Breaking Down Every Nook & Cranny of the ‘Succession’ Season 3 Premiere

Recap, analysis, awards, and more!

HBO Succession Season 3 Premiere Recap Secession Explained
What to make of the season 3 premiere of Succession? David Russell/HBO

After nearly two years off the air, HBO’s Succession has finally returned to delight and entertain with a gaggle of out of touch 1%ers all acting horribly in their own self-interest. While we gave a broad overview of the third season in our (mostly) glowing Season 3 reviewSuccession deserves more in-depth exploration than just that. So each week, we’ll be breaking down each episode with a beat-by-beat recap while also doling out some weekly awards. Shall we dive in?

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Succession S3E1 “Secession” Recap

We open with the Roy family traveling via helicopters across the snowy mountains like a caravan of Bond villains. Logan appears to be contemplating the recent events of the Season 2 finale as Kendall does the same in a bathroom somewhere in Manhattan. Both are processing the bombshell Kendall dropped on his family in their own ways. The Logan Squad is looking for a place to regroup: either New York, London, Singapore, or L.A. Rich people (cue eye roll). Logan doesn’t immediately know where to go or what to do and is taking out his frustration on his family and staff as usual. After taking some time to breathe, Kendall emerges from the bathroom like a man on a mission: “Actions stations. Let’s fucking do this.”

The Season 2 finale promised an all out war between Kendall and Logan. I like how the premiere’s cold open here immediately establishes the battle lines between the two. It appears that Kendall had a rough outline of what he was getting into, but perhaps didn’t think it all the way through. The totality of his actions and the ship he’s just put himself at the helm of are only now sinking in. 

For all the differences between the two, it’s worth noting that both Kendall and Logan are processing in somewhat similar ways before mobilizing. 

Kendall is heading to Waystar, naively thinking he still has a job there. He wants to get a team of lawyers ready. A gaggle of media swarms him outside to which Greg’s response is to continually and needlessly scream “No Comment.” Never change, Greg. Kendall axes one of his assistants for not being fully on board with his takedown of Logan. Honestly, who can blame her? The spur-of-the-moment move may have been necessary for Kendall last season, but the lack of planning is going to be difficult to overcome. Elsewhere, Shiv and Roman discuss the status of the situation and the fate of their father. Both are curious if this is the end of Logan as a media mogul. All children deny any knowledge of Kendall’s plan, which is true. Kendall puts Greg in charge of monitoring his social media temperature.

I love the constantly shifting alliances of the family members and their persistent concern for their own status. For all the machinations, scheming, and planning afoot, the only thing that matters is the family. By clever design, this is also what hurts them the most and adds to their disconnect from the real world. That dynamic is the very center of the show. 

In a hilarious elementary school game of telephone, Logan speaks to Kendall through his assistant Jessica. Logan says he’s going to “grind up your bones to make my bread,” to which Kendall hilariously responds that he’s “going to run up off the beanstalk.” Even with this epic bombshell, Kendall still comes across like a child playing grown up.

I wrote in my review: “The need for emotional honesty directs their business decisions because it’s the only way they know how to articulate and translate their feelings. Logan raised each of them on a transactional basis; how could they not turn to oppositional mind games to express themselves?” Consider the above exchange exhibit A. These people have bottomless pits of money to spend, and yet are still the most damaged of all. No, they don’t have to worry about money, but at what cost does that comfort come?

Logan strategizes with his team. Roman advises not cooperating with the government investigation, which Gerri disagrees with. The plan is to play hardball and wait until Kendall self-destructs. Logan Squad is going to try and bring in the President, who they refer to as “The Raisin,” for support. Meanwhile, Greg can’t figure out whether or not the Pope has followed Kendall on Twitter. Both sides are reaching out to one another with feelers for potential double crosses and information. Both sides are also looking for potential support systems. Logan Squad is sussing out whether or not the DOJ is going to investigate. Things are heating up. 

Greg is Extra Greg this season and it’s a wonderful sight to behold. Overall, “Secession” is laying the groundwork for a never-ending game of alliance musical chairs.

Kendall’s talks with his girlfriend about how he may be the best person in the world at the moment. Waystar Co cancelled Kendall’s access to the office building. Greg compares the situation to “OJ…except if OJ never killed anyone.” To which Kendall responds, with a grin on his face, “Who says I never killed anyone?”

Kendall has always been the most moral of the characters, but that’s like saying saying he’s the nicest of your middle school bullies. At the end of the day, he’s still toxic and self-serving and he’s clearly getting off on the false pedestal of ethics he’s assumed. He’s co-opting the serious issue of workplace sexual harassment for his own purposes and turning his dark side inside out. And for him to joke about the actual person he killed in such a flippant manner is revealing of his true colors. 

“Secession” raises the question: is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons still commendable?

Succession Season 3 COVID
HBO’s Succession David M. Russell/HBO

On behalf of Logan, Shiv is going to try to connect with her friend Lisa Arthur, the same lawyer Kendall is aiming for in this familial debacle. Logan splits up the team for various responsibilities. Shiv and Tom promise to talk about their marital issues at a later time; Shiv tells him she loves him, and Tom doesn’t say it back.

I thought Tom’s line last season (“I wonder if the sad I get from being with you is worse than the sad I get if I alone”) was pretty heartbreaking. And even though he’s terrible, Shiv treats him like shit. Of all the kids, she is clearly the best with other people—it’s why she was sent in to persuade the witness not to testify last season (a point of no return for her character’s morality). But for all of her deft handling of external egos and agendas, she doesn’t know how to act with her own husband.

Season 2 saw Shiv finally enter the family business with bravado and a sense of moral superiority from her work in politics. Now, she may be realizing she’s not quite as smart or ethically stationed as she once believed. She knows Waystar is a cesspool deep down, but she doesn’t care.

Kendall retreats to his ex-wife’s apartment to set up base camp. He tells her that he did this for her and the kids (ugh). He asks her if he can win and she says “I don’t know.” Elsewhere, Logan’s team reviews the litany of disasters and emergencies the company has previously weathered. But this time around, they’re against the Senate, FCC, potential class action lawsuits, etc. It looks bad. Logan doles out responsibilities and strategies while declaring that “IT’S WAR!” He also offers to step back as CEO publicly as part of his approach (whiles still pulling the strings), opening the door for an internal race for new CEO.

Kendall is still all ego. He needs to be validated at every stop. And with Logan opening up a bakeoff for interim CEO, it positions Succession to do what it does best: pit characters against one another in an effort to climb the ladder.

HBO Succession Season 3 Review
Brian Cox in HBO’s Succession. Graeme Hunter/HBO

Alliances are forming and the game is afoot. Greg is hilariously awkward while attempting to flirt with Kendall’s new social media team. Kendall immediately bulldozes them with his own thoughts and plans without listening to their ideas at all. It’s all about “narrative arcs” for them. 

The entire idea of “narrative arcs” is icky. None of what they do is real. In typical Succession fashion, it is the sheen of idealism grafted onto personal vendettas. I love how creator Jesse Armstrong and his writers room can take the trendy buzzwords of today and slip them into this story as examples of how the 1% are just trading on cultural currency for their own benefit. It’s savvy, much like the major players of the show.

Tom pushes Gerri and Roman to Logan instead of Shiv. Roman pushes himself, but also Gerri, for the CEO role, which takes him out of the running in Logan’s mind. Logan likes killers which is partly why he smiled in the Season 2 finale when Kendall blew him up. Roman and Shiv trade some sibling banter. Shiv meets with Lisa Arthur, who is now repping Kendall, and also inquires about some personal assistance to help her navigate the waters. Everyone is watching their own backs. Back at the hotel, Roman wants to fool around with Gerri but she’s not interested. She wants to avoid “mess.” Sorry Groman Shippers. Doesn’t look like it’s happening as quickly as we hoped. But on the more positive side, Gerri has been named interim CEO!

She’s easily the most qualified. I actually think she could help the company. This also sets Roman up well for the future. I’m just worried how Gerri will be eventually screwed over.

Succession S3E1 Recap Explained
HBO’s Succession David M. Russell/HBO ©2020 HBO. All Rights Reserved

Awards & Categories

The Shareholders Award for the central theme of this episode: While this episode did some heavy lifting in the table setting department for the season, it was also very much about the how and why we display loyalty. What is it that endears or attracts us to someone? What is it that keeps us in line? Is it fear? Morality? Personal gain? Should doing the right thing for the wrong reasons still be championed? 

The “Fuck Off” Award for Best Line of Dialogue: Kendall, speaking to his new social media team, says “I think the headline needs to be: Fuck the weather, we’re changing the cultural climate.” In his own way, Kendall is just as much of a bumbling buffoon as Greg. His obliviousness is just propped up with the arrogance that a lifetime of wealth provides. 

The 1% Award for Best Example of Wealth Porn: The laundry list of potential destinations Logan’s fleet of airplanes and private jets were prepared to carpool his squad. I mean, really

The Fortune 500 Award for the Best Strategic Play from a Non-Logan Character: Kendall locking in Lisa Arthur and, by extension, blocking Logan from hiring her. Remember, Shiv’s failure to get Lisa also contributed to Gerri being named CEO. The ripple effects were big on this one. 

Quarterly Earnings—Best Pro and Worst Con of this Episode: The Best Pro would have to be the Action Stations moves from both characters. Succession is a show that has never needed actual action or high concepts to be entertaining. It’s a series of conversations taking place in expensive settings that wring out the drama. It’s a black comedy, a Shakespearean play that just so happens to have very impressive set design and nice clothes.

The Worst Con is that I don’t love the path they’re setting up for Kendall. Call me a sucker, but I wanted him to move morally and be the one ethical light in a sea of sludge and darkness. Instead, he’s just doing all this to save his own ass. While that’s extremely on brand for Succession, I also would have liked to have seen something of a hero to root for.(mostly) glowing Season 3 review

Breaking Down Every Nook & Cranny of the ‘Succession’ Season 3 Premiere