Poison drips through on ‘Succession’ election night


America (doesn’t quite) decide. Significant spoilers ahead.

(Photo credit: Macall Polay / HBO)

Cocaine. Destroyed familial relationships. Election tampering. What more could you expect from Succession’s election-night episode?

“America Decides,” episode eight of the HBO drama’s final season, is a fever dream: a terrifying hour of television that borrows from real-world 21st century elections to illustrate the way-too-cozy relationship between politicians and the media. 

Overseeing the chaotic ATN newsroom in its first “Super Bowl” after Logan’s death is heartbroken and hollow Tom Wambsgans, joined, of course, by his also-coked-up counterpart Greg the Egg. Rest assured, the country is in safe hands. 

The Roy siblings are unwilling to let the Disgusting Brothers lead, however, prowling around the ATN floor and pulling strings that benefit their agendas. 

It’s essentially Roman vs. Shiv, or Red vs. Blue, respectively. Kendall is lagging somewhere in the middle, caught between his last shred of humanity and his determination to keep control of Waystar Royco. 

Early exit polls — no leaks, please — indicate that Democratic candidate Daniel Jiménez is going to win the race. His fascist competitor, Jeryd Mencken, tells Roman that, if he loses, he needs to work on “what assholes would call ‘the narrative.’”

“If I lose, I want it correctly characterized as a huge victory,” Mencken suggests. “Over-performed, huh?”

But after mysterious fire sets ablaze 100,000 ballots in Wisconsin, most of which would likely have gone to Jiménez, Mencken offers Roman another choice: Back him and he’ll kill the GoJo deal, the outcome Roman and Kendall ultimately want. 

Roman, always a steward of integrity, sees no reason to let democracy get in the way of a night of good TV. He’s content to call the election prematurely for Mencken. Does any of this sound familiar?

It’s not so simple for Kendall, though. His daughter has been harassed by a Menckenite. Calling the election for the Nazi only further endangers Kendall’s family, which he apparently loves. 

“I don’t think I’m a very good father,” Kendall confides to Shiv. “Maybe the poison drips through.”

Just as Kendall considers backing Jiménez, pending some commitment to blocking GoJo’s acquisition, “slim reaper” Greg spills on Shiv’s business alliance with Matsson. Shiv’s pleas about “the state of the republic” are ignored as they’re too conveniently aligned with her personal interests. 

While ATN can’t actually crown Mencken as president, its reputation as a media powerhouse certainly bolsters his argument. For now, he’s the guy.

“Don't we long sometimes for something clean? Once, in this polluted land? That's what I hope to bring,” Mencken ominously promises in a victory speech that would not feel the least bit out of place in 1930s Germany.

Now firmly Team Matsson, Shiv gets to work cleaning the Swede’s dirty laundry. In her first order of PR housekeeping, she insists on making a statement about GoJo’s inflated India subscriber numbers the day after the election, hoping to bury the news amongst election tampering allegations and impending litigation threats. 

With only two episodes left, a Waystar Royco civil war and a fascist president-elect, will there even be a throne to sit on when the smoke clears?  

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