The first episode of the second season of Succession had plenty of storylines to work with. And, as any new season does, it needed to establish storylines as well. But it also added a small, inconsequential storyline, that served as a throughline in this single episode- what’s the smell in the house?
The answer is dead racoons- as they discover later- but the stench spawned an opportunity for characters to chat as they walked around the house looking for the smell, as well as memorable entrances aided by awesome one-liners like, “It smells like the cheesemonger died and left his dick in the brie.” Which is now what I say upon entrance to all family gatherings.
But this gimmick doesn’t end with the discovery of maggoty raccoons decomposing in the chimney. It ends with Logan going full Roy on the contractor who built the chimney and chiseling that contractor out of fair compensation. The confrontation is painful, portraying a ‘have’ (Logan) wheedling his way out of paying an inconsequential amount of money (compared to his bank account) to a ‘have not’ (the contractor) who is just trying to pay his workers and support a family. It could also be assumed that this was a big deal job for the crew, so the impact on his livelihood is compounded.
But was Logan wrong? For sure he is a bad guy, and this is just another example of his short fuse and lack of care for his fellow man. But what if that construction crew actually left the dead raccoons in the chimney?
I think they probably did. How else would decomposing rodents end up in a multi-million dollar home? Only the strangest of scenarios, even by Succession standards, could lead to a bundle of raccoons in Logan Roy’s chimney. To be fair, Logan Roy has a ton of enemies, and I am sure many a man or woman would find satisfaction with stinking up his summer home, but also, who would have access? Especially to a chimney that is so new.
The only logical deduction is that the construction crew did indeed place the dead raccoons in the chimney. And for the sake of argument, let’s also assume it was not with the approval or knowledge of the construction manager that Logan Roy eviscerates at the end of the episode. It didn’t seem like he would take that kind of risk. Whether he knew about the racoons at the time Logan accuses him of doing it… that will have to remain an irrelevant mystery.
With these premises, the construction manager has tentative footing at best. Your crew stunk up the summer palace of the biggest entertainment mogul in the world, and oh yeah, he is a grade A, world class asshole. And the construction manager knew this pre-dead raccoon shenanigans, because in the interaction at the end of the episode, they refer to a previous disagreement about the pricing of the materials and labor for the job.
And this is where the argument gets more interesting. The crew should not have put dead racoons in Logan Roy’s chimney- fact. Nothing good would come of it, and it was a blunder of epic proportions. Logan Roy always wins. Just ask him.
But can we argue that these chimney workers were justified for that action? Could this level of stupidity be excused by an equal level of assholery (I am pleasantly surprised to find out that ‘assholery’ is actually a word) on the part of Logan Roy. Well now… this also feels like firm footing.
Logan Roy, a man born from poverty (the extent of which remains to be debated), and now has so much money he wouldn’t know if he lost a million, chiseled this poor construction worker out of every penny possible. ‘Cause why not? We like to imagine that there is some amount of money that we could reach, after penny-pinching and saving and slaving and wheeling and dealing, that would allow us to unclench our butt cheeks and relax about a few bucks here and there. And yet…. I don’t know if we have evidence to support that ideology. The truth seems to be more like what we see in Logan Roy- the journey he took to get to where he is now, was so formative that his cheap and ruthless mentality is now indistinguishable from the man himself.
So, we can imagine that even prior to the raccoons in the chimney, when Logan saw an opportunity to save some money on the construction job, he probably took it, and took it hard. And the poor construction workers, who inevitably knew they were doing the job for a rich billionaire mogul probably felt a level of resentment unfamiliar to most, a resentment that may have been spurred on by the politics Logan espouses on his news channels, and out of that resentment we get- raccoons in the chimney.
But play it back further… maybe the construction crew, knowing who they were working for, hating his rhetoric against immigrants like themselves (based on the nationality of the man Logan talks to at the end of the episode) actually did run the price up on Logan, thinking he wouldn’t think anything of it. And maybe this is something Logan is used to and anticipates. Or maybe they didn’t run up the price on Logan, but Logan thought they did because he was so used to everyone else doing it to him…
And the plot thickens.
Rising above all these details, the infinitely rich media mogul who chiseled the construction workers out of money, pre- and post-racoons, is the bad guy. But I think there may be room to understand Logan’s actions by guessing at some of the factors at play. Either way, it embodies the infinite gulf between people living within miles of each other, and the infinitely complicated relationships between them.
But more than any blame, this interaction seemed so poignant for the show. Logan Roy interacting with a non-real person, a norm-o, an average Joe, something we don’t ever see him do, and when he does, he does it with disdain and ruthlessness and no amount of reasoning can remove the impression of a 1% kicking one of the 99 while he’s down.
“My lawyer used to work for the Justice Department. Who’s yours? Mr. Magoo?”
And the levers of power stay greased.
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