Season 3, Episode 4: ‘Lion in the Meadow’
Last week’s punishingly bleak “Succession” episode was maybe the roughest since Season 2’s “Hunting” (a.k.a.“Boar on the Floor”). But as often happens in this series, this week’s episode pulls back a bit, bringing some much-needed comic relief alongside the ongoing melodrama. In “Lion in the Meadow,” the Roys take a break from scorching the Earth and get back to more subtle power plays, using schoolyard insults and small gestures of disrespect to needle each other. It’s all so oddly delightful.
The pettiness comes early and often. When Kendall has to join a Waystar conference call to strategize about the upcoming shareholders’ meeting, he uses an unprintable variation on “Little Lord Fauntleroy” as his sign-on (which is then repeated, hilariously, when he abruptly hangs up). Later, when he’s asked to talk with Logan briefly on a private airstrip tarmac, before they both meet up with a nervous Waystar investor, Kendall zooms off to get to the meeting first, leaving the message, “Tell Dad, ‘Meep-meep’ … It’s from ‘Road Runner.’” For the most part, that’s the level of the attacks and counterattacks this week.
The investor in question is Josh Aaronson (Adrien Brody), who owns about 4 percent of Waystar — a holding which, he complains, has lost 10 percent of its value since Kendall started giving news conferences. If Josh is going to back the Roys over Sandy and Stewy at the shareholders’ meeting, he needs to know how far this family feud will go. Does Kendall really want his father in jail? Does Logan really think his son is a mentally ill drug addict? How does this all end? Can the Roys maybe “close up the outrage shop”?
There’s another reason Josh invites Logan and Kendall to join him at his sprawling estate. He needs to know if they think of him as a smart guy who knows what to do with his money — and is thus owed some respect — or as some speculator who got lucky, and who only has value because of what he can buy. Is he really an important part of their business? Is he a part of this Waystar family?
The biggest chunk of this episode features these three guys putting on a show for each other. Josh tries to tease a little honesty out of the Roys, while Logan and Kendall pretend they’re still a loving family running a viable business, and wielding acumen no outsider can match. What makes these scenes so absorbing is that it’s not too hard to imagine Kendall, and maybe even Logan, wanting to believe the fantasy they’re selling. As they sit side by side in their matching black baseball caps — with Logan saying he can still see his son in charge of Waystar someday, and Kendall lovingly calling his old man “geezer” — they almost seem to be playing roles they wish were real.
It doesn’t last. The first few times Josh steps away, the Roys maintain stony silence. Later, as they walk back to the main house through some exhaustingly bumpy hills, Josh leaves the two behind and they start making threats, each insisting the other is playing with a weak hand.
Then Logan gets physically ill and the game is up. Josh makes it clear he can only back the Roys if Logan is running things, and seeing the patriarch stumble spooks him — as does Kendall’s attempt to keep talking business while his father is sick. The first cue that these three weren’t on the same page came earlier in the day, when Kendall called the Beatles a “great band” and Josh and Logan both said they’re just a “good band.” The lines were drawn then. Kendall never could convince Josh to cross them.
Beyond the vigorous one-upmanship on the beach, what makes this episode so lively is that much of it is spent with the two most reliably comic “Succession” characters: Greg and Tom.
Greg is persuaded to meet with Logan, who offers him a drink and then exasperatedly calls in his assistant to sweeten the nervous, indecisive kid’s cocktail with Coca-Cola. (The sound of the soda can opening is like a tiny rebuke to Greg’s manly ambitions.) Logan lets his great-nephew know that he has a little leverage over Waystar right now, and that he needs to use it wisely. Greg, though, is too shaky to assert himself. He keeps getting distracted by his beverage, calling it “strong for a man” and reflecting on the hard-drinking olden days, saying, “I don’t know how you did it back in the ’60s. Different times indeed. Better times? Not for all.”
As for Tom, he’s been spending his time lately trying to pick out a good prison for himself and indulging in gallows humor, laughing that his co-workers are calling him “Terminal Tom.” Finally he breaks down in front of Shiv, dropping his fake-courage and musing anxiously about his future life behind bars.
“What if I forget to burp the toilet wine?” he frets. “How late can I read? When is lights-out?”
There’s a good contrast between the Logan/Kendall/Josh scenes — featuring three guys comfortable with flexing — and the much sillier confrontation in this episode between Tom and Greg. When Tom tries to get his former lackey to make a clear decision on what he wants, Greg finally admits that he’d like to be moved into a leadership position in Waystar’s theme parks division. Tom then moans again about jail before trying to wrestle with Greg, snarling, “Let’s fight like chickens!”
Greg refuses, shouting, “I don’t want to do it,” prompting Tom to reply, “Neither do I, Greg!” He tries to turn this into avuncular advice saying, “You’re so hard to riff with. That is a big career obstacle.”
But that “neither do I” may be the most honest moment Tom has had in this show. Guys like Logan genuinely enjoy a bloody fray. Guys like Tom only like it when they’re winning.
The three other Roy children all get moments in the spotlight this week, too. While Kendall and Logan are strutting by the sea, Shiv is back at the office hustling to execute some of her dad’s big plans. These include interfering with ATN’s editorial independence by suggesting the news team take a harder line on the presidential administration. For her trouble, she gets a cranky phone call from her father, who is annoyed that the other executives are complaining about her. “I don’t need another toothache,” he growls. Logan also reminds Shiv, somewhat ominously, that no position he takes is set in stone. “Nothing is a line,” he says. “Everything, everywhere, is always moving, forever.”
Meanwhile, Connor is still figuring out what he can ask for in exchange for being publicly loyal to Logan. He nixes Shiv’s idea that he become a host on one of Waystar’s travel and cuisine shows, because he still has presidential ambitions and he doesn’t think that spitting out wine on cable TV is going to help his numbers in the Rust Belt. Currently his team is angling for 2024; Connor assumes the current president — who everyone calls “the Raisin” — is going to get re-elected. But who knows? Maybe if Connor resumes his campaign in earnest, he can also help with Shiv’s White House problem.
As for Roman, he is initially distracted by the news that Gerri is going on a date. (“With who?” he asks, incredulously. “Montgomery Clift? The Ghost of Christmas Past?”) Once he gets past that, he suggests a particularly nasty way to take down Kendall: By locating “Tattoo Man,” a down on his luck guy his brother once paid to tattoo his initials on his forehead, while the siblings were on an “ironic” New Orleans bar crawl. The man has since had the tattoo removed, but Roman eventually persuades him to provide Waystar with an old picture, which Gerri suggests Roman keep under wraps for now. She advises him to start asking himself, with every bold move or dirty trick, “How does this advance my position?”