With the sharks circling and the Department of Justice investigating Waystar RoyCo, the shareholders have gathered for an overdue meeting to determine the company’s future — and, more importantly, the Roy family’s foothold within the organization — on the latest episode of Succession. And leading up to this pivotal meeting, Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) only daughter, Shiv (Sarah Snook), has been testing the limits of her own power as president of domestic operations, determined to right the wrongs of her father’s past and clear a path to a future that sees her coming out on top.
“Shiv is really allowing her power to come out and and seeing where her position is the strongest,” Snook tells ET, as the 33-year-old Australian actress breaks down episode 5, which sees Shiv making plays of her own at the shareholders meeting while her father’s health takes a turn and leaves the family in a lurch.
[Warning: Spoilers for Succession season 3, episode 5, “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” written by Tony Roche & Susan Soon He Stanton and directed by Kevin Bray.]
While Shiv has been aware of who her father is from a young age (“She’s not disillusioned by that”) and her father’s place at the top is clearly in question, she’s playing the long game, which has been building all season. “She’s not going to blow it all up just to win the battle, Shiv wants to win the war,” Snook says. And that’s even after not being named CEO over Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron).
And as a consolation prize, she was given a newly minted position within the company by her father shortly thereafter. But Shiv knows that it’s bullsh*t. “She’s president in name only, but I think she’s a person who uses whatever she has available to her as a resource,” Snook says. “And if she’s going to be called president, then they’re going to have to listen to her.”
However, as seen in episode 4 (“Lion in the Meadow”), her attempts to tell Frank Vernon (Peter Friedman) and Karl Muller (David Rasche) what to do fall flat — and even come with a reprimand from her father. Yet, Shiv is unfazed by any pushback — or any notion that she’s out of her depth here. “Whether she is the right person to take over the company or not doesn’t matter,” Snook says. “Shiv’s a person who’s got a certain level of narcissism and thinks that she’s almost always right.”
So, when it comes to the shareholders meeting, it’s no surprise that Shiv is at the center of the negotiations with Stewy Hosseini’s (Arian Moayed) private-equity partners, Sandy Furness (Larry Pine) and his daughter Sandi (Hope Davis), as the Roys hope to secure their position at the top before the future of the company goes to a vote. And despite coming to seemingly respectable contract terms, Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Logan want to blow up the deal over access to private jets and personal travel.
“She is sort of propped up as the only person who’s willing to go against her dad,” Snook says, pointing out that Roman “would rather risk losing the company rather than going against his dad.” And at the end of the day, Shiv, like her father, thinks the company is the priority. “So, she will risk being in her dad’s bad book in order to save the company.”
But when Logan’s health comes into question and he starts to show signs of mental debilitation, Shiv takes matters into her own hands and negotiates with Sandi one on one. It’s a moment where these two women, daughters of languishing patriarchs, see an opportunity to actually effect change and agree on adding one more seat each for the private-equity group and the Roys. “They know what they’re talking about,” Snook says of the two women. “They know what they know or they presume to know what each other’s family life or home life as well as business life is and how that dynamic affects the other. And so I think Shiv definitely has that to her advantage.”
And in that moment of crisis, when it comes to Logan’s sudden downturn, Snook says that Shiv goes into action mode first and reaction mode second. “She’s like, ‘We’ve got to fix the problems right now,'” the actress explains. “She thrives on solving an immediate problem.”
Despite seemingly making a good deal, when her father regains consciousness, he’s unhappy with the outcome. He feels that her actions were shortsighted and that even though he was unable to guide the ship in this instance, he would have done a better job. And after this latest, public lashing, it’s any wonder how much more Shiv can take before she’s done.
“That’s a good question. She’s been taking it all her life. All the siblings have and Connor has probably taken more than all of them,” Snook says, teasing that “that’s something that will probably be explored more in season four. In the end, these familial ties and relationships are going to come to a head and whether they’re solved and they go back to the same old traditional way of relating to each other or they change, that’s where the story lies.”
While it remains to be seen how far Shiv’s loyalty can be stretched, episode 5 sees another test in the marriage between her and Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), who’s increasingly more and more on edge about his pledge to take the fall and go to prison for Logan.
In one darkly humorous scene, after Shiv has secured the deal, Tom comes onto her and suggests they celebrate by conceiving a baby. And that’s when Shiv, who didn’t question his plan, realizes that he’s been tracking her menstrual cycle in hopes that she would get pregnant while he’s in jail — a reward, so to speak, for his personal and professional sacrifice.
Snook says Shiv’s initial dismissal of Tom’s concerns over going to prison — or even quickly agreeing to the idea, which Macfayden said was “horrifying” to Tom — is her privilege on display. “I don’t think she’s really conceived any of it as a reality,” she says, explaining that Shiv doesn’t want Tom to end up behind bars. “But then also, if it did happen, it’s like, ‘Well, it’s not going to be that bad.’ It’s something that she’s disconnected from reality… She won’t entertain it as a thought.”
But she does have real problems with him tracking her cycle, especially after claiming he didn’t have any demands in the agreement. “It’s just so wild,” Snook says, revealing that Shiv’s pushback against getting pregnant goes deeper than satisfying Tom’s expectations.
Up until this point, she’s largely done what she thought she was supposed to do: “Get a career outside the family business. Go into politics. Get married to a good person and create your own family,” Snook says. “But when her dad offers her the company, she kind of goes against all the things that she planned.”
And with CEO as an option, Shiv’s professional ambitions outweigh her personal ones — at least for right now. “Everything’s up in the air now,” Snook says, adding that “I can’t think of Shiv as being a shred of a maternal woman at all, really. So, the prospect of having children, let alone having children as well as finally becoming CEO of a company that she’s been wanting her whole life at the same time, it’s almost like, ‘How dare you? Don’t trap me like that, Tom.'”
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