The Succession Report Card is a weekly recap feature where we attempt to assign grades to the important people, things, and themes from each episode of Succession. The grades are entirely subjective and the criteria for scoring will change from week to week and occasionally mid-week. Someone might get detention. It’ll probably be Roman.
SEASON 4, EPISODE 10 – “With Open Eyes”
It’s generally not a great sign when you are standing in front of your siblings shouting a phrase like “I AM THE ELDEST BOY” in a way that implies you think it is your best argument in the moment. But this was Kendall’s deal, for the most part. He was never psychologically or intellectually suited to take over for his dad, not at running a massive media conglomerate but also not at the much smaller things like carving the turkey at Thanksgiving, but that’s what his entire identity had become over the years. Most of this was Logan’s fault, for reasons ranging from “telling a 7-year-old boy to be prepared to take over a company” to “just generally being an awful human,” but Kendall didn’t do himself any favors either. Let’s not brush his many faults aside. But he never really had much of a chance.
And… now what? What does Kendall do from here? He has many billions of dollars and a name that will get a lot of people on the phone, but he’s also a mess. On a few fronts. His self-worth was cut down at the knees and he doesn’t have the family business and his relationship with his siblings is strained at best after that scene in the office and his wife left him and all of this is probably going to come out in an article in The New Yorker or a television miniseries or something at some point. (Fun spinoff idea: A new show that exists inside the world of Succession and loosely fictionalizes the lives of the Roy family in the form of a prestige HBO drama.) Things are not going great for Kendall. Which has to hurt even more because of how happy he was in those brief moments in Caroline’s kitchen where Shiv and Roman were making him a puke smoothie to anoint him king.
My money is on him just up and moving to Silicon Valley and rebranding himself as a tech bro who wears turtlenecks a lot. Putting his newfound millions into apps that make waffles or something, like a smart toaster that syncs to your phone and dispenses syrup by algorithm. Calling Stewy every week or two with a new idea and listening to the phone ring and ring and ring as Stewy silences his ringer and goes back to his meeting with an actual important person who can be useful to him. Playing in a competitive pickleball league he’s funding out of his own pocket with the dream of taking it international. Real bozo stuff 24/7, once he stops going catatonic on the pier.
MUST IMPROVE: He’s gonna need to figure out a way to spend less time staring blankly out into the sea
Shiv got outfoxed and outplayed pretty much this entire season, first getting pushed aside by Kendall and Roman in the initial round of CEO talks, and then getting hurdled by Tom in the new GoJo-led Waystar, some of which wasn’t fair (the cartoon, the thing where Matsson wants to sleep with her and doesn’t want that dynamic in the C-Suite) but some of which was her own fault (the thing where she told Matsson that Tom would “suck the biggest dick in the room” turned out to be the best possible pitch to a guy who just wanted a figurehead). She thinks she’s smart and savvy and she’s just not, at least not much more than her idiot brothers, which has to sting because… like, look at those two trying to rip each other’s faces off in a boardroom with all of their business associates watching.
And speaking of that boardroom…
Shiv was right, right? Kendall would not have been good at any of that. At all. It would have been a huge disaster. I’m not entirely sure this was the reason at the top of her mind as she decided to tank the vote, at least not as much as it was, “Mannnnnnnn, screw this guy.” This was a lose-lose for her, either let her idiot brothers win and probably drag the company into the crapper with a bunch of extending flailing that masquerades as leadership, or push the deal through so her weasel husband can be the CEO under a Swedish billionaire who screwed her over in part because he does literally want to screw her. And she lost pretty good here, essentially becoming her mother, at least from a “sad woman raising a child with a powerful CEO she no longer has any feelings for,” which is just really not ideal for any number of reasons.
MUST IMPROVE: Lord in heaven, I hope she and Tom hire a very competent and caring nanny for that poor doomed baby
ON ONE HAND:
- Remains a broken and sad little boy
- Fled to the arms of his unloving mother after melting down at his unloving father’s funeral and somehow acquired a significant number of stitches in his face somewhere in there, too
- Just got a fascist mostly elected president as part of a power play that all blew up in his face anyway
- Is crying a lot, in the ugly way where veins leap out of your forehead like mountain ranges on a topographic map
- Is continuing to make mean and horrible jokes to and about his loved ones, including his nephews and nieces, just because he only knows how to deal with his own pain by deflecting and/or inflicting pain on others around him
ON THE OTHER HAND
- He, more than his other siblings, seems free now, with all of that business behind him, and you just needed to look at his face as he sipped that martini at the end to see that
- I don’t actually know if that’s a good thing in the long run because… look, I do not think Roman Roy knows who he is or what he wants but I do know he now has many billions of dollars and a lot of free time and neither of those are things someone like Roman is going to do anything productive with
He, more than any of the siblings, is fascinating to me as they head off into the weird new world. I get a sense of where the others are headed. Roman… yeah, nothing. I suspect it won’t be great. He’ll get sued a handful of times for a handful of things. He’s really just a very sad little boy.
MUST IMPROVE: Keeping his stitches closed and his blood inside his body
GOOD NEWS: Gets to be CEO, which is kind of all this big walking Midwestern leech of a man ever wanted out of life, a little power and success and status after a childhood filled with staring at the ceiling and dreaming about it.
BAD NEWS: Is now working for a man who views him as a puppet and told him to his face that he’s really only getting the job because there are clickety-clickety sexy vibes with his wife that might have resulted in a fling or another Ebba-type situation with bodily fluids sent through the mail and lawyers hurriedly drafting settlement and non-disclosure agreements. The man has money and power and is kind of cuckolded in both his business and personal lives and is entrenched in a mostly loveless marriage with a wife he stabbed in the back for a job. Other than all that, it’s going great.
MUST IMPROVE: Setting better goals
See, he got the deal done, and he won, to whatever degree anyone ever wins anything on this show, but, like, at what cost? I don’t mean just financially, either, although the kids did appear to wrangle some extra money out of him with their very brief show of island-based solidarity. I mean it more from a perspective of, like… let’s just say the concept of an eccentric billionaire buying an American media company is not exactly foreign in the real world. There’s going to be a lot of scrutiny. A lot of people poking around. A lot of negative press for a guy who doesn’t appear to handle that well. Eccentricities have a way of looking like ugly character flaws when you lose the benefit of the doubt.
Point being: Matsson almost blew up the whole deal over a cartoon. I know he has ideas, or at least thinks he does, but I do not think this is going to be as fun for him as he thinks it is.
MUST IMPROVE: Being careful what he wishes for
- Created a multibillion-dollar operation that stokes fear into people and manipulated the entire world into his own gross and cold vision
- Really just mangled his children through a combination of neglectful and openly bad parenting
- Was a sociopath who probably never loved or cared about anything other than winning the fight that was right in front of his face in the moment
Not a great dude.
MUST IMPROVE: Hmmmmm the damage is all pretty much already done here, and he’s gone now and has no way to mitigate any of it even if he wanted to for a single second, which he would not, so let’s go with… let’s just stick with “staying dead”
Shiv and Tom’s unborn child
This kid is going to grow up with money and access beyond its wildest dreams, with every advantage available and every door swung open and a lifetime of people thinking this all represents a dream life.
This kid will also be the child of Shiv and Tom, two irredeemably shattered people who appear to be locked into a sparkless marriage full of blank stares and limp handholding.
This kid has no chance.
MUST IMPROVE: Stay in that womb as long as you can, kid… it’s not gonna be a lot of fun for you out here
Gets to spend the foreseeable future following around a deeply depressed man who is spending kind of a lot of time staring into bodies of water with a look on his face that implies he might heave himself into the watery abyss at any given moment. I suspect a part of Colin hopes Kendall does it. Just to be free. Just for a little.
MUST IMPROVE: Colin should really think about trying to get on the security team for a rock band, maybe Dave Matthews Band or some other group with aging and docile fans who pose minimal threat
See, I was tempted to give her a C at first. I had the whole entry written out and everything, with bullet points touching on her living on an island and her being kind of nice to Roman and her seeming a little happy in the moment that her kids were doing something together.
Then I thought about it some more. And I realized two things:
- These kids are the way they are in part because she just straight-up bailed and left them to be raised by freaking Logan Roy, of all the people in the damn world
- She kind of used this familial crisis as a means to try to hoodwink her sad children into listening to a pitch from her dipshit new husband and the business partner he flew in from Monaco for the express purpose of extracting money from them as they all spiraled down the toilet bowl on a personal and psychological level
MUST IMPROVE: I mean… mothering?
Peter’s special cheese
This GIF is revolting to me on many levels but I still had to make it.
MUST IMPROVE: Getting licked
Getting a big blender full of semi-rotten slop dumped on your head
I do not think I would enjoy it very much. It seems sticky and gross and smelly and bad. But we grade on a curve here and I think there’s no denying that this is markedly better than any of the people or things that received failing grades.
MUST IMPROVE: I gagged a little when I saw the clumps tumbling out and onto Kendall’s head
Toughest ranking on the board for me. Because, like, he survived, kind of, probably, with his role as assistant falling under Tom’s very limited scope of authority. But he’s also taking a massive pay cut and a loss in status and the guy he’ll be working for did just slap him in the face in a bathroom as retribution for an act of betrayal, so… could be better on that front.
I don’t know, man. I really don’t. I used to love this gangly goofball and then I watched him turn into an evil little goon who would affix himself to anyone who would let him keep playing with the nice things and I hated him and then I kind of cheered a little bit when he discovered the Shiv news by surreptitiously recording Matsson and Oskar with a translation app open. I have a strong suspicion he’ll either end up in jail or running the entire company in the next 10 years.
MUST IMPROVE: I’m still sticking by my theory that things went south here when he got that haircut and that he should let it all grow out again to see if it makes him less revolting to me, personally
- Rigged his own sticker system a little bit to claim the items of Logan’s he wanted
- Is gonna try a long-distance thing with Willa where he’s off in Slovenia doing ambassador things and she stays in New York to do a play
- Performed a lovely little rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot” on the tape with Logan
Tough to gauge it all. Came off weirdly less of a mess than his siblings. Which… is not exactly “scaling Everest” as far as accomplishments go. And he is still $100 million poorer after the election debacle. But, like, still. This is way better an outcome than I think anyone could have expected for him going in. Let’s just split the difference.
MUST IMPROVE: Explaining various systems involving stickers
Balls of jelly…
Kind of weird and gross in ways I had not considered until Caroline brought it up in this episode…
They help us see? That seems important too. Lots to think about here.
MUST IMPROVE: Now I’m thinking about that suction SCHHHHTTHHHWAP sound they make sometimes when your eyelid pulls away a little and I do not think I like that at all
Various Karls, Franks, and Karolinas
I’m tempted to focus on Karolina giving an impassioned speech about changing the culture of Waystar and putting an end to the cutthroat backstabbing and self-interest and then immediately jumping to “but let’s gut Hugo like a fish,” but I really don’t see how I can gloss over the Karl and Frank of it all.
Two old corporate warriors, who have been through and seen more than all of the Roy children and Matsson combined, standing there as it all goes down, rivals at times and brothers in others, debating whether to take their golden parachutes or stick around to destroy Tom and seize control in the power vacuum. I suspect they’re getting out. I hope for their sake they are. But they did look like they were having a lot of fun thinking about sticking around.
MUST IMPROVE: I hope they go on vacation together every year in retirement
Good news and bad news for Willa…
The good is that this long-distance relationship plan, the one where Connor goes to Slovenia and she stays in Manhattan to be a fancy rich lady who does plays, seems like a best-case scenario for her, just from a mental health standpoint.
The bad is that, in order for this to work out, she has to pray before she goes to bed every night that a creepy fascist gets to become president despite a court fight. And also… I do not think the artsy people she’s doing the play with will be huge fans of the billionaire lady who is married into a family of right-wing kingmakers swooping in and taking parts from their struggling peers. That might not be as fun as Willa expects it to be. She is in for a lot of nasty snickering behind her back, by actors, who are some of the best snickerers around.
But hey. That all counts as a win on this show. I guess.
MUST IMPROVE: Willa is really going to need to feel this one out for a while
- Is on the verge of signing a massive payout related to the thing where Roman sent her pictures of his penis and then fired her, which is actually a pretty good answer to the “Why not me?” thing he did while crying into Kendall’s shoulder so hard that he opened up his stitches
- Might get pitched on coming back
- Hopefully will not
I have this image of Gerri sitting on the beach at an island resort in a very floppy hat. I enjoy that.
MUST IMPROVE: SIGN THE PAPERS AND RUN
Succession, in general
Good God, what a television program. I suspect I’ll need to sit with it for a while before the totality of it sinks in, but I really did enjoy that ride, all the way up through to the very end, to the extent there was anything “enjoyable” about a show where a bunch of wounded piranhas swam around and took little bites out of each other for an hour every Sunday night. I don’t particularly like any of these people. I wrote an ode to Karl a few weeks ago even though he’s a corporate goon at a fictional company that actively tries to destroy many of the things I care about. There is a little Stockholm syndrome here. I know that. We’ve talked about it. You could put all of these people in a big sack and heave it over a waterfall and the world they inhabit would probably be better for it.
And yet, for a little second there, when the kids were all smiling and coming together in Caroline’s kitchen and it looked like there might be a sappy little ending for them that involved taking down Matsson and running the company as a team, I found myself feeling… happy… for them? It was weird. We’ve followed these people for long enough that we know their flaws and demons were placed inside them a long time ago through parental disinterest and mistreatment. There’s a little voice in me that feels bad for them, that wanted to see them form something resembling a healthy family unit and come together and be as close to healthy as any of them can ever be. I am softy like that.
But also, as things fell apart during the meeting and they brought up old homicides and quite literally tried to rip each other’s eyeballs out, I quickly realized that this was how it had to go down. Everyone on this show is a monster in some way. They weren’t getting out clean. There was just no way that was ever going to happen. And, short of my “put them in sacks and toss them off a waterfall” idea, this was probably the best way for it to play out. The waterfall would’ve been fun, though.
Anyway, good show.
MUST IMPROVE: Leaving me with something to watch on Sunday nights
What do you think Jess Jordan was up to while all this was going on, fresh off of quitting after the election fiasco and watching Kendall fall all the way apart in front of her and anyone else within earshot on the sidewalk? I like to picture her in her apartment in a very comfy robe — plush, like wearing a full-length teddy bear — sipping a cup of hot tea on the couch while the news coverage of the Roy family meltdown plays on the television in front of her. Then I picture her turning the television off in the middle of the report and sighing and never looking back.
MUST IMPROVE: I SAID NEVER LOOK BACK, JESS