Saying that people “fight like siblings” describes a dynamic grounded in a potent mix of love, deep personal knowledge, jealousy and, as a result, pure savagery. We see this dynamic often in Succession’s Roy children, but this week we got a long, hard look at it.
Gathering for a (somewhat) secret summit away from the eyes of their father and his hangers-on, the Roy kids are the focus of season three’s second episode, and, of course, where sibling arguments happen – especially those written by Jesse Armstrong and his crack team of people whose entire job it is to think of the very best way one character can call another an arsehole – a high calibre of insults will follow.
As such, here’s this week’s Succession Insult Index, a comprehensive ranking of the ten worst things people said or did to each other this week. Read it and feel instantly inspired to start shit in the family WhatsApp.
Honourable mention: The photo of Saddam Hussein that flashes up on Shiv’s phone when her dad calls
Shiv Roy to Logan Roy
See this within, like, the first minute of the episode, and you know we’re about to have a very spicy meatball on our hands. While last week’s season opener bulged at the seams with zingers, episode two was a reminder that Succession is just as good at implication and sight gags (see also: Stewy’s Trojan horse) as it is creative ways to say “fuck off.”
10) ‘Thought I heard a clown car pulling up’
Roman Roy RE: Connor Roy
Connor being the (perceived) village idiot of the Roy family is a given, and this was laid on thick throughout episode two (perhaps for the purpose of making the younger Roys eat extra shit when Connor eventually emerges as more of a player in the Waystar CEO long game than they expect, as I suspect will happen later this season).
This line wasn’t particularly revealing – we know the siblings think Connor is a nobody – but I laughed just because Kieran Culkin could read the dictionary and make it sound biting.
9) ‘Kenny going nut nut’
Logan Roy to Connor Roy RE: Kendall Roy
It isn’t just the Roy siblings who treat their elder brother like a baby – Logan does it too (see: last week’s killer “Can you hold the fort here?” blow). Logan continues to treat Connor with kid gloves in episode two because he needs him onside as a Waystar shareholder, and that includes this incredible boiling down of a national press conference – the one where Logan is accused of criminal activity and deep-seated malignancy – to what sounds like a kid’s tantrum, being explained to another kid. It’s funny as it is, but from the Shakespearean mouth of Brian Cox, it might be the best thing anyone said all episode.
8) Logan Roy’s donuts
Logan Roy to his children
Daddy, of course, is not stupid, and works out pretty quickly that his spawn are weighing up their options. “Gifts” recur throughout this episode (the Trojan horse, Roman’s airport snacks, these very donuts), and constantly function in the opposite way to how they work in the real world. They are “fuck you”s rather than tokens of appreciation, because when you blow your nose with $100 bills I imagine it’s a lot more satisfying to send an edible arrangement than to make an angry phone call.
7) ‘You love showing your pee pee to everyone but someday you’re actually going to have to fuck something’
Shiv Roy to Roman Roy
One of the particularly funny things about this episode was that, for all their self-aggrandising and strategy, the Roy siblings are just that: siblings. Therefore, they have X-ray vision for each other’s weaknesses and will often express their findings with total puerility, despite the grandeur of their lives and surroundings (though it’s interesting that the siblings are ensconced in a teen bedroom for much of the episode, because they seem to regress as soon as they’re left alone together).
Shiv starts by identifying Roman’s weak spot, Gerri – which appears to be growing – and then digs her nails in further, in what is probably the week’s most obviously effective insult.
6) ‘Fuck you, plastic Jesus’
Shiv Roy to Kendall Roy
Shiv knows exactly how to wind her brothers – case in point: Kendall is giving it all that second coming crypto-bro drug chat this episode, and as such, Shiv sees fit to crush his messiah complex under the heel of whatever tasteful pump she’s wearing.
5) ‘It’s only your teats that give you any value’
Kendall Roy to Shiv Roy
Again: siblings, huh? For all his speeches about the long American century – and this was perfect writing for Kendall; of course these are the Big Ideas sitting under his baseball cap – Kendall lashes out and reverts to full spoilt brat mode when his pitch to his siblings doesn’t work.
Shiv’s abandonment stings him most, because he thinks she’s the smartest of all three of them, and he makes this particularly childish blow (one he definitely doesn’t believe, but knows is hurtful) when he’s down.
4) ‘You’re not wanted’
Kendall Roy to Connor Roy
While Kendall avoided joining in with Roman’s jibes about Connor earlier in the episode, he gets stuck in once his siblings start jumping ship, going directly for the neck.
3) ‘You tell yourself you’re a good person, but you’re not a good person’
Kendall Roy to Shiv Roy
The crux of this episode is Kendall’s belief (or at least his shtick) that his power play is about morality first and control second, which – as any even half-engaged viewer of Succession will tell you – is fake news. Kendall is willing to be more straight-talking than normal this episode – there’s a lot on the line and he needs to know who’s in or out – and for all his histrionics at the end, this is probably the most cutting thing he says to his ostensibly left-leaning sister during their tête-à-tête.
2) ‘Logan is gonna fire a million poisonous spiders down your dickie’
Tom Wambsgans to Greg Hirsch
While the focus was on the siblings for most of this episode, we were treated to a sublime moment of liquid Tom and Greg. Tom’s sing-song voice, Greg’s genuinely concerned-sounding response, the sheer stupidity of the image being conjured: bellissimo!
1) ‘You’re a national fucking prick’
Kendall Roy to Connor Roy
The top spot this week goes to the type of insult that just bursts out of you in the middle of a rage spiral, and one that contains the “why you hitting yourself” mood of this whole sibling-centric episode. Your dumb big brother calls himself a “national figure”, so of course your instant response is to scream at him that he’s a “national prick”. What does it mean? I have no idea! Is it the cleverest thing someone has said on this show? No way. But did it feel intensely real and extremely well-observed while also making me laugh out loud? Yes! And it’s my ranking!