The stench inside the summer place was a perfect analogy for the Roy family.
Everything that happened during the first season has left a heavy pall over them no different than the stench permeating the house. The windows need to be opened so they can air out their dirty laundry before it smothers them all.
The dirtiest dealings come from Kendall, and if his state as the hour opened means anything, he's going to take a long time to recover.
Jeremy Strong manages to elicit so much from the simplest things. Dripping with water in a spa robe while he was opening and closing his clenched fists was ridiculously moving.
The direction and camera work made every humiliating moment seem 100 times worse as Kendall blanched at the idea of going onto TV a mere 48 hours after his life exploded.
Ragnar: A public and personal declaration of withdrawal could be really helpful. You OK, mate?
Ragnar: Yeah, you could do this. You could stop it.
Kendall: OK, yeah. I mean. My dad wants me to do it, uh, I'll, I'll do it. [reading note] 'I saw their plan. Dad's plan is better.'
Ragnar: How you feel? You look good.
Kendall: Yeah, I feel, uh, I feel good.
Succession uses an almost documentary style of filming. The camera is doing just as much of the heavy lifting in scenes as the actors whether panning in on the dripping floor and clenched fists or moving in on a subject to emphasize their words.
But now Kendall's life is in his father's hands. Kendall has no illusions that Logan is helping him for any other reason than it benefits him. If he falls out of favor again, Logan won't fail to drop the anvil on Kendall's life.
With everything Kendall has done at his father's side while he believed he was next in line, going on television to humiliate himself at his father's bidding is the only thing Logan believes Kendall has ever done right.
Ladies and gentlemen, the first fucking thing my son's ever done right in his life.Logan
But what becomes clear during Succession Season 2 Episode 1 is that Logan completely misread the direction of Kendalls's deal with Stewy and Sandy.
He's fully on board with the idea Kendall was approached to betray him because he'd never have done it on his own.
Logan: OK, now you. Step up on the rack. I'm gonna pull you limb from limb like a pinata. Let's see what falls out.
Kendall: OK. So you want? What?
Logan: I want the game plan. What the time table is, capital structure, end game. What they might accept, what their weak points are. But we'll start at the start. When did they approach you?
Kendall: Uh, when did they approach me?
Logan: Uh huh. Did it take long or did you open your legs on the first date?
Kendall: Uh, no. They took their time to, uh, persuade me.
Logan: To betray me.
I can't help but wonder that even as screwed as Kendall is at this moment, if he's still not sharing the full truth with Logan, then the possibility still exists for him to rise above the family bullshit eventually.
Kendall is still, without a doubt, a total shit and an utter mess. As low as he's fallen, he still manages to lord over Cousin Greg and berate him for daring to bring him "park coke."
But even as an entitled jerk, the portrayal leaves Kendall somehow worthy of redemption. Seeing someone so browbeaten after the rollercoaster ride he endured during Succession Season 1 is a great motivation.
Kendall spent a long time trying to get Logan's approval by proving his worth with maneuvers that rivaled his and offered a different future for Waystar Royco. In return, he was dropped like a hot potato without any understanding why.
But would his siblings fare any differently if they had walked in his shoes?
Kendall has been at Logan's side longer than the others, and now that they're jockeying for pole position, it's hard to imagine how hard they'll fall with his pressure directly on them.
Shiv and Roman scrambled to the summer place when called, and even though they were lambasting Kendall for pulling out of his deal at the last minute, they were both secretly eager to take his place in the line of succession.
Roman: You realize how fucked you're gonna be as soon as you're no use to him, right? He's got you eating humiliation gumbo on TV and then what?
Shiv: Yeah, dad's going to play a merry tune on you and then throw you out the fuckin' window. I mean, you know that, right?
Roman: He's like a sex robot for dad to fuck.
Shiv: He's like an old beaten dog.
Roman: Well, he's both of those things and also a piece of shit.
Shiv: He's a pathetic little fucking narcissist who repeatedly puts his own self interests above everything else and then tries to justify it with half-assed appeals to the fuckin' market.
Roman: You're a fucking prick!
Kendall: Uh huh. Maybe I am.
Roman: Come on, fuckbag. Fight back!
Kendall: Guys, I just. I can't get into it.
Roman: Oh, you can't get into it? Fuck you. Come on. Treat us. Why did you actually back out?
Kendall: I'm sorry, Shiv, about the wedding.
Shiv: How dare you apologize to me.
Roman: You look like shit, by the way.
Logan tried to use a family gathering to weigh their options, but as Shiv pointed out, he's not exactly been in favor of free-flowing debate in the past, so what's changed?
Roman countered with his desire to keep his strategic thoughts to himself lest someone else use his brilliant ideas for themselves, something he doesn't want as he believes he's got a genuine chance at the brass ring.
When they finally got their time to shine, Roman blew what he considered business acumen out of his ass, and Shiv fell into the honey trap. In a moment, and because she's always wanted to be considered, Shiv accepted Logan's offer to be his successor.
Logan: Well, obviously, I always wanted one of you kids to take over.
Shiv: Uh huh.
Logan: Well? What about it?
Shiv: [snickers] Yeah, we've done that. What about Tom?
Logan: So, no? If I keep going, if we fight, I have to name Kendall.
Shiv: Yeah. Yep! I see what this is! I see it! You know, I fucking see it. You've done a little dirty deal. What? So you keep Kendall on to kill the bid and then he takes over when you step down in a year? Squalid little back room deal. He blackmailed you, didn't he?
Logan: Oh, Shiv.
Shiv: No! No. If he takes over, I'll sell my shares. Yeah! I'll join Sandy and Stewy. I'll get Gil to go for you. Yeah. I mean, I'll kill him. I'll fucking kill him!
Logan: Shiv, why so angry? I haven't done a deal with Kendall. I do what I want. And what I've decided I'd like to do is to formally ask you to come in and be the next chief executive of this company.
Do you expect it to be that easy? It's a hushed deal that she's unwilling to share even with her husband, power-hungry SOB that he is.
Just look at what Logan did to his contractor. Instead of looking for the real source of the "crime," Logan trounced the poor bastard because he refused to pay for the work that was done. He used the guy and tossed him away like a bag of trash.
Shiv: Why didn't you never ask me, huh? I would kill this. I'll fucking destroy it. Yes.
Logan: This is wonderful, Shiobon.
Shiv: This is real?
Logan: This is real. Remember this, the slant of light. Remember this. This is it.
Shiv might have the mind for the job, but she doesn't have the experience. Will she be willing to get it or will she want to start at the top having never worked outside the public sector?
Getting the experience without tipping her hand will prove a challenge. It's going to be an interesting turn of events, for sure.
It's been very easy for her and Roman and Connor to slam Kendall for his actions and to believe they'd behave differently.
Shiv is going to get the opportunity to prove herself. She will find out what it's like to keep secrets from everyone but her father and will need to become as ruthless in her pursuit of business as Kendall has been.
Kendall couldn't hold his marriage together. He's a shell of a human being with an addled brain.
The relief that flooded over Shiv when Logan finally chose her proves she could to have a tough time working under his shadow. He has already made her feel less than worthy of being a part of the company. Without a sounding board, she's facing some trying times ahead.
And poor Tom. He's such an idiot. The way he turned every conversation he had with Shiv back to where he would fit into Waystar and kept talking about their plan was too much.
Tom will do anything to be wanted and feel like he belongs to the family. He's already taken a bullet and married Shiv. Now he's taking another by "running" the news division. Only Roman and Connor are more ill-equipped to take on that role.
By the end of the hour, Kendall finally showed a little of his spark when he delivered the message to Sandy and Stewey. He delivered it with conviction with the hope it would run off his former compadres.
Kendall: Um, my dad wanted me to ask is there any way through this, you know, ah, uh, an asset swap, something else, ah, that leaves you happy and him in control.
Stewy: As you know, our position is that we're really after the whole thing.
Kendall: Right, then he wanted me to tell you to say, yeah, obviously our public line will be to say we're considering the offer, but it doesn't matter what you say. He'll never recommend this to the board. You are going to bleed cash. He's going to bleed cash. It will never end, and maybe you'll kill him, but if you don't he'll kill you. He will go bankrupt or go to jail before he lets you beat him. He will kill you on the business, and if that doesn't work, he will fuck you around. He will send men to kill your pets and fuck your wives, and it will never be over, so that's the message.
Sandy: Good. Well, let's move ahead with that process, shall we?
If anyone knows the lengths to which Logan will go to get what he wants, it's Kendall.
The advice Logan got from his banker was to cut and run. There isn't a future for an organization like Waystar Royco if it keeps following the same path.
Instead of heeding the warning, Logan took that as a challenge. Now they'll double down to become even bigger. If there's only room for one media conglomerate in the world, it's going to be Waystar Royco.
To succeed, the band of useful idiots needs to form an alliance and work on behalf of the greater good.
That's unlikely to happen anytime soon as the only things that drive them are their self-interests: accumulating more power, money, and pleasing Logan Roy.
The way he's latched onto the party line is fascinating, as will it be trying to figure out if he's too much of a mess to climb back out of the hole he dug for himself.
Has Shiv already started digging a hole of her own? Do any of the kids have the capacity to stand with or against their father with confidence?
No matter how it goes, they'll ensure we laugh at their expense the entire time. The name calling, and the sarcastic diversions won't stop with a new successor in line. It only means the direction of the assault will change.
Let me know what you thought of the premiere in the comments below!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.