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On Succession, all the world’s a stage, and the Roys are flubbing their lines

But Connor finally gets his moment in the spotlight.

People sitting and standing around a circular table in a white-tablecloth restaurant.
Connor Roy (Alan Ruck), center, and his siblings at his wedding rehearsal dinner in Episode 2 of Succession season 4.
Macall B. Polay/HBO
Whizy Kim is a reporter covering how the world's wealthiest people wield influence, including the policies and cultural norms they help forge. Before joining Vox, she was a senior writer at Refinery29.

Note: This article contains spoilers for several Succession episodes, particularly season four, episode two, “Rehearsal.”

Rehearsal, the second episode of the last season of Succession, is an episode full of speeches, pitches, and, as always in Succession, power plays. Everyone wants to prove that they’re standing just a little bit taller than their enemies, and to do it, they’re moving in unfamiliar spaces.

On the precipice of selling Waystar to tech company GoJo, Logan (Brian Cox) ignites panic when he unceremoniously drops by the headquarters of his news network, ATN. He’s “terrifyingly moseying” around the floor of the newsroom, Greg (Nicholas Braun) tells Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), as if looking for prey to kill. “It’s like Jaws,” Greg frets, “if everyone in Jaws worked for Jaws.”

But it’s hard not to notice that Logan is a shark out of water. Logan in the cavernous ATN newsroom feels uncomfortable not because he’s breathing down everyone’s neck — though he is — but because the lights are too bright, laying bare that Logan Roy is just an ordinary little man, the kind who stands on top of boxes of paper to give an awkwardly bombastic speech to the ATN employees.

“This is not the end. I’m going to build something better,” Logan vows to the ATN staff. He’s a football coach before the big game, and he’s going to steer ATN through a new, irrepressibly bold new age. He’s bursting with youthful ambition and a fervor to conquer the world. You’d hardly believe this was a man who was considering retirement back in season one.

And he makes an announcement that sends a shiver down every employee’s spine: He’s going to be spending a lot more time at ATN.

He’s not the only one in this episode to roam in unexpected places. At one point, the Roy children find themselves in a dive bar. And later, all of them, Logan included, have a real family meeting — the kind that they should have had during their publicity stunt of a family therapy session in season one — in a private room at a karaoke bar that resembles a spaceship, colored lights dancing across the walls in stark dissonance with the gravity of their meeting.

Connor doesn’t want to be himself

If you’ve ever wondered what each member of the Roy family would sing at karaoke — a Rorschach test for someone’s character — this episode provides at least one answer. Connor (Alan Ruck), the eldest Roy child, spends the eve of his wedding mournfully belting Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat. Connor has decided to marry Willa (Justine Lupe), a former escort, and he’s morose after she has walked out during their rehearsal dinner, announcing, “I can’t do this.”

Connor wants to indulge in some escapism — it seems like he didn’t even have a bachelor party — and wants to go to a “real bar” with “guys who work with their hands” and “have blood in their hair.” They find such a dive bar somewhere in Manhattan. Connor, cosplaying the life of a down-home dude, orders a “Belgian weissbier, but not a Hoegaarden.”

He wants to be someone other than Connor Roy, rich son of an even richer father, for the night. Connor both draws in and drives away Willa, who sees the usefulness of his wealth but also chafes at how much power he has. It’s suffocating. Even at the bar, Connor is constantly checking her location on his phone.

Connor has long occupied himself in pursuits different from his younger siblings. Instead of vying to take over the family business, he’s flushing his inheritance away on a presidential bid in which he’s polling at a “soft” 1 percent. Connor has been on the fringes of the war between his siblings and father, but in this episode, he’s the stagehand ferrying these feuding characters from one surreal set to another. After the bar, he implores his siblings to do karaoke with him — and even gets Logan to join them.

True to the episode’s title, everyone is prone to theatrics in Rehearsal. So much of the Roys’ lives is a performance, with scripts and often unconvincing line readings. It’s different from the usual deceptions they knowingly and sometimes gleefully commit. Sometimes it’s only within the artifice of performance that people can tell the truth. As Connor belts out Famous Blue Raincoat — a song in which Cohen addresses a friend or a family member that he’s estranged from — he’s being more honest and vulnerable than he could ever be in the cold light of day.

Kerry wants to be a TV star

Back at ATN, beyond reminding his little worker bees how much of his money they’re wasting, Logan is visiting for the very important mission of securing a job for his assistant/girlfriend, Kerry (Zoe Winters). Kerry has aspirations to become an ATN anchor; Tom and Cyd (Jeannie Berlin) lie through their teeth, telling Logan that Kerry is deserving of a slot on the network. In reality, Kerry is clearly uncomfortable in front of the camera: She garbles her words, smiles sinisterly as she reads off dire headlines, and can’t figure out what to do with her arms. Logan goes through the motions of pretending he’s not laying a metric ton of pressure on Tom and Cyd, but he’s never been an ethical leader. “She’s my assistant. It would be very unprofessional of me to get involved,” he sighs.

Everyone is laughing behind Kerry’s back because somehow everyone has gotten hold of her audition tape (including Logan’s children). Dating a powerful man like Logan comes with its perks, clearly, but one wonders if it’s worth the unrelenting humiliation. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) muses that Kerry being made an ATN anchor is an undeniable sign of his father’s “total loss of judgment and control.” But in contrast to the bellicose pep talk he gives at ATN, when it comes to romance, Logan is a coward. Instead, Greg is left with the task of trying to convince Kerry that being an ATN anchor would be way more trouble than it’s worth, but he fails spectacularly because, unlike the Roys, Greg is very bad at the art of manipulation. His superpower is getting people to think the exact opposite of what he wants them to think.

That GoJo sale is totally happening (except maybe with a tiny delay)

Logan hasn’t gone entirely soft — he’s still an apex predator. Rehearsal sees Kendall, Shiv, and Roman feeling the fallout of their showdown with their father over Pierce Global Media in the last episode. Logan isn’t one to let an insult go; his children stole PGM from him, so he revokes their access to the company helicopter. The trio doesn’t discover that they’re grounded until they’re already on the tarmac, running late for Connor’s rehearsal dinner. It barely even registers as a shock; of course their father reacted vindictively, that’s his eternal nature — would you get angry at a storm for knocking down trees?

But that’s not the only way Logan is sniping back. Shiv finds out that his father is helping Tom, her soon-to-be ex-husband, conflict out all the best divorce attorneys in New York so none of them can represent Shiv.

This latest affront drives Shiv to make contact with Sandi Furness (Hope Davis), a Waystar board member, the day before the board will vote to approve the sale. Sandi and Stewy (Arian Moayed), another board member, believe that Logan is selling Waystar to GoJo for a criminally low price — they want the kids to vote against the sale with them so they can return to the table for a higher price. It is, after all, what their father would do, and in business they should all naturally emulate Logan.

Shiv acts like she’s suddenly interested in squeezing more money out of the deal — that’s just good business sense — but it’s not a convincing act. As usual, the true driving force is that her feelings are wounded, and delaying the sale is a way she can get back at Logan for the divorce lawyer ploy.

Shiv’s brothers aren’t on board with delaying the sale, though — who cares about an extra billion or two? Kendall and Roman are ready to wash their hands of Waystar and collect their guaranteed payout tomorrow. But Sandi and Stewy, and now Shiv, want to force Logan “back into the ring for one last round.”

They spend most of the brief time they spend at Connor’s wedding rehearsal dinner bickering back and forth about it, while Connor is full of anxiety over where Willa is. She ran out of the dinner right as she was about to give her speech. Willa, despite her obsession with being taken seriously as a playwright, can’t plaster on a fake smile and read her prepared lines like the rest of the family.

What changes Kendall’s mind about delaying the Waystar sale is when GoJo CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) enters the stage. He calls Kendall, ostensibly to make sure the kids aren’t thinking of blocking the sale tomorrow. He takes a threatening tack. “Don’t push me,” he says, claiming that if they go back to the table, he’ll walk away. For some reason they’re on a video call, and Kendall can see that Matsson is up late drinking soda and eating junk food — it’s not just Stewy and Sandi who are stressed about the possibility of leaving money on the table, Matsson is more stressed than he’s letting on, too. As he rambles on, Kendall has the dawning realization about Matsson’s show of aggression. It means he’s worried, and there’s absolutely room to drive the price higher. It’s also one more opportunity — maybe the grand finale opportunity — to blow up one of Logan’s deals. Shiv suggests that maybe Logan has truly lost his touch if he’s getting taken advantage of by Matsson.

Back at the bar, Roman gets a text message from Logan, and his siblings are aghast. Roman reveals that he texted his dad happy birthday. It would have been bad enough if he’d replied to a text, but to send multiple unsolicited texts to their father? “We said no contact until he apologizes,” Shiv says in an utterly scandalized tone. “So, then, never?” Roman retorts.

It’s an interesting revelation, even if it isn’t entirely surprising. After a lifetime of abuse, it’d be understandable if they chose to have no contact with their father forever. But what they’re looking for isn’t an exit; it’s for Logan to bend the knee. Shiv and Kendall attribute Roman’s disinterest in stonewalling to his fear of conflict, not as a philosophical difference on what lines to cross or not cross when you’re angry at family.

The Roys do a song and dance

The Roy siblings take their argument to the next destination: a private karaoke room in Manhattan’s Koreatown. To be clear, for all their flair for the dramatic, the Roy siblings are not karaoke people. They’re only here because, in some recess of their hearts, they feel bad for their oldest brother, who may or may not be getting married tomorrow.

They don’t pity him for long. Connor drops a bombshell: He told Logan about their plan to puncture the sale, and Logan is currently en route to meet them.

Most of the time, a private karaoke room is the absolute worst place to have an important conversation. But the Roys (plus Kerry) have a serious heart-to-heart. Logan waltzes in with a conciliatory, almost remorseful tone. “I guess I wanted you there at my party,” he says, referring to the birthday party that Kendall, Shiv, and Roman skipped in the last episode. Does anyone believe this mask for even a second?

His children don’t. They drip with sarcasm and bile. “Holy shit,” Kendall says. “Did Dad just say a feeling?” Shiv tells Logan to cut the shit; it’s clear he’s here because he needs them to not torpedo the vote tomorrow. But their father tries to play a siren song, proposing a future where they can coexist, where they’ve moved beyond the constant cycle of fighting — he’ll run ATN, they’ll run Pierce, and their relationships will be healthier. It’s a complete fairy tale. Too much has been said and done to so easily untangle the knots of their resentment and wounds. Kerry tries to advocate for Logan, which is a mistake. Kendall, Shiv, and Roman turn vicious on her.

“Look,” Logan says. “I don’t do apologies. But if it means so much to you, then sorry.” There’s a moment of deafening silence. “There’s nothing you could say to me now that I would ever believe,” Shiv replies.

Roman asks the real question: What is he even sorry for? They squabble back and forth, with Logan trying to gaslight them, Shiv bringing up his aid to Tom in their divorce, and Kendall dragging out old skeletons in the closet around how Logan has treated all of them.

Logan’s patience wears out at last. They’re not interested in seeing sense — his version of what’s wise, at least — they just want an airing of agonies. “I love you,” he says before he makes his exit, “but you are not serious people.”

And that’s the show. The curtains fall.


Afterward, Shiv and Kendall crow about how exhilarating it was to verbally beat up their father. But it feels like they’re just papering over what they really feel — shaken, uncertain, and realizing that hurt and anger are still embedded deep even after what was supposed to be their cathartic, climactic moment. Connor calls his younger siblings “needy love sponges,” and asserts that he’s made peace with a lack of love. “The good thing about having a family that doesn’t love you is you learn to live without it,” he says.

Except no one really learns to live without love. They only develop coping mechanisms. On the car ride home, Shiv stares at her phone, contemplating calling Tom. Connor, despite his declarations, returns to his place and is relieved to find Willa already there. Roman, meanwhile, goes to Logan’s apartment. Logan wants his youngest son to come with him to visit Matsson in Sweden tomorrow — the day of Connor’s wedding. He dangles the carrot of Roman becoming head of ATN. But more persuasive than the job is Logan’s answer when Roman questions if he really wants him to lead the network. Logan tells him that he needs his son.

It’s all his children have ever dreamed of.