Season 2, Episode 2: ‘The Vaulter’
After the season premiere of “Succession” last week, some fans on social media were abuzz about Siobhan’s new haircut, which is both eye-catching and sleek, in a style that underscores her intentions to be taken more seriously. Roman, of course, told his sister he hates the haircut, which makes sense given both his personality and the nature of their relationship. The two youngest Roy siblings spend a lot time laughing at the ridiculousness of their family and making fun of Kendall for trying so hard.
To care about a cause, or to try to be fashionable … It’s all a big joke to Roman and Siobhan. Or at least that’s what they tell each other.
That is made clear in this week’s episode by the way Roman behaves at the grown-up dinner party suggested by his girlfriend, Tabitha (Caitlin FitzGerald). While inviting Shiv and Tom to come over for “napkins and chitchat,” Roman rolls his eyes, describing how the conversation and meal will go. (“Race relations. Kale.”) When his sister arrives with Tom, Roman mocks the idea of playing host, greeting Tom at the door with an exaggerated macho voice, saying, “Manly handshake.” When Tabitha notes that he’s nervous about this dinner, Roman scoffs, wondering why he’d ever be anxious about “din-dins with fire crotch and norm core.”
Yet, in a rare moment of openness, Roman confides to Shiv that he thinks he’ll be their dad’s pick to run Waystar. Even more surprising: He thinks he deserves it because of how he’s just demolished a digital media powerhouse.
This week’s episode is called “Vaulter,” named for the media company that Waystar acquired in Season 1 as part of Kendall’s ambition to start expanding its media empire. Logan doesn’t trust Vaulter’s data — or its left-leaning, millennial-friendly content — so he sends Kendall and Roman over to their offices to see how they’re really doing. “The one who fixes it gets a cookie,” he says.
While’s Ken is poring over documents, Roman lazes around, making fun of the young journalists’ healthy smoothies and rooftop beehive. (He describes their business model as “conflict porn and hipster honey.”) Kendall eventually delivers one of his jargon-filled spiels, telling his father that Vaulter is a “body-pit” that just needs “grown-ups in the room” to make it a “lodestar.” Roman, waiting to hear what his brother would pitch so he could propose the opposite, counters that Vaulter is a money-suck, filled with ungrateful losers who are planning to unionize and don’t represent “our core values.”
To even Roman’s surprise, his dad agrees. Logan tells Kendall to go back to Vaulter to “gut it.” Initially confused about how to handle the alien feeling of actual accomplishment — “You did a thing,” Tabitha marvels — Roman decides that maybe he is actually smart. By the time Shiv comes over for dinner, Rome is feeling genuinely cocky for a change, rather than just posturing. Speculating on who might take over for Logan, the only rival he can imagine is Tom.
Speaking of Tom, Matthew Macfadyen has some of his best “Succession” scenes yet this week, as Shiv’s new husband embraces his new role at ATN, locking horns with the news division’s feisty executive Cyd Peach (Jeannie Berlin). Determined to prove he can cut some of the fat at ATN Tom orders Greg to hunt for waste — to “body-shame” it. He wants to fire people.
“In terms of skulls,” he keeps asking. “How many skulls?” When Greg suggest that digitizing the networks archives could net as many as 50 skulls, Tom replies, “I’m slavering, big man!”
Again, it cannot be overstated how wonderfully goofy Macfadyen’s line-readings are in the whole ATN sequence — and later, too, when Tom excitedly tells Shiv that he wants a meeting with Logan so he can “wine and dine him and make love to him with my ideas.” This all sets up the episode’s funniest scene, in which Siobhan finally admits that her dad has secretly named her as his successor and Tom has to feign enthusiasm. He plasters on a smile and his does his best fake laugh as she asks, “It’s hilarious, right?”
Shiv tells Tom she accepted the position “only as a play.” Having “a play” matters a great deal to the Roys. Before hearing about his wife’s big news, Tom was feeling excited that he had a move to make at ATN. And Shiv thinks she has two potential trump cards at her disposal, with her boss, Gil, floating the idea of her becoming his presidential chief of staff and her dad talking about her managerial training.
But Shiv maybe miscalculates her amount of leverage. She has become annoyed by Gil’s hypocrisy and paternalism. (Early in the episode, the camera lingers on his hand on her back, steering her around the campaign office.) So she quits and commits herself fully to Logan — who seems to lose interest the moment she says she’s on board.
The unexpected M.V.P. of the Roy family this week turns out to be Kendall, who has the best sneak attack. Because he doesn’t mind being loathed — heck, the man can’t even accept a hug from his own daughter — Ken sucker punches the Vaulter staff, pretending that he’s trying to save their jobs while he is secretly stealing their ideas and switching the entire venture over to user-generated content. For his efforts, he gets a chair in his dad’s office, and Roman gets banished again.
Roman responds to this smackdown by yelling at some random Waystar employee because this is another deeply ingrained Roy trait: managing insecurity by finding someone to belittle. For his part, Kendall ends this episode by shoplifting some batteries and then immediately tossing them in the garbage.
Of all the Roy siblings, Ken may still be best at actually getting something done because of his willingness to make an actual effort. But while he wants to be a builder like his old man, it may be that all he’s good for is taking what others have made and trashing it.
The Rich Are Different From You and Me:
The Roys are experts in reductive analogies. Last week, Shiv and Rome defined their philosophies for Waystar as “IBM it” and “Scooby-Doo it.” This week, Siobhan and Tom decide that the best plan for her future is that she should “Dick Morris things.”
This was a stellar episode for Cousin Greg and for Nicholas Braun’s performance of same. Greg’s key character trait is his desperate need to be considered a true Roy, which he demonstrates here when Connor smugly drops a reference to World War I, to which Greg reflexively says, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah … right!”
Later, Greg gets excited that Kendall is letting him stay in one of his unsold condos, thinking that this is an expression of familial affection … until he realizes that Kendall intends to us Greg’s new pad as his drug and sex party zone. Trying to maintain what he imagines to be the proper Roy decorum, Greg politely complains to Kendall, “Some of your acquaintances are maybe humping in my bedroom?”