Monday, May 1, 2023

REVIEW: 'Succession' - Shiv and Tom See New Sides of Each Other as Kendall Makes Big Promises During a Presentation in 'Living+'

HBO's Succession - Episode 4.06 "Living+"

Ahead of Investor Day, Shiv weighs a proposal from Matsson, while Kendall and Roman each try to match Logan's volatile leadership style.

"Living+" was written by Georgia Pritchett & Will Arbery and directed by Lorene Scafaria

Logan Roy is dead yet one of the final projects he worked on was a product called Living+. It's essentially nothing more than a retirement community connected with other Waystar Royco properties. It was created as a cure for the cruise fiasco. Lukas hates the idea. He doesn't see the appeal of simply moving cruises to land from sea. It should not be mentioned during Investor Day. Kendall and Roman are tasked with making a presentation. It's their role as the leaders of this company. The executives venture to Los Angeles to reveal the exciting prospects ahead on Waystar's entertainment schedule. It's the kind of presentation where Kendall and Roman can make their mark and show the world what to expect from their reign. They spend the entire process trying to emulate their father. He looms over their lives despite his death. That manifests in grief. Roman isn't immune to it like he previously claimed. Shiv schedules five minute sessions to cry. Kendall can't focus on Living+ without trying to improve it as a way to cheat death altogether. Again, everything ultimately pivots around Logan's complaint of his children not being serious people. That was the harsh truth. He acknowledged it right in front of their faces. They know precisely how he behaved running this company. They offer their own takes on that style. It doesn't work because none of them have the nerve to pull it all off. They are simply too broken. That's what their father did to them. They always seek to please. And now, that presents itself as Kendall having a conversation with his father through a video Logan previously recorded for this product. The salesmanship wasn't one of his greatest strengths. He never liked others giving him orders. It was easy to make the comparison to his children. He always viewed them as the biggest disappointments. None of them could rise up and match his intellect. Kendall and Roman can't keep their plan to sink the deal with Matsson secret. The board is thrilled by the offer. Kendall and Roman can't reveal anything about Matsson's personality the executives don't already know. Gerri realizes what the leadership is doing during a heated conversation with Roman. Meanwhile, Shiv needs it spelled out to her by Matsson. He shares what truly happened on that mountaintop. She confronts her brothers about how bad they are at lying. That's a way for her to flex power. She knows her brothers haven't honored the deal to keep all three of them as equals. She's still torn about which direction she should pursue. So many options remain on the table.

Shiv opts to return to the safety of Tom. It's a known quantity. However, he offers surprising insight too. That's refreshing and requires her to drop the humor and condescension she frequently uses as protection. Matsson views her as his inside connection. She knows the thinking behind the inner workings of this company. She can alert him to any issues that pop up before the deal closes. Kendall and Roman are expected to just be caretakers. They aren't meant to rock the boat. They are suppose to sail the company safely through this transition. Shiv has the information to disrupt all of that. She knows Kendall and Roman aren't in agreement with the board. She knows how weird Matsson can be. She allows herself to be vulnerable for a brief amount of time. Tom invades her space. And yet, he's oddly sweet and caring. That protection is reassuring. Shiv can't even go through her typical routine later on trying to roast him. Instead, it's quickly focused back on the two as a couple. That requires Tom to explain his actions for betraying her last season. However, he offers a rationale having entirely to do with the money and the lavish lifestyle he has grown accustomed to from this marriage. He doesn't want anything to jeopardize what has become luxurious for him. He knows Shiv operates the same way. Their lived experiences show how they approach the situation differently. Shiv was handed so much. Tom came from a privileged upbringing too. He made his way into this family. And now, he presents as a trusted partner. These two were drawn to each other because they always want to keep their options open. They respect that. They punch down to exert their power over someone else. That has caused destruction and turmoil in their marriage. Admitting to a true partnership feels like weakness. Shiv can't allow anyone to have that kind of power over her. But the ambiguity she operates with is just as tantalizing. She acknowledges how destruction Kendall will be if he gives this presentation. It would be better off for the company if the investors never hear his wild ideas. And yet, Kendall still finds success by slimming things down to what his father envisioned. He's still promising things he can't ultimately deliver. However, his father was known for operating with that kind of grand style. His legacy radiates throughout all of this. The markets responds well to Kendall's pitch. Again, it's all about selling the idea. It doesn't matter if it actually works. That's how the assets are inflated. That's what Kendall wants. He achieves that even if he also recognizes how hollow his whole life has become. He may have a different perspective now. And yet, he's still floating in a body of water trying to grapple with this reality. As such, nothing has really changed for him despite the power he now wields.

Meanwhile, Roman flails around with the same attempts at behaving like his father. Logan loved to tease people with the threat of firing them. He had the power to do so. He also had an understanding of whether it was a good idea or the right time. Right now, Roman wields that weapon because he simply has the authority to do so. It's a convenient way to cut off any conversation. So much of it is a projection of his own insecurities. He struggles when older women embarrass him with their intellect. Joy and Gerri are quite accomplished to get to their positions within the company. And yet, Roman believes Joy is ungrateful for the amount of money being delivered to the studio. Joy simply wants assurances that the news division will cut down on support for fascism emerging as a central theme of the presidential election. It doesn't align with the values of this industry. Catering to those interests is the only way to keep the studio competitive and profitable. Roman can't see that argument. He sees no problem with the way the narrative is being shaped by the news. He controls it. He sees a problem from Joy voicing her concerns. He believes Joy doesn't respect his authority. The same applies to Gerri. Roman needs her to see him on equal standing as his father. She simply doesn't. Logan had the respect of the executives because he put in the work. He proved himself because he always had his eye on the financial profits. Kendall is creating numbers out of thin air to create a rosier picture of what's happening within the company. This is the way the family can grow the company to a point where Matsson can't buy it. Gerri sees the machinations. Even Karl threatens to blow the whistle should Kendall promise something the company can't deliver. The family still maintains control. They are more than just ceremonial figureheads. They wield power. It doesn't come with respect. Gerri can say the words. She doesn't believe them. Roman is only tentative about his actions when he has to share what he's done with Kendall. Even then, the brothers stand united. They will support each other no matter what happens. Chaos erupts. They still fail upward. It's a sight to behold. It doesn't promise better days ahead. Roman doesn't achieve the respect he so desperately wants. Gerri could tolerate him when he was simply a little nuisance that had to be coddled because of his proximity to power. Now, he has actual power and that carries much more responsibilities. He needs to treat this business seriously. Kendall, Roman and Shiv never saw that from their father. However, they didn't understand what he did to make Waystar Royco a success. They keep their options open. They still constantly compare themselves to their father. They always need his jarring criticisms to keep them going. That's life. It's just a bleak outlook on the destruction Logan wrought even from beyond the grave.