If there’s a running theme to “Rehearsal”, another sublime acting showcase for Succession, it’s the idea of conviction – everyone, in each scene, is incredibly sure they’re making the right decisions (well, almost everybody… we’ll get there). And in their own warped way, they all might be; one thing this series has always done masterfully is allow us to understand the obtuse and ridiculous, grounding its caricatures in tragedy and desperation, to reveal the true nature of the opulent, underdeveloped beasts known as the Roy children.
Though the situation is very obvious from the beginning – push Matsson, and the ATN/GoJo deal dies on the table – “Rehearsal” painstakingly forces character and audience alike to reconcile that both sides of the Roy family are heading towards mutually assured destruction (their eagerness to ‘win’ drowning out the voices of logic and reason screaming in their ears at all times), in another solid table-setter for the final eight episodes of the series – elevated, as it often is, in a scene between father and children.
Before that, of course, is the exquisite build-up of so many uncomfortable conversations; beginning with the Roy family trio steamrolling over Connor’s misguided attempts at happiness, in between riding the high of stealing Pierce out from underneath their father (though as it is hinted at, they are already realizing they probably overpaid for their new asset). Smartly, “Rehearsal” sets the stakes early for Shiv’s bird-brained idea to squeeze a notoriously unstable element; immediately both Roman and Kendall dismiss the idea, the rare moment the two brothers find unity in their movement to win Daddy’s affection. And not just once; Shiv brings up no less than three times before arriving at what’s left of Connor’s titular rehearsal dinner – unlike the show’s many tough sells, Succession presents this “squeeze” as dead on arrival.
In another wonderful departure from the norm, “Rehearsal” also gives us a definitive answer to this conflict pretty early on, when Kendall sneaks off to take a phone call from Matsson, who tells him in no uncertain terms to not fuck around with a good thing. It is very easy to see the tracks being laid here – and Succession wants us to feel that this terrible plan is going to happen no matter who resists it, be it Kendall, Roman, or Logan trying to talk everyone back from the lawyer-ridden ledge. It’s a subtle choice, but one that really accelerates the episode through its second act – which spends some time on Connor on Greg, who we’ll return to – and into the climactic moments, when the family gathers together for a therapy session (without the assistance of the actual therapist from “Austerlitz”, of course).
It turns “Rehearsal” into a slow-motion explosion; Shiv’s determination becomes fuel to the slowly growing fire we can only sit back and watch slowly grow. By the time Connor’s tears are dripping onto Willa’s GPS location (“It’s a factory feature!”, he tells Shiv), “Rehearsal” is really forcing everyone to sit with the idea that yes, they are willing to fuck up everything to get just a little bit more money, and prove to Daddy that they know how to think like him too. Shiv is so excited, she can’t stop comparing their decision to what a hypothetical “sharper” version of their father would do; which, relevant or not, belies the supposed true point of revisiting the transaction they keep harping on.
It is a delectable table-setter for the scene to follow in the karaoke room, where Kendall stands on the sidelines talking shit to Logan while Roman squirms, and Shiv tries to show her father that she is indeed, a serious person. But all Logan sees is shadows of himself; which is so often what people cherish in their children, how little pieces of them have floated through their DNA and bonded them to the next generation. But for Logan, it’s just another sign of weakness; he loves his children (making him just as weak as everyone else), and wants them to ruthlessly shred him to pieces… but their unoriginality and inability to effectively read the chessboard disappoints him immensely. The restraint Brian Cox uses to convey this in the karaoke room is so exquisite, it could be lost amongst the quick cuts back and forth from father to child; when Kendall talks about being ‘like water’, he could be talking about Cox himself, with a performance taking on new layers in these final episodes.
Of course, Logan is a bit of a cliché himself, fucking his assistant and offhandedly trying to get her a career as a news anchor (until she sucks, and he pawns off the bad news on Tom and Greg to tell her). But as a man in power who barks at homeless people collecting cans outside his empire, Logan’s as disillusioned to the world as his children (like Shiv, who won’t drink anything from the tap at the local watering hole) thinking he knows better than everyone else just because he’s always been right in the past – he’s just a little more self-aware, and would rather his fall come at the hands of the ones he loves, than the foes he’s spent decades reigning dominion over. Even when it comes to his demise, he wants to have his cake and eat it too – as much as possible while he’s here, given the ideas he holds about what happens after.
Where it all ends – Logan hanging yet another proposition in front of Roman, with a bit of added danger this time – is a fascinating place. As the season premiere imitated the series’ first episode, this is also a pattern we’ve seen before; Logan often bounces back and forth between Tom, Shiv, and Roman as he pokes at Kendall from a distance, prodding each one to see if they can handle his impossible expectations. One less dick pic, and Roman would probably already sit on the assumed throne; the fact he is being teased with power again is an intriguing premise, especially as we watch Tom flounder around after giving up his life for him (“If we’re good…….. we’re good”).
Speaking of ol’ Tom! He’s living the yin and yang of life – he’s got his wife all twisted up about trying to find a divorce lawyer, but also has to contend with Kerry’s audition video, and Logan all of a sudden deciding he wants to spend more time on the ATN floor (even though he hates the way everything they do, and also how long it takes to write an email). It’s still a bit unclear where Succession is taking Tom this season, but one has to think anyone tying their ship to anyone in the Roy family is set to lose big; between an impending divorce, the upcoming ATN vs. Pierce content war, or being ruthless enough for Logan to continue allowing him to bend the knee, there’s so many minefields to watch the sweaty little snake (and one-half of the Disgusting Brothers) try and navigate.
The taller Disgusting Brothers member goes through his own rehearsal of sorts this week, when he is tasked with giving Kerry bad news about her new potential career path (“I did the job,” he tells himself as she threatens to turn him into human string cheese). As always, Greg remains a character to watch: whether for his one-liners (“he’s…. terrifyingly moseying!”) or his shrewd ability to wriggle out of any situation that might be turning bad for him, Greg’s clearly learned a lot of lessons watching his family members flail when in the presence of the almighty Logan. I’m not saying that scene was setting up anything, but Tom teaching Greg how to fire somebody would be a hell of a tease, should it come to fruition later this season.
Regardless of the character, though, nobody’s decisions are being made with sound logic in “Rehearsal” – and that’s important. The only person, depressingly enough, who understands their place in reality is Connor, whose sad sack story steps into the spotlight ever-so-briefly in this episode (“… I don’t need love. It’s like a superpower,” he tells his siblings and dad). Connor’s never been taken seriously, by anyone, and he’s always recognized it, despite appearances. Of course, this also posits Connor as the one most capable of handling his family; his isolation (and questionable relationship) give him a bit of perspective the family lacks (though not too much, given his awful attempt at a “normie” drink order), which is certainly something to watch as the season makes its way to his wedding (and more importantly, beyond).
Though “Rehearsal” may lack the distinctive moment of brutality that defines the show’s best, the storytelling changes it introduces into its regular rhythms make for an interesting exercise, one that piggybacks off the premiere and sets the stage for a very stressful season to follow. As Logan and his contingent head off to Matsson, it definitely feels like season four is ready to kick into high gear – and if a $10 billion acquisition is only the beginning, I can’t wait to see where we’re going. Happy Christmas, you clock-watching fucks!