Monday, May 29, 2023

REVIEW: 'Succession' - Kendall, Roman and Shiv Make Significant Decisions During a Crucial Board Vote in 'With Open Eyes'

HBO's Succession - Episode 4.10 "With Open Eyes"

Ahead of the GoJo board vote, Kendall and Shiv shore up their opposing interests and try to get a fix on Roman.

"With Open Eyes" was written by Jesse Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod

The direction of Kendall's life was determined when he was seven and Logan promised him the family company. That memory lingers all these years later. He uses it as evidence that he deserves to become CEO. That has been his motivation throughout the series. Becoming CEO was his birthright. And yet, Logan made that promise to all of his children. It was never something Connor wanted despite being the eldest. He never engaged in the constant drama of deciding the fate of the company. His voice was still just as pompous and arrogant as the rest of the family. He simply chose to pursue his own passions. It was an isolating life. However, he actually got to spend time with his father around the table having a good time with the other guests. Everyone was terrified of Logan. He was a vicious monster. People struggled to highlight his redeeming qualities. He was a man of magnitude. Everyone tries to convince themselves he wasn't as bad as he was. They worked for him for so long that the culture was just accepted and engrained in them. The children never promised anything new. None of them possessed the vision to build on Logan's legacy. Their lives were thrown into turmoil by his sudden death. They each had to decide whether or not the GoJo deal was good for their interests. That was the lesson Gerri always tried to impart on Roman. Like Logan, she saw so much potential in him. His actions did carry consequences. He had a profound impact on the world. Logan threw his support behind Jeryd Mencken's presidential campaign because of Roman's encouragement. And now, Roman wants to convince the world that nothing will change because of Mencken's apparent victory. That's not true. ATN was in bed with the campaign. The media company established a narrative. The viewers bought into it. It was the product the family was selling. No one can ever deny that. Sometimes they have to address the consequences head on. This family has the ability to deflect. They value their own needs above any kind of impact on the rest of society. The siblings believe Waystar Royco would be under the best leadership if they were in charge. They were raised with those complexes. It's not a fate given to any of them. It's not what Logan wanted in the end. He was all in on the sale to Matsson. Kendall and Roman were eager to blow that up to prove their own superiority. That pushed Shiv away as she tried making her own play for the CEO position. Ultimately, the three of them are miserable. They are terrible people. However, their maneuvers only further showcase how none of them will obtain the success Logan did. They will never want for anything in their lives. That doesn't make them happy.

Shiv presented herself as a partner to Matsson. That was never what he wanted. He appreciated having someone on the inside of the company keeping him updated about the developments. Shiv took that as Matsson respecting and asking for her advice. She told him what to do with the inflated India numbers. She told him what to do to win over regulatory support from the Mencken administration. Matsson always wanted to transform this company. He had a vision for what it could become. The family believes in the value of brand identity. Matsson never had that same reverence. He wanted the deal to be finalized so he could begin tinkering with the properties. He may have paid too much. That was the cost of negotiating with people who didn't know what they wanted. Matsson always led with clarity. He wasn't perfect. In fact, it's confirmed that he only views Shiv as a sexual possibility. He's interested in her in that regard. However, he disregards her as a businesswoman just like her brothers do. No one believes she has the experience or skills to lead. She is so eager and desperate to prove it. Every time she makes a big move though it backfires spectacularly. Sure, it was obvious Matsson was never going to name Shiv as his American CEO. It's still devastating when that realization dawns on everyone. No one was preparing for that possibility. It wasn't a tactic used to argue against the deal. It was simply something for the family to react to once Matsson actually made his intentions known to someone close to them. Greg offers that information. He too is angling for any support to maintain his access at the company. He has grown accustomed to this power and influence. He hopes to ride it to the top. That's the mentality Matsson wants. He wants a CEO he can easily control. He essentially tests Tom to see if he will go along with any demeaning request. Matsson is like Logan in that way. Logan loved to embarrass and belittle people to test their loyalty. When Gerri became interim CEO, everyone understood that Logan was still in charge. Those are the egos that drive this business. It worked for Logan. It might work for Matsson. That's for the future to decide. He has his man on the inside to get the congratulations while he focuses on the work. Tom has wanted people to credit him for the successes at ATN as of late. He needed to prove his worth. It was all decided in that one conversation with Matsson. Even Shiv uplifted her husband as someone eager to suck up to anyone who wields power.

A sense of childhood innocence permeates when Kendall, Roman and Shiv agree to vote as a block. That should turn the numbers in their favor. It's all based on the presentation of Kendall as CEO. He and Roman have led during this transition. However, Roman hasn't risen to the moment. He is broken whenever it comes to addressing anything he deems real. The presidency doesn't hold that value. His father and Gerri do. He wasn't responsible for his father's death. He fired Gerri though. The company is paying her millions to keep her quiet. Roman is in a fragile state. He requires someone to care for him even though he hates it when people use those words to describe him. He had all the potential. It didn't work out. He's frustrated because he doesn't understand. The siblings have all tried to imitate their father. They believed they had front row seats to the best way to shape the world. Logan's style isn't easily copied. It can't be mimicked. The industry may be led entirely by entitled and delusional pricks just trying to convince people to buy into their latest ideas. They have the resources to make so much happen. That doesn't determine someone's worth. Kendall argues for his leadership because it's the only argument that can convince others. Shiv can't reasonably position herself because she was arguing for the exact opposite decision just a few hours previously. Meanwhile, Roman can't be trusted to deliver. Instead, he would rather wallow in the misery of failing to live up to his grand ambition. Kendall hasn't been dissuaded yet. The siblings once had hope that they could accomplish great things together. And yes, it is genuinely great when they hang out in the kitchen. Roman and Shiv anoint Kendall as the new king. It's the title they have accepted. Of course, nothing is final until the board actually votes. Kendall expects a coronation. Everyone must bow to his greatness. He doesn't need to craft an argument. He just expects his allies to deliver their support. That's better than trying to convince anyone in the room. Sure, it's enraging for the siblings when they learn Tom is Matsson's chosen CEO. It's a personal betrayal because it's someone so close to the family. Matsson is even concerned about the deal once Shiv learns of his nefarious motive. She's taken aback by Tom asking her to support the deal. She would behave the exact same way if the roles were reversed. That affords her just enough time in her head to completely rewrite the calculus of this decision.

Kendall looms over the board vote with certainty. It's clear Roman and Shiv have their doubts. It's written all over their faces. Roman still votes in favor of Kendall. He remains firm in that conviction. He's upset it wasn't him. He can barely keep it together. He still delivers for his brother. Shiv doesn't. Instead, she faces a crisis of morality where she can't elevate someone to this powerful position who also happens to be a killer. Kendall made that confession to his siblings in a heated moment. It was a time of great catharsis. They offered their unconditional support. That brought them together. And now, it's the excuse Shiv creates to go a different way no matter what Kendall says in response. It doesn't benefit her whatsoever. Kendall knew he would have to carve out pieces of the company so that Shiv and Roman also had some control. They needed that. They deserved that. It's also the same routine as always. It's what the siblings have always told each other. As such, it loses its value. Matsson and Tom offer something shocking and new. They are willing to play the game in a vicious way that knocks their competitors back. They are here to disrupt. That's what they accomplish. It proves once more that none of the siblings can ever defeat their father. Logan trusted Tom too. He did so with the understanding that his motives weren't complicated. Kendall, Roman and Shiv are always running around in the same circle. This decision represents a crucial turning point for their lives. For Kendall, it was meant to be his crowning achievement. He finally obtained what was always suppose to be his. This is the only thing of value in his life. He's hollow after Shiv's decision. It can't be reversed. He seeks comfort from a body of water once more. It returns to being a solemn visual. It's not an experience to champion his spirit. Instead, it shows him wandering the world similar to his father in his final days. This is all that this life amounts to be. It's nothing more. Yes, it will continue. It's not death. It's not exactly life either. Meanwhile, one could imagine Roman proving himself eventually and becoming CEO of some company. It wasn't fated for this moment. He doesn't have the maturity to follow through on those responsibilities.

Kendall and Roman at least get to make a clean break from the company. Shiv isn't afforded that luxury. Instead, she is set up for a life forever in close proximity to power. She had that with her father. She always wanted more. She delivered this outcome for Matsson and Tom. All she gets to show for it is a pity embrace of hands with her husband. She questioned if there was anything positive still between them. That would make it easier to navigate life as parents. Shiv is now capable of giving Tom the marriage he always wanted. It's too late for that. They both acknowledge that. Shiv makes foolish decisions. She believes she wields this imposing and impressive power. Instead, she ruins her life because she is eager to prove herself. That's her fatal flaw. It too was conditioned into her by her father and a misogynistic culture. She aims for more. It's denied. The siblings achieve what their mother wanted for them. They don't care about that. Life continues. None of them are filled with happiness. Tom gets to decide the fate of the remaining executives at Waystar. Greg remains protected while Hugo, Frank and Karl are shown out. Their roles will be filled by other people. Nothing really changes. The company is simply led by a new salesman making his pitch that he should determine the fate of the world. It's all bullshit as Roman points out. That's a keen observation even though far too many people buy into it as fact. That awareness proves something special in Roman. He's simply too awful of a person to actually make something out of it. Anything is technically possible. The story still concludes. This is all that Succession is meant to be. The characters live on. The audience can imagine what happens next. It may be nothing more than a continuation of corporate drama. That's the only expectation these characters accept. They are dour and defeated. That's what they ultimately deserve. Nothing else would be fitting. This was a peak into the world of the corporate elites. It's so cynical and searing with its observations. It was always miraculous whenever the show made these people endearing. It's hard to feel pity for any of them. Yet the show always presented a complex portrait of life where the decisions of one man informed countless lives. It wasn't always for the better. This was simply how the world developed as a result of who Logan Roy was. That legacy remains even as the world forgets about all that Logan did. It still moves forward.