Succession’s plotlines routinely rip from the headlines, then keep digging. Part of the appeal of the show is that it gives texture and color to something we’ve always known deep down: the rich only care about getting richer.
This week’s episode, however, takes the most optimistic stance the show has yet, implying that a congressional hearing that exposed gross misconduct could have repercussions for the powerful people involved.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Succession season 2, episode 9, “DC”]
Whether or not the Roys will lose control of their company due to “10 bad minutes on camera” remains to be seen, but the fact that it’s a real possibility seems hopeful to the point of fantasy.
“DC” was really hard to watch for a lot of reasons. One, of course, is that teary-eyed Matthew Macfadyen is a truly devastating sight. And as obnoxious as Roman is, I still don’t think he deserves to die in a Turkish hotel. But also, I’m just exhausted. It feels like every week for the past two years there’s been a new congressional hearing I’m supposed to pay attention to: the Facebook hearings, Christine Blasey Ford’s brave testimony, these new impeachment inquiries. At turns infuriating and inspiring, those frenzied news cycles all amounted to a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing but some serious collective trauma.
Succession has never been a series anyone goes to to for escapism, but the last few episodes in particular have gotten increasingly troubling as the show takes on some of our culture’s most pressing — and depressing — issues. The #MeToo-inspired cruises scandal has been bubbling over all season, bringing out the worst in my favorite characters. There is at least a little bit of catharsis that, yes, everyone involved in this kinds of coverup is just as monstrous as we thought, but it’s still not a fun reminder.
Still, the panic that washes over Logan’s apartment is the closest I’ve ever gotten to feeling hopeful while watching this show. Heck, the committee hearing that follows is the closest I’ve ever gotten to feeling hopeful while watching Congressional testimony. This episode is as excruciating to watch as the rest of the show, but their acute distress triggers a kind of schadenfreude that I’ve mostly been denied while watching Succession.
Despite (or perhaps because of) running a right-wing news organization, the Roys don’t seem to respect the government very much. Logan pointedly makes the President wait to take his phone calls. Roman exclaims, “Fuck Congress,” and seems very proud of himself for doing so. Even Shiv, who worked in politics for years before being promised the family business, seems to view politicians more as power brokers than public servants.
The idea that the Roys could very well lose control of their company because of, of all things, a Congressional hearing does ring of the kind of Shakespearean irony we’ve come to expect from this show. I don’t necessarily expect that to happen — Logan and Shiv in particular have proved that they’re willing to sink to despicable depths in order to hold onto power and it’s looking like Tom’s the closest patsy — but the fact that they’re this worried about it is almost refreshing.
As the penultimate episode of season 2, “DC” largely exists to set up some finale bombshells. Rhea quits, Roman is held hostage, and Logan calls for a “blood sacrifice.” But it also, for a brief moment, let us live in a world where the people who think the rules don’t apply to them might actually face some consequences for that attitude.