Last night was the premiere of HBO’s Succession, a tragicomic portrait of a rich dickhead family being a bunch of rich dickheads, created by the British satirist Jesse Armstrong, and produced by sophisticated funnymen Adam McKay and Will Ferrell.
The series centers on the Roys, whose aging patriarch, Logan (Brian Cox), is the founder and CEO of the fifth largest media conglomerate in the world, Waystar/Royco. His son, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), is preparing for an imminent takeover, while also spearheading the expletive-ridden negotiations for an acquisition of a forward-thinking digital media company. But at the celebration for his 80th birthday party, Logan announces that he’ll actually be staying on as CEO for a few more years, thank you very much—and that he’d like his current wife, Marcy (Hiam Abass), to have his vote on the board of directors in the event of his death, in addition to her own. Meanwhile, he attempts to persuade his daughter, Shiv (Sarah Snook), and one of his other sons, Roman (Kieran Culkin)—both of whom remain on the board of directors—to rejoin the family business. And at the end of the episode—spoiler alert—Logan gets a brain hemorrhage. Quelle intrigue!
In the spirit of the Roy family itself, we’ve decided to dispense with the usual plot summaries, critical analyses and predictions, and just power rank the biggest dickheads instead.
It’ll be fun. Or, in the words of one of these dickheads, “It’ll be fucking fun.”
7. Greg Hirsch
Greg is the big idiot dickhead great nephew of Logan Roy, who’s on the “management track” at one of Waystar/Royco’s amusement parks—which basically means smoking pot in his car in the parking lot and dressing up as a park mascot. On this particular morning, the pot makes him woozy in his suit, and he ends up spewing chunks through the mask. Some little kids make fun of him, then literally kick him while he’s down. How a toke or two of weed would make Greg vomit is unclear, and certainly grounds for dickheadedness. But to make matters worse, he cries to his mommy and she sends him to grovel to his great uncle for his job back. Somehow, he is in the process of negotiating a pretty sweet, selfish, craven dickhead deal for himself—he even whips out the word “perspicacious,” which is just totally un-fucking-believable—when Logan falls ill. Let’s hope the family sends this doofus dickhead back to the amusement park he crawled out of in a vomit-soaked costume.
6. Tom Wambsgans
Tom is Shiv’s husband, and he has a high up position at Waystar/Royco. He frets about what to get Logan for his birthday, before settling on a Patek Philippe and a worked-over one-liner. The thing about Tom is, he acts like he’s not this dickhead, when he really is, which is a pretty dickhead thing to do. Greg implores him for some advice, and Tom does that thing where you can’t tell whether he’s joking about being a dickhead or just actually being a dickhead. This goes on for what feels like a good ten minutes. Bottom line is: Tom is a dickhead.
Also: Wambsgans? What kind of surname is that?
I can't say for sure, but probably a dickhead one.
Lawrence is the savvy founder & CEO of the digital media company the Roys are attempting to buy. Lawrence acts like he’s all chill, but he’s really a killer. Lawrence plays hardball. Lawrence isn’t fucking around.
Case in point: Kendall sweetens the deal to such a degree that Lawrence is forced to accept. Everything’s hunky-dory; bygones are in the process of being bygones; you might imagine these guys going out for a few celebratory Mai Tais. But then Lawrence delivers the news to Kendall: your father has a brain hemorrhage. And then he delivers this not-so-thinly-veiled threat: “You invited me into the chicken coup, and without Daddy involved, I’m going to eat you one by fucking one.”
It’s a powerful one-two punch of dickheadedness: emotionally destroy your enemy by telling him his dad is probably going to die; follow said destruction up with a business-related K.O. of such epic, unsparingly unsentimental proportions—playing not only on his father’s impending death, but also on his insecurity as a leader—from which he may never recover. Then walk away as if nothing happened.
Lawrence is savage.
4. The Little Kids Who Beat Up Greg, Thus Making Him Vomit in His Suit
3. Kendall Roy
All you need to know about Kendall Roy is that, before his big business meetings, he more or less pays his driver to say, “You’re the man, Mr. Roy. You’re the man.” Just think about how painful those words must be to utter with a straight face, especially when you're uttering them to such a colossal dickhead.
But if you must know more...
Kendall is also the kind of guy who walks into a negotiation and says, without so much as saying hello, “Are we ready to fuck or what?”
He’s the kind of guy who, according to his ex-wife, left cocaine on his kids’ iPads.
He’s the kind of guy who, after being chastised by his daddy, goes into the bathroom alone and throws a temper tantrum, throwing shit off the shelves and tearing up magazines until he catches his likelihood on the cover of Forbes—“Heir with a Flair”—and stares at it wistfully.
He’s the kind of guy who would leak stuff to the press to foil the reputation of his own father, who’s kindly decided to leave him a ginormous fortune.
He’s the kind of guy who would say “I’m going to lock you in a golden cage and fuck you with a silver dildo” to his foe during a negotiation, as if it were this super macho, badass statement, and not some aggressive homoerotic come-on—which it definitely is?
2. Logan Roy
Forget the fact that Logan Roy, in the opening scene, pisses on the floor instead of the toilet—that was an honest mistake. And forget the fact that Logan Roy, instead of giving up the company to his son, Kendall, as planned, has decided to stay on for a few more years—that’s his prerogative. It’s a dickhead prerogative, but it’s his dickhead prerogative nonetheless.
What really earns Logan Roy this ranking is his confrontation with Kendall—about his plans to maintain control of Waystar/Royco, and Kendall’s botched negotiation with Lawrence. Herewith, a brief section of the transcript:
Logan: I hear you bent for him.
Logan: I hear you bent for him and let him fuck you.
Imagine being in the headspace where you’re literally premeditating and taking the time to set up a ruthless homophobic slur to use on your vulnerable middle-aged son, who, despite his fundamental dickheadedness, is really just doing his best. Imagine deriving pleasure from delivering said slur with such a casual flourish. Imagine it.
Then imagine doing what Logan does next—he asks Kendall if he’s going to cry. Imagine building your son up and tearing him down in a single blow. Imagine watching your son’s eyes well up with tears, and asking him if he’s going to cry, in the hopes that you actually make him cry. Imagine wanting to reap that much shame and embarrassment on a person you supposedly love. Imagine the kind of monumental dickhead you have to be to relish in that, luxuriate in it, get off on it.
It’s enough to make you glad this dude got a brain hemorrhage.
1. Roman Roy
There is not a word that comes out of Roman Roy’s mouth in episode one that is not marked by dickishness. Not a one. Kieran Culkin, the most punch-able of the Culkins, who are all kind of punch-able (although, not necessarily in a bad way), is utterly detestable here. Of all the things that don’t work in the pilot of Succession—and there are many—Roman is the most glaring: Culkin appears to be on his own trip, ripping off jokes and one-liners with such overstated zeal that Kendall’s dildo ripostes seem quaint by comparison. “You still fucking it up?” He asks Kendall, upon arriving unprompted at the office; “Politics still banging the shit out of you?” he asks his sister, which is not something one asks one’s sister. With his unctuous hair and shit-eating grin, Roman is a dickhead personified. He’s decidedly extra. Among the Roy children, his name feels uniquely Dickensian.
So it’s no surprise that Roman, in what seems like an effort to show his father how big of a ruthless dickhead he is, invites the groundskeeper’s son to join the family softball game. (They fly helicopters out to a private field; why they Roys are so partial to softball is still unclear.)
But he doesn’t just invite him to play: he offers him a million dollars if he hits a home run. He literally writes a check for a million dollars and shows it to the boy and his family. It’s cringe-worthy. The boy steps up to the plate, and, after a swing and a miss, drives one into the outfield. Gee, you think for a brief moment, maybe this Roman guy isn’t such a big dick after all. Maybe he’s going to let him hit a home run.
Except, no. Fucking Wambsgans tags him out at third. And rather than give him the money anyway, Roman kneels down, looks the boy in the eye and tears the check up right in front of his face. The boy’s parents try to conceal their disappointment; shortly thereafter, a lawyer for the Roys ask them to sign an NDA. It doesn’t seem like the first time, either—it seems like Roman’s deplorable behavior is relatively routine, like the lawyers have begrudgingly accepted his antics and decided, heck, we might as well carry around a few spare NDAs, in the event that Roman cruelly uses his excessive privilege to dash a child’s hopes and dreams, again.
Seriously, can you imagine anything so purely and outrageously dickheaded?
No, neither can we. Roman is episode one's King Dickhead.
Not ranked: Shiv Roy; Connor Roy, even though he gave his dad a really shitty gift, of sourdough bread or something; some employee named Frank; Kendall’s driver; Marcy’s fancy lunch; Kendall's incessantly ringing phone; the private softball field; the helicopters; all those unused NDAs; the brain hemorrhage.