Succession-1×04: ‘Sad Sack Wasp Trap’

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Anna Jordan
Directed by Adam Arkin
Original Air Date: June 24th 2018

‘I know where the bodies are buried’ is a common saying when it comes to watching powerful people’s secrets get exposed in television shows and movies, but with Succession’s fourth episode we get to see a newly promoted Tom being put in charge of Parks and Cruises (another Disney inspiration), taking over the position from another white man, and promptly being told about what those bodies are and where they’ve been buried. It doesn’t come as any surprise that there are actual bodies involved.

While Matthew Macfadyen is a well-known name and familiar face, he’s been something of a secret weapon for so many films and television series for the last few years. From his star making performance in the BBC spy drama Spooks, to Mr Darcy opposite Kiera Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, even down to helping David Frost get Richard Nixon to confess on camera in the movie version of Frost/Nixon, there has always been a slickly British demeanour to so many of his roles, but ones which have always belied a prickly complexity.

It was initially something of a surprise to see him take this role on with an American accent, but in the space of four episodes both he and Nicholas Braun have become the quiet MVP’s of Succession with their bitter camaraderie being amongst some of the funniest scenes of the show, a bromance act that is filled to the brim with passive-aggression that is impossible not to enjoy, even with the dark energy that comes from their interactions.

For anyone familiar with Macfadyen when he was essentially British television’s answer to Jack Bauer for two and a bit seasons in the early 2000s, to watch him squirm and panic as Tom is confronted with decades of horrible crimes that have been buried by the company being foisted upon him is indicative of a very talented actor but also amongst the funniest and most prescient scenes of the episode.

We’re never privy to too much of the dirty details that he now finds himself learning about, but we know sexual assault is a factor and there is even a hint of murder that ranks it amongst the darkest of jokes the series has done so far, which is really saying something given how pitch black much of the comedy writing on the show is.

The fact that Waystar RoyCo have been burying and hiding such information comes as no surprise whatsoever and in truth it’s somewhat of a surprise that it took Succession four episodes to tip its hand to the company’s more darker dealings and secrets.

Particularly with the #MeToo movement, we’ve seen just how far the powerful and elite will go to hide horrible acts and protect those who perpetrated them. It’s funny that here is a MacFayden character that’s involved in this since the Kitty Green film The Assistant depicted the actor playing a character that was doing something similar, albeit more powerfully and assuredly (not to mention distressingly. Also that movie is well worth checking out).

Here we bear witness to a mini-meltdown as he brings Cousin Greg into his orbit, and during the gala dinner that forms the bedrock of so much of this hour we get our first taste that Greg, for all his wide eyed innocence and slacker Jimmy Stewart demeanour, is very capable to inserting himself into this world of manipulation and deceit without breaking a sweat.

The revelation at the end that Greg has told Gerri about Tom’s reaction to his findings but denies doing so to Tom is our first hint that the quietest and supposedly most likable member of this family, or at least from the ones we’ve met, is perhaps very much capable of embracing their methods.

The gala dinner itself is awash with confrontations, characters showing motivations and directions that just adds to the Shakespearean intrigue that the series is clearly going to revel in and gets Brian Cox’s performance as Logan back on his feet, albeit with a few wobbles, and back into shark mode.

His slick persona to the public hides the angry dark beating patriarchal heart that he really is and despite the intentions of Kendall, Frank and others who might want to get rid of him, Logan is now emerging not just as the none more darker beating heart of the show, but there’s a lingering sense of threat now starting to lurk over him that goes simply beyond belittling his son and goading him to cry during arguments.

That he falls asleep on the way home doesn’t take away from his threatening allure. Far from it in fact.

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