Monday, April 24, 2023

REVIEW: 'Succession' - Kendall and Roman's Negotiations With Matsson Prove What They Truly Want From the Deal in 'Kill List'

HBO's Succession - Episode 4.05 "Kill List"

After the Waystar team heads to Norway, Shiv, Kendall and Roman consider whether to fight for Logan's crown jewel.

"Kill List" was written by Jon Brown & Ted Cohen and directed by Andrij Parekh

Are Kendall and Roman capable of intentionally making a good deal for the company? They are in charge now. The board approved them as Logan's successors. That happened regardless of how their father actually felt. Logan wanted to close the deal with Matsson. His children had the votes to sink the deal. Everyone was comfortable voting Kendall and Roman in under the assumption they would complete the sale. It wasn't an action taken for longterm management. Both of them wanted out. They were eager to start something new with Shiv. And yet, Kendall spent his whole life believing he would take over his father's company. That has become a reality. He has only had the job for a day. It's still a power trip. He sees the respect the staff directs towards him. Roman is more focused on the actual details of the job. That's rarely seen. Instead, Kendall positions himself as the key decision maker. He's the true boss. He shares a title with his brother. However, Roman will always be secondary. That's how Kendall operates. He has achieved his lifelong dream. He promised to sell the company. Now that he has control, he doesn't want to give that up. It's the new high he's chasing. He believes he finds a convenient excuse for derailing the deal too. Kendall, Roman and the other executives head to Norway to complete the final negotiations. Frank, Gerri and Karl are worried the new co-CEOs aren't prepared heading into the meeting. Kendall and Roman prove their mastery of a very basic understanding of what they hope to achieve. They want to abide by the same terms of the deal Logan negotiated but with Matsson paying more. Everything changes when Matsson proposes buying every property owned by Waystar Royco. Logan left out ATN. That was the most personal property for him. It's most closely aligned with his legacy. He was willing to pivot his attention directly to that media outlet. He had his eye on the future. He had a plan for how to take the channel into its next era. And then, he died. He wasn't able to implement those plans. Matsson always wanted everything Logan owned. Logan was capable of spelling out exactly what he wanted. He had his red lines he refused to cross. Matsson respected that. During this retreat, Matsson essentially arrives at the same conclusion about Kendall and Roman as their father did. They aren't serious people. They don't have the expertise to know what they want and deliver it. They are bad at trying to manipulate events in their favor. They reveal too much. That gives Matsson all the leverage he needs to ensure the best outcome for himself. It's actually a good deal for Waystar Royco too. It just happens without any significant contributions from Kendall or Roman.

Elsewhere, the Waystar Royco executives are trying to figure out if they will keep their jobs once the deal is completed. They are aware of the redundancies between the companies. Not every job can be secure. It's simply a meshing of personalities. Matsson has a team he trusts. The Waystar executives feel insecure because they represent a company that is being acquired by another. They don't have any trust their expertise will be recognized. They fear their names will be on the kill list. Matsson doesn't see Logan's legacy as some powerful brand. He's buying his company for parts. He's intrigued by various aspects of this company. He's not trying to maintain Logan's vision. He has his own ideas of how to increase profits from the various properties. Tom attends the retreat despite believing he has job security. His position isn't jeopardized by the deal. Instead, his fate comes from whatever Kendall, Roman and Shiv decide to do with ATN. That changes when Matsson makes his offer. Tom tries to present as endearing and necessary. It always seems to work. He forms a bond with Matsson despite how awkward it all seems. Tom and Greg frequently had a way in. They make those connections and hold on tight to see where they land. Now, they find themselves having to look elsewhere to secure that stability once more. That's how they operate. Of course, Shiv is the only one worried about ATN being exposed for coordinating with a presidential campaign. She sees that evidence as damning. Everyone else casts it aside believing it to be something they can deal with later. Even Shiv believes it can be dealt with solely by firing Cyd. That's not a guarantee. Others have exposure too. But again, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things because of the changes Matsson wants to make. Shiv gets to experience all the humanity he is capable of giving. It's not much. However, he at least made his own way in business. Nothing was handed to him. He earned this respect. It's still absolutely horrifying to hear his story of sending litters of frozen blood to his communications director. Shiv doesn't react with judgment. She simply lines up the ways in which the public narrative will be shaped. He needs to be aware of those arguments so he can counter them effectively. That's a moment of genuine bonding. They both went into the interaction trying to better understand each other. They hoped to use those details to benefit the negotiations. However, it forged a bond that showcased why Shiv has always been full of potential. She may not always secure the best deals for herself. She is manipulated by her brothers. She's still smart about how to play things with people who can't be trusted. That's in sharp contrast to the turn Roman takes.

Roman backs Kendall's play to tank the deal mostly because he needs a direction to pursue. He claims he mourned Logan's death before it actually occurred. He was then levelheaded when the tragic event happened. He never took it personally. He has a fantastic set of armor. It has protected him from a lot. It even encouraged Logan to take multiple looks at Roman being the son who could actually honor his legacy. That deal simply never occurred. Roman has had untapped potential for so long. He is given responsibility. He had his doubts about Kendall running things solo. Kendall bestowed this title onto Roman. They both have a sense of twisted reverence for their father. They cynically believe Logan already negotiated a solid deal. It's all about the money for them. That gave Matsson the opportunity to open up the terms and argue for more. ATN doesn't need to be protected. That mattered to Logan. It was a personal source of pride. Kendall and Roman don't have to honor his wishes. In fact, Kendall approved stories destroying Logan's reputation. Shiv is concerned. Roman knew about the strategy and disagreed with it. However, he goes along with whatever Kendall wants. Right now, that's power. He gets to take the helm of his father's company. It doesn't matter how costly the various scandals and mistakes truly are. A deal is on the table to make them all even richer. For someone who has always had a life of luxury, Kendall doesn't cherish what this deal accomplishes. Instead, he's combative for no reason. And then, Roman explodes. He wanted any reason to turn against Matsson. They once had a productive bond. That's no more. Now, Roman details the horrors of Matsson's overall lack of humanity. He pushed for this meeting just to flex his own power. He ordered the Waystar Royco executives to come to him in Norway just to prove how desperate they are. He refused to give them time to mourn. That proves how Roman is grieving just as much as the rest of the family. When he explodes, it's simply at the worst time. That reaction reveals how the new leaders truly feel. Matsson doesn't even have to do much to provoke them. Kendall and Roman are incapable of seeing the larger picture. When they get on the plane to return home, they are smug about what they've done. It's not for the reasons everyone else is speculating over. They believe they have the chance to shape what their father spent decades creating. Instead, Matsson calls their bluff by offer a deal that improves on the original price. He makes that call to Frank. He's viewed as the responsible party. He's a representative of the board who would be thrilled by this sale. Matsson delights in Kendall and Roman's suffering. That's why he makes this move. He wants them to lose and see their misery. He's the true successor to Logan Roy because he knows how to push for exactly what he needs to expand his business interests.