'Succession': 8 Standout Scenes From the Second Season

9:30 AM 11/20/2019

by Tara Bitran

The Hollywood Reporter looks back at the moments from the HBO hit that made the world wonder how many Greggs it takes to make a Tomlette.

'Succession,' Episode 5, "Tern Haven"
'Succession,' Episode 5, "Tern Haven"
Courtesy of HBO

  • Logan Offers Shiv the Keys to the Kingdom

    Episode 1, "Summer Palace"

    Courtesy of HBO

    Succession's season two premiere kicked off with exactly what actress Sarah Snook, who plays Shiv Roy, was hoping for. "Last September [showrunner] Jesse [Armstrong] asked me what I want for Shiv," she shared in a THR cover story in August. "I was like, 'Obviously, I take over the company.' " In the episode, Logan Roy (Brian Cox) offers Shiv the keys to Waystar Royco. "I was terrified," Snook told THR of the scene. "It's quite a pivotal moment for my character, and I wanted to do it justice." But as the season progresses, her heir-apparent status disappears. "Shiv's problem is that she can't keep her big mouth shut. She's a hopeless poker player," said Cox, who disputes the idea that Logan is playing her along. "She's quite clearly his favorite child, and he quite clearly adores his daughter."

  • Kendall Guts Vaulter

    Episode 2, "Vaulter"

    Courtesy of HBO

    Heading into the season, Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) is his father's puppet, going so far as to gut the company he personally sought to integrate into Waystar Royco under Daddy's orders. "It really is a rock bottom," Strong told THR. "When I first talked to Jesse about this season, where he said his idea was seeing Kendall as this defeated, submissive, subservient and subjugated lackey to my father, I immediately thought of The Manchurian Candidate and trying to create this almost somnambulistic, just dead-eyed soldier who's been weaponized, who's been made to cross further and further his own moral and ethical lines. I thought about this line from Richard III, where he says he's 'so far in blood that sin will pluck on sin.' I thought about that as we were doing it. It felt awful."

  • Tom Pelts Greg With Water Bottles

    Episode 4, "Safe Room"

    Courtesy of HBO

    Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) seems more upset when Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) confesses he wants to move into another department than when Shiv says on their wedding night that she wants an open marriage — so much so that he begins hurling plastic water bottles at Greg to unleash his heartache. Among Macfadyen's favorite scenes are "pretty much everything with Nick, like the scene in the wrong panic room with the bottles when he breaks up with me," he told THR. Their wacky bromance provides levity to the series, which makes Strong feel like "Brian and I are sometimes in a different show totally, where we are both engaged in this life-and-death struggle in a very serious way, and then the high jinks are just happening around it. We are all in the same piece, and that is so exciting. Somehow it works."

  • Kendall Tearfully Confides in Shiv

    Episode 4, "Safe Room"

    Courtesy of HBO

    In a rare moment of vulnerability for the Roys, Kendall tearfully confides in Shiv that "it ain't gonna be me" who runs Waystar Royco but can't tell her why. "I was very moved by it when I read it," Strong told THR. "It was a moment of connection that he has not had this season. It was a bit like water in the desert for me because of where we find him when this season starts. Part of what happened at the end of season one is a total and complete inward collapse of a person. All of the drive that had been animating him, his whole life force was extinguished." Before the season began, Strong reread Crime and Punishment, with Dostoevsky's description of the "monstrous pain" Raskolnikov carries with him striking a chord. "That scene with Shiv at the end, that 'monstrous pain,' is a part of the whole episode for me," Strong said.

  • Pierce Family Dinner

    Episode 5, "Tern Haven"

    Courtesy of HBO

    The dinner at the Pierce manor, when the acquisition of the Pierce media empire is on the line, proved a game-changing meal for the series' power dynamics. When Logan dodges the chance to name Shiv as his successor, her blood boils over and she blurts out, "Oh, for fuck's sake, Dad, just tell them it's gonna be me," to everyone's surprise, especially her siblings. "She blew it," Cox told THR of the bombshell. "He says to her right at the beginning, 'It's a game.' He does feel that with the game, there are very strong rules, and you have to acknowledge and play by [them]." The awkwardness was rife even for the extended members of the Roy clan at the table, including the Waystar general counsel and mentor to Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin), Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron), who found the meal "to be one of the all-time most cringe-y, dangerous Roy family disasters."

  • Tom's Testimony on the Hill

    Episode 9, "DC"

    Courtesy of HBO

    Bumbling as ever, Tom stumbles when he is called before the Senate to disclose what he knows about "Mo Lester" and the cover-ups in Waystar's cruises division. When Tom denies that he knows Greg (Braun), Sen. Gil Eavis (Eric Bogosian) catches him in the lie, pulling up 67 emails with the infamous subject line: "You can't make a Tomlette without breaking some Gregs." Recalling shooting the "hilarious bit," Macfadyen told THR: "It was so joyful doing that scene, but it was slightly tinged for Nick and I because we were both thinking, 'Oh God, I hope it's not [the end of the relationship]. I hope we still get to do [scenes together].' I don't think they would [separate us], but you never know because it seems like it's splitting. That would make me very sad if I didn't see as much of Nick, aka Greg, as I do."

  • Tom and Shiv's Heart-to-Heart

    Episode 10, "This Is Not for Tears"

    Courtesy of HBO

    Tom and Shiv's marriage comes to a head in the season finale as they take a boat out to a secluded cove and have their first serious fight on the show. The typically sycophantic Tom spits out that he is fed up with feeling like the family punching bag, especially after Shiv let her family debate if he would be the "blood sacrifice." But he admits his insecurities are rooted in Shiv's proposal that they have an open marriage. He says, "I wonder if the sad I'd be without you would be less than the sad I get from being with you." After the finale, where Tom and Shiv are still on shaky ground, showrunner Armstrong pondered the layers of a relationship that can be explored, like a "palimpsest." He said, "It's interesting when echoes, little bits from the past, shine through again. I think that's what we feel about that bit."

  • Kendall's Press Conference

    Episode 10, "This Is Not for Tears"

    Courtesy of HBO

    Kendall stunned not only his family but Succession viewers when instead of taking the fall for the company in the season finale, he turns on his father. As they watch the press conference unfold, both Shiv and Roman are shocked, but Logan doesn't seem to be. Instead, he unveils a subtle smile, proud to see his former puppet ripping the strings away from his puppet master. "That's in the script, but I think Brian performs it even more brilliantly than anything I could have suggested. But that was something he aimed for," Armstrong told THR the morning after the finale premiered. While he did not provide details on when Greg gave Kendall the crucial cruises documents to sink his father or insight into Kendall's motivations, he revealed that he "did feel a certain amount of pressure" to match the show's acclaimed season one finale.

    This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.