The series “The Caliphate” Season Three Episode 9: “All the Bells Say”
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Season 2 of “Succession” – one of TV’s most exciting and funny seasons in recent years – and Season 3, which was just as exciting and absorbing but generally not so much to my pleasure. The biggest change between the two? In season 2, the Roy kids are all together most weeks, wandering around the world with Logan and happily spending time with each other. This season they were scattered with bitterness, throwing bombs from a distance.
But in the best episodes of Season 3 – “Mass in Time of War”, “Too Much Birthday” and now this week’s final episode, “All the Bells Say” – Kendall, Schiff, Roman, and even Connor spent some time in the same place, talking about their problems in person. The energy oscillates between these actors, as their characters vacillate between comically mean and unforgivably brutal.
Anyway, depending on what happens in this episode, they’ll all be face to face more in season 4… whether they like it or not. This is an exciting prospect.
“Succession” fans (and even some people who have never watched the show) spent most of the past week posting on Twitter about two things: whether or not Kendall drowned at the end of the previous episode, and whether or not The New Yorker drowned The Jeremy Strong file It makes him look like an impressively committed actor or someone who’s so obsessed that he’s a bit dangerous.
This episode tackled the first of these topics early on, after a bit of a tease at first. Yes, Kendall survived fainting in the pool after insisting he was “a person with too many lemons.” Comfrey took him out and got medical help. For the first time in a while, all his brothers seemed to be worried about him. They might think he’s cocky, and they might be mad at him for trying to destroy the Waystar, but they don’t want him to kill himself. They are related to it. Maybe – as Schiff and Connor insist – they even love him.
The “intercept” scene between Kendall and his siblings is the second indication that this episode is going to be something special. (The first is a scene between Logan and Matson. We’ll get to that.) While Schiff tries to reassure Kendall that they care about him, he objects that they have no idea they’re feeling the hype “as the eldest son.” This is what finally makes Connor break up, and stop being the ignorant clown that everyone loves and no one respects.
Connor is really upset that no one bothered to keep him involved in the GoJo deal — “Matson wants to remove the Men Like Me platform,” he grumbles — and also that no one congratulated him on his offer to Willa. “What do I get from you but my darling changes?” Connor asks. And he has a point. One of the many weaknesses of the three younger Roys is that each of them thinks he is better than anyone in the family other than his name Logan. Put any two royals in a room and each will insist that the other is a family joke.
(For Willa, she finally agreed to Connor’s suggestion, pondering, “How bad is that?”)
After Connor explodes, Roy’s remaining children are put on high alert. Hips Schiff and Roman Connor point to the possibility that Logan might be taking an herbal supplement to boost his sperm count, in hopes of having a baby that could replace them all. Even worse, they received news that Waystar’s inner circle met the bankers to talk about the sale to Matson…and that none of the children were included. Schiff and Roman run to Kendall for his advice and support, finding their brother still in a state of funk and hard to wake him up.
The following scene, in a way, answers some of the questions surrounding the New Yorker profile. Strong is probably a little cooler; And his methods may be exhausting for his colleagues. But it’s hard to argue with the outcome of this episode, as Kendall admitted to Schiff and Roman that he was responsible for the drowning of a young man. They both seemed to shake, and then moved on. They can’t help but be drawn to Kendall’s dark energy (which Strong generates, of course).
The siblings try to ignore him, and then make him feel better about what happened to the dead child. And Roman tries to lighten the mood with several sick jokes, among them saying “the road and the water killed him.” But Kendall can’t stop his grief, so in the end all they can do is get their hands on him, and tell him they’re really there for him. (The frame in this scene, with Kendall on the floor and Chef and Roman surrounding it, looks like something out of an Italian New Wave movie.)
This establishes the final episode sequence, as Shiv and Roman both find reason to wonder… well, pretty much all of their life choices up to that point.
Earlier in the episode, tired of Matson’s bloated stock scams, Logan went to see GoJo’s CEO himself, finding – as Logan often does – that even rookie young tech geniuses who claim to hate old media dinosaurs can’t. Help but scare him. Brian Cox is great in this scene (and in this episode), as he makes a mini-monologue about coming to America for the first time and feuding with all the business giants who smell of “gold and milk.” He can’t pretend to be as excited about the future as he was about his past. But he is eager to strike a deal, just to show that he still has a knack for getting what he wants.
When Logan sends Roman away so he and Matson can talk more in private, that’s a red flag Roman chose to ignore at first—perhaps because he’s confident Matson will keep him even if she buys GoJo Waystar. But after he and Schiff reconnect with Kendall, they decide to present a united front, using company regulations to prevent any sale without their consent. Roman sways a little, hoping he can talk to his father alone first; But Shiv and Kendall kept him in line, and they discussed how much fun they could have arguing over who should control which of the Waystar assets.
And Then: The Sucker Punch, as Schiff discovers it might have disastrous consequences at her mother’s wedding and the dismissal of Tom’s ATN company as a “faucet of bigotry” (in addition to her public play with Tom’s affections). When the siblings – minus Connor – break into Logan’s pocket to play trump “The Great Majority,” their father gives them one chance to back off before shouting, “You’re out, you fools!” It turns out that Tom may have warned his father-in-law that the kids were coming, giving him time to fiddle with the terms of his divorce agreement with Caroline, and giving her and her new husband the power to confront the little ones.
This episode starts with Shiv and Roman playing Monopoly with Connor, Tom, and Greg, while they all wait to see if Kendall is OK. Roys hit each other throughout the match, looking for useful moments to cheat. But at the end of the episode – and the season – they learn that cheating only works if everyone agreed to the rules in the first place.
What makes it so hard to beat guys like Logan is that when they seem to lose, they can just refuse to play…or they can completely change the game.
In keeping with the naming convention for earlier “Succession” finals, the title of this comes from a line in John Berryman’s poem “Dream Song 29”. (“All the bells say: Too late.”) What snippet would Jesse Armstrong pick for next season? My money is in “The Little Cough Somewhere”.
Greg was one of the first royals to get the idea that something might be afoot with Logan, Matson, and their various financiers, as he follows the Slack Servant fanfare.
Could the healthiest relationship on this show be between Greg and Tom? Tom is the man who rushes Greg to tell us how compatible he is with a Contessa/Princess, who is probably eighth in line to the throne of Luxembourg. (Tom: “Marry her and you’re in a plane crash far from being Europe’s weirdest king!”) And it’s Greg who is caught by Tom before he carries out his possible betrayal of Schiff, asking him to sign on a journey “away from the infinite middle and toward the bottom of the summit.” (Greg made a quick assessment of whether or not he should sell his soul, settling on “Boo, souls!”)