[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Succession” Season 3, Episode 4, “Lion in the Meadow.”]
Children’s books and “Succession” don’t typically go hand-in-hand — unless you’re a parent who likes to imagine Logan Roy’s voice whenever you’re reading “Go the Fuck to Sleep” — but Episode 4 makes an uncharacteristically direct reference to Margaret Mahy’s 1969 illustrated story, “A Lion in the Meadow.” In the fanciful tale, a young boy looks out his back window and tells his mother there’s a big, yellow lion roaming around outside. His mother doesn’t believe him, going so far as to tell her son she has a dragon in her matchbox that will protect them, but then the lion walks into their house and starts talking. “Some stories are true, and some aren’t,” he says.
In another meadow, in another faraway land, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) hears another suspicious claim from another parent. Logan (Brian Cox) says, “He’s a good kid, and I love him. […] It’ll all be OK. And maybe it’ll be him one day. It’s in his blood. He learned it all from me. And maybe he’s the best one of all of them.” These are the words Kendall’s been longing to hear, if not all his life, then at least for the last few weeks. But the manner in which they’re shared — as a means to convince 4 percent stakeholder Josh Aaronson (Adrien Brody) that the warring father and son can actually work together — raises the question, “How much of that is true? And how much is merely Logan calming the nerves of a worried man?”
Episode 4, written by Jon Brown, doesn’t let Logan’s words hang unanswered for long. During the fateful walk back to Josh’s elusive estate, Logan tells Kendall, “Well, you’ll say anything to get fucked on a date, won’t you?” before adding an even more vehement, off-color rebuke. Of course, Logan would do that. He has to; he’s incapable of sentimentality if it makes him look weak. (I’d say he’s incapable altogether, if not for a few choice moments of what I believe to be sincere reassurances.) He loathes being forced into saying or doing anything, whether it’s for his benefit or not, and he was absolutely backed into a corner on that seaside overlook.
Josh made it very clear that his primary concern about backing the Roy family at the following week’s shareholders’ meeting was that there was too much disarray at the top; that Kendall and Logan couldn’t work together, and the safer path for his investment is with someone more solid, i.e. Stewie (Arian Moayed) and Sandy (Larry Pine). So Logan has to show Josh how solid the Roys are and, frankly, hearing him say the words “I love him” to Kendall should be as good of a guarantee as there could possibly be.
Adrien Brody in “Succession”
Macall Polay / HBO
But none of this really speaks to the truth of his statement. If anything, his irate denials only emphasize the level of vulnerability he allowed himself to share. Back at the end of Season 2, when Kendall is told he’ll be the “blood sacrifice,” he asks his father if he ever could’ve earned the top job. Logan, after balking a bit, tells him, “You’re not a killer. And you have to be a killer.” So when Kendall tells his dad in Episode 4, “I put you in the ground that day,” he’s not only positioning himself as the winner, he’s telling his dad that he did what he was told; that he fulfilled the last requirement to earn his place as Logan’s successor. Logan probably gets that. He just refuses to believe he’s dead. He never could, and until there’s no denying it, he’s not dead. To truly kill Logan, Kendall may have to truly kill Logan — to stop playing “just the tip, but for killing dad” (as Roman accuses him of enjoying to end the episode), and actually leave him behind on the path to a future with Kendall in the big chair.
But he can’t. He carries Logan, defends his health to a shocked Josh, and tries to move forward with his daddy’s un-dead weight holding him down. Could he do anything else? After Logan finally dangled his love, right out in the open, in front of Kendall and a living, breathing witness? Strong and Cox’s fervent glances after Logan’s speech are simply magnificent in their informed ambiguity. Is that a desire for reciprocation crossing Cox’s concerned mug? Does he want his son to say something nice in return? To thank him? Or is Logan merely feeling awkward, knowing that he can’t refute his affections with Josh still lingering close by? Strong tries to keep Kendall’s guard up, holding a stern disposition to convey he knows better than to trust his dad… but then he peeks over, looking for further clues as to Logan’s honest intent. Soon enough, they’ll be at each other’s throats, jockeying for power in a never-ending struggle. But did Kendall experience a bit of sincerity on that hillside? There’s a lion in the meadow, but only he knows how much of his story is true.
Some Dipshit From the Casino
OK, after all that ambiguity, let’s make one thing clear: Josh Aaronson is a piece of shit. Lying about his daughter being sick so the two Roys will come to him? Asking for a guest list before committing to Kendall’s birthday party? Making Logan go out for a long hike across his private island just to show it off? And, oh yeah, claiming his backing as a shareholder is up for grabs when he’s got Stewie flying in that afternoon? That’s who he’s talking to on the phone, while trying to rush Logan and Kendall to walk faster; that’s who he didn’t want to piss off by being late. Josh even went out to the tarmac himself to greet Stewie, whereas he sat reading his book and being a prick while Logan and Kendall made the trek to his gross little empire. Josh sucks, and it wasn’t Logan’s collapse that cost the Roys his vote. It’s because he’s a rich asshole who likes to “make you eat rodents for [his] pleasure,” while knowing he’s going to follow whoever will make him the most money, no matter what Kendall and Logan say or do.
In a way, it’s nice to meet someone like Josh. After living with the Roys for so long, it may be easy to forget that — despite their place in the 0.0001 percent — there are more people like them in the world, and they’re just as monstrous. It wouldn’t surprise me if that (obviously figurative) casino he went to was onboard a (also figurative) Waystar cruise ship, where Josh threw a person overboard and walked away with their fortune. So fuck him. We needed a good enemy before next week’s stakeholder meeting anyway, and Josh is officially that guy.
Nicholas Braun and Matthew Macfadyen in “Succession”
Macall Polay / HBO
By the time you’ve read this, I’ve already changed my phone’s outgoing message to “Little Lord Fuckleroy” and my morning alarm to Greg’s timid crowing of “cock-a-doodle-do.” Wow. What an opening assertion from our not-so-sturdy birdie, only to see him immediately topple over in front of Logan. Props must be given to Nicholas Braun, whose physical comedy remains elite on a show filled with gifted body-benders. (Last week’s top honors went to Kieran Culkin.) The way Braun clings to his glass tumbler with two hands; how he hunches his shoulders inward for his first sip, as if he’s too tall to drink normally; and then the ludicrous decision to “chug” his cheap cocktail, after already admitting it’s too “nice and strong” for him, Greg, who’s clearly not yet a man. “I don’t know how you did it back in the ’60s,” he says, after Logan has left. “Different times, different times, indeed. Better Times? Not for all…”
You would’ve never survived, Greg. You’re barely surviving now — and maybe not for long, if Terminal Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) actually castrates and marries you, as the emasculated outgoing head of ATN News proposed in Episode 4. Poor Tom. His former stooge is about to land his dream job. His wife “doesn’t know what to say” when he confesses his very real fears to her. He’s desperate to restore the former Chain of Screaming, when in simpler, happier times he could torment Greg to his heart’s content without worrying about anything except his next casual belittlement from Logan. But Greg has had enough. He doesn’t want to put up with Tom’s bullying anymore, and he doesn’t really have to — which is only bound to send his prison-bound former mentor spiraling even further.
Shiv Show at the Fuck Factory
Shiv’s attempt to salvage the authority undermined during last week’s Town Hall doesn’t go exactly as planned. Connor (Alan Ruck) belittles his little sister while demanding a cushy job in the family business (that will, undoubtedly, counteract the political narrative that the future presidential candidate is short on “real world experience.”) Frank (Peter Friedman) and Carl (David Rasche) treat her like an uninformed pest when she checks in on their negotiations with Stewie and Sandy. Then she gets dressed down by her daddy for trying to dress down her subordinates. Finally, she does Tom’s job for him and forces ATN anchor Mark Ravenhead (Zack Robidas) to bend the knee. It’s a decent win, given that the president wastes no time getting on the phone with Logan to scream about Mark’s negative pivot, but that’s not what Shiv wants to be doing. Nor does it disprove what Kendall tells Logan — that no one respects her and they’re trying to “dig her out.” She’ll need to gain back some ground at the shareholder meeting, otherwise Logan is going to continue looking for “more people, more protection,” more of the “Westchester Judge Fuckers.”
Sarah Snook in “Succession”
Macall Polay / HBO
Slime Puppy Time
I’m not going to spend much time on Roman’s arc this episode, since it amounted to little and is too nauseating to stomach further consideration. But let’s take an extra beat to appreciate Roman’s hissy fit upon hearing Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) is going out on dates. His jealousy was palpable, and her acknowledgement and advice further proved who has the upper hand in that peculiar relationship. Gerri does a great job controlling Roman. Now let’s see if she can deploy him for her own gain.
The A+ F-Bomb:
“In a sense, this conversation is already over, it’s just a question of how many times we scream the word ‘fuck’ at each other before you do what we want.” – Shiv, cutting to the point with ATN anchor Mark Ravenhead
Best Line That Could Still Air on ATN:
“Tell him ‘meep meep’ — it’s from Roadrunner” – Kendall, again illustrating his awful trash talk when it comes to dressing down his dad. (Also, this is a terrible line from Kendall, but a great line from the “Succession” writers — I love how bad Kendall is at slamming Logan, and I love the variety of cultural references he’s already trotted out.)
“Succession” Season 3 airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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