Well, fuck. I’m just going to say now that all of the following contains major spoilers for episode eight of Succession season three, and I will not be held responsible if you decide to read further and find out something you didn’t want to know! So if you haven’t seen it: Fuck off!
OK, to you my episode watchers, I say: 1) Hello and 2) What the hell is going on? There is so much to unpack and unspool. A pic of a dick nestled in Roman’s Calvins (what else?) meant for “mommy girlfriend” Gerri but sent to Daddy, potentially capsizing the youngest Roy’s entire heir apparent thing; we finally hear more about Shiv’s deep-rooted mommy issues (she’s her onion!); oh and you know, just the elephant in the room: Kendall might have drowned, as a haunting sequence at the end of the episode begins to suggest.
Elsewhere, an icon is in the building: you know as soon as you see Caroline Collingwood (played by a spot-on Harriet Walter), playtime is over. You don’t get as messed up as the Roy siblings with only a media magnate father, after all – you need a distant mother who is unafraid to belittle you, too. This is a woman who throws zingers around like a Barb who went to Cheltenham Ladies College, and she made her presence felt here. So while we bite our nails to the quick waiting to find out whether this was actually the end of the Notorious K.E.N., here’s a rundown of the week’s best insults, and my, were there (unsurprisingly) a lot to choose from in an episode where a man named Peter Munion is a central character!
10) ‘Goodness me. Have you just come back from the front?’
Caroline Collingwood to Kendall Roy
Kendall emerges from the car in Italy shaven-headed, like if Zuckerberg checked into a monastery. Or, as his mother tells him upon greeting him – presumably for the first time since he committed his act of legal patricide – like a boy soldier returning from the Second World War. Which in some ways he is! A hug probably would have sufficed, though.
9) ‘How you doing? Staying ahead of the Inland Revenue?’
Logan Roy to Peter Munion
Logan Roy, I have to say, is the master of shade: a simple line, delivered with a smile, is enough to smite anyone. This one, delivered to Caroline’s new beau Peter – he of the Pimlico flat lost to a disastrous salmon smoking venture – is extra funny because calling HMRC “the Inland Revenue” is so 80s, and perfectly pitched for Logan.
8) ‘Are you a sicko?’
Logan Roy to Roman Roy
The best moment of this totally stacked episode may well have been Logan screaming for Roman following The Dick Pic in an instance of pure, potent Dad rage. But as that wasn’t strictly an insult, I have to give this place in the list to Brian Cox’s line reading of the question “Are you a sicko?”, which is so amazingly direct he could have been asking what’s for lunch.
7) ‘Scary Poppins is on manoeuvres.’
Siobhan Roy RE: Caroline Collingwood
How beautiful to see a mother and daughter in an infinity loop of unconditional love! Not to mention that “Scary Poppins” feels especially fitting for the whole Dark Timeline Julie Andrews thing Caroline has going on.
6) ‘I should have had dogs’
Caroline Collingwood RE: her children
With this, we arrive at the dark heart of Siobhan Roy’s mother issues, which are so transparent that by the end of her heart-to-heart (more like lump of coal to lump of coal) over a cig with Caroline, the previously anti-kids Shiv is asking Tom to impregnate her – or at least consider freezing some embryos. It’s kind of… understandable? When Caroline says stuff like “I should have had dogs”, you do have to admit that she might have fared better with a gaggle of Pomeranians or a couple of lolloping Labradors than she did with children.
5) ‘He’s a grasping little scholarship boy’
Caroline Collingwood RE: Peter Munion
There’s a particular way that upperclass English people view the world that is so accurately embodied by Harriet Walter as Caroline that it’s almost jaw-dropping how right the writers of this show seem to get both Americans and Brits. That this is the way Caroline speaks about even her husband-to-be makes so much about the Roy children make sense (in that they, also, instinctively exclude everyone outside of their tiny milieu). It’s also exactly what a woman who serves her kids freshly shot pigeon when they visit her country pile would say of a fiancé she finds endearing but gauche.
4) ‘They’re both in interior design – they’re unemployed.’
Caroline Collingwood RE: Peter Munion’s daughters
As you probably could have guessed, this ranking belongs to Caroline, who made a three-course meal out of every minute she had on screen (I’d wager that Walter’s a 2022 shoo-in for the Guest Actress in a Drama Emmy). This sideways smirk among the super wealthy and privileged at the slightly less wealthy and privileged, again, felt like truly great old money shorthand.
3) ‘It’s a shame Sontag’s not still alive, you could take her to the drive-through.’
Tom Wambsgans to Greg Hirsch
It wouldn’t be a Succession Insult Index without a Greg and Tom moment. Tom was extra shit-eating in this scene because he was egged on by trying to make Shiv laugh, and to be fair, it did mine some good stuff, as we see here.
2) ‘The Skunk, The Porcupine and The Concubine… probably the best wedding present I’ll ever get'.’
Caroline Collingwood RE: Marcia Roy, Logan Roy and Kerry
To round out Caroline’s phenomenal week, I have to give her highest ranking to the pure glee she expressed about the current state of Logan’s personal affairs. The storybook cadence, calling Logan “the porcupine”… All of it magnificent.
1) ‘You’ve won, because you’re corrupt and so is the world.’
Kendall Roy to Logan Roy
Despite the ambiguity at the end of this episode, I am erring towards thinking that Kendall remains on our mortal coil, at least for now. But if this was his final episode (and again, I do personally doubt it – it felt tonally wrong, and given the two references to the death of the waiter at Shiv’s wedding, it’s possible that he was re-enacting what he put the boy through; plus, I’d be surprised if we don’t see that storyline coming to light at least at some point), it was certainly quite a swan song.
Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox are two of the world’s greatest actors, that much is clear, and the scene between them here was pure music; not like, a waltz, but a brooding, heaving, complicated movement, played out beautifully between the two of them. Kendall – who would obviously believe that a shaved head equals moral clarity – was fully on his Christ complex shit here. His total disavowal of his father, as embodied in this week’s top insult, may now have more significant repercussions than he assumed, considering that this season’s tentative CEO-elect – Roman – just texted his dad his dick. Which probably you should avoid doing, especially if you want a multi-national corporation handed to you.