Sunday, September 1, 2019

REVIEW: 'Succession' - Shiv Observes the Business While Logan and Kendall Make a Secret Move in 'Safe Room'

HBO's Succession - Episode 2.04 "Safe Room"

Roman begins a six-week management training program in the Parks division and is irritated about spending so much time with "normals." Logan brings Shiv in for a day at Waystar, raising suspicions with Kendall and Gerri. Connor and Willa attend the funeral of a family friend with a complicated past. Logan and Kendall arrange a covert meeting with PGM CEO Rhea Jarrell, as a controversy surrounding a star anchor leads to a day of chaos at ATN headquarters. 

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's Succession.

"Safe Room" was written by Georgia Pritchett and directed by Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman

The people of this world are so inherently cynical and despicable. They are so far above the demands and perception of regular humanity. They see themselves as pompous and entitled. Their every whim needs to be followed simply because they wield so much power and influence. It all presents as some kind of sinister and twisted game to them as well. They are constantly trying to one up each other no matter who might get hurt in the process. These are adults who have no idea how to function in the real world. They are abusive and horrible people. And yet, they remain in power and will likely continue getting what they want. The audience has some variance of affection for them as well. It makes it emotional and grounded when Kendall has his breakdown with Shiv even though they are still incredibly distant from one another. Shiv comes in for the day in order to observe what's happening within the company she is expecting to take over one day. But Logan keeps her at a distance. It's only because of an active shooter lockdown that she even has the opportunity to understand the play that is currently happening. Kendall is in Logan's inner circle. The patriarch is keeping this son very close because he understands that he has to keep a watchful eye over him. He knows that Connor, Shiv and Roman will be independent. They certainly have the freedom to do whatever they want simply because they aren't creating too many headaches for the man in charge. Logan had to cover up a murder for Kendall. That means Kendall is forever indebted to his father. It also makes him feel as if he is broken and without a purpose. He feels as if he can no longer be seen as a legitimate and genuine player in this world of backroom deals. He fought hard to be chosen as his father's successor. That path didn't pan out for him. It ended in disaster and despair. And yet, him thinking he is no longer in the running for the job may allow him to actually perform the aspects of the job Logan likes. Logan has always pitted his children against each other. Connor is the only one who has removed himself from the family company and sees no interest in trying to run it. The other three are constantly battling it out to be seen as the best in their father's eyes. They are desperate for that approval. Shiv got that at the start of the season but she constantly feels the pressure to keep doing so. She doubts her father's sincerity with this action. He may tease her along just enough to keep her interested. But he may not ultimately name her as his successor. He could just as easily hand the reins over to someone else. So, Shiv feels the pressure to be an active participant in this world. That just means sometimes having to guide Tom through a situation to ensure her perspective is heard. But again, she ends up in the panic room with Rhea. Logan wants to move fast in this acquisition of Pierce. That family run business doesn't seem eager about selling. But that entire story may prove that there is always a price point for people to consider anything - even the billionaires of this world. Rhea is proud of her news division. It stands in sharp contrast to ATN. She is not at liberty to discuss any of the fine points of this potential deal. And yet, she is keeping an open mind and telling Logan what he wants to hear. She may trust him now but that may just keep his interest piqued. It's a very delicate dance that everyone is playing. Shiv and Kendall both want in on the action. It's just crushing when Shiv doesn't get that validation from her father. Kendall may understand that Shiv is very much in the running for the CEO job but he fundamentally just wants to be taken care of by whomever steps up next. He knows that Logan has a purpose for him now. He won't allow any potential scandal to take down Kendall. And yet, Kendall also feels locked in on his life in a way that defines every single thing. Kendall can stand up and assert himself when the time comes for it. But he also wants to break down in his sister's arms. He wants that but is only able to go so far with the actual action. He can't tell her why he's indebted to their father and why he won't be chosen as the successor. He does see her as compassionate though even though she is quickly gathering ammunition for what is sure to be a fight.

This world has a way of corrupting people to their very core as well. Cousin Greg has always presented as the naive newcomer to this world who has ideals. He wants to do the right thing but he also wants to fit in with the family. Tom certainly feels those impulses too. But he came from a very similar upbringing as the Roys. He is very much entitled as well. He walks around with the confidence of knowing that no matter what he is untouchable. He is malleable to whatever situation he happens to be in. He doesn't care if one of ATN's star anchors is a fascist. He just wants to figure out the right response that allows everyone to feel happy. He hears the arguments and wants the decision to be clear. Shiv is the one with a clear understanding of the world and the opinions to back it up. But Tom is the one actually in charge of the news division. Sure, he won't ultimately be the one who makes the decision to fire this anchor. That's something that Logan will do just to make the Pierce deal happen. That's the bottom line for all of this. The people protesting down below can't expect the billionaires in charge to act accordingly based on some morals they have. They don't care about the protests or the potential shooter in the building. They care about that just as little as they care about Roman during the management training program. It's simply something off in the distance they vaguely have to be aware about. Tom and Greg are the ones actually on the floor where the uncertainty carries throughout the building. They don't know what's happening. As such, Greg is the one freaking out over how secure this safe room actually is. In that moment, he has the clarity to know this isn't the life he wants to be living. He still sees Tom as a close friend though. That means he too has a price in which all of his morals fly out the window. Again, the show is very cynical in that regard because it states plainly that everyone would ultimately take the money no matter what the position would be. It means Tom and Greg will remain close in this business. It doesn't matter just how abusive the environment actually is. A staffer literally dies from suicide at his desk because of the pressure and abuse of this newsroom. That doesn't force any kind of contemplation or reflection on any decisions that were made. Instead, the family just wants to wave it off as the cost of doing business with making the news. They are so incapable of embracing change. It's so easy for them to write something off as being of a certain time that doesn't actually mean anything in the present day. Connor doesn't care about the crimes committed by the generation before him in business. He just wants their money now to mount his campaign. Those are his ideals. He knows when to back off because he has to be more aware of perceptions now. But that's all that is fueling his final decisions. It's out of his own selfish interests instead of any kind of objections to past behavior. That is absolutely horrifying. That's simply the way that things were done. Willa is right to say that these actions didn't take place before laws were invented. They were always crimes. But that doesn't change much. Similarly, it may be asking too much for Roman to receive a change of perspective through this management program. He is essentially going through the motions. More importantly, it prompts him to become an even more vile human being by masturbating during a phone call with his employee. Those power dynamics are stated plainly. And yet, Gerri goes along with it because this is the game that she has always played. She has long had a close working relationship with Roman. And now, that presents itself in a new way that is wildly inappropriate but also bound to become something significant in their dynamic moving forward. That happens because no one seems to care just how despicable it all is. They have the power to get away with it. They aren't humble or generous in the slightest.