Succession is a perpetual power struggle, one set of victories and defeats after another - personal triumphs and public embarrassments, hostile takeovers and controlled corporate demolitions. The Roy clan - and everyone in their orbit - has endured, among other things, humiliating sex, humiliating power grabs, humiliating marriages and relationships, humiliating bachelor parties, humiliating urination habits, even humiliating shuttle launches.
The beat goes on in Season 2; the maneuvering and power plays haven't stopped just because Kendall's coup fell apart. There's still a successor to be named, still ambitions to be rewarded or thwarted, still wild cards lurking in the dark. What's clear is that, over the course of the next 10 weeks, a few of these cutthroat big-business players - and, for that matter, their political rivals - will wind up on the outside looking in, their best laid plans having blown up in their face.
But you be the decider: Who will suffer the most ignominious fates when Succession Season 2 comes to an end?
As the boys in the family have been jockeying for position on the corporate ladder, Shiv has been sowing her idealistic political oats. One foot in the corporate oligarchy in which she was born, the other in the DC equivalent of the Resistance. She hasn't aligned herself with just anyone, but her father's most outspoken political critic, Gil Eavis. That idealism all falls away as Season 2 opens, as Logan offers her the chance to be his successor. The blushing euphoria with which she accepts the offer, and her confidence in being able to run it better than anyone, is the most vulnerable we've ever seen her. Which means her father has either set her up for a triumphant career ascension or a crushing reversal of fortune.
"It could be Gerri," Logan Roy said when discussing vague plans for naming his successor at the top of Waystar Royco. "It won't be Gerri, but Gerri's fine." She took it all in stride, but the fact that her years of brilliant behind-the-scenes work for Logan are rewarded in that moment with mockery - the matter-of-fact insistence that she would of course never be considered for CEO - shine a light on just how expendable Logan considers her to be. Plus, it's not as if there's no precedent for Logan kicking loyal soldiers to the curb. Remember Frank?
What greater humiliation could one endure than meticulously orchestrating a hostile takeover of your family's company, then being forced to acquiesce to Daddy's control because you accidentally got a guy killed? Logan's "No. 1 boy" has had more dramatic ups and downs than anyone - from junkie to corporate superstar, from favored successor to turncoat. He's back in his father's (tenuous) embrace - thanks to his TV appearance, "the first f*cking thing my son's ever done right in his life" - but he's also snorting street coke instead of the good stuff. And from a dubious source. When Cousin Greg is your most readily available underworld ally, it's safe to say your fall from grace has been humiliating.
It could perhaps be argued that Cousin Greg is impervious to humiliation, given his lack of any real power or respect within the family, and just his whole "Cousin Greg" thing. Then again, his proximity to power - irrelevant as it may often seem - can't be overlooked entirely. His role in Tom's cruise-line debacle is lingering - even if Tom doesn't know it - and could potentially be used as leverage in a power play somewhere down the line. A power play that seems bound to end in shame for everyone's favorite 7-foot-tall awkward cousin.
Lawrence has had his share of not-so-friendly run-ins with the Roy clan during his time in business with them, and remains one of the show's wild cards. He has a seat at the Waystar table, he's smarter and more savvy than many of the corporate players both within and outside the family, and he's proven himself more than willing to play the hand he's dealt, no matter the consequences. Then again, he's burned enough bridges - both in his professional actions and personal interactions - that earning the trust of anyone in the Roy braintrust will be no easy task.
Marcia's influence over her powerful husband's career and decision-making has been clear from the very beginning of Succession's inaugural season, but it's safe to suggest she may have made her background machinations all too obvious; after all, no one in the family trusts her, and mistakes have been made already. It's also safe to say that her fate is tied, in some form or fashion, to Logan's. Any loss of control on his part - especially given the sway she holds over him - could be bad news for her. And that's to say nothing of the Roy children's easily detectable desire to get her, and her opinions, out of the picture.
He threw one good party and immediately decided this meant he was qualified to run for president. The girlfriend he insists on including in family photos is a paid escort for whom he has grown irrationally loyal. Still, despite Willa's palpable disinterest in seeing Connor as a serious relationship, he continues to press the issue and try to box her in. This can't end well. And that's to say nothing of his presidential campaign.
He's already gotten a space shuttle blown up - how much more public embarrassment could he survive? Still, he finds himself sitting in the catbird seat for succession. He's never disloyal, and his brother's takeover attempt just flamed out in spectacular fashion. By all sensible calculations - his status in the pecking order, Logan's desire to retain family control - he should be the guy. By the time the Season 2 premiere concluded, Roman had already suffered one embarrassment - Shiv leapfrogging him at the top of the chain - without even knowing it. There's a lot of potential for his status to become combustible - out of jealousy, malfeasance, or perhaps even his unusual sexual hangups becoming an Achilles' heel.
Poor Tom. It took him an entire season to realize his betrothed - and his access point to the Roy empire - wasn't interested in monogamy. Optimistic chap that he is, he went ahead with the marriage anyway. Which makes his eagerness about his purported rise up the ranks of Waystar Royco so pre-emptively tragic. That he earnestly believes he could run the company - "fill out the big trousers," as he puts it - encapsulates his unique combination of ambition and cluelessness. Plus, there are still those incriminating documents he has no idea - thanks to Greg's resourceful copy-machine subterfuge - he still has to worry about.
Unlike most everyone else in Succession, Gil is not a corporate player, but that doesn't mean his fate - and his reputation - isn't at stake. Whether he knows it or not, he may have just lost one of his most powerful allies, Shiv, to the dark side - at least if her role as successor plays out the way Logan says it will. And assuming Shiv is as ruthless as her father has trained her to be, there's no reason to believe she won't use everything she knows about Gil - the idealistic working-class hero's candidate who has nothing but contempt for figures like Logan Roy - to snuff out the public criticism he's so frequently lobbed toward Roy and the Waystar empire.
It was Nate who brought his ex-girlfriend Shiv - who eventually became his illicit lover - onto Gil Eavis's campaign. Which means, should she move over to the corporate world (and perhaps take it upon herself to battle Gil in the process), that comes right back to Nate. Blowing a political campaign you seem to genuinely believe in is a lot more embarrassing than simply getting thrown out of a wedding.
As the events of the series' first season has already demonstrated, it may be a fool's errand to try to take down Logan Roy. You come at the king, you best not miss. Still, he's danced on thin ice a time or two already - nearly losing it all thanks to a coma, nearly losing it again in a (failed) vote of no confidence, nearly losing it again thanks to his son Kendall's treachery. Of course, his greatest vulnerability is not his corporate stability, but his physical and mental stability. Whatever dementia is creeping around the peripheries of his brain, it's sure to rear its head again; he's not getting any younger.