Now that we’ve all Googled “what is a holding company” we can celebrate and mourn this brilliant season finale.
There are two pivotal moments that happened last week that were overshadowed by the pool scene: Kendall’s publicist mentioning a podcast on Roy scandals, including the drowning of a waiter from Shiv’s wedding, and Caroline briefly mentioned that she is renegotiating her prenup with Logan (which I assumed was about the London apartment, a huge misread as why would Logan care about one measly apartment?). As always, what follows below is filled with spoilers.
Colder than Karl’s European ringtone:
The Roy trio: Kendall, Shiv and Roman
I love nothing more than when the three Roys gather to fight and plot. I’m going to tackle the three of them together because at no other time in the show have they been bonded together quite like this.
First, it was Roman and Shiv cheating at Monopoly (wink wink, it’s all cheating) and rallying around a table for Kendall’s suicide attempt. (I thought that pulling back on Kendall’s death would feel manipulative and cheap, but they found new ground with an already complex character. My only quibble is that his assistant Jess should have been the one who saved him.)
When Kendall arrives back at the villa, there’s some kid gloves and then later, a mini intervention. Kendall is self-pitying, in denial, defensive, still delusional (talking about Vanity Fair) but it’s clear he has no hand to play or even the desire to be in the game.
Then they’re off to make individual moves (Shiv’s plan to go it alone falls by the wayside as Roman, who thinks he’s on the inside of the deal but is really pushed out, finally talks about the takeover). Things moved slowly as they scramble their positions, and then very quickly at the wedding.
The meat of this episode (and maybe the entire series) happens just outside of the wedding venue. As Shiv tries to rally her siblings against her father, Ken sinks into the dust. (For the first time, with the podcast still running through his mind, he thinks he might be found out. That is a legitimate fear as podcasters find out everything.)
The build-up to the unburdening, all of it pouring out of him while Shiv pieces together how to best handle it and Roman shrugs it off as a pesky inconvenience, is the first time Kendall has unburdened himself to people who receive his pain.
Kendall crying and laughing as his brother complains about the wait for a gin and tonic at Shiv’s wedding was euphoric and complicated. It was extraordinarily performed, it felt like watching live theatre, and for all of the celebrities jumping to defend Jeremy, I would say anyone watching this show doesn’t need to read a defense about his work process or his relationship with Kieran Culkin or his castmates. Their collective performance is worth a million Aaron Sorkin statements.
As the trio regroup and move towards their father, a reluctant Kendall is like a wilted flower that is watered and put on windowsill on a sunny day. He slowly comes back to life. Standing in front of his father with his siblings he looks as powerful and grown-up as he’s ever been. Not puffing his chest out or talking a mile a minute or snarky or nervous. He was calm, steadfast, direct and honest.
In the room with Logan, Shiv is immediately defiant and a little desperate, begging for a consideration and grasping at her father’s implied promises while also threatening to block him. You can’t really blame Shiv for asking him how one of them would make it to CEO without their dad doing it because they would all absolutely be bounced immediately by GoJo. Logan’s disgust at her ambition and need is palpable.
This season Logan has tapped into his relationship with Roman, keeping him close with superficial stuff only to cut him out. I think Logan is on autopilot in these manipulations. Destroying his children is muscle memory. He didn’t change his mind because Roman is a possible sex pervert because he was never ever really considering Roman in the first place. Every time he’s screwed over his kids for the top job (Kendall at the lunch in the pilot episode, Shiv at the dinner with the Pierces) it’s not because of anything they’ve done, it’s because he enjoys giving them something so he can take it away. When he tried to separate Roman from his siblings (with his go-to tactic of asking him to be a Kendall bouncer), it would have worked earlier in the season, had they not had that intense confession and car ride.
In that car ride on the way to Logan, it’s like they really and truly imagined a world without Logan in which they fight each other over titles and departments and then spend the holidays together. They see a life without their father’s interference.
There was also a tactile affection to this breakthrough in their relationship. The Roys aren’t warm and fuzzy huggers (obviously) but the way Roman held Ken’s shoulder and Shiv had her hand on his head outside of the wedding, and then later Ken held Roman’s shoulders while Shiv stayed close, framed so much despair and affection.
Roman and Geri: the way they were
As he approaches his last hope, literally on his knees, she slits his throat with a quick dismissal. His dad, then his mom, then someone he loves (in his own way) knifed him. This will break him on a molecular level. “How does it serve my interests” is the new “it’s not you, it’s me”.
Hotter than Connor’s room because the AC doesn’t work:
Connor, bridegroom to be
This is the episode Connor got into his feels, seeing his siblings for the treacherous brats they are but also lamenting how he was frozen out of their trio. Connor kind of got the worst of all of it: he lost his dad (physically for three years, emotionally forever) to the golden siblings with a cunning mother who was able to secure their interest. He genuinely sees these terrible people for who they are and loves them anyways. He gave his father to them and then he did his best to step in where their dad failed. And what does he have to show for it but pity invites and constant mockery. He gets low, really low, and sees his political ambitions and family relationships and possibility with Willa all slipping away, until he gets two bits of information: first, Willa caves on the proposal and then, he comes up with a theory that his father is trying for another baby. (Not conclusive, but it highly annoys his siblings, which is fun for him.)
Tom, Midwestern Judas
Sidelined, maligned, and emotionally castrated by his wife, there is a detached clarity to Tom this season. He’s been morose but also level-headed, not super reactive to every Roy tantrum. When he approached Greg to be his attack dog, I wondered what happened to his judgement because Greg is as intimidating as a squishmallow. But Tom wasn’t preparing to go against Logan from the outside with Greg. In hindsight the deal was obvious because Tom promised Greg a higher corporate position, and how could Tom promise that unless he was also planning on staying in?
When Tom walked passed Logan, the shock to Shiv is OUR shock. He loves her and he separated his loyalty from that love. He participated in her dad and mom’s betrayal. It was not undeserved (Shiv would do that to him) but it was unexpected. Looking back though, Tom’s been telling us all along what he’s been doing (remember how Logan sent donuts to Kendall’s apartment? Only Tom knew they were there). Tom has never seen Logan get f-cked. That stands.
While preparing for prison, he told Greg the tale of Nero and Sporus in that frenetic scene in his office. And now he’s pushed his wife down the metaphorical stairs and castrated Greg and married him (via the offer of the lowest executive position possible). Tom thought he was preparing for jail when really he was learning to navigate his marriage.
Greg, the new little lord f-ckelroy
Greg spent the season spinning his wheels and ended up with not one but two fair maidens, a strengthened alliance, a possible royal title, and no criminal charges. He currently has just one enemy (Greenpeace). And no soul, but that seems inevitable.
Mattson, Logan’s new number one boy
What is it about this odd and handsome Swede that changes Logan’s mind? I think that it’s the plainness of the language and the directness. Logan is out of deals to make and he’s defeated all his enemies, a dictator holed up in a bunker. He knows there’s no local TV stations left to squeeze and instead of a cyanide pill, he gets a $5 billion payout. Who Mattson is doesn’t matter much. All that matters is that Logan is feeling him.
Caroline and Sir Peter (knighthood TBD)
Who knew that the whole time Caroline, who is pushed to the side and treated like a kooky inconvenience, held the keys to the kingdom? As I understand it, she negotiated a wicked prenup and in doing so sufficiently protected her children in a very smart way. She set up their Waystar-Royco shares in a holding company with the ability to block a new CEO. It was a brilliant failsafe to shield them from being pushed out. I would guess that at the time of their divorce, she included that clause in case Logan had more children.
Logan went to the wedding to renegotiate those terms of the prenup knowing that Kendall was out of pocket, Shiv was waffling on him and Roman was too green. But why did she do it? Plain greed? Jealousy over their relationship with their father? Or is she under Logan’s spell as much as everyone else? Or maybe she believes that in the end, they’ll be rich and what does it matter who has a silly job in a silly office?
Logan: still not f-cked, still winning
He started the episode gently reading to his grandson, as paternal as we’ve seen him (even if he did shame the book). He ends the episode being as cruel to his children as he’s been since the family therapy session at Connor’s ranch.
We watched him take a knife and hack through the umbilical cord that keeps his children tethered to him. Last week, Caroline told Shiv she wished she had never had children and this week, Logan showed them the same thing. But for Logan, it’s not that he doesn’t want children per se, he just doesn’t want these children standing in front of him.
He cut them out of the deal and essentially cut them off (what that means financially probably depends on how much of a headache they give him over the details). He calls them pedestrians and nosy, treats them as an irritant and embarrassment for not anticipating what he was doing. He mocks Shiv, so angry and incensed that she would even attempt to touch his work and is even angrier at Roman for thinking love would affect his decision.
The buyout is not just about the money, but the essence of their family. Releasing them into the world to fend for themselves would be like releasing an animal born in captivity into the wild. Everyone knows it would never survive. And on some level, he doesn’t want them to. His killer instinct doesn’t allow for the waffling and games that they’ve been playing. His killer instinct doesn’t abate for his kids. Logan has always been resentful of the life and opportunities he’s given them. It’s why he fundamentally doesn’t respect his children.
Through Logan’s disgust, in his twisted mind, he’s teaching them to fight for their own knife in the mud. He thinks that if they have to go out and “make their own f-cking pile” it will be good for them. When he derisively described Americans to Mattson, he wasn’t just talking about the country. He was talking about his children.
Logan is not saying goodbye to Waystar-Royco to sit on a pile of money like Scrooge McDuck. It’s the final “f-ck off.” He’s tired of kicking these same dogs that come back. He’s looking for a new pack.