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Succession season 3, episode 7 recap: Honesty is such a lonely word

Worst birthday ever.

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Happy birthday, Kendall.

Macall B. Polay/HBO

What makes a good party? Good music. Great company. The host swinging from a crucifix singing Billy Joel. Succession season 3, episode 7 is aptly named Too Much Birthday, as we're cordially invited to a celebration of Kendall's 40th.

Season 3, episode 7: Too Much Birthday, is streaming now on HBO Max. Spoilers ahead!

spoiler alert

It shouldn't feel like an asshole's birthday party

The episode opens with Kendall on the mic, but if you were hoping for a reprise of L to the OG, then you'll be sorely disappointed. Instead, he plans to croon Honesty by Billy Joel ("Everyone is so untrue / Honesty is hardly ever heard"), which is actually kind of a vulnerable and genuine sentiment. Except he plans to follow up by being hoisted up on a crucifix to hammer home what a great and unjustly persecuted guy he is. It's another example of his annoying habit of saying what he really feels then claiming irony (see also the cruel moment with Greg).

The entire party, in fact, is the ultimate example of showing what he's feeling but trying to pass it off as irony. The vaginal entrance, the tree house, his crushing disappointment that a handmade gift from his kids is lost while his girlfriend couldn't think of anything more personal than a watch: He's telling the world he's just a child, yearning for some love. 

Logan, meanwhile, is hardly in this episode. But he still looms large, ruining Kendall's birthday with just five words scrawled in a tacky greeting card. It's hard to know which would be considered the bigger slap in the face to a superrich person: an insultingly low offer, or being offered enough to make you a double billionaire. What a problem to have, eh? As much as it's possible to be sympathetic toward Kendall as the offspring of a monster and a toxic environment, he's still a dick with the obliviousness of wealth (paying actors to be nice to everyone and sending Comfrey for A-team lunch boxes, Springsteen and a jetpack).

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Kendall, Shiv and Roman: Their presence is his present.

Macall B. Polay/HBO

One question: When will your father die?

Wow, Lucas Mattson gets right into it, doesn't he? The oddball tech CEO behind streaming platform GoJo is the target for Roman and Shiv infiltrating their brother's birthday, despite what Logan thinks of Mattson (talk about the pot calling the kettle a prick). As played by Alexander Skarsgard, the Odin of coding may only be interested in three P's, but a different pee seals the deal when he unleashes a stream of his own on WayStar's streaming service. Unbelievably, Roman actually turns out to be the right man for the job, at least when the job is cutting a deal between wealthy weirdos. They shake without washing hands, of course, because it's a dirty business.

The WayStar Two ride again

Tom begins the episode swiping prisons like some kind of penitentiary Tinder. But then the good news hits that no one's going to jail. Champagne corks pop with his wife and family and the corporate top brass, but when he wants to show his true self, he slips away to Greg's hidey-hole for a burst of desk-flipping emotion. But Tom is soon reminded that in this world, joy is simply not an emotion that lasts. He takes the wrong drugs in the wrong order -- that's a metaphor if ever there was one -- and ends his lucky day lashing out at his closest friend and spurned by his wife. 

On the plus side, Logan gave him the nod that the big man will remember Tom's willingness to take the fall. But that might change if the photo Kendall snapped at their meeting ever surfaces.

Emperor's new clothes

The Roy family has no style. The creators of the show put a lot of thought into creating a kind of superrich blandness to the settings and clothes, exemplified by those awful blank baseball caps they insist on wearing. Shiv's earth-toned pantsuits and Roman's rakish dark shirts in the boardroom are about as hype as they get. It's not a lack of taste, more an absence of taste. 

But tonight the Roy family is showing out. At which point we learn, actually they do have terrible taste. Shiv's dress is OK, but the guys' going-out outfits are nothing to write home about. Look at Kendall in his turtleneck and ugly trainers, no doubt all eye-meltingly expensive. And is that a medallion?

Let it fizzle

"Congratulations, dad. You've done it again," toasts Shiv, and even this ruthless recent version of Shiv can't hide her frustration. It isn't just Logan getting away with it, it's the corrupt elite doing what they do best: lying and buying their way out of trouble. The myth of a few rotten apples continues to cover up not only horrific abuse but also the system that facilitates and conceals it.

This is depressingly real. But it also adds to the feeling that not much has happened in this season of Succession. Sure, the Roys picked a president, but everything happens in low-key arguments in bedrooms and hotels. This season was building to enormous twin reckonings, the investigation and the shareholder revolt. But both these apocalypses have fizzled out, ground beneath the boot-heel of Logan's corruption. There are two more episodes to go, but it does feel like we're pretty much still at the same point where we started.

Still, the maneuvering that's gone on is hopefully setting things in place for some juicy showdowns in the final installments. Judging by the title of the next episode, Chiantishire, we're heading to Britain for that unexpected family wedding.

Season 3, episode 8: Chiantishire, airs next Sunday, Dec. 5. 

Successive thoughts

  • Kendall realizes his crucifix plan is bullshit to the fitting strains of New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down by LCD Soundsystem.
  • With his blown-up newspapers savaging his siblings, Kendall demonstrates how the wealthy are able to actually execute the dumb ideas most people think up and then forget.
  • The patriarchy deals Shiv another kick in the teeth. "All the men got together in men club and we decided, sweetheart, everyone's fine."
  • Tom on Greg and Comfrey: "Like a haunted scarecrow asking out Jackie Onassis."