On Succession, the Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

Photo: HBO

Everyone on Succession needs therapy, and nobody’s getting it. Each week, we sit down with one member of the extended Roy clan and try to give him or her a little professional nudge in the right direction.

This week, the Roys go to Scotland, and both Kendall and Logan get busy sowing their wild oats in their ancestral homeland. Rhea continues to move closer to Logan both personally and professionally, which doesn’t sit too well with Marcia. (As she reminds Rhea, she and Logan are still boning, so she’d better get her ass to an STD clinic, stat). Meanwhile, aspiring rapper Kendall Roy strikes up a (very expensive) whirlwind affair with an actress from Willa’s play — much to Connor’s chagrin — before abruptly hailing her a flight home when she doesn’t pass the daddy-approval test. We talked to Succession fans and relationship therapists Dr. Patti Britton and Dr. Tammy Nelson about Logan’s and Kendall’s affairs, and what it says about their relationship with each other.

Dr. Patti Britton, sexologist and founder of

What struck me in this episode is that the apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree. The cheating really starts at the top, with Logan. Their lives are all built on deceit. That’s like red blood that runs through their veins.

Again we see the theme of the total inability to have authentic intimate relationships. Instead, these characters use people and use people up. They’re all so lacking in self-worth that they have to use people to boost their sense of self, while at the same time they still hunger and long for real relationships. Kendall, for example, seemed to have found pleasure in this new relationship, even though it was a hookup. He had found something that really boosted him as a man and as a human. I do think he is attempting to find himself. I think there has been a turning point in that character. When we saw the show prior, what we saw was a breaking of the crust. He’s beginning to crack; he’s asking for help.

And yet the driving force above all was getting his father’s approval. When she couldn’t engage in a conversation with his dad or rise to their family dynamics, Kendall realized, She’s just not one of us. She is not our kind. There’s such snobbery and a sense that only people who have money matter. She’s just a poor starving artist in a shitty play. Roman said my favorite line about Kendall — someone asks if Kendall’s going to strip, and he says, no, he’s just going to masturbate to a picture of Dad. That seems like a great summation of the whole relationship.

Then you have Logan with Rhea. It seems there’s a sexual relationship going on, but I don’t think it’s a love relationship. I think it’s all related to power and manipulation — keep your friends close and your enemies closer. She is perceived as a traitor and an ally at the same time for the growth of this business and for Logan’s succession, which makes for a very layered and interesting dynamic.

Dr. Tammy Nelson, sex therapist and author:

Everything in this family is ultimately about moving the chess pieces around the board for the legacy of the of the business: Who’s going to take over, and where’s your position, and jostling for power. This idea of who’s going to get attention and who’s doing what behind whose back is basically a parallel process to infidelity.

When Marcia confronted Logan, it seemed like she was confronting him more about the fact that he was letting Rhea make his decisions for him. And that almost implies that she was losing her place as the one that normally has his ear, that she’s losing her sense of control. There was no sense, really, of romantic jealousy; it was all about about the power position she has worked so hard for. She sacrificed so much of her own happiness to be in that position. She’s not going to let some other woman come and start whispering in his ear.

People cheat not so much because they’re looking for another person but because they’re looking to become another person. Logan looks to Rhea because she reflects a different part of him. She’s making him feel like he has a little bit more power, like he’s making better decisions. And it’s breathing a new life into his position as the head of the family and the head of the corporation. So instead of feeling like the old man, the “dinosaur,” he feels a little bit more puffed up again. And that’s what happens in an affair. When you’re with someone else, they make you feel a little bit sexier, a little bit smarter, a little bit wiser, because they reflect a part of you back that you want to feel at that time. It sounds like he sees some of his old self in her. She is cutthroat; she works behind the scenes, going behind people’s backs, and without a lot of integrity. He in fact respects that.

I don’t think infidelity is a crisis of sex. It’s a crisis of integrity. When people start to split off and compartmentalize and hide and they have to be dishonest about different parts of their lives, they lose a sense of who they are because they can’t be honest about what’s happening. And that’s exactly what’s happening in this show. It forces everyone to ask: Can you really trust the people in your life that you’re the most vulnerable with, that have the most meaning to your life? Can you really trust the people who are in charge of your safety and your future?

On Succession, the Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree