Sunday, December 12, 2021

REVIEW: 'Succession' - A Tempting Offer Once Again Produces a Conflict Between Logan and His Children in 'All the Bells Say'

HBO's Succession - Episode 3.09 "All the Bells Say"

Matsson's vision for the GoJo-Waystar relationship leads Shiv and Roman to manage the fallout, while Logan weighs his options.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of HBO's Succession.

"All the Bells Say" was written by Jesse Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod

Logan doesn't love his children. He has given them countless opportunities to succeed. And yet, he feels they are each broken because none of them possess the killer instinct that he deems so crucial to his success. Everything is ultimately done according to his terms. No one can fundamentally make him happy unless he feels responsible for the idea in the first place. No one can please him. But that disdain is directed even more severely at his children. He believes they should each be better than they ultimately are. They refuse to admit their own flaws and take action to correct them for the future. Part of that is an extension of how they were raised. They were brought up to believe that everything is war. Each conflict requires a bombastic response. They always have to be vying for control even if it comes at the expense of each other. As such, it feels disingenuous to Kendall when his siblings sit him down for an intervention. The final image of him possibly drowning in a pool was very potent. It was a tangible threat. It left the audience speculating about his fate. Something did happen. It wasn't as extreme as some feared. But it still rocked his world. He isn't accepting of those terms when his siblings try to step up. They are doing so by some false sense of what's needed from them. The emotions are fake. Kendall knows that. And so, he continues to flex the various ways he could continue to go against the family company. Even Comfry is seemingly no longer on his side as she blurts out just how much of it is delusional. Kendall eventually comes to a place where he can release all his pent up emotions. The siblings can turn to each other with respect and love. And yet, that has never been the emotions that dictate how this family operates. The family has always been a business. It's about who can best serve Logan's interests. Kendall, Shiv and Roman all have conflicted emotions because they believe the family and the business can be separate. They believe they are special. Meanwhile, the actual executives at Waystar Royco know exactly what this has always been. They know that their job performances define their value and worth. With Kendall, Shiv and Roman, they are entitled and believe it should just be handed to them. It's devastating when the same forces that gave them that mentality then take it away just as quickly. Again, it's so easy for them to blame others. But it's equally devastating because they all found a way to present united. That still isn't ultimately enough to take down the king though.

For the entire series, Logan has been plagued with the question of his successor. He has toyed with the idea of naming one of his children to that role. He has always been concerned. None of them proved themselves capable of stepping up. As such, he had to stay on and flex his superior intellect for as long as possible. It's been more and more difficult for him to do so. And yet, he still presents himself as being at the top of the game. He still has the power and influence to shape the world. He determines the next President of the United States. He sets the terms for how the Justice Department investigates the claims Kendall made public. All of this is his perceived take on winning. He is determining the outcome. He has the wealth and privilege to conduct himself in that way all the time. That's the world he lives in. It's one of opulence and luxury. He can have anything he wants. People are always coming after him to take what he built and earned. None of them have had the strength or conviction to do so. And yet, one brief conversation with Lukas Matsson is all it takes for Logan to decide now is the time to sell the company. At this point, the most consistent characteristic of Matsson has been how bored he is by the world. He too has achieved a lot of success on his own. He is very intrigued by the business parts of Waystar Royco. And yet, he has concerns and doubts about the merger. His stock is only growing. Logan's is plummeting. Now is the time to make a deal. None of this will fundamentally make or break Logan. His legacy has already been set. He never operates from a place of weakness though. He forcefully has to conduct his business his way. His children have been a thorn in his side for awhile. Connor is the only one who has stepped away in pursuit of his own interests. That has been alienating for him throughout the family. He still demands respect from his siblings because he is the eldest. Kendall, Shiv and Roman don't view him as necessary. When they think of each other, he is rarely included. He holds no meaning in the world that has been deemed important by their father. Of course, Connor has his own aspirations. That sense of ego and ambition can still be tantalizing. It's enough for Willa to exclaim "fuck it" when it comes to accepting his marriage proposal. Sure, no one should enter into marriage with the idea of how bad could it possibly be. In terms of Logan and Caroline, the answer can be quite extreme and volatile. Both of them can separately admit they shouldn't have had children. That admission hits differently with what they value in this world though. Caroline doesn't ultimately care. She's secure. Logan is as well. But others are fighting for that sense of self worth from parents who don't actually care about how they react.

That makes it all the more striking when Shiv and Roman actually do offer compassion and support when Kendall confesses to killing the waiter. They listen to his confession and understand just how central that event has been to his chaotic downfall ever since. Even in the moments where he tried to be a killer, he messed up every step of the way. He had no acuity as to how to conduct himself in this moment. That immaturity further highlights how Logan continues to sit atop the power structure of this family. Kendall doesn't deserve anything because he failed in every attempt he has made to take his father out. Shiv and Roman still perceive him as strong and necessary though. They believe a united front helps them in the long run. They couldn't go against Logan at the start of the season. It made no sense for them to do so. They didn't trust Kendall. Now, they are given a reason to do exactly that. That is the biggest slight against their father though. He believes that everyone should respect his instincts. He always knows what's best for this company. He has assurances from Matsson that his children will be rated appropriately in the new formation of the company. He is still looking out for them. And then, they storm into the room believing they have the upper hand for once. But again, the power comes from the personal moments amongst the family. It's not a strong display of business smarts. So many people still look at the Roy siblings and laugh. The executives in this business have survived countless turmoils and disruptions. Any threat from this three doesn't do anything. Roman wants to believe in the powerful love that exists amongst this family. Again, he's foolish for believing any exists in the first place. Logan is tough on his children. It's a scary thought for them when they think he is trying to have another baby with Kerry. They are all still childish though. They do have a few fleeting moments of bravery and compassion. They still trust the wrong people. They treat people horribly and expect them to remain loyal. Logan has gotten away with that behavior for years. It's how his children conduct themselves. That doesn't offer them the same stature. This season proved Tom's loyalty to Logan. He feared going to prison. In the end, he quickly rises to the top simply by tipping Logan off to what's coming. He too is playing a game. One that absolutely has repercussions for his marriage. But Shiv jokes about the lack of depth in this union when giving a toast at her mother's wedding. Just like Roman, Tom operates from a sense of love. He has been hurt by Shiv. He stabs her in the back. It's not undeserving either. It's all continually complicated. One where all the moves should be obvious to the players involved. And yet, each twist still constantly shocks and leaves the Roy children dumbfounded. They are all fundamentally broken. Even when they try to succeed, they fail. They feel entitled to just take it by force. That's not good enough. That's confirmed once more as they truly have no one on their side accept each other. That may be good in some instances. It's not capable of withstanding all attacks though. Logan still prevails. He remains the king and in control of the world as he dictates it to be.