Thursday, June 20, 2024

Succession Takes a Deal-Breaking Corporate Retreat

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Here we are, fellow Succession fans. The promised title of the show has finally happened. Kendall and Roman are sharing their father’s seat, even if only to finish the sale to Lukas Mattson. It’s a sale that is already in place due to Logan’s previous efforts, so surely everything to follow is a formality, right? Everything Ken, Roman, and Shiv have planned for since the season began depends on the money to be made from selling to Mattson. The Waystar board desperately wants it. Mattson wants it.

Ah, but this would not be Succession if everything proceeded that smoothly.

Kendall, Shiv, and Roman discuss a deal at a corporate retreat

Now, it is easy to walk away from this episode thinking that Kendall and Roman are just massive screw-ups who endangered, if not outright tanked, the Mattson deal purely out of a combination of grief and ego. Kendall clearly wants to run ATN and assume the throne that was stolen from him with his father’s recovery back in season 1. Roman’s grief over his father hit him hardest at the worst possible moment. Together, they set out to make Mattson walk away from the sale, and there is no denying this simple fact.

The thing is, Mattson set them down this path. He acted as little more than a bully using his negotiating position to try and strong-arm a grieving family. Calling the Waystar brass over to his retreat a mere day after Logan’s death was a disgusting power move, and then he spends the whole trip bullying and demeaning everyone, thinking Kendall and Roman are soft and will give in to him.

The lesson of this episode, as is typically the lesson of most Succession episodes, is the corrupting, evil influence of power and wealth, and how it can turn people into truly selfish monsters looking to secure their own interests at the expense of everyone around them. And hey, it makes for glorious television.

Making a deal with this amount of money on the line is hard enough in the best of circumstances, and this is far from the best of circumstances. There are so many competing agendas at Waystar. Even between the Roy children alone, there are three different and evolving agendas. Kendall hasn’t been able to make up his mind about what he wants since the first episode, and is making moves to be The Guy rather than one of a shared power trio. Roman seems the most focused on retaining what his father wants, and what his father’s legacy will be. Shiv is watching the supposed equality with her brothers vanish and fighting to retain it, while also seemingly happy to sell ATN to Mattson.

Add in the wishes and maneuvers of the board and the old guard, and it’s easy to see why Mattson smelled opportunity to bully into this situation and loot this sale for everything it’s worth. There is no longer a power figure like Logan Paul to dominate the Waystar side of the deal.

The problem, of course, is that he underestimated Kendall and Roman.

Succession ends this episode with Mattson increasing his offer and everyone except those two celebrating, seemingly making good on his threat to go behind their backs to pressure a deal into being made after Roman admitted to tanking it. Even more interesting, Mattson seems to think Shiv is a promising inroad to make this deal happen. I can see why. Shiv spends the entire episode seeing herself already being pushed out. She would theoretically have good reason to make the deal and assert her own power in this new Waystar dynamic.

I think Mattson has made a huge mistake with Shiv, at least if Shiv can see the possibilities here. Their isolated conversation suggests a huge chance for Shiv to flip the power dynamic with Mattson and gain leverage that could see her climb to the top of the ladder.

I think it’s a safe bet that Mattson’s creepy, bloodcicle-sending stalker attention might get turned in Shiv’s direction after this episode. She clearly intrigued him, and his comment about her being less judging about his gross story of stalking Ebba is exactly the kind of thing creeps like him interpret as a new target being open to that kind of attention. He’s already reaching out to her by the end of the episode, and Shiv is one-thousand percent smart enough and opportunistic enough to take advantage. Mattson’s attention also provides her a perfect opportunity to one-up her brothers.

The only complication here may be what appears to be an attempt to reconcile with Tom. Shiv extends a dinner invitation to him at the end of the episode, and with her pregnancy still a situation they need to talk about, we may be seeing the two mend bridges. If they were to give their marriage another try, it’s hard to believe that Tom would react well to Shiv having secretive communications with Lukas Mattson, or believe that Shiv’s intentions are totally innocent.

(How in the world would Tom react to finding an ice brick of Mattson’s blood? I kind of want to see this happen now.)

Ultimately, Shiv would probably tank any chance of reconciliation with Tom in exchange for the power a successful manipulation of Mattson provides her. The chance will likely be too good for her to pass up. If she’s looking for an inroad to get the old guard and the Waystar board to abandon her brothers and support her, then a successful relationship with Mattson, along with Kendall and Roman suddenly wanting to ruin the sale, would definitely make that happen.

Succession’s final season has already surprised me enough about the direction of this final season, but it appears as if this Mattson sale, and the wavering fortunes of the Roy children, will shape the story now. Everyone thinks Kendall and Roman are geniuses now, but will that last if they keep trying to ruin the sale? Will Shiv keep working behind their backs to take their spot? Will they finally reach some sort of understanding with each other?

I’m ready to be wrong again, because Succession’s final season has been spectacular.

Images Courtesy of HBO

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