Succession Season 3 Power Rankings: Too Many Breakdowns And Too Much Birthday

(The bid for power has intensified in season 3 of "Succession," meaning now more than ever, anyone can come out on top. As the war rages on, we'll be tracking the rise and descent of the Roy's, their allies and their never-ending list of enemies.)

This week, "Succession" kicks off with Kendall Roy's rendition of Billy Joel's "Honest Man." Despite the fact that he warbles on for what feels like an excruciating (and oddly mesmerizing) lifetime, there's still 50 minutes of episode left when it wraps up, so yeah, "Too Much Birthday" is going into the "Succession" hall of fame.

Like "Safe Room" and "Return," the latest episode of our favorite family drama is dealing with the painful reality of a full blown breakdown from our #1 boy. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) is turning 40, an age known to cause a cry or two, and he's handling it about as well as you'd expect. Lorene Scafaria takes the reins as guest director and masterfully guides us through the Kendall Roy experience: a lavish and unique party, saddled with the weight of his many insecurities and inevitable breakdown. He can't party alone of course — so he's joined by the sibs! Shiv (Sarah Snook) arrives without a birthday card ("I couldn't find one that said both Happy Birthday and Get Well Soon"), which is a real shame given her penchant for putting words to Kendall's messy mental state. But Logan (Brian Cox), the family scribe, always has time for his most disappointing child and delivers a card to Kendall via Roman (Kieran Culkin), who giddily goes along with the gift of a $2 billion dollar offer to buy Kendall out of the company. Plus the card so kindly reads, "cash out and f*** off," with the pre-written "Happy Birthday" crossed out. And that's about how well things go for Kendall, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to see who ranks the lowest after the brutal birthday bash.

10. KenFest 2021 (and Sad Boy Kendall Roy)

Ain't no party like a "Succession" party, 'cause a "Succession" party don't stop! The Notorious K.E.N is throwing the gala of a lifetime at the Hudson Yards, the perfect place for a billionaire to construct an enormous tribute to himself while riffing on his own narcissism. The time has come to be reborn into the world of Kendall Roy: dance to a playlist that promises all bangers all the time, get comfy in VIP treehouse, enjoy a room for which the whole theme is blazing fires on every screen and at the end of the night, watch the guest of honor himself get crucified during his own rendition of "Honest Man." Isn't that the greatest party you've ever heard of?! Did I mention that Tiny Wu-Tang will be in attendance?

Kendall's 40th birthday party fails in so many ways (the gift check system is clearly a mess, just ask Sophie and Iverson). But if the task at hand was accurately reflecting the host, then we can call this an overwhelming success! This man-child has immersed himself in so many layers of irony (and post-irony, and post-post-irony) that he's completely lost the plot and spiraled back to the literal. Much like his party, Kendall is an absolute dumpster fire trying to masquerade as liberal and self aware, but failing because everyone sees right through it. I dunno if you've listened to the lyrics of "Honesty," because Kendall certainly hasn't, but here's a quick snippet: "Honesty is such a lonely word / Everyone is so untrue / Honesty is hardly ever heard / And mostly what I need from you."

Kendall is terrified of honesty, and for very good reason. Just last week, his former lawyer Lisa (Sanaa Lathan) laid down a harsh truth bomb, pointing out that his case wouldn't be an overwhelming success and advising him to tread lightly with the DOJ. He found this so intolerable that he fired her five minutes later. Shiv, Roman, and Connor (Alan Ruck) arrive to the party with more truths, reminding Kendall of all the people absent from the night ("Your dad," "Your mom," "Your wife and kids," "Any real friends"), and he brushes right by their words, lest he reflect too much and lose his mind. When he opens the episode with his awkward number, he's surrounded by hired hands like Berry and Comfry, who know better than to disagree or criticize despite how obviously ridiculous every facet of this party is. But Kendall can only hide from the truth for so long.

After riding the high of his bombshell press conference, Kendall has spent the season crashing. He hit rock bottom on the Sophie Iwobi show, and now he's somewhere even further down. Worst of all, he's alone. Shiv and Roman are still orbiting the bright burning star of Logan Roy, and Connor is off on his own orbit with Willa (Justine Lupe). Rava is unwilling to crawl back into this hole with him, and even Greg (Nicholas Braun) has found a way out. So who's left? Naomi? She isn't enough to make Kendall feel supported, not the woman who got him a watch for his birthday (...'cause he already has a watch). Never mind the fact that she's one of very few people to actually offer kindness in the cold world of "Succession," literally wrapping this grown man in a blanket and cuddling him to her chest. She still isn't what he wants, and she seems to be realizing as much herself. Even in Kendall's joking vision of their future, he can't help but return to his father.

'I've gone anti-fragile," he told Naomi at the start of the episode. "I can accommodate anything." This is a bol- faced lie, of course, we all know that Kendall hasn't been able to accommodate a goddamned thing all season. This man who was curled up in a bathtub just 7 episodes ago, practicing his breathing exercises, has been crumbling all season, but hiding that reality from himself thanks to Waystar raids and woke soapboxes. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of constructing a building in his own honor, forcing him to face his own truth: his bid for power has failed, and he must suffer that alone. The big win he wants is nowhere to be found, so Kendall instead latched onto some evidence that he's loved. He hopes to find it in his children's homemade gift, but the rabbit wrapping paper is nowhere to be found. 

Huddled into Naomi's arms, Kendall starts to say something chilling, "I wish I was..." he cuts off and it's like a flashback to "Safe Room." We're always collectively concerned about Kendall, but especially in moments like these. Especially when he's throwing a party in Hudson Yards, a few steps away from the often closed Vessel. He finishes off, "I wish I was home," but it's hard not to hold your breath at the episode's end, when he lingers too long by the edge of his balcony.

9. Sophie and Iverson

Having Waystar goons follow them into parks is exactly the kind of memory that'll come up in therapy 10 years down the line ... either before or after they recount the time they made their father a birthday present he never bothered to open or talk about or even locate. On the bright side, the fact that they used rabbit wrapping paper means the little bagel muncher probably lived, right? That or Kendall replaced it with an equally large rabbit and never told them the truth.

8. Shiv Roy, Queen of the Dance Floor

Despite the horrific reality of this birthday bash, Shiv is on the dance floor having the time of her life, dancing like nobody's watching! But people are always watching, especially in this business, as Shiv later learns when Roman taunts her about the "dance of the sugar plum failure." And this isn't the only thing her baby brother takes notice of — Roman has all kinds of observations to throw in her direction, including musings on her marriage that conclude with, "You're more f***ed up than I am." When the pair receive news that Waystrar can wriggle out of the investigation without sending Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) to prison, Roman's eyes are locked on Shiv, who doesn't perceptibly react ... but that's a tell, isn't it? If you found out your husband, whom you love, wasn't getting sent away wouldn't you react joyously? Or react at all? As an afterthought, Shiv does toast to her husband, but the news seems to shake her more than anything else and Roman delights in pointing this out.

Speaking of things that bring Roman joy, Shiv continues to be excluded from major Waystar developments as the boys club continuously turns their noses up at her. This might have something to do with the fact that she believes that "there's a line," and it shouldn't be crossed. Shiv has a moral ground that she's trying to maintain, a fact she continuously makes the mistake of voicing. Backing Mencken crossed her line, as does spying on Kendall's children; as a result, to both avoid needless arguments and punish her out of spite, Logan has resolved to just leave her out of some murky waters. But this leaves a grand opening for the moral-less wonder, Roman Roy. Two things are becoming clear to Shiv: one, Waystar will never be a place where she can both stay on top and hold onto said morals and two, she'll never be fully accepted into the fold by the Logan's and Roman's of the world. So she can toss the morals overboard and keep trying to win them over, which may be fruitless since they're reluctant to accept her. On the other hand, she could get out, walk away clean and return to her political career ... or she could Kendall Roy this s**t and turn against them.

7. Tom Wambsgans, The Old Meat Wardrobe

Even when he wins, he loses — but let's try keeping this positive: Tom Wambsgans is allegedly not going to prison! For those of us thrilled by the prospect of watching him ferment his own toilet wine, this is a bit of a disappointment, but after a season of Terminal Tom wandering corridors as though marching towards his own death, a win for him is a win for us. Or at least it would be, if Tom's life wasn't perpetually devastating.

First off, the no-prison news isn't even definitive. Though it's worthy of popping some champagne, Gerri is careful to inject, "Long road ahead, no premature celebrations." So maybe it's a bit early for Tom to be flipping tables in joy. This could still go downhill very quickly but given how absolute his doom seemed prior to this moment, it's not hard to understand why he flees the room so quickly to enjoy his jubilation. To top it all off, he gets an arm squeeze from Logan, assuring Tom that his offered sacrifice will be remembered. Tom is so thrilled, he doesn't even know what to do with himself... Just kidding — he knows exactly where to celebrate. Just like when he called him to a diner in the middle of the night, Tom makes a beeline straight for Greg. Who else would he turn to with unabashed joy? That joy comes in the form of a sort of violent rage, but Greg has always doubled as his best friend and also punching bag, so it suits them well. Tom flips a desk and jumps atop a filing cabinet, but the most meaningful gesture he makes is the kiss he plants on Greg's forehead. The Waystar Two are free ... probably.

Except that for Tom, escaping prison doesn't mean freedom. Tom is still trapped in the Waystar Royco machine, and tethered to Shiv's side. Thus Greg, who doesn't suffer the same fate, infuriates him. Why can't Tom be happy? This question plagues him all episode. As Greg glows with joy about his upcoming date, Tom stews. He goes back to bullying his companion as always, teasing him about the possibility of actually dating the "goddesss" Comfry (Dasha Nekrasova), and even more pissed when it comes to fruition. The tunnel of compliments send shim spiraling further — the scripted encouragements are so vague and hollow that they verge on insulting. Why isn't anything around Tom real? And why can't he be happy? He's back where he was at the end of the second season, second guessing his marriage and new life with the Roy's — but it's so much worse, because of all that the looming prison sentence revealed about his relationship. So why can't Tom be happy? "I took the wrong drugs in the wrong order and I can't get happy," is the explanation he comes up with, but we know better. Next episode, a completely sober Rom will wear a similar expression of defeat, of profound sadness and devastation, and it won't have anything to do with the drugs.

Bonus points for every Tom and Greg interaction in this and every episode, but especially this one: "I've got a dick the size of a red sequoia and I f*** like a bullet train." "Prove it."

6. Gregory John Hirsch (and Comfry)

Greg is on an endless rollercoaster ride and this week, it looks like he's up. Other than Tom trashing his office and Kendall preparing to decimate him in the press, not a bad week for Gregg the Egg. He managed to secure himself a night out with Comfry, despite the fact that he can only speak to her in that weird, "m'lady" voice that's half southern, half medieval. And maybe Comfry only agreed because she's pissed about Kendall taking over her apartment with He-Man lunchboxes and refuses to let him control her dating life too ... but a win's a win! (If we don't get to see these two out at dinner, we riot.)

5. Power Couple, Connor and Willa

In an episode where everyone seems so devastatingly lonely, Connor and Willa and their delusions of becoming the President and First Lady are so quaint, so enviable and actually kinda sweet. Is this the most functional relationship in the show? Shiv tries to tell Roman that her relationship is more stable than his (nonexistent relationship with Tabitha), a bats**t crazy concept considering the state of her marriage, meanwhile these two spend the night arm in arm, bragging about the whooping 1% (irony) votes that Connor is pulling in the presidential race. Willa is ready to fight for her partner and seems genuinely proud of his "success." And Connor still looks at Willa with a glow in his eyes (mostly because his plan is working and she has indeed become attached to him ... but that's romance, right?) As these two continue their swoon-worthy romance, we should probably keep an eye on Connor, who had his buttons pushed much too many times this season. The first pancake might be reaching a breaking point, and he's already threatened to go public with some disparaging words about Logan. If he actually follows through, I'm sure Willa would be willing to lend her theatrical eye to a public spectacle and further the family embarrassment.

4. Kerry, And Her Political Pillow Talk

We know Logan is fallible. We've now seen him go piss mad, collapse on a hike, and literally have a stroke. But things also go wrong outside of Logan's health, no matter how badly Roman would have us believe otherwise.We've heard hints of his past dalliances causing trouble — the name Sally Ann has come up more than once AKA "Sally Ann with the horses" and "Sally Ann with the harp" — a past infatuation that evidently didn't end happily. We know that Connor's mom is in a psychiatric ward, the Rhea Jarell (Holly Hunter) debacle was a pretty major hiccup, and knowing Lady Caroline Collingwood, she probably caused some epic drama herself. Shiv seems well attuned to these things and her Daddy sense began tingling the second Kerry made herself a player.

Though she's laser-focused on the Waystar assistant, Roman brushes it off as a natural next step in their father's life — why wouldn't the 83-year-old CEO have a girlfriend who's 50 years younger than him? Remember how thrilled the Pierces were about Marcia, a woman who was actually age appropriate for the man? This makes more sense, doesn't it? But Marcia will happily sit the rest of this madness out, now that she has her flesh ( in the form of many pounds of gold). So with Marcia out of the question, Kerry's biggest obstacle is Shiv ... which is definitely manageable. She manages to crush Rhea eventually, but at the moment, Logan won't give his daughter the time of day. Meanwhile, Kerry's voice cuts through all the other noise in the room. While his children try to convince him of Mattson's importance, Kerry says "f*** him," sips some champagne, and nearly makes up Logan's mind. Given her excitement about Mencken last week, we should probably be worried about what else Kerry is whispering in Logan's ears late at night.

3. Lukas Mattson

Has anyone else spent the season extremely excited to meet the Alexander Skarsgård character promised in the casting announcements? Well the payoff has finally arrived, in all its 6-foot glory, and it's pretty terrifying. Lukas Mattson is the edgelord Mark Zuckerberg sociopath of our nightmares, the kind that rules the world and naturally vibes with monsters like Roman Roy. Mattson gets under Logan's skin early on, with his disinterest in the Waystar deal and his decision not to show up to the meeting. Instead, he sends his lackeys — some Frank and Gerri equivalents that Logan refuses to even meet, without a real decision-maker in the room. We all know how these things go, after all — we've seen it from the other end. Gerri and the Roy kids in a room, dealing with Stewy and a couple of Sandy's, but popping out every 3 minutes to call and check in with Logan. Refusing to be on the other end of that stick, Logan cancels and Mattson succeeds at humiliating him.

Mattson continues his life's work of getting under people's skin later in the episode by looking Roman square in the eye and asking, "When will your father die?" As though it's not the question looming over the entire series, Mattsoon casually inquires about Logan's impending death and doesn't even stop there, adding some spice to the equation by voicing his opinion on the matter: "We talking less than a year or five years? Because if it's five, that's a long time. It would be better sooner."

Mattsson doesn't want anyone hanging over him; it's why he skips out on the meet early in the episode, it's why the whole Waystar deal doesn't totally jive with him, and it's probably why he stares down Kendall with obvious loathing when the birthday boy sidles up beside him to offer advice on the deal. But Roman speaks his language, promising a world where Matsson can continue on as he pleases, but with a silent partner. Plus, he gets to piss on Roman's phone. That's not something a Logan Roy would allow him to do — it's the move of someone that he can turn into his own personal lapdog. And despite bonding with the youngest Roy sibling, he still holds himself pretty firmly in control — finalizing nothing and instead telling Roman that he's "in the conversation."

Bonus points to Mattson for reminding the world about the three p's: "Privacy, P*** and Pasta."

2. Roman Roy AKA Logan Jr.

Discount Logan Roy has gotten meaner, but apparently, the price of his unkindness is finally understanding his job. Roman's come a long way from ya know, the mess he made on his office window back in season 1. I have no doubt that he would still do that now, but at least it isn't all he does in his office — he's also toiling away at the finer details of a deal with GoJo, an idea he may have stolen from Kendall, but is thrilled to execute all on his own. Roman's been underestimated for far too long, and he's spent the season studying up on how to prove all his haters (i.e. his family) wrong. And so far, it's going a lot differently than the time he literally blew up a rocket. While attending Kendall's disastrous party, he's happy to poke fun at his brother and make as many comments as possible about the metaphorical replica of his mother's birthing canal, but Roman is laser-focused on Lukas Mattson, and finalizing a deal.

Roman has a penchant for getting on with the truly despicable people of this world, which helped him win Mencken and now secures Mattson. Once again, he journeys to the bathroom to woo a man into his father's business, this time making "jokes" about how he can't piss in front of other men, before shaking the guy's hand at the urinal. Everything about every conversation Roman has this episode is ripe for dissection by a therapist, especially when it comes to his treatment of his siblings. The success of getting Mattson to come to the table goes straight to Roman's head, fueling a tirade of insults thrown at Shiv and Kendall, and topped off when he pushes the latter to the ground and bursts out laughing. The fact that Kendall is on the verge of tears is something Roman would usually notice — he tends to be pretty protective and concerned when it comes to Kendall. But today, the devastation on his brother's face means nothing. Roman has found a high to ride and he's thrilled to flaunt it. And for a solid few moments, Roman mirrors the cruelty of his father.

1. Logan Roy

By virtue of not having to attend Kendall's public existential crisis — ahem, birthday bash, Logan wins. He sips a flute of champagne at the start of the episode and later, still manages to devastate his second born son in absentia with a brutal "f*** you" thinly disguised as a birthday card. Offering Kendall a sort of mercy kill, Logan ushers him out of the company by putting in clear print just how badly he's lost. The king of symbolism has found something more wince-worthy than a box of donuts or a can of coke — who needs subtlety when you can pinpoint your own child's trauma? Logan wins because he knows when not to get lost in his wins. While Roman is riding high right now, Logan understands that you're always one bad move from crashing right back down. As he says, there's a "long road ahead."