Warning: contains spoilers
Let’s be honest: series three of Succession (Sky Atlantic) hasn’t been perfect, even if it is better than anything else on TV right now. Too many scenes with the characters confined to Waystar Royco headquarters, talking about business deals. Escaping to Adrien Brody’s beachfront mansion in episode four felt like coming up for air.
But episode seven really was perfect. Sublimely funny in parts, quietly devastating in others. It was set over Kendall’s birthday, which he’d earlier joked would be a “big f—ing nervous breakdown of a 40th” and turned out to be exactly that, but no joke.
The laughs were supplied by Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), the best comedy double act since Mark and Jez in Peep Show. No coincidence that they were both created by Jesse Armstrong. The look on Greg’s face as Tom up-ended his office in relief at avoiding a prison sentence was priceless. And let’s hope he enjoys his date with Kendall’s PR flack, even though “it’s possible she’s only going out with me due to rancour or pique…”
The details of Kendall’s party were also funny, at first. His plan to appear on stage nailed to a cross, crooning Honesty by Billy Joel. Guests being “born” into Kendall’s world by entering the party through a giant pink tunnel. The idea (rejected) of serving canapes from He-Man lunchboxes. Con’s refusal to take off his anorak. Kendall’s sweater and medallion combo.
The VIP area was a recreation of Kendall’s childhood treehouse, where he could revert to his young self and tell his brother and sister they weren’t allowed in. And as the episode wore on, Jeremy Strong brought out the pathos in his character. Behind the billionaire trappings, he was a little boy lost.
It was all horribly empty. Strong does a brilliant job of playing with our feelings about Kendall – behaving with the bratty entitlement of his siblings, then a change of expression that makes our hearts break for him just a little bit.
And a new character: Alexander Skarsgård as tech CEO Lukas Matsson. He was, if such a thing were possible, even more awful than the Roys. But I’m sure they’ll remedy that in the next episode.