Monday, April 17, 2023

REVIEW: 'Succession' - Grief Is Pushed Aside as Everyone Vies for New Power Within Waystar Royco in 'Honeymoon States'

HBO's Succession - Episode 4.04 "Honeymoon States"

As the Waystar team discusses a pivotal recommendation to the board, Roman, Kendall, and Shiv navigate a misstep with Matsson.

"Honeymoon States" was written by Jesse Armstrong & Lucy Prebble and directed by Lorene Scafaria

Logan promised Kendall, Shiv and Roman that they would become CEO of Waystar Royco. He always went back and forth. He employed chaos to constantly leave them wondering how he truly felt. And now, he's dead. A newly discovered paper seemingly lays out what his wishes for the company are. In it, he picks Kendall as his chosen successor. And yet, there's no telling when he crafted this letter. It has no legal authority whatsoever. In fact, Roman can make an equally compelling claim to the position because it's obvious Logan viewed the chief operating officer as his natural successor. That's the position Roman remains in despite the distance the siblings had with their father for months. Logan only died a day ago. And yet, no one has the time to grieve or navigate through their complicated feelings. Business must forge ahead. Kendall, Shiv and Roman delayed the GoJo deal. Shiv even blames herself for causing her father to be on the plane when he died. His fate may have been inevitable. He died from a pulmonary embolism. Even the best doctors on land may not have saved his life. He was making plans for the future. No one in the company wants to plot a new course. Everyone wants the GoJo deal to occur. As such, the decision of who leads the company is only for an interim basis. It's all about closing this deal. The conversation still pivots around lifting one voice above all the others. That creates the most drama. No one inherited Logan's singular talent of commanding the attention of the entire room. People were equally in awe and fear of him at all times. They always wanted to be on his good side. That stifled their ability to be completely honest with him whenever he asked for advice. He trusted his instincts no matter what. No one presented as being a worthy contender for his admiration. Plenty create stories idolizing him. They project greater meaning onto their relationships. Marcia is right back in the apartment to welcome guests as they come for this wake before the board meeting. She does so with the announcement that she talked to Logan every night. It's still easy for her to sell the apartment to Connor. She possesses those keen business instincts as well. She knows precisely how to navigate these dysfunctional relationships. Logan's children are messed up because that's how he conditioned them. None of them could impress him because he spent all his time belittling them. He loved them but didn't think they were serious people. Marcia has always maintained her autonomy. She can be just as cruel. She also found a way to operate in this world with power. When the situation requires it, she is there ready to strike. It's unfair for anyone to compare themselves to her.

A spark of humanity is seen within Roman. His siblings don't believe him when he says he's been grieving the loss of their father for a long time. He saw the writing on the wall. He accepted it long before it happened. He didn't need to know the particular details of how Logan died. It was inevitable. As such, he was doing whatever it took to best position himself. There is no time to react. Plenty of vulnerability and grief is still seen amongst the family. However, that may showcase the failings of Kendall and Shiv to live up to the promise of what Logan gave them. People worry if Kendall is stable enough to guide the company towards the completion of the deal. Frank even wonders why Kendall is willing to subject himself to this company once more. It destroyed everything for him. His soul was corrupted based on loyally serving his father. Even when he pushed back, Logan always wound up victorious. No one ever questioned if he was truly in charge. When Gerri took over the helm for a little bit, it was always with the understanding that Logan was still calling the shots. As such, it's difficult for her to gain any momentum in her bid for the top job. Sure, it would have been amusing if Tom or Karl ultimately secured the position. The top executives have clarity in ways the siblings do not. Tom lost his biggest cheerleader. As such, he too is reduced to being a man from the family whom no one actually likes. He doesn't have the support. Similarly, Karl can't enjoy the similar trajectory that may be afforded to anyone in his position as chief financial officer. That was never part of the narrative Logan set out to create. He crafted the story for a long time. And now, others are trying to step up and fill that void. They do so by memorializing Logan essentially as someone he wasn't. That provides many snide comments over how he actually behaved. Again, that showcases how vicious and disingenuous these people are. Marcia embraces cruelty when Kerry arrives to collect some personal items. Greg joins in on the ridicule. He's an active participant instead of someone always cut off from joining in on the dark humor. He causes just as much as Tom does now. They reverberate off each other in ways that support the underlying impulse. They have genuine compassion for the family as they endure this turbulent time. However, Roman is the one to recognize Kerry's humanity when the contents of her bag spill out on the floor. She is reduced to nothing. She can no longer be dignified with an exit through the main elevator. Instead, she's the ultimate dirty little secret who can be weaponized against Logan's legacy. It's all conjecture. Roman engaged in that. He also recognizes the ways in which this moment calls for something else. That objectivity stands out even as destruction reigns elsewhere.

Kendall's perspective shifts the moment he sees his name on the paper. He sees that as the ultimate validation from his father. That's proof that Logan loved him. A chosen narrative develops. This offers simplicity amongst a company that really isn't known for it. Shiv points out how Kendall's name could have been crossed out instead of underlined. That leaves everyone trying to interpret the hidden meaning of an impulsive man's final wishes. Even Greg is featured in the handwritten addendum. It may further enhance the idea that Logan saw his brother's grandchild as a joke. Greg only sees the positive. It's good to be mentioned. He is included. He has a place within the conversation. Kendall reacts similarly. That leaves Shiv and Roman out. At first, they are childish with their response. They don't wish to engage. It doesn't line up with their own plans for the future. Suddenly the burden of the GoJo deal lands on them. Matsson is blowing them off to regain power within this dynamic. It's a business conducted over perceived slights. Life is chaotic for the Roy family right now. Everything is happening so quickly. Kendall sees the power he has long wanted within his grasp. He's willing to take it immediately. He's even willing to accept an appointment with Roman as his equal. He doesn't feel the same way with Shiv. He argues the difficulty of selling three people to the board and the markets. She is left out of the conversation. That too may reveal how she isn't capable of taking charge. Roman secures the position for himself. He has the sensible reaction upon learning the various PR strategies Karolina and Hugo present. The announcement could highlight the ways in which Kendall and Roman were close to their father. It could also turn against Logan as someone who hasn't been making any of the big decisions in recent years. The public is simply now learning about how Kendall and Roman have already been in charge. Shiv isn't allowed in that conversation. She has no say in the public narrative of her family that is bound to develop. Waystar wants to burnish the reputation of its leaders. That is the overall mission of the communications department. Karolina maintains her objective nature. Meanwhile, Hugo is compromised upon learning he committed insider trading. Kendall takes advantage of that. Again, it's easy to see the appeal of Kendall making power moves like his father. That doesn't guarantee the same outcome. Logan always won because he possessed the skills to navigate this business. Kendall pushes to prove he was always the rightful heir. He seeks the approval of someone who is now dead. He can no longer impress his father. That remains his core drive. He is incapable of escaping that pattern. It comes at the cost of his relationship with his siblings. He makes these moves without any pestering from his father. Kendall does so all on his own because he can't trust that Shiv and Roman will ultimately agree with the tactics he employs.