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‘Succession’ Recap, S2E3: Takeover Defense

Succession is a show about family. But the HBO series is also very much a show about business: money, power, influence, ego, and the machinations of corporate America.

As such, it’s the perfect show for us at Fortune to recap as the saga of the Roy family and their Waystar Royco media empire unfolds over the weeks to come. In the third episode of the new season: force multipliers, hyper-decanting, and boars on floors. (You can read last week’s recap here.)

There are myriad ways to fend off a hostile takeover of one’s company—various “poison pill” iterations and proxy fight tactics to escape the sort of “bear hug” that Waystar Royco finds itself enveloped in. 

But Logan Roy, having thrown an army of suits at the problem, has one very big trick up his sleeve: a takeover of his own. The best way to ward off his hostile suitors is to make himself too big to swallow, so he plots an acquisition of rival media conglomerate PGM, owned by the Pierce family. “The bigger, the better,” Logan says, noting that his would-be raiders, Sandy Furness and Stewy Hosseini, would “choke” trying to digest the supersized Waystar.

The silent reservations among those in the room are almost palpable, but no one says anything—at least not to Logan’s face. Once he leaves, the second thoughts emerge; Roman notes that PGM is Uncle Ewan’s favorite news channel and Logan simply wants to piss off his estranged brother, while Gerri cites an old grudge with PGM over an old New York Mail article.

Kendall can see the sense behind the move; PGM would be “a force multiplier,” its acquisition “basically plug-and-play for us,” and Waystar would further strengthen its hold upon American media (“One sector, many brands,” Ken says). But he can see why Karl is afraid they’re “rolling the dice on a $20 billion crapshoot.” The deal would be heavily leveraged, and if the debt from the acquisition becomes unmanageable for Waystar, Kendall acknowledges that the fortunes of the company, as well as their own professional reputations, “could death spiral.”

Yet the extent to which all concerned are terrified of Logan Roy—and the manner in which he wields this power to his own ends—is a central theme of this week’s episode, and none concerned are willing to voice their opposition to the deal. There are also ethical considerations; Logan may consider the Pierce family “blue-blooded” Pulitzer-hoarding snobs who look down on him and his own media properties, but even Roman’s platonic girlfriend Tabitha senses that something’s awry here. “That wouldn’t be allowed, would it?” she asks. “My parents watch that—that’s like, actual news.”

The prospect is so unpalatable that none other than Shiv—the heir apparent who’s shown herself more than ruthless enough to hang in the worlds of business and politics—gets philosophical about what her father trying to buy “the most respected name in news” would mean for the fate of the American republic. “If we own all the news, I do actually wonder where I’ll get my news,” she notes to Tom. She’s also worried about the scale of the deal, a $20 billion acquisition “that either breaks us or takes half a decade to integrate.” 

So Shiv pressures a very reluctant Tom to talk to Logan about it at the upcoming company retreat, when Waystar Royco’s top brass gathers at a Hungarian castle to eat, drink, and “hunt” wild boar. The retreat proves the episode’s centerpiece; what should be a corporate morale booster proves anything but, with Logan humiliating his reluctant charges and asserting his authority the way only he can.

When he eventually finds out, over an eventful dinner, that virtually everyone on-site thinks he’s biting off more than he can chew with the PGM deal, he gives them the lay of the land. “I will win,” he bellows. Who ever said business isn’t personal?

Juicy Morsels:

—Connor Roy remains the gift that keeps on giving. Logan’s eldest child has his sights set firmly on the White House; he’s recruited a couple of high-priced political consultants and put out an insane campaign video where he tells Uncle Sam, somewhat crudely, to keep his hands to himself. 

Logan dispatches Shiv to have a word with Connor, especially as it concerns his espousing on the federal government’s draconian tax policies. “You don’t go shouting about tax,” Logan points out. “We have arrangements.” It’s an intriguing line, given what we know about corporate tax practices these days.

—More Connor: he now drinks wine out of a blender. “You don’t hyper-decant?” he asks Shiv, barely able to hide his bewilderment. “You’re just doing regular decanting? You should hyper-decant.”

And perhaps the best line of the night came after Shiv asks Connor whether he knows what they do to rich people in jail. “Yes—they let them out early to mitigate the risk of litigation.

—A "human Saudi Arabia." That's how Roman Roy describes his father, Logan—a characterization as bitingly funny and relevant as it is damning.

—“These days, actually, the real news comes from comedians.” So says Shiv’s theatre bro one-nighter. We all love The Daily Show and Full Frontal, but maybe Shiv’s right to be worried about the future of our republic.

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—Read our Succession season two premiere recap
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