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Succession is a show about business empires, and about family, and especially about the peculiar toxicity and dysfunction that occur when the two intersect. Since the show debuted, it has presented a question: Which one of these three children (with apologies to Connor, but let’s be real) will inherit Logan’s kingdom? But there are also other kinds of bequests in the ether, as the scars on Logan’s back—paid forward as psychological wounds to his children and grandchildren—made clear. And so the question gets an extra dimension: Which of his children is Logan’s emotional heir, hungry and empty enough inside to meet his standards for an acceptable successor?
In Season 1, the obvious candidate was Kendall, with his Forbes covers, his desperate need to prove himself, and his multiple boardroom-coup efforts against his father. “I’m just concerned you might be soft,” Logan told Kendall early on, noting that business was essentially “a big-dick competition”; his son, cosseted by luxury his entire life, couldn’t measure up. “The only way he’ll respect you is if you try to destroy him,” Roman told Kendall midway through the first season. “Because, in your position, that is exactly what he’d try to do.” That same episode, a frustrated Logan physically lashed out at Kendall’s son, as if to remind Kendall that aspiring to be more like his father would come with obvious costs. In the end, Kendall’s own frailty gave his father a winning hand, and led to Kendall trudging wearily in Logan’s wake for most of Season 2.
At the same time, Shiv’s stock was rising. There’s no doubt at this point that Shiv is the Roy child most closely akin to her father—the most ambitious sibling, the most manipulative, and the least troubled by the little things, like empathy or guilt. (“This class-war shit—don’t you find it a little jejune?” is up there with “Let them eat cake” as a succinct encapsulation of personal callousness.) “My philosophy is, I literally don’t give a fuck,” Shiv told Nate (Ashley Zukerman) in bed while he was browsing his wedding registry; the personal motto applies to table napkins and china patterns, but also to the world at large. In Season 1, Shiv conspired with a senator who wanted to burn her father’s news empire to the ground. In Season 2, as Logan dangled the throne in front of her like a cat toy, Shiv was made newly vulnerable by the prospect of getting something she actually really wanted. Initially thrown off course, she was back at Logan’s side by “Dundee.” There, Shiv set up Rhea (Holly Hunter) to fail in a way that would facilitate Shiv’s path to the top job, and sweet-talked a woman victimized by Waystar into backing down.
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Last night, on board the Roy yacht, a craft as sharp and black as a kitchen knife, Logan let his children and consiglieres fight it out to see which one should suffer the sins of the company. It was a classic Roy reunion—there were no actual shouts of “Boar on the floor,” but the internecine conflicts and poisonous power struggles were the same. Roman, newly chastened by his brush with political kidnapping, couldn’t begin to compete: Having recently pleaded with his siblings to “talk to each other? Normally?” and opened up about how frightened he was in Turkey, he was far too tenderhearted to do more than defend Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) and implicate Tom. Shiv, Tom’s own wife, agreed that Tom was a logical choice, leading him to lambaste her as they lay sunbathing in a private cove. “If I think about it, a lot of the time I’m pretty unhappy,” Tom said. “I wonder if the sad I’d be without you would be less than the sad I get from being with you.”