If Kendall’s descent was the central focus of Succession‘s first season, Shiv’s hasty ascent is clearly the focus of season two. Two vital threads from both siblings’ pasts seemingly met their logical conclusions in the second episode called “Vaulter.”
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Vaulter, of course, refers most literally to the business Kendall had a hand in acquiring with Waystar investment funds in the pilot of the series. He used a lot of his clout at Waystar to get the deal done, which was closed mainly while his father Logan was in a coma. The vagueness with which Vaulter was treated now seems like a feature rather than a bug. Logan’s observation within the first few minutes of this episode is that Lawrence, Vaulter’s CEO, lied about their positioning in the market so Waystar would overpay for it.
Of course, Sherriff Logan sends his deputies at co-COO, Kendall himself and his spiteful brother Roman, to investigate the company to verify his hunch. Roman is still reeling from Kendall’s family betrayal and uses every opportunity to side with Lawrence, who openly hates Kendall’s guts. Lawrence has an ally in Kendall, who wants Vaulter to be the business Waystar rides into relevance long after the newspaper and local television businesses shrivel up and die.
The postmortem of the Vaulter investigation reveals the bickering brothers’ vast difference of opinion about what to do next. Kendall studies Vaulter’s different verticals and existing analytics to discover that Vaulter has a vertical and analytics problem. He believes this can be fixed. He needs it to be fixed. He can feel it in his bones. Roman, on the other hand, uses his uncanny ability to sniff out bullshit (unless it’s his own) to figure out Vaulter’s newsroom is on the verge of unionizing, which is more than enough to convince Logan to gut the business.
The move feels right, in a way, knowing what we know. It was bought in haste because it was shiny and cool, which is Kendall’s modus operandi. For a brief moment later in the episode, Kendall hints that he’s back to his old tricks pulling a fast one on Logan. He convinces Lawrence to give a speech in front of the Vaulter staff, in which he pleads for them to reconsider unionizing at least until the dust settles.
Kendall’s transformation from corporate boat rocker to Dad’s Little Enforcer completes its circuit, however, when Kendall fires all 400-plus employees with no notice and little severance. None of the Roys are worth rooting for, of course, but Kendall so far had escaped the casual cruelty of the rest of his family. The Vaulter wind-up was brutal and real and mirrored the Buzzfeed layoffs and countless other stories in digital media today. We’ve never seen Kendall as a viper, so it was understandable that, despite Lawrence’s disdain, Vaulter would let him so far inside.
Kendall hates what he’s become, but he also hates a lot of things right now. His parting shot shoplifting from an inattentive bodega worker just because he could was telling. Kendall’s guard is up–way up–and he is on a warpath to eradicate vulnerability in his life.
On the flipside, Shiv is juggling her role as campaign manager for man of the people Gil Eaves with the secret that she is being groomed to take over Waystar. There’s trouble for Shiv, though. Things seem to be going well enough for Shiv and Gil, so much so that Gil suggests elevating Shiv to White House Chief of Staff come November. As Gil himself puts it earlier in the conversation while defending his sudden acquiescing to special interests and private jets, “you don’t look a gift Boeing in the teeth.”
Shiv’s never met a Boeing she didn’t inspect and winds up sabotaging her role with Gil, though it’s unclear if this is an error of judgment or calculated move. The more she tells herself the succession plan is real and she will take over for Logan, the more hedges she trims from her life. She’s opening up about the plan, too. Tom, Shiv’s husband, has vaulted from a position in theme parks to a very senior position at Waystar’s Fox News-like ATN. It’s been Tom’s aspiration to be the head of Waystar and he believed, mainly because Shiv told him as much, his move to ATN would be the step needed to show Logan he’s worth the promotion.
The revelation that Shiv is not only the planned installation but that she has kept this from Tom for a week is, much more than their non-monogamy, the first real test of their marriage. Shiv and Tom’s passionate commitment to each other in the face of their mutual infidelity from last season’s wedding episode suggested a genuine shared appreciation between two otherwise quietly nasty people. Tom is clearly devastated by Shiv being the wunderkind.
In his role at ATN, Tom is out for blood and focused on cutting bloat. He’s out of his element but no one cares. He’s family now. Perhaps what Tom is dreading is being seen as the fraud he is not by in-laws but by his own spouse, which carries a weight he seems unsure of. “What if a good person ran Waystar,” Shiv ponders about her future. A good person, of course, doesn’t exist in the Roy family. Shiv might have to settle for “marginally more competent than everyone else.”
- Marcia is still a non-factor, though she is clearly in the dark about Logan’s plans and knows she is. What caused this rift between Logan and his third wife?
- Connor and Willa’s move back to New York happens so Connor can be in a more advantageous position to run for President. He’s also referred to as “the serious one” by Vaulter’s executives, so we have to wonder when Connor will start to throw his weight around at Waystar.
- Kendall is back in Logan’s good graces, but to what end? Does Kendall even want the CEO job anymore? Does he want anything anymore?
- Greg has a cool apartment now, thanks to Kendall, but is still treated terribly by basically everyone in the Roy orbit. I do appreciate the consistent out-of-touchness with Greg’s situation. None of the Roys know how much a gallon of milk costs. Greg definitely knows how much Pizza Rolls cost.
Succession Season 2
Kendall puts in work with his prized acquisition, Vaulter. Shiv juggles her duties on the campaign trail with her duties as secret successor-to-be.
- Kendall's descent is believable and sad
- No show depicts realistic rifts between people who apparently love each other better than this show
- No really, what's going on with Marcia?
- Not enough Roman and Gerri