab of Gravlax’

Lukas Matsson RE: Lukas Mattsson

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Lukas Matsson, Logan seems to have calculated, is worth his time because he speaks his language. He’s self-made and self-aware, and this line shows that he understands how the Roys think about others – they’re superior, dismissive and largely intolerant. Matsson, therefore, gets it, and he’ll definitely be sticking around. 

4) ‘Greg, if you marry her you’re a plane crash away from becoming Europe’s weirdest king!’

Tom Wambsgans to Greg Hirsch

Tom and Greg, Nero and Sporus, the real love story of Succession. Their final scene this season – when Tom recruited Greg for whatever comes next for the man who got one of the closest things we’ve seen to the kiss from Daddy (he got a nice warm shoulder squeeze) – was shot, framed, and in some ways played like a romantic scene. Even though both are in sort-of relationships with women, the heat that their characters experience only really happens between the two of them. This line is an example of that very unique frisson and I include it here because Matthew Macfadyen’s line reading made me laugh aloud: “Greeeg!”, as if he’s just announced that he’s pregnant.

Roman, Kendall and Shiv confront Logan. Photo: Graeme Hunter/HBO

3) ‘Let’s get away from these fucking Jacobins.’

Logan Roy RE: Kendall Roy and Shiv Roy 

Logan gives Roman – Roman who chose the terrifying right-wing presidential candidate, Roman who flouts “company policy” by sending dick pics to the interim CEO – an out, appealing to his relative amorality in the face of Shiv and Kendall’s supposed “liberal values”. This is perfect writing, implying so concisely what Logan believes marks Roman out from his siblings, while also being marvellously in character for a man whose pet name for his son is “Tumbledown Dick.”

2) ‘You bust in here, guns in hand, and now you find they’ve turned to fucking sausages.’

Logan Roy to Shiv Roy, Kendall Roy, and Roman Roy

Logan Roy screaming at his children like the most fuming possible version of the Wall’s advert dog. Have we ever seen the likes? What a performance from Brian Cox. 

1) ‘It doesn’t serve my interests. How does it serve my interests?’

Gerri Kellman to Roman Roy

People argue about whether or not Succession is a comedy or a drama, and everyone has a different take. The show is so stacked with writers who have worked on some of the cleverest sitcoms of our time – Peep Show, The Thick of It, Veep – that it makes sense that the zingers would fly high and fast between these characters.

But this comic feel – the sense that the players are so privileged that nothing matters to them – creates a false sense of security. When something finally does feel important to these people, the emotional register changes completely. Take Roman, who cares little about little, begging Gerri – whom he loves – for her help, just after he’s been forsaken by his father, someone else he genuinely loves. And take his crestfallen face when Gerri tells him, “It doesn’t serve my interests”, effectively eschewing any bond they might have shared to put Logan’s interests first, as she always was going to. 

It’s fitting that this should come near the end of the episode, because in many ways it’s the question that gives this show its structure. It’s also one that undermines everything else: friendship, family, and even – as Roman learns from Logan – love.



HBO, Television, succession

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