Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
This story contains spoilers for the season four episode of Succession, Tailgate Party. Every week The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald will be recapping the latest episode of Succession. You can listen to our recap podcast here.
There comes a point in every relationship where the list of grievances is so long that the urge to protect it gives way to a more pressing need: eviscerating your partner with the truth.
It’s a byproduct of being involved with someone long-term. All that silent point scoring begins to add up, and before you know it, you’re outside on a balcony at a party, imploding your marriage while the people inside try not to notice.
Party at Shiv and Tom’s place? Count me in sounds like fun!Credit: HBO / Binge
From the minute we learned that Shiv and Tom, whose recent reunion felt as unstable as the rest of their marriage, would be co-hosting WayStar’s annual election eve party, it felt fraught with danger. As anyone who’s ever attended a house party knows, it’s an environment primed for chaos. Take a group of people who vaguely know each other, add in litres of alcohol, uninvited guests, secret chats and unhappy couples, then sit back and watch the drama unfold.
Like every other episode this season, Tailgate Party delivered plenty to unpack.
Set on the eve of the US presidential election, Roman and Kendall are still attempting to block Lukas Matsson’s attempted acquisition of WayStar, this time using potential government regulation to put a halt to things. As it turns out, Matsson has more to hide than just his penchant for frozen blood. His communications advisor, Ebba, lets slip that he’s been fudging GoJo’s subscriber numbers in India and overinflating the company’s worth.
Meanwhile, Roman attempted to unfire Gerri, but she didn’t bite. Instead, she blackmailed him, demainding a fat payout, or she’ll release “many, many pictures of your genitalia.”
Roman also spent the party encouraging Connor to drop out of the presidential race as a favour to the ailing Republic nominee, Jeryd Mencken. His prize for pulling out? An ambassadorship in Oman. Oh, boy.
But for all the turmoil that Tailgate Party served up, it was a six-and-a-half-minute scene between Tom and Shiv which reminded us why this show is so painfully watchable. For much of this season, Tom and Shiv have been the microcosm for Succession’s obsession with how absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Originally, theirs was a relationship founded on imbalance, Shiv leads, and Tom follows.
It’s a complex dynamic to shake, and even Tom fools himself into believing it still stands, gifting Shiv a scorpion paperweight at the start of the episode because “I love you, but you kill me.” A not-so-subtle nod to the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog.
But since the betrayal in season three, it’s been clear that the corruption of Tom Wambsgans is complete. Despite his “here to serve” attitude, he can and will do whatever it takes to survive, more scorpion than frog.
Tom and Shiv have become two scorpions, and no amount of orgasmic Olympic-level makeup sex can paper over the cracks that appear in Tailgate Party.
By the time Shiv learns that Matsson might be a fraud and Tom realises Matsson intends to fire him should the merger go through (and Shiv’s OK with that), the scene is set for a confrontation that is so uncomfortably honest watching it back almost feels voyeuristic.
Away from the party, the pair agree to “clear the air”, but what begins as an argument about a single betrayal snowballs into complete forensic cataloguing of a broken relationship.
Two scorpions and a whole bunch of baggage. Shiv and Tom took their passive aggression to a new level in Tailgate Party. Credit: HBO / Binge
Not for the first time all Shiv can focus on is herself, worrying that her allegiance to Mattson is about to backfire. “I am f—ing my family for this,” she says. It’s a big play, asking Tom to sympathise when he is about to become collateral damage should Mattson take over.
Perhaps OldTom might’ve offered a shoulder to cry on, but NewTom is not so quickly swayed, offering only a cold shoulder and a hot take instead.
“You will be OK because you’re a tough f—ing bitch, and you always survive because you will do what you need,” spits Tom.
It’s about this time that Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook kick into awards season mode, escalating their fight into one of Succession’s most bruising and devastating exchanges.
Tom takes it way back to the beginning, telling Shiv she never should’ve married him because she finds it hard to think about anyone other than herself. Shiv raises the stakes by admitting she only said yes because “she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.” How sweet.
Now that the gloves are off, the time has come to indulge in one of the cruellest things two people who know each other inside out can do: press on the sore points.
“You’re a hick; you were only with me to get the power; you’re f—ing me for my DNA because your whole family is striving and parochial,” says Shiv.
Touching on Tom’s hidden past hits a nerve, but he has plenty of his own material to call upon. He reminds her she was ready to let him go to prison, “and you won’t have my baby.”
Shiv shrugs this off, calling him “servile” and “pathetic”, but now Tom’s on a roll, ending the fight and, most likely, this short-lived reunion with the kind of words you can’t take back.
“You are incapable of love, and you are maybe not a good person to have children,” he says.
Of course, Tom doesn’t know that Shiv is pregnant; no one does. Nor does he realise that this is a line we’ve heard once before when Shiv’s own mother told her in Tuscany that “some people just aren’t made to be mothers.”
Sarah Snook waiting patiently for awards season.Credit: HBO
The impact of that truth – because, let’s face it, no one in the Roy family should reproduce – shakes Shiv to her core.
“I don’t like you, I don’t even care about you, you don’t deserve me, and you never did,” she says before returning inside.
Succession has never been short of great scenes; it’s an exquisitely written series performed by talented actors. But the dissolution of Tom and Shiv was nothing short of breathtaking, tapping into the ugliest parts of real life to remind us how easy it is to hurt the ones we claim to love the most.
For a series that can regularly be confusing (show of hands if the business lingo bamboozles you), Succession got real, and it hurt so good.
The fight between Shiv and Tom might have been the best confrontation of the episode, but it wasn’t the only one. Just before BalconyGate, Kendall took it to Matsson, armed with the information that GoJo’s actual subscriber figures in India are half what they’ve stated.
After Roman learns that Matsson is cooking the books (something Kendall would NEVER do), he begins hatching a plan to bleed the Swede once and for all.Credit: HBO / Binge
“Your numbers, exploding, like literally unbelievable,” he says, needling the Swede.
Mattson counters by calling Kendall’s Living+ projections “gay”, which feels weird but also on brand for the increasingly unhinged character, who has gone from Norse god to weird internet loser. The bro down ends with Mattson asking what Kendall thinks of the deal. “Are you kidding? Biggest overpay in history. Love that s–-t. Love it. Love the deal.”
They seal the deal by hugging it out, but the deal has never felt less real, especially when we see Kendall take Frank into a side room. Whenever two characters are alone in a room on Succession, it usually means something big is about to happen.
Cue Kendall’s reverse Viking reveal: “We pillage their village, and WayStar acquires GoJo.”
It’s a Hail Mary play that only Kendall (or maybe Logan) could come up with, and when Frank asks about Shiv and Roman, we get even greater insight into just how low Number One boy is prepared to go. “I love them, but I’m not in love with them,” he says. “One head, one crown.”
This moment of laser focus bookends nicely with the start of the episode, which saw Kendall meet up with his ex-wife, Rava.
Kendall and ATN are saving the world to make it a safer place for our children. Don’t you get it, Rava?Credit: HBO / Binge
She tells him their daughter Sophie is being bullied because of her father’s association with ATN. Kendall tries to play the role of concerned dad, but it feels hollow; from what we can gather, he’s barely even spoken to Sophie.
“Just call your daughter,” says Rava. “Obviously, I will do anything to protect her,” replies Kendall.
But if we’ve learned anything from Tailgate Party, protecting the ones you love is easy to say and hard to do.
Succession is dropping new episodes every Monday on Foxtel and Binge.
Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.
Most Viewed in Culture
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article