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Succession season 3, episode 1 recap: The full Baskin-Robbins

HBO's darkly delicious drama dives into the fallout of season 2's cliff-hanger. But who'll draw first blood as the Roys choose sides? (Spoilers!)

Succession season 3 stars Brian Cox as Logan Roy in a no-holds-barred battle with his own kids.

HBO

Succession season 3 opens with helicopters, because this is Succession. Logan Roy soars among the gods, remote and elemental. Kendall hides in a bath. 

But despite this initial appearance, the roles may be reversed. Logan is, for once, adrift, while Kendall seems to be in charge of the situation, even throwing Waystar's PR guru Karolina out of the car. His bombshell means no one knows which way to go -- literally -- but it's Kendall who establishes a base more quickly. Sure, it's his ex-wife's home and he's oblivious to her dismay as his new squeeze shows up and cracks into the good wine. But it's better than Logan winding up marooned in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina (a town that knows a thing or two about civil war).

Season 3, episode 1, titled Secession, airs on HBO on Sunday, Oct. 17, as well as streaming on HBO Max. Let's delve into the details and delights of the season premiere, with spoilers and bad language -- you've been warned...

spoiler alert

Season 2 ended with media magnate Logan Roy dispatching his nervy son Kendall to be a blood sacrifice by taking the blame for a scandal engulfing their company. But Kendall turns the tables, publicly blaming Logan -- effectively declaring war on his own father.

As season 3 picks up in near real time, Logan seems uncharacteristically quiet, almost diminished. He's lost his wife, his son just turned on him, he can't find his daughter, and his life's work is threatened like never before. The heavyweight may actually be on the ropes. 

The games begin 

The scandal means Logan is tainted and a new broom is needed, even if it's only an interim broom. But the CEO role is very much back in play, and everybody immediately begins circling, probing, and of course sharpening the knives.

Karl and Frank immediately shoot their shot, and are immediately shot down. Roman asks Shiv what she's thinking -- and the maneuvering begins. Shiv indignantly insists she backs their dad, but it's clearly open season on Logan and the top job.

It's ironic that everybody is so desperate to climb over one another's corpses to claim a role that Logan himself derides as a "nameplate." It's still his hand jerking around whichever puppet strings itself up.

Lawyer up

The first skirmish arrives fast. Both sides need to lawyer up, and both land on the same name: high-profile attorney Lisa Arthur, played by Sanaa Lathan. Kendall draws first blood by recruiting Arthur to his side, even over Shiv's friendship with Arthur. The narrative is on Kendall's side, at least for now, as he blows the whistle on historic wrongdoing and echoes the real-life revelations rocking many industries and societies in the #MeToo era.

But that may go to his head. Kendall is smart enough to call Arthur, but too self-involved to listen to her. His head's in the clouds with talk of changing the climate, while she tries to bring him back to earth with words like "subpoenas" and "warrants." Even if Kendall's sudden righteousness is genuine, the law has been broken and the sword of Damocles that is the Department of Justice hangs over both factions.

Succession season 3

Keep your friends close but your enemies closer -- especially if they're the same people.

HBO

Gerri wants to cooperate, because everybody cooperates sooner or later. But Roman is quick to reject any suggestion of talking to the authorities, probably anticipating his father's predictably bullish attitude.

Of course, it helps to have a direct line to the president, aka "the Raisin." Except the Raisin isn't taking Logan's calls, which means Logan's power and influence is still in the balance. Casting news revealed that in season 3, Linda Edmond plays White House staffer Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (who Shiv dubs "the pantsuit barnacle"), so doubtless there's more political shenanigans to come. 

The court of public opinion

As Team Kendall's first (only) player, Greg's first (only) task is to "slide a sociopolitical thermometer up the nation's ass" -- i.e., check Twitter. And Kendall may've beaten Tater Tots to be a top trending topic, but good meme-age alone isn't going to win the day. This isn't just a war of words in penthouses and boardrooms: Even if the winner is decided behind closed doors, they'll be anointed by stockholder confidence and public opinion. Image and reputation matter. Optics. Narrative.

For Kendal, that means an alternative corporate manifesto, maybe a rapid reaction TedX talk, definitely some cool tweets. For Logan, it means family. But his wife is furiously estranged and his kids are lining up to drive a knife further into his heart. 

Is Kendall for real?

Logan thinks Kendall's revelation was a move. A snake move, but still a power play. The old schemer's first response is to offer a deal. Kendal refuses. But is he still making moves? Or is he genuine in his desire to improve the company, and by extension the world?  

Then comes the real battle. Logan calls Kendall, but the wayward son ducks the conversation. Here we see a little more of the old Logan, and the old Kendall: Logan angrily threatens to grind his son's bones into bread and Kendall can only mutter something about a bean stalk. Even when he's in the better position, the younger man simply can't match his father's force, strength and will.

Succession season 3

Kendall's really done it now.

HBO

Maybe Roman is right when he predicts Kendall will self-destruct. Sure, the youngest Roy sibling is unpleasantly quick to put the boot into his elder brother, but he may have a point. What Kendall needs is allies.

As the episode ends, nothing is decided. The chess players are still fighting over the same pieces. And Logan's rage, for once, may be impotent. "We'll go full fucking beast!" he yells, but he's still an old man in a strange city, lost in the dark....

Season 3, episode 2, Mass in Time of War, airs next Sunday, Oct. 24. 

Successive thoughts