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Succession 'Vaulter' Review: Tom Gets Shiv'd and Daddy Knows Best

Shiv’s reign as the clear-eyed realist is over. Her moral fiber could not withstand her father igniting the fire of power — real, tangible power. She somehow, against long odds, built a world view not completely contaminated by the Roy disease. But those chapters are over. We saw her choose her own adventure in the form of a personal screw-you to Sen. Gil Eavis. Instead of taking the carrot of the chief of staff position, she chewed it up and spat it out.

She’s all-in now, pedal-to-the-metal, bound to blow through that 42-month slow play her father floated. Shiv is not Kendall, still riding on the back of that motorcycle. No, her style would be to task Waystar Royco R & D with building a flux capacitor so she can realize her new future on a different, more expedient continuum.

Her aspiration has made her largely blind. Tom’s watering eyes go unnoticed as he plays the role he plays so well of supporting-but-not supported husband. Logan’s impressive track record of shrewdness and untrustworthiness is somehow also undetected. More than that, though, she believes everyone else is blind.

Suddenly, she’s weighing in on company affairs with fervor and force. She’s taking a more active role in getting the scuttlebutt from her brothers. And maybe they don’t pick up on her changes because, well, this family’s members are nothing if not myopic.

Roman is too busy trying to find the shortcut and launching ass-backward into the CEO role. He chooses beer over books, his gut over analytics, and sibling rivalry over any type of meaningful teamwork while doing a “foot on the table” routine check-up on Vice — I mean, Vaulter. Downing IPAs with the rank-and-file does yield the valuable unionizing information, though that could very well have been a happy accident. The guy who helped blow up a rocket and lose a few thumbs wants to blow up a media company and shred scores of jobs.

Is he convinced this is the right move? No, but it’s a move and he wants credit for doing a thing. Roman’s Season One self-analysis of “I’m dumb but I’m smart” has seemed to track episode to episode. It was a rare spot of self-awareness as evidenced by his inability to realize he’s being outmaneuvered and outperformed by everyone in his family — save for Connor, whose political ambitions are hilarious to Roman despite mirroring his own lack of qualifications to take the reins from his father.

Then there is Tom, in an especially acidic, potentially ironic dinner party, reaching his breaking point. He has swallowed a lot of feelings and other stuff because he is the nice guy. Or at least the platonic ideal of a nice guy coastal media elites have in their mind: the kind from a family of 300-pounders who are mad as hell but can only manage passive-aggressive Facebook posts.

That he’d believe Logan would ever cede control to a corn-fed outsider like himself shows that he hasn’t lost that Midwestern naïveté. There have been two plans at play this whole time: the one he thinks he’s working in concert with his now-wife on and the plan she’s executing behind his back. For all the talk of poison pills, one could argue he has taken the biggest one in the form of broadcast news. His first foray went as expected and he’s now feverishly trying to take skulls in an ultimately futile effort to please The Man Upstairs.

It’s downright painful to see how little Shiv thinks of him, how freely she’ll let the insults fly both to his face and behind his back. Her governor is off and the veneer lifted. The biggest threat of couple’s arrangement is not another human, as she is more than willing to burn her outside paramour and destroy his life for the sin of catching feelings. The biggest threat is her getting what she’s always wanted in parts of her stifled long ago: to be the next Roy Lodestar.

On a happier note, things are looking up for Greg, who has obviously found a higher quality of coke for Kendall and is now reaping a sick new apartment as a reward. Pretty impressive work by HBO to secure something that looks so much like Tom Hank’s pad from Big. There is, of course, one caveat to having a place where a man — even with small forward NBA height — can peacefully stretch out in bed: strangers banging in it during an all-night rager you have no control over. What appeared to be a genuinely nice gesture came with lead strings.

And that’s the story of the Number One Boy. He was a shellshocked husk of a man last week. Now we learn that he can’t even hug his kids — or Greg. One of those is a bigger problem. He’s dead to the love he does have because of the love he thinks he doesn’t.

But he’s not completely dead. His shrewdness is on full display at Vaulter. Pouring over the numbers and sifting through the data dump allows him to come to a more informed conclusion than his brother, that just so happens to fit in line with his father. Funny how that happens here just like on ATN. The good cop-bad cop routine he pulls on management and the employees turns out to be more of a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde act.

Not only does Kendall euthanized a vibrant newsroom, he callously harvests the remaining scraps before sending everyone out the door. In the Roy World, there’s nothing more admirable than screwing everyone over for the good of the family. The deft maneuvering earns him a seat back at the table. He’s much closer to his father emotionally and physically now. Mission accomplished.

EXCESS-ORIES

  • As someone who has long assumed that Marcia Roy was adroitly executing a power play from behind the scenes, it was a bit jarring to see her husband send her out of the room while scheming with his daughter. It was not subtle and the message was sent. It seems clear that she has designs on wielding power and this is the first we’ve seen him notice and take steps to thwart it.
  • There was no way for HBO to know that this episode would be coming hot on the heels of high-profile media unionization stories the last week, but damn did it ever make the content sizzle. There was a real depth of understanding in How Things Work that had to hit so close to home for anyone who has spent any time in a SoHo office building trying to negotiate with a media company that wants to break all the rules yet is still bound by the shackles of an old system.
  • To wit:
  • Kendall’s speech to a shocked room was the Jordan Belfort scene in Wolf of Wall Street flipped 180 degrees. His complete lack of charisma and dead-eyed stare was less Meme-able, but every bit as compelling.