'Succession' Season 4 Episode 8 Recap: The Will of Some People (2023)


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It's election night in America. Stay away from bodega sushi.

'Succession' Season 4 Episode 8 Recap: The Will of Some People (1)

AfterNoel Murray

Season 4, Episode 8: 'America Decides'

The day before Logan Roy died, he issued a fiery call to arms to his ATN staff, letting them know what he expected from the network going forward. The speech was an angrier version of the populist spiel he has given many times before, in which he insisted that news should always be honest and unpretentious. He wanted his hosts to tell their viewers "true" things they had never heard anyone say on television before. He wanted ATN to be, in a word, "spicy".

During this week's action-packed and nerve-racking episode "succession,” Logan's kids bicker a lot about what the old man would like them to do, while the presidential race between Republican Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) and Democrat Daniel Jimenez (Elliot Villar) comes down to a few battleground states. A big sticking point is Milwaukee, where a fire at a vote-counting facility destroyed enough ballots to turn Wisconsin from blue to red.

How would Logan handle this? Would you keep the "no battlefield leader" policy and leave all ATN messages to the Decision Desk geeks? Or would he take the opportunity that Mencken offered Roman, to shape the narrative so that Mencken's camp (and therefore Roy's) are the big winners that night?

However, to wonder what Logan would do is to miss the real point of the problem. It was clear from Logan's defense of ATN that he didn't care if his network aired the facts. He preferred "truth" - which has a more flexible definition, depending on who is speaking.

On this election night, upstairs in the ATN executive offices, there are two opposing truths, represented by Jimenez supporter Shiv and Mencken supporter Roman. Every time Shiv tries to turn the conversation to things like Menkenite obstructionists in "victory vans," Roman shouts, "False flag!" and changes ominous vehicles into "fun buses". The Roys are at a dead end.

The novel has a decisive advantage, given that ATN already has what Tom calls a "unique perspective" on the news. While other networks suggest that Mencken's criminals may have burned the votes in Milwaukee, ATN floats theories like "electrical failure." (Roman would prefer to go with "Antifa firebombing".) At one point, ATN anchor Mark Ravenhead (Zack Robidas) delivers a Tucker Carlson-like rant during the network's supposedly neutral coverage, attacking leftists for trying to deflect fire to their political advantage.

Roman also has Kendall and Tom on his side, somewhat. Kendall hesitates because he is not a fan of Mencken. When he mentions to Romano that he fears what the Mencken administration might mean for his adopted daughter Sophie, his brother mocks him for caring about the ideals of American pluralism. Roman compares their whole argument to when they were kids, when Kendall played the sober older brother in order to get chicken for dinner, while the grumpier Roman wanted a steak.

Kendall asks, "Because we had so much chicken when you were a kid, we have to choose a fascist?" And while he's joking, those kinds of long-winded put-downs are what drive the decision-making on this night.

As for Tom, he's under pressure to silence his critics by delivering big ratings for ATN's election coverage. To get there, he endures flashing touchscreens and a steady stream of Roys entering restricted areas of the newsroom. Tom still tends to side with Roman, perhaps because it puts him at odds with Shiva, whom he has not forgiventheir vicious argumentat the tailgate party. Even when she tries to win him over by finally telling him she's pregnant with his child, he teases her as another "tactic" asking if she's lying.

Shiv overall has no problem on election night. As the evening takes a nightmarish turn on Mencken's ways, she has a heart-to-heart with Kendall—in reflectiontouching scene of season 2in which he confided in her that he would never be Logan's choice to run the company. Here he listens to Shiva's argument that ATN could slow Mencken's momentum. Their Decision Desk guru, Darwin (Adam Godley), knows from historical data and exit polls where Milwaukee's votes would go. They could put Darwin on camera and let him explain why ATN won't project a winner in Wisconsin.

But two things stand in the way. The first is that Kendall really wants the next president to reverse the GoJo deal, which Roman insists Mencken will do. So Kendall asks Shiv to try one more time to convince her ex-lover Nate to get Jimenez to make the same promise. Instead, she just pretends to call and then lies to Kendall, saying that the Jimenez people are willing to consider his proposal. This sets up another obstacle: when Kendall calls on Nate to repeat more clearly what Shiv claims he said.

There's some phenomenal staging in this episode, most of which involves people passing phones back and forth — and at one point even holding one phone up to another so people on the line can talk to each other. But the best phone sequence is Kendall's call to Nate, mostly inaudible from the other side of one of ATN's huge office windows, while Shiv looks on in fear. After Kendall learns from Nate that Shiv never called him, he goes to talk to Greg, who Shiv knows is aware of her consultation with Matsson.

Kendall, feeling betrayed by the sibling he trusts the most, spits some icy words in Shiv's direction and then tells Tom to call Mencken. ATN will indeed help elevate an authoritarian to the most powerful public office in America because a spoiled brat is in a bind.

While this episode is incredibly entertaining, it's uncomfortably closer to real-world politics than is typical of "Succession." The show always features characters and ideas inspired by real-life political figures, but creator Jesse Armstrong uses them mostly as a backdrop to the Roy family drama — and as a way to generally satirize the blinded arrogance of the powerful. But here, the way the election plays out is so similar to the specific circumstances of 2016 and 2020 that it might stir up bad memories for anyone who sweated and toiled that night.

That's OK, although while Roman can make "ironic" racist comments in the newsroom and can assure Shiv that "nothing happens" when horrible people take over, Armstrong here shows that the pettiness of the Roys and their ilk has consequences. For this family, it's all about banking on a profit in the moment, regardless of whether it turns into a loss later. That's what their father taught them: Take what you can, when you can, and let others clean up after it.

As the evening ends—with ATN naming Wisconsin and the presidency because of Mencken without letting Darwin explain that this is all just "on hold"—Roman sums up what happened in a way that Logan Roy would understand.

"We just made a night of good TV."

In-depth analysis

  • Tom also has a bad election night, which ends with Greg handing him his phone and saying, "A lot of very important people want to scream at you." Still, this is a great episode for fans of the sick Tom-Greg dynamic. Unwilling to entrust the "Gregging" he needs to anyone but Greg, Tom keeps his lanky footman close at hand, relying on him for everything from a quick hit of cocaine (Tom: "It's not a thing. It doesn't go in a book.") to two-way coffee Tom lays out a doomsday scenario where Greg can't stop him from getting sleepy, Tom miscalls the results in Colorado, China invades Taiwan, the world explodes, and "We're back in an amoeba."

  • One of Tom's non-Greg assistants makes the mistake of bringing bodega sushi to the office, which Tom declines ("Tonight, my digestive system is basically part of the Constitution!"), but Greg eats carelessly, eventually leading to a stray smear of wasabi ending up in Darwin's eyes. Greg makes it worse by pouring La Croix lemon on the affected area. ("It's not a lemon!" he insists.) In accordance with Tom's dire warnings, the Roys begin to make the decision to call an election for Mencken while Darwin is briefly incapacitated by food.

  • Once Connor learns that he has lost Kentucky ("Alas Kentucky, Willa . . . alas vanity"), he tries to placate Mencken, offering him "a concession in his direction." So we get the wonderful spectacle of Connor giving a peppered acceptance speech in front of a sign bearing his campaign slogan: "Enough already!"

  • Just because ATN declared Mencken the winner doesn't mean the election is over. The Milwaukee mess needs to be addressed; and it could all end with Wisconsin passing on Jimenez. In other words: once again about "Succession", a big thing remains unresolved.


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