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"Souls are boring."note 
"Look, here's the thing about being rich, okay? It's fucking great."
Tom Wambsgans
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A 2018 satirical comedy-drama of the Eat the Rich persuasion, airing on HBO and created by writer Jesse Armstrong of Peep Show fame. The show focuses on media baron Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his family's struggle to divide his massive conglomerate, Waystar-Royco, among themselves.

In the running are: Logan's four dysfunctional children — feckless libertine Connor (Alan Ruck), power-hungry Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Sad Clown Roman (Kieran Culkin) and headstrong daughter Siobhan, a.k.a. "Shiv" (Sarah Snook) — as well as his third wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass), sycophantic son-in-law Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and bumbling grandnephew Greg (Nicholas Braun).

Further complicating the Succession Crisis is the fact that the Roy family's massive wealth has made them all self-absorbed and divorced from reality, which inevitably poisons their relationships with each other and the world around them. Growing up spoiled and wanting for nothing has left each of the Roy children lacking any real work ethic. Logan's efforts to raise them to be just as ruthless as he is has also massively backfired, as they have just ended up with zero loyalty and a willingness to stab anyone in the back, including their own father.

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The show's third season finished in December 2021; it has been renewed for a fourth.

Not to be confused with the novels in The Succession Duology, sometimes marketed as Succession.


This show provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Logan's deteriorating health plays a major role in the first season, and the original concept of the show was about his children fighting for control of his company as he dies. But then Logan's health recovers, and it's not an issue anymore, likely because it was decided by the showrunners to keep Logan alive instead. It's implied that the urinary tract infection that Logan briefly grapples with in season 3 was to blame, and he's now simply on medication.
  • Absurdism: Abuse and trauma and corruption are taken seriously, but a mother can tell her daughter she wishes she never had children, and there's absurdist humour in how she didn't want dogs to be subjected to Logan's kicking, but kids are fine.
  • Abusive Parents:
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    • Logan's presence was scarce when his children were growing up, and he was not the most pleasant or supportive figure when he was around. It was this and them being spoiled by too much money that made the Roy children such narcissistic JerkAsses as adults. He's also implied to have a history of physical abuse. On one occasion he hits his grandson, Shiv jokingly mentions how he beat Roman with a slipper until cried because Roman ordered an expensive lobster at a restaurant. Roman also jokes about being hit by Logan in the very first episode of the series. In the second season, he backhands Roman in a fit of rage, knocking out his tooth.
    • When we meet the younger siblings' mother in the final episodes of the first season, it becomes clear that they received no reprieve on that front either. Caroline Collingwood displays a deeply passive-aggressive and acerbic tone toward those around her, and reactions from her children show that this is something they've come to expect to turn toward them as well. In the first season, she slips in a few cutting digs at her daughter during her wedding reception toast. In the second season, she tactfully postpones a heart-to-heart conversation with Kendall and then slips out early the next day to avoid him.
    • Logan himself was raised in part by "Evil Uncle Noah", whom he claims to his children was an even more abusive and controlling uncle than they might think of him. Indeed, when we see shots of Logan half-dressed there are many scars across his back similar to those given by belt or cane beatings. The only time he actually seems ashamed of his abusive behavior toward his own children is after he backhands Roman. This provokes an unprecedented but still half-hearted apology the next day.
  • Actually Quite Catchy: The reactions to Kendall's rap range from horrified, due to Logan's clear anger about it, to bopping along (if somewhat uncomfortably) with the music.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head:
    • Played with in the last episode of season one, as after completely reducing Kendall to crying and begging that he's sorry, Logan kisses him on the forehead and pets his hair, but even gets quickly sick of that.
    • Both Shiv and Roman affectionately scritch Kendall’s shaven head in the third season finale when they’re comforting him and trying to cheer him up.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The downside of being around Logan Roy is that you’re eventually reduced to begging; Kendall crying that he’s sorry in “No One Is Missing” (and asking to be let go in “Chiantishire”), Shiv letting herself be vulnerable and asking Tom to be protected in “This Is No Time For Tears”, Roman stunned that their parents would screw them over so hard in “All The Bells Say”, even his employees and extended family are terrified of “Boar On The Floor”.
  • All for Nothing: Shiv begging her dad to not let Tom be the sacrifice. He never finds out about it and their relationship gets worse while he cosies up to her father still, Logan thinks less of her and ramps up her Humiliation Conga, and she gets to feel guilty that she broke her promise to look after Kendall, which at the dinner he seems more than aware of.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • Sometimes the original scripts will have details deemed too obvious for onscreen, like Kendall turning to drugs originally because he wanted to feel weaker than he already was, or explaining Roman’s hate of Frank by having Frank yell at him, being on Logan’s side.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The dog pound in “Prague”. Roman is legitimately upset at the thought of remembering it wrong, while Connor and Kendall tell themselves that he enjoyed it and Logan had encouraged the whole thing of two attack dogs fighting with each other. Kieran Culkin is of the mind that it did happen, but there are so much worse memories Roman doesn’t want to think about, and big brother who was abused too and otherwise protected him is just a safer target.
  • Amicable Exes: Kendall and Rava try to keep these cordial, and Rava does her best to be supportive after Logan's stroke. Things end up deteriorating, however, and in the end he dismisses her for trying to screw him over in their divorce.
  • Arc Symbol:
    • Kendall and water, after the death of the waiter in season one (who died after Kendall drove the car into water). “Washing our hands for absolution”, complaining that Logan is drowning prosecutors in compliance bullshit, the rain when he miserably tries to shove money in the letterbox of the waiter’s family, trying to commit suicide in the pool, and the panic attack in the bathtub. His actor, Jeremy Strong, only adds on, saying that a lot of the time, Kendall will think he’s waving when in reality he’s drowning.
    • Dogs. Caroline says that she wanted dogs, but Logan would have kicked them as he never saw anything he loved that he didn’t want to kick to see if it would come back, Logan calls Kendall a Labrador when blackmailing him and complains about his doggy evils in “All The Bells Say”, Roman is called a slime puppy and sick puppy, has painful memories of a dog cage that everyone says he enjoyed, calls Waystar like a cage for him and got sent to military school because dad saw him and Kendall as attack dogs.
    • Going along with the dog motif, cages. Roman calls Waystar a cage, Logan puts up a shield all around Waystar because he knows Kendall is going to the roof and thinking about suicide, and Caroline had a big cage in her kitchen even though she wasn’t allowed dogs.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Killer". Logan torments Kendall because he believes he lacks "killer instinct" and he's not "a killer", but Kendall is also wracked with guilt over being an actual killer, of the waiter he left to die when they went to get drugs at Shiv and Tom's wedding reception.
    • Characters constantly ask if something is real, whether it’s the “no real person involved” refrain, a power play, or a way to gain trust or something actually being said. Shiv and Roman ask in the season 3 finale if Kendall’s breakdown is real, and he finally admits everything while they reassure him.
    • “Welcome to the family” gets repeated a few times, and it’s always treated as some kind of curse to whoever is hearing it (including Shiv, who is only deemed included once she’s in Waystar).
    • "Bullshit". Characters frequently ask for "no more bullshit", "cut the bullshit", and refers to stuff as "just bullshit".
  • Armor-Piercing Response: All Roman can really do is go quiet and look at her pleadingly when Tabitha asks if proposing marriage is a way to get people to stay.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The Roys are all horrible, but they do love each other, even if a mangled way:
    • In “Austerlitz”, Shiv calls Logan out on the hit-pieces that say Kendall is using again, as soon as Roman finds out his brother is doing meth he prioritises rescuing him over doing what his dad says, Kendall repays the favor by snarking at Logan for never giving Roman any credit and for calling Shiv a coward until she cries, and Connor hugs Shiv after all the drama, hoping she at least had some fun.
    • In “Pre-Nuptial”, Connor offers to fulfil the father role when Logan doesn’t bother showing up, and the golden trio share a sweet giggly hug before the wedding itself, in the “old place” where they viewed as a comfort away from parents before.
    • The siblings stand up for Roman when Logan smacks him.
    • Everywhere in “This Is Not For Tears”, from Shiv and Kendall making sure that Roman is okay after he tells them not to make jokes about the Hostage Situation, Shiv’s guilty conflict over her brother vs her husband, Roman and Shiv sincerely saying Kendall did a good job, Roman defending Gerri, Stewy not taking the deal if it means his ex friend loses a board seat, even Logan loving Kendall so much that he makes the comparison of sacrificing him will make the sun rise again.
    • When Matsson starts grilling Roman on how many years Logan has left to live, Roman pointedly tells him that his father's death is not a subject he welcomes.
    • When Kendall seems to attempt suicide, his siblings stage an intervention and tell him that they'd rather he not try to kill himself again. Later, when Kendall has a breakdown about the wedding waiter, Shiv and Roman awkwardly but sincerely provide shoulders to cry on. Kendall repays the favour, playing the support to confront their father and comforting Roman when he cries.
    • Stewy and Kendall fuck each other multiple times, but Kendall calls Stewy his Only Friend (that’s not Roman or Shiv), Stewy tries to make up for bailing on the vote of no confidence, and practically begs him to just cash out and run, which Kendall finally tries to do but isn’t allowed.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: As part of his fears of going to prison, Tom starts tracking Shiv’s periods in the mistaken hope that if he goes to jail, her being pregnant will keep their marriage alive. She’s… unhappy, to say the least.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the first episode, although he displays harsh and callous behaviour to his children, Logan gets a few redeeming moments as well. He's praised and called a friend in a sincere speech from Frank, who appears to be a decent and intelligent person, he's affectionate with Marcia, and he's kind to the working class boy that Roman humiliates. There's almost enough Pet the Dog moments to make the audience wonder if he has Hidden Depths, and may be a complex character but deep down a good guy who's frustrated with his entitled children - and then, in one scene, he remorselessly fires his long time friend and employee for seemingly no reason. The audience at this moment realises how much of Jerkass this guy really is - he respects no one but himself.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: One of the main themes of the show.
    • Kendall is desperate to become CEO, to the point of ignoring multiple warnings that indicate not everything is well. The minute he gets it, Gerri tells him that the company is seriously in debt and may actually be about to go under at any moment.
    • Shiv is delighted at the end of “Hunting” to finally be bought in, but for one Logan treats it as him asking her out and she just gets more enmeshed, and for another he still keeps her at arm's length and most of what she gets to do is what he deems woman-jobs.
    • Tom and Greg are both desperate to get higher, and better, positions in the company, Tom especially. The minute both get it, they learn about the assault cases on the cruise ships, and Tom instantly realizes that unless they do something immediately, they're co-conspirators. And they don't.
    • In "This Is Not For Tears," Logan dismisses the idea that Kendall would have made a good CEO on the basis that he's not a "killer." Then Kendall eviscerates him on live television. And Logan's smirk at his words seems to suggest that he actually respects Kendall for it.
  • Betrayal Insurance: When Tom forces Greg to destroy all evidence of the Cruises scandal, Greg secretly makes photocopies of the documents he's supposed to be shredding, to be used as leverage for an immunity deal should the scandal ever come to light. This pays off at the end of season 2 when Greg gives the documents to Kendall, who uses them to force Logan to take the fall for Cruises on live TV - cementing an alliance between Greg and Kendall in the process.
  • Big Fancy House: All of the Roys have very expensive homes, though they live in New York City, so they're not very big. Connor's hacienda in the desert counts, however, and the biggest example is Caroline Collingwood's castle where the wedding takes place. The first episode of the second season, titled "Summer Palace", is named after the Roys' massive Hamptons summer home featured in it.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Logan and Ewan had an Evil Uncle Noah that left whip marks on Logan’s back, Caroline is Maternally Challenged and wishes she had dogs, Kendall is a bipolar addict, Shiv is a control freak who is afraid of being vulnerable, Roman has sexuality issues that he doesn’t want to think about, and Logan calls Waystar a family; almost everyone in the company a dysfunctional mess who is afraid of him.
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: Kendall’s 40th was doomed from the start (even says himself he’s planning a massive nervous breakdown), a tribute to his childhood that he doesn’t want to admit was horribly abusive, everyone so crowded into the space that Stewy is there and not even seen, he can’t find a gift from his kids, a “cash out and fuck off” card from Logan makes him spiral, and he, Shiv and Roman all drink too much with differing levels of breakdown.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Everyone who at first seems to be a decent person ultimately reveals an ugly side.
    • Roman is sarcastic and snarky, but at first seems to be the most down-to-earth Roy sibling in the first episode, until he offers $1 million to a lower-class Little League player (with his parents watching) if he hits a home run, then tears the check up in his face when he fails, likely traumatizing him in the process. And he does it because he's bored.
    • Shiv is a political consultant for a liberal populist presidential candidate and tries to come across as a Granola Girl, but she's just as near-sociopathic as the rest of her family, cheating on her fiance Tom and ultimately using him to further her career at his expense.
    • Tom himself seems like an awkward Nice Guy around the Roys, but he reveals a very nasty side whenever he has someone under him to push around. He starts creepily bullying Greg the moment they cross paths and continues once Greg becomes his subordinate. He feels wronged at Shiv constantly cheating on him and wanting threesomes and an open marriage, but he also puts up with it because he's a grasping Social Climber who married her mainly for her family's money and power. He's also extremely rude to his wedding planner.
    • Connor likes to assert himself as a relaxed intellectual who stands above all the family infighting, but he's not. He completely goes berserk at the slightest bit of difficulty when hosting a charity event.
    • Greg, the newest member of the Roys' inner circle, comes off as a regular person who is out of his depth, but is clearly trying to milk the Roys for money and isn't afraid to use blackmail and deceit to advance his position.
  • Bitter Wedding Speech: All over the place in Caroline and Shiv’s weddings. Logan’s speech about family is just a Stealth Insult at Kendall, Caroline insults her daughter which Tom thinks is just joking, and Shiv curses her mother to have as great a marriage as hers.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: After trying to break up with Tom and getting vehemently refused, Greg brings up that he has leverage in the form of keeping the papers on cruises, and as much as he says he doesn’t want to blackmail, he’s still happy about getting more money.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • With the Roys being a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of the Murdochs, their news channel ATN is obviously supposed to stand for Fox News, another news channel that is frequently accused of being a right-wing mouthpiece. Likewise, the liberal PGM news network, ATN's biggest rival, seems to be a blend of the liberal MSNBC, and CNN, Fox News' biggest rival. The Pierce media family also resembles the Sulzbergers, the family that owns The New York Times.
    • Edgy digital media outlet Vaulter is a mix between VICE, Buzzfeed, and Gawker. The office is eerily similar to VICE's, the inane headlines are in the style of VICE and Buzzfeed, and the Vaulter plotline in the show mirrors Gawker's real-life trajectory.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • After Greg is fired for being high at work, he claims that he got a contact high from a hitchhiker.
    • Logan claims that he doesn't think he even made contact with Roman after backhanding him so hard that Roman has to check the status of his teeth.
    • When Tom is being grilled by the Senate subcommittee, he claims, among other things, that he doesn't know who Greg is, his personal assistant. He quickly backtracks, claiming he didn't understand the question, which causes the subcommittee to further grill him on how he could possibly misunderstand them.
    • Logan spouts multiple times that he loves his children and does everything he can for them, usually after a scene where he's destroyed one of them emotionally again.
  • Book Ends:
    • The Season 1 premiere and Season 1 finale each feature scenes of the Roys paying off characters to keep quiet about certain indiscretions.
    • The Season 2 premiere opens with a still drugged-up Kendall giving an interview where he shoulders all the blame for the attempted hostile takeover, as he's at Logan's mercy since he let the waiter die. The Season 2 finale ends with him giving another interview where he's promised Logan that he'll take the fall, only, this time, to stab Logan in the back and say he and he alone was ultimately responsible for the cruise sex abuse coverup scandal.
    • Season 1 ended with Tom declaring his love for Shiv at their wedding, letting her into the secret about the cruise ship scandal so she'll have leverage against Logan, and reluctantly agreeing to an open marriage. Season 2 ends with Logan seeming to break his promise to Shiv that Tom will stay out of the scandal, only to backtrack when she begs him, and Tom snapping back at Shiv, telling her he's not sure he can stay with her, and threatening to get a divorce.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Both Kendall and Shiv borrow Roman’s fawning habit of kneeling down by their father, Shiv especially egregious because she’s doing it in her fancy dress and heels.
  • Both Sides Have a Point:
    • Rava did manipulate Kendall by sleeping with him and suggesting the divorce might not happen, but she is similarly shown to have a very good reason for not wanting him back, as he spent literal years on drugs.
    • The dog pound is one of the biggest examples of how Logan has pitted his children against each other and abuse has clouded their childhoods, with Kendall wanting to believe that it was no big deal, but having a point that Roman would rather blame him for “turning weird” than worse examples of their father (and Kendall also protected him a lot of the time), and Roman having the point that even if it was a game, he was four when it started and he can still find it traumatic, just he just would rather act like his bad childhood was Ken’s fault.
    • The "Rape Me" stunt during Shiv's speech in season 3 episode 3. Shiv is transparently pretending at feminism while selling real women out because their claims threaten her family's company, but Kendall's choice of how to demonstrate that is grossly misogynistic, especially toward his own sister. And as critical news coverage has pointed out, he's hardly a bastion of feminism himself.
    • Logan and Marcia are right in that his children are scheming to get rid of him while enjoying the wealth he has, but Roman, Shiv and Kendall (also Connor) are right in that he's a terrible person who has traumatised them all.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: The Pierce family is almost as rich as the Roys, but they maintain liberal principles and are disgusted by the conservative-slanted ATN. They have a Pretentious Latin Motto inscribed on their doorway and quote Shakespeare instead of saying grace.
  • Brick Joke: In his first scenes, Greg makes some Blatant Lies about smelling like pot because he picked up a pot-smoking hitchhiker. In the first season finale, Kendall stumbles upon him outside the wedding reception and Greg immediately starts claiming that he smells like pot because there's some other guy smoking pot nearby. In fact, there is some other guy smoking pot nearby.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Crossing over with Incest Subtext. None of the siblings are blameless for making gross jokes about each other, but Roman’s Sad Clown jokes about Kendall being good with his mouth, Roman jokingly accusing Connor of molesting him during family therapy, or Shiv being a Sexy Secretary, get to a point where they (especially Shiv) want to know what the hell is wrong with him. Connor’s not free from this either, making blowjob jokes in “The Disruption” about his own sister.
  • But I Read a Book About It: When Kendall makes a business decision, Logan scornfully asks if he'd learned that from one of his books, implying that Kendall has the theory of business but lacks the knowledge and experience of the self-made Logan.
  • Call-Back: In “The Disruption”, Shiv and Kendall reverse “Safe Room”. While she doesn’t know she’s broken yet, he recognises that she’s in his position from the last season, and feels sorry for her (while also being glad that it’s not him anymore).
  • Cast Full of Rich People: All the main characters are obscenely wealthy, as they are a media dynasty. Even the comparatively middle-class Greg is revealed to be in line for a large chunk of a $250 million inheritance. However, the family is very dysfunctional, and the dynamic only worsens as the titular Succession Crisis comes to a head. Instead of enjoying their vast riches, they seem more concerned with keeping the wealth.
  • Catchphrase: In the first season, Connor announces that he "doesn't take sides" so many times it's basically a catchphrase. He even says it immediately before telling Shiv that he's on her side.
  • Cathartic Crying: Jeremy Strong improvised Kendall’s crying at the end of “Nobody Is Ever Missing”, calling it a culmination of everything he’s gone through and just wanting comfort in his dad’s arms.
  • Central Theme: The legacy of trauma, in a family that’s disgustingly rich and influential, so that trauma will infect everything around them.
  • Cerebus Callback: In “Shit Show At The Fuck Factory”, Gerri tells Kendall not to jump when he hears the news of the debt problem, which comes off as a joke, but then fast forward to “Safe Room”, where he’s Being Watched as he thinks about jumping off his father’s building, and Gerri’s comment makes it look like everyone knows Kendall has suicidal leanings.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The cruises and the sexual assaults that were covered up (and how it shows off the ignored rotting abuse in the Roy family) makes the first appearance in “Sad Sack Wasp Factory”, making the show more of a dark tragicomedy than a Black Comedy with sad elements.
  • The Chain of Harm: This could be the entire idea of the show, and of Waystar-Royco themselves. Every single person needs someone to punch down at: Logan tries to keep his children close so he can belittle them; Shiv marries Tom at least in part because she knows he's so far out of his depth that he'll put up with her treating him badly (though he finally snaps back at her in Season 2); this is even why Tom helps Greg get his job, so he's no longer on the lowest rung of the family ladder.
  • Character Development: The Roys and their surrogates are constantly making progress in their character arcs and then backsliding when the pressure mounts. The only person who seems to take permanent steps in character development is Greg, who gradually becomes more confident within the trappings of high society. In the third season, he decides to "make a deal with the devil" and join the upper echelons of the company to become the attack dog of Tom, who promises an army of "Gregs" of his own.
  • Chekhov's Gun: the Brightstar Cruises sexual misconduct scandal.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the first couple of episodes, Roman and Grace have a child called Isla, who hangs around with Sophie and Iverson, but she disappears and is never mentioned again.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Addict that he is, Kendall will often light up as a socially acceptable way of calming himself down.
  • Comically Small Bribe: Played for Drama, as even if Logan had no idea of the vote of no confidence, Kendall having a rare safe night with him eating burgers and watching football makes him want to call the whole thing off, as he’s so abused and desperate for affection that any kindness from Logan is enough.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: All of the Roy siblings are delusional to some degree or another. The worst offender ultimately proves to be Connor, who reveals that he seriously believes he could become President of the United States after a lifetime of doing nothing.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Tom's lesson to Greg on "how to be rich" runs on this. They eat expensive foreign cuisine and then drink gold-flecked liquor from bottle service at the empty VIP area of a club simply because it's expensive. In season three, Greg lets himself get talked into buying a hugely expensive watch even though he protests that he can just check the time on his phone.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Succession takes the unusual step of having the people perpetuating the conspiracy (the board of Waystar Royco) as the main characters. They've sent their cruise ships out under a non-American flag to save money and avoid legal trouble, which has fostered a culture of institutionalized rape and sexual harassment, and their attempts to thwart investigations into it are a huge part of the conflict.
  • Costume Porn: Shiv, after she starts trying for the crown. To the untrained eye, she is merely wearing smart business clothes. To the trained eye, she is wearing "stealth wealth" labels like Loro Piana (knitwear), Brunello Cucinelli (coats), Max Mara and Gabriela Hearst (general tailoring). Each outfit costs about $13,000, and that's before shoes, jewellery and handbag (Hermès Birkin, another $10,000).
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: While jury’s out on whether they would have used it as leverage or not, Roman and Shiv try to find out several times what the hell is wrong with Kendall, are obviously both worried and tearing him to shreds for acting the martyr. As he finally tells them and they really don’t care, telling him he’s not evil and supporting him, the three at least want to believe they’d be saved a lot of mess if he’d just told them straight off.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Much like Jesse Armstrong's previous shows — The Thick of It, which he wrote for, and Peep Show, which he co-created — Succession is a pitch-black comedy where terrible things happen to terrible people. In addition, both Succession and The Thick of It are about wildly unqualified people in positions of power.
  • Cringe Comedy:
    • Lots, mainly when one of the Roys (particularly Connor or Roman) says something completely inappropriate to the situation apropos of nothing whatsoever.
    • Kendall provides a lot of this whenever he tries to sound knowledgable and impressive in front of executives and Waystar Royco associates. Also when he tries to intimidate them and is surprised that people don't automatically respect him just because he's Logan's son, such as when he tries telling an associate on the phone to "Fuck off" and finds his dad's Catchphrase just offends them and makes them hang up.
    • Kendall's first appearance has him listening to rap music on headphones and rapping along himself, oblivious to his driver's cringing. It still pales in comparison to Kendall's little tribute to Logan and his 50 years at the top:
  • Crocodile Tears: In keeping with the mocking and Men Don't Cry attitude, Logan assumes that Kendall is just crying to manipulate. Even his big suicide attempt seems to be dismissed as attention seeking when all the others are worried about him, as only Logan knows he’s tried before.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Greg and Tom come across as morons, but they're actually pretty good at scheming when their back is against the wall.
  • Cure Your Gays: Logan tells Roman to get “straightened out”.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: With both generations of Roys, we only see the effects of massive emotional abuse, but beyond the looming, unsettling credits and references to a lot of horror, we don’t get the full picture. Jesse Armstrong has talked about how a big theme in the show is generational trauma, and how much of the character nastiness is their own doing versus how they grew up.
  • Darkest Hour: In terms of sibling relationship, the shareholders meeting is when they’re at their most fractured. They have one scene as the three of them and it’s just screaming past each other, everyone focused on Logan’s UTI ruining everything. Even at the party a couple of episodes later when things get bad they all at least want things to get better.
  • Dark Secret: Kendall killing the waiter is for two seasons only known by him, Logan, Marcia and Colin, and ends up in another one, Logan owning him like a child getting prepared for a sacrifice (and the way they talk, Logan wanting the truth told about Kendall but not about him, implies there’s more shit in the past). He admits the first one to Shiv and Roman and breaks down in cathartic tears (as Armstrong said, “you realize it wasn’t unsayable”) when they give him awkward but unflinching support.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: On his first day as COO, and as his inbox fills with panicked emails about Waystar Royco's debt crisis, Roman stares out at the view from his high-rise office and masturbates onto the window. The metaphorical connotations are rather straightforward.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • As Sarah Snook has said, Logan’s real favourite child is the company, and the four of them know that, so fighting for that place means you have both the kingdom and the love you crave, but you have to do terrible things to get it.
    • At the end of season 3, Tom name-drops the trope when asking if Greg wants to make a deal with him. Greg smiles and says he wasn't making any good use of his soul anyway.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Of Parental Favouritism. Kendall being the golden child has fucked him up completely (to the point of being treated more like a partner than a son), and no matter how many times he betrays Logan, Logan will always welcome him back with open arms to ground him into the broken version that he enjoys. Even he ends up thinking that Shiv is the best treated when most of her abuse is insidious behind closed doors, and Roman is so resentful of both of them because he craves any kind of attention from Logan, placing Kendall as the enemy of his childhood because he can’t deal with the fact that Logan was abusive, and knifing Shiv if there’s an opportunity to get out of the cold.
  • Dehumanization:
    • The core of the phrase "no real person involved", which refers to lower-class people, usually who work for Waystar Royco (but sex workers are also included) and were abused (usually sexually) or actually murdered on their cruises.
    • Shiv, Roman and Kendall (Connor too, but especially those three) are deemed not real people by their parents or anyone really around them, they’re compared with slaves and property, Kendall especially is often filmed in season two like he’s just part of the scenery, being mocked as acting like a Sex Bot to his father. Roman’s told he’s not a real person and lashes out right back, while Shiv is so afraid she’s seen as another Disposable Woman that she’ll do anything after the promise of protection. Logan will only ever accept their relationships if he thinks the other person will a) defer to him and b) hold their leashes for him.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Not that Kendall’s ever been in a great place in his life, but the manic episode that’s been fizzling out all season three finally breaks when he can’t find a sincere present from his kids, and crashes completely after another Break Them by Talking conversation with Logan, making him try to kill himself in the pool, and implying heavily to Shiv and Roman that he couldn’t see any other way out.
  • Desperately Craves Affection: All four of the Roy kids associate becoming CEO with getting their dad’s love.
    Georgia Pritchett: The tragedy of the show isn't really "Who's going to be in charge?"; it's "Who's going to earn their dad's love and acceptance and approval?" They're all much more desperate for his love and approval than they are for the title or money.
  • Dirty Business: Kendall doesn't want to gut Vaulter — the acquisition was his idea, and he thinks the site can be saved. But when his dad orders him to, he does it, and he does so in a particularly brutal and cold-hearted fashion. It's clear he doesn't enjoy doing it, but he doesn't flinch either.
  • Dirty Old Man: Karl is past middle age and is said to frequent brothels whenever he goes on business trips. He protests that his wife understands that he's a "libertine."
  • Disappointing Older Sibling: Logan manages to have two. Connor has apparently never taken an interest in following his father's footsteps and is constantly dismissed as a nonentity. Kendall even refers to himself as Logan's oldest son in Connor's presence without intending to cause offense. But Kendall is also an example. Even though Logan has groomed him as his heir, he thinks that Kendall is too soft and naive to replace him, which is what gives Kendall his serious inferiority complex and sparks the battle for supremacy between the siblings that drives the show.
  • Dismissing a Compliment: All across the board for the Roy siblings. They have self-inflated egos, but due to their parents just grinding self esteem into dust, any time they actually compliment each other it’s not trusted.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: While Kendall deserves to suffer for accidentally killing the waiter, Logan punishing him is more about keeping his child controlled and broken (Kendall gets two days of rehab before he has to go back to work, and isn’t allowed any downtime) than teaching him about consequences. Jesse Armstrong also has the viewpoint that all of season two, including the sacrifice, is Logan punishing Kendall for the (very failed mind you) vote of no confidence.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Kendall's car incident is clearly based on the infamous Chappaquiddick incident. This extends to Logan, while already having more than enough to attack his son with, asking if he fucked the waiter, because Dodds is based on Mary Jo Kopechne, the passenger in Kennedy’s accident and rumored to be his lover.
    • If it isn’t obvious that Logan choosing his successor and “protecting them” is like a parent or sexual abuser grooming their child, then Roman is here to say it out loud, making jokes about Logan using Kendall as he’s the golden boy, being sweet on Shiv or himself (finally the favourite for about a week) being the child their dad loves to fuck. Business deals are also played like sexual humiliation, Shiv outright saying in the season three finale that they’ve walked in on their parents fucking them.
    • Logan is often compared to God, who sees everything, and Kendall is his ruined sacrifice (either being the Fall Guy for cruises, or becoming CEO who would then find out about all the debt, abuse and failing company) who both of his siblings call a plastic Jesus. The emotional incest between the two just makes the whole thing worse.
    • Logan blackmailing and controlling Kendall in season two doesn’t quite come to sexual abuse, but the allegory is there, with Kendall isolated and unable to tell anyone, often filmed like he’s part of the scenery, his siblings angry because they think he’s being coddled, him feeling like he deserves anything after the Accidental Murder, telling Shiv that if dad didn’t need him he doesn’t know what he would be for, and trying to be champion for the cruises when he doesn’t care about the women because admitting what Logan did to him would be too much to handle.
    • Before it hurriedly zooms out, the number one boy scene has a shot where Kendall’s head has been bent low enough to be out of frame, and it looks like they’re doing… something else other than hugging.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • After Kendall spent the whole season being trampled on, controlled, and humiliated by Logan, and denied even the courtesy of his father telling him he'd make a good CEO, Kendall upends the press conference designed for him taking the fall and instead uses it to very publicly stab Logan in the back, revealing his complicity in the cruises scandal.
    • In the same episode, after a season of simmering tension, Tom finally lashes out at Shiv for all of her grievances in their relationship, from forcing an open marriage to treating him like a slave to the humiliation of agreeing that he should take the fall for the cruises scandal, and hints at the idea of a divorce. It shakes Shiv enough to plead with Logan to not sacrifice him.
  • Double Standard: Logan Roy is very much a misogynist, and tells Shiv to her face that her gender is a weakness, and she’s far more likely to be labelled a Hysterical Woman if she shows any emotion.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • While they’re also worried about him and know something is wrong when he lies down and takes even more abuse, because they’ve been raised to fight and Logan is manipulating them too, Shiv and Roman let themselves get angry that Kendall is supposedly the favourite even after the bear hug, not realising he’s actually a broken down slave for his dad. Continues into season three where it’s one of the reasons why he wants to kill his dad and deem him a monster, but still can’t actually admit that (or that he’s still desperate for Logan’s approval), leaving everyone to think it’s just pure ego and not a mix of that and other things.
    • For three seasons, Shiv has thought of Tom as an Extreme Doormat she can control and who is the exact opposite to her father. What she doesn’t see is how he treats Greg, which can be very Logan-like at times.
    • Roman and Kendall have a conversation in “Sad Sad Wasp Trap” about how supposedly Kendall isn’t fucking anyone and Roman’s face is swimming in pussy. The second season explicitly shows that Roman's prowess is considerably weaker than he implied.
    • For all the public humiliations of his kids, Logan gives a lot of abuse behind closed doors, and so each child thinks the other should be grateful (and they often are on some level) for the amount of attention they get, which he uses to his advantage.
  • Dramedy: Very dark Black Comedy, with a load of rich sociopaths having no clue of life outside a silver spoon, but always treats just how abused and damaged the Roy kids are with seriousness.
  • Drone of Dread: An eerie one note plays as Kendall claws his way out of the sunken car, tries multiple times to get Doddy and has a mini breakdown of curling up and crying on the riverbank.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Kendall falls off the wagon after his vote of no confidence fails.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Connor usually takes the criticisms slung at him by his siblings of being a waste and non-entity, but in season three, when Kendall calls himself "the eldest son," Connor can't help but react. He goes on an uncharacteristic tirade about the respect he deserves as the real eldest son.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Andrew Dodds, the waiter that Kendall accidentally kills, first shows up in “Pre-Nuptial”, giving Greg non-answers on whether he should tell Tom about Shiv or not, and they spend the night together.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • In the first few episodes of the first season, at various family functions, a third child named Isla appears alongside Kendall's children who is strongly implied to be Roman and Grace's. She later stops appearing and is never mentioned, with Grace further implying that she and Roman have never even fucked, much less had a kid due to the latter's bizarre behavior and dislike of being touched.
    • Also early in Season 1, Connor is shown cleanly shaven, rather than having his signature Beard of Evil that he would be associated with later in the series.
  • Easily Forgiven: Connor, Shiv and Roman are all pissed off at what they think is this happening after Kendall staged a takeover, backed out for no reason they can see, and Logan seems to welcome him back with open arms and a "he's taken his medicine".
  • Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: Kendall, Roman, Connor and Tom are all deeply pathetic men, and especially the former three are seen as failures by Logan because he doesn’t see them as macho enough, but if any of the four see an opportunity to use their gendered privilege against Shiv then they’ll grab it with both hands.
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    • Greg was said to look like an egg when he was born, hence "Greg the Egg"
    • Logan occasionally refers to Shiv by her childhood nickname of "Pinkie", usually when he's trying to put her in her place. Presumably using a name which sounds cutesy and girly is intended to humiliate the headstrong, independent, trouser suit-wearing adult that Pinkie grew up to be.
    • A deceased employee Lester had the nickname "Uncle Mo" as in "Uncle Mo-Lester" also acting as a Meaningful Nickname owing to his status as a key figure in Brightstar's long history of sexual abuse and cover-ups.
    • In season 3 Tom earns the nickname "Christmas Tree", because he serves to have Wayster employees hang blame for their misdeeds on him "like ornaments on a tree".
  • Emotional Regression: Kendall, Connor, Shiv Roman are all in their late thirties and forties (Kendall turns 40 in a party that seems designed to make himself feel worse and has a crying fit, wishing he was home) but everyone refers to them as kids, because they’re all so emotionally stunted, entitled, petty and their father has trained them to be dependent on him.
  • Ensemble Cast: While some characters, like Kendall, Shiv and Logan, are more central to the plot, the entire Roy family collectively functions as the show's Villain Protagonists.
  • Epic Fail: The Vote Of No Confidence is a disaster that everyone thought was going to be easy. Kendall panics and goes to Long Island to try and convince Llona, can’t take the jet or pay the problems away because terrorist problems, gets stuck in traffic and has to run to get his phone working (and then can’t find his way to Waystar), Gerri is asked to stall, Logan cottons on and starts yelling while refusing to leave the room, Stewy abstains because Kendall’s not there and Roman gets beaten down by Logan, Ewan votes with his brother, and Lawrence makes good on his pilot promise to eat Kendall. Logan then fires all who voted against him, screams at his two sons (also blaming Shiv in the next episode), and Kendall is walked out in front of everyone.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Kendall arrives by limo to a very important business meeting and immediately starts using inappropriately casual lingo, showing how unfit he is for the world of business. The businessman he's meeting balks at being called "dude".
    • Greg gets fired from his job as an amusement park character due to a bad reaction to pot, then tries to lamely blame it on a hitchhiker when calling his mom for help. He's a total loser.
    • Connor's first lines are explaining to a child how he's developing a parcel of land and wants to hoard the water on it for himself when the world starts to run out. This touches on Connor's lack of interaction in the family business (he's interested in land instead), his mild personality in most situations (talking to a child) and his underlying weird political views.
    • One of Shiv's earliest scenes establishes her political job and alludes to the fact that getting Democrats elected in New York isn't particularly difficult.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • While the Roys have no problem in-fighting and plotting against each other, they are joined in feeling embarrassment and shame that Connor continually brings his escort to important family events, and makes a fool of himself continuously.
    • When the Roys are positioned to take over PGM and likely turn it into another one of their mouthpieces, Shiv has a guilt attack while wondering how the world will function without someone doing real journalism.
    • Rhea manipulates her way into Logan's good graces and positions herself as the perfect alternative for CEO. However, she then discovers just how corrupt the company is and realizes what kind of nasty things she would have to do in order to run it. She walks away and tells Logan to find someone else to succeed him.
    • In spite of constant infighting among the Roy siblings, they all immediately leap to Roman's defense when Logan backhands him. Even Logan is moved to an uncharacteristic, if half-hearted, apology the next day.
    • Logan sends donuts to the siblings to show that he knows they're plotting behind his back. Connor questions whether the donuts are poisoned, but Kendall snaps that the idea of Logan sending poison to the home of his grandchildren is absurd. Later, when Logan and Kendall are having a dinner to make amends, Logan questions whether Kendall poisoned his pasta. An insulted Kendall tells Logan that he'd never try to harm him, and he'll be devastated when he dies.
  • Everyone Is Related: Justified Trope due to the show's focus on a media dynasty. In the first season, all but three characters in the main cast (Waystar board members Frank Vernon and Lawrence Yee along with general counsel Gerri Kellman) were members of the Roy family. (And Frank is Kendall's Honorary Uncle, while Gerri is Shiv's godmother.)
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Logan's impetus for his extremely risky and potentially catastrophic (if not outright illegal) obsession with acquiring PGM? They spent a few inches of print mocking him, decades ago.
    • Logan wants the President to fire the Deputy Attorney General, presumably to be replaced with someone more sympathetic to the Roy family, but the thing that really riles him up? The suggestion that her office features a photograph of Logan pinned to a dartboard. Which is also a mere rumour.
    • With everyone except Logan, this is reconstructed. Even the siblings that appear the kindest demonstrate that petty cruelty is one of their favorite pastimes; for instance, Roman might appear to be the most genial Roy in many ways, he baits the Little Leaguer with a million dollar cheque in the first episode and then rubs his face in it, for no good reason.
  • Excrement Statement:
    • A bystander throws a jar of his own piss at Logan at the start of "Austerlitz."
    • Logan himself pees on the carpet in Kendall's office as a show of disrespect.
    • When faced with the bear hug, Logan shoves the letter in the toilet to show how little he takes it seriously.
  • Extreme Doormat:
    • Tom was this, responding to the bullying of the Roys (and even Shiv, his actual fiancee - and later wife) with nothing but mild chagrin at best.
    • Tom's parents, at least when they're around the Roys. They note how "fun" it was to sit at the airport for hours waiting to be picked up. His mother then gets embarrassed when his father asks for a beverage on her behalf.
    • Greg allows himself to be walked over by everyone and only stands up for himself in a passive-aggressive way.
  • Fall Guy:
    • In the season 2 finale, Logan has to decide who will take the public fall for the cruises scandal. He is told by the company board that it cannot be just one of the senior executives but it needs to be a member of the Roy family, even Logan himself. He chooses Kendall.
    • In season 3, Kendall very casually tells Greg that he may need to "burn" him.
    • In season 3, Tom volunteers to take full responsibility for any legal heat incurred at the company because there's a good chance he'll be going to prison anyway. People start calling him the "Christmas tree" because they can hang their crimes on him. Even Greg asks if Tom can take the fall for him.
  • Family Versus Career: Shiv must choose between loyalty to her family or dedication to her job, which puts her in opposition to her family. This ends in the second season, where she quits in order to pursue the position of Logan's successor.
  • Fan Disservice: Kendall has a nice body, and there’s a scene where he’s naked in bed, but then we learn he shit himself after a bender with Naomi.
  • Father, I Want to Marry My Brother: Confirmed by Strong, Kendall embodies “love often wears the face of violence” when it comes to Logan, often paralleled with being his romantic partner (and tired lashing out mother to his siblings) rather than his son. Roman and Shiv have similar issues, Shiv on the outside feeling she has to chase dad like a girl with a crush and Roman brimming with sex problems, and best language he can come up with finally being dad’s fave child is “he’s fucking me not you”.
  • Fetishes Are Weird: Roman has a lot of power/control fetishes; he doesn't seem able to perform during "normal" penetrative sex, so he enjoys being jerked off (or masturbating) and being humiliated. He's also an inappropriate Slimeball of a character.
  • Food Porn: Subverted and played straight. The fancy rich people food will be paid far less attention to at best or be ruined at worst, while a five dollar burrito with ketchup will take center screen, Roman’s eating disorder will have him only appreciate fruit, and Stewy gushes over pastry at Not-Starbucks.
  • Foil: Every character has one, some more obvious than others:
    • Gerri and Frank. Both are extremely close to Logan and Waystar-Royco, and have worked with them for decades, knowing all the kids since they were little. Frank is fired in the first episode (although he never really leaves) for relatively petty reasons, but is also shown to have a close bond with Kendall in work and a concern for his welfare. He's also a savvy businessman who seems to have the Roys' best interests at heart. Gerri is probably even savvier, because while Frank has Butt-Monkey status, Gerri excels at Playing Both Sides but has managed to escape detection by Logan, actually being praised as his most loyal board member. Gerri also develops a close (although sexual and Oedipal) relationship with Roman.
    • The Pearces are contrasted with the Roys. Both are a Big, Screwed-Up Family who have a family board of media and newspapers, but the Pearces have liberal values and the Roys are very conservative. The Pearces prize art, culture, and are generally very pretentious, while the Roys are very conspicuous and, despite their investments, don't care for or understand culture. Nan is the non-evil foil of Logan, while Kendall has a Distaff Counterpart in Naomi as recovering addicts with wild early years.
    • Greg and Tom vs Shiv, Roman and Kendall. The former two come from a middle class background, grow aware of the rot and abuse but want in anyway, including the Roy name. The latter three deem getting a CEO spot as a sign they’re loved, all have moments of being sick of their last name, and try to get out but aren’t allowed.
  • Forced Perspective: Often used when Kendall is made to feel small, as at 5’10 Jeremy Strong isn’t even the smallest cast member, but the camera will angle in a way to make it look like this forty year old man is a child.
  • Foreign Queasine: Tom and Greg splurge for the controversial French delicacy Ortolan (a songbird eaten whole), which Tom describes as "gamy" and Greg also doesn't appreciate.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Roman’s very first scene, he calls Waystar a cage for him, seven episodes before it’s revealed that the dog pound was a traumatic game starting when he was four.
    • In “Shit Show At The Fuck Factory”, Shiv refuses to call Caroline because she’ll make it all about herself. When the woman shows up, it turns out it’s not an unfair assessment.
    • In “Lifeboats”, when Kendall gets up early to be CEO, the camera focuses on waiters taking out the trash, something that will repeat after he kills a waiter, and triggers his breakdown/confession in “All The Bells Say”.
    • Pissed off about having to deliver the bear hug letter and ruin his sister’s wedding, Kendall shouts if Stewy and Sandy want this to be a wedding and four fucking funerals. Maybe not four, but someone does die and Kendall’s life is over for a couple of seasons.
    • After a misstep by a young waiter at Shiv's wedding, Logan goes on a tirade and complains that he never wants to see him again, ever. The waiter ends up dying. Wish granted!
    • All through season one, there's jokes about how Kendall has no clue how to function in the real world, barely knowing how to make coffee on his own, which ends up very badly when he isn't used to driving (and is high on ketamine) and accidentally kills a waiter.
    • In the season two finale, exhausted by his Hostage Situation, Roman asks if they’ll get through this and talk about their feelings like normal people. The other two have been burned too much and make fun, but after a lot of mess and Kendall’s first public suicide attempt, they manage it.
    • In the season 3 episode "Lion in the Meadow", Tom recounts the story of Nero and Sporus - Nero once pushed his wife down the stairs, then castrated his favorite slave boy Sporus and married him instead. He then tells Greg that he'd "castrate and marry [him] in a heartbeat". This parallels the season 3 finale, where Tom betrays his wife Shiv (by telling Logan about her plan to block the GoJo acquisition, thus forcing her out of the company) and protects Greg (by securing him a major promotion at the new GoJo-owned Waystar). While trying to convince Greg to go along with the betrayal, Tom asks him: "Do you want to come with me, Sporus?".
    • Tom telling Kendall that he’s been around, and his hunch is that Kendall is going to get fucked, and he’s never seen Logan get fucked once, works for both how Kendall is going to lose like he’s always lost, but also how Tom has seen Shiv get yelled at and humiliated by her father multiple times, and still puts his lot in with him.
    • In "Chiantishire", Caroline shows twice that she'll either choose herself or Logan's approval over her children, telling Shiv she should have had dogs and tells Kendall Logan doesn't want him at the wedding, Roman also worrying that her new husband will screw them over. They're still all heartbroken when she betrays them next episode.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: "Emotional stability" is very relative on this show, but the four Roy siblings broadly fit into this, with Shiv being sanguine, Roman choleric, Kendall melancholic and Connor phlegmatic.
  • French Cuisine Is Haughty: Tom goads Greg into eating Ortolan, a controversial French dish comprising mainly of a tiny whole songbird, with him. Tom describes the flavor as "gamy."
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: All of Shiv/Roman/Connor fake press articles in Too Much Birthday are tailored to all their insecurities, Slut-Shaming Shiv while making fun of her mental health and being Tom’s accessory, Connor being mocked for something that happened while he was doing dad activities with his brothers and Roman including his dog motif and sex pestering/respulsion. Compared to the later confrontation, they’re messed up enough to take/mean all this in stride.
  • Freudian Excuse: Kendall, Shiv and Roman all do very shitty things and carry on The Chain of Harm, but Logan’s abuse of them is treated seriously, as are the after-effects; Kendall is constantly miserable, Prone to Tears, stutters and both worships and wants to backstab his dad in equal measure, Shiv is forced to be the Ice Queen thanks to her mother deciding she was complicit at the stage of thirteen, is power-hungry and self-sabotages her own “pile” thanks to wanting approval from dad, and Roman makes disgusting jokes about incest and sexual abuse while always defending dad whenever actual abuse comes to light.
  • Freud Was Right: Business is fucking, if you’re being fucked or sucking dick you’re humiliated (as Tom warns Kendall, he’s seen him get fucked a lot, while he’s never seen Logan get fucked at all), castrated/eunachy is lowest of the low and the Roy kids can’t go five minutes without incest references because it’s only the love language they know.
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: Beyond replaced as eldest son angst, Kendall and Connor interact the least out of the siblings. Sets up some Dramatic Irony in the season three finale, as he assumes Kendall’s issues are just due to him being a spoiled brat.
  • Gay Bravado: Tom's favoured tactic for bullying Greg:
    "I'd castrate and marry you in a heartbeat."
  • Gay Cruising: Logan insinuates that Kendall was out looking to get fucked when the waiter incident happened.
  • Gilded Cage: Connor spells it out, that yes they’re all horribly damaged and abused, but they count as “somebodies” thanks to all their money and fame. Roman calls Waystar a cage that he once got out from but goes right back in, and knowing that his son is suicidal, Logan makes it a literal cage for Kendall by plexiglass.
  • The Glomp: Played for Drama at the end of “Nobody Is Ever Missing” as Logan takes Kendall into his arms (an almost… bear hug if you will) before his son can really comprehend what’s going on.
  • Godwin's Law:
    • Hearing that Eavis is a socialist, Connor meets him and immediately references Hitler and dead babies.
    • One of the women from Dust doesn’t want to work with Kendall because he’s still a Roy, and to her that’s like working with Hitler.
  • Good Capitalism, Evil Capitalism: Played with. The Pierces are shown to be far more ethically-minded and politically left than the Roys with their right-wing media empire. However, it becomes clear that their Nice to the Waiter appearances are superficial at best and totally false at worst, and they're still willing to sell out their left-wing empire just for money. The Roys are also wrong, though, that the Pierces are totally motivated by money. Despite their interest, when it comes out that they tried to hush up an endemic sexual abuse scandal in their cruises division, Nan seems genuinely appalled and calls off the deal. The Roys, on the other hand, are consumed by covering it up rather than admitting fault and/or coming to a financial settlement.
  • Gift-Giving Gaffe: Roman buys his father the one thing he remembers fondly from his childhood, his favorite soccer team, only to be informed upon presenting it that he got the wrong one.
    Logan: ...I'm Hibs.
    Roman: Really? I thought you were Hearts. I'm pretty sure, Dad.
    Logan: You know, maybe you're right. How would I know which team I supported all my fucking life?
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Subverted, as Tabitha having sex with Naomi is seen as disgusting to Roman. Played straight by Logan, who leers at them when they hug in “Tern Haven”.
  • The Grovel:
    • Kendall going on Icelandic Live TV is essentially to tell everyone that he’s a flake and his dad is indestructible. Logan calls it the first thing his son has ever done right in his life.
    • In the pilot, Logan baits Greg with “I’d do anything for my brother”, but adds on “if he asks”, knowing Ewan would hate doing anything of the sort.
  • HA HA HA—No: When Kendall tries to give him a bear hug letter, Logan knows how to break his bragged about confidence, and laughs humorlessly before giving him a Blunt "No".
  • Happier Home Movie: Subverted by the opening credits, showing the Roy kids with ponies and privilege and fancy dinners, but Logan is still a looming, distant figure, and the faces of Shiv and other women are barely shown.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Invoked by Jeremy Strong, who said he listens to “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” all the time on set so he can get into Kendall’s brain.
  • He's Back!: Kendall has been broken down for over two seasons, falling Off the Wagon, under his dad’s control, manically trying to be saviour and just outright trying to kill himself. Telling his siblings what he did, and as Armstrong said, knowing they still love him, means he finally at least gets some relief and can be the big brother Roman and Shiv need, not even expecting anything from Logan but being there for them.
  • Hidden Depths: The first season establishes how messed up the Roy siblings are. Season two shows that they have positive qualities and can grow as humans. Kendall slowly grows a backbone and realizes that he cannot ignore the guilt he is feeling. Roman takes a more serious approach to his work, negotiates an important deal and then has enough business savvy to realize that the deal is too good to be true. Shiv shows how ruthless she can be but ultimately is not willing to give up Tom to please her father. Connor stays useless.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: When giving her False Reassurance on cruises, Logan tells Shiv “there’s not one single piece of paper that will make you ashamed of me.” A couple of episodes later, when Kendall is being a little shit, Logan wants to have him cut down, but Gerri hushes with “it’d be like shredding a human document”.
  • History Repeats: With no flashbacks, they have to rely on other ways to show that it’s not the first time Roman has been hit by Logan, or that “boar on the floor” isn’t a one time only thing, or that Roman is used to picking Kendall up when he’s too high to function.
  • Homoerotic Subtext:
    • Tom and Greg's rather touchy-feely interactions have some shades of this (albeit mostly one-sided on Tom's part). Tom almost bullies Greg into a kiss when the two first meet, takes Greg out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate the latter's first paycheck, is visibly hurt (to the point of tears) when Greg attempts to "break up" with him, and acts very jealous when Greg starts hanging out with Kendall more.
      • In "Too Much Birthday," after Tom finds out he won't be going to prison, he celebrates by caressing Greg's face and kissing his forehead.
      • Tom repeatedly compares the two of them to Nero and Sporusnote . In "Lion in the Meadow," he tells Greg the story of Nero and Sporus and follows it up with, "I'd castrate you and marry you in a heartbeat." In "All the Bells Say," he metaphorically pushes Shiv down the stairs by betraying her to Logan, then calls Greg "Sporus" as he offers to get Greg a top position on par with his own within the company, essentially subtextually proposing marriage.
    • The show is big on business deals as fucking, so everyone - including family members, the motif is introduced through Kendall saying to Logan “you fucked me” when his dad betrays him after all - ends up having some sort of sexual vibe with each other.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: Subverted in “Hunting”, when Gerri expresses doubts and is let go, Greg thinks he can do the same because Logan just praised her honesty. Logan tells him there are no rules.
  • Honor Thy Abuser: Played with. Logan is a vitriolic, narcissistic bully whose only response when Kendall tells him he loves him is to insult him for being stupid, and who was immensely neglectful of his kids. However, Logan also raised them in the height of luxury, as a multi-billionaire, and the show zigzags between criticising his children for hurting their dad when he's in a vulnerable state, especially as it's made clear they'd be nowhere without him and have largely coasted by on his name and reputation, and Logan himself had an awful upbringing, including brutal physical abuse. Nevertheless, he's still shown as a total jerk, and his kids are also presented as deeply hurt by his treatment.
  • Hookers and Blow: When asked what everyday people like, Roman has no clue and says he likes snorting sertraline off women who don’t know they’re sex workers yet.
  • Hope Spot:
    • In “Lifeboats”, Kendall thinks he’s done good by getting the debt sorted out thanks to an investment from Stewy. Then he hears his dad wants to see him, gets called a fucking idiot, and walks out like the beaten down dog he is.
    • Connor is pleasantly shocked that his father is finally trying therapy, but his face falls when he realises this is a PR stunt.
    • The first season finale zig-zags and starts with Kendall having Logan backed into a corner despite a series of misfires, making it seem that, after being humiliatingly fired from the board after the failed takeover, he finally has one over his father... Then, in a search for more drugs, he gets behind the wheel of a car with an innocent young caterer and gets into an accident. After a failed rescue he leaves the kid to die, hides from a passing car rather than flagging it down for help, covers up his tracks and establishes an alibi. No one seems the wiser and the caterer dies, leaving his tracks covered... Until Logan reveals that he has damning evidence against them, and is willing to help Kendall with the potentially life-ending cover-up, so long as he comes under Logan's control again.
    • She’s scared to let herself want it, but Shiv can’t help but trust her dad that the offer to give her Waystar was real, only to humiliate herself when he doesn’t want to admit that he picked her.
    • For the first time in (word of Mylod) years the siblings come together in both comfort and plan to run the company truly equally, having fun fighting it out and no squabbling over who gets the biggest piece. They fail in the first step, in equal part because they’ve always been objects to their parents and because they’ve underestimated and treated Tom and Greg badly.
  • Hypocrite: When Logan finds out that Roman is sexually obsessed with the significantly older Gerri, Logan is disgusted. Trying to talk some sense into him, Logan points out the attractiveness of his significantly younger assistant (and likely lover), heedless of the hypocrisy of being perfectly fine with a romance where the man is older than the woman.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Roman and Kendall will lash out at each other for Logan’s approval, especially when they’re feeling targeted and can get heat off them, but Kendall will come to life again to protect Roman after Logan hits him, and as big talk Roman is about Lack of Empathy, really doesn’t want to see Kendall destroyed at all.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Not that Connor isn’t crazy talking about cryogenics, but Kendall dismisses him as insane, and Con side-eyes like it’s the bipolar pot calling the adhd kettle black.
    • When Greg starts his job at Waystar, he watches a corporate onboarding video at his desk discussing how the company is devoted to keeping diversity in its workforce. He then spots a large group of executives walking by, all of whom are white men.
    • When Shiv hates Rhea and wants to kill her, Kendall calls her too emotional about this. Big talk, given how he’s probably the most emotional character in the show.
    • Episode two has Kendall dismiss Shiv as a Daddy's Girl scared of Logan, when he and Roman are just as bad as she is.
    • Seconds after they just had to act like pigs, Greg and Karl look embarrassed by Kendall and Roman’s squabbling.
    • In “All The Bells Say”, not wanting to admit anything yet, Kendall complains that Shiv, Roman and Connor can’t do an intervention on him because they all have something wrong with them too. They point out that a suicide attempt (and this is the only one they know about!) crosses the line.
  • Idealized Sex: Only one sex scene in the show and it’s Kendall and Rava. They have fun but it’s very awkward, with fumbling, struggling to get their clothes off, trying to pin each other down and she wants to break up while he doesn’t.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • The season finales ("Nobody Is Ever Missing", "This Is Not For Tears", "All The Bells Say") have all been named after lines from the poem "Dream Song 29" by John Berryman.
    • Armstrong confirmed that the children’s book titles of season three were to push the fact that the Roy kids are ultimately still… children, both in the way they act and the way they’re treated.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: In “Hunting”, when Logan is insulting Frank about his trophy girlfriend “sucking some waiter’s dick in Palermo”, Kendall twitches. Considering Logan’s later taunting that Kendall fucked the waiter he later killed, he probably knows full well what he’s doing, though Frank asks Kendall what the hell is going on.
  • Inadequate Inheritor:
    • The plot is kicked off by Logan planning to retire but then deciding that none of his children are suited to run his empire, so he decides to postpone his retirement. Kendall, who was supposed to become the new head of Waystar-Royco, takes it extremely badly. The second season hammers home how the desire to be Logan's successor negatively affects anyone pursuing the position, not just Kendall. Shiv, who was consistently coolly competent during the first season, begins to fall apart and embarrass herself in her pursuit to be the inheritor in the second season, ending in a humiliating outburst in "Tern Haven."
    • Special mention goes to Connor, Logan's eldest son, who takes no part in the family business and is never once considered to be useful by his father. Kendall is clearly seen to have supplanted his position, to the point that an employee refers to Kendall as Logan's "eldest son" before quickly correcting himself to say "second-eldest" when Connor scowls.
    • Ewan Roy disinherits his whole family, including Greg, for failing to live up to his values.
  • Incest Subtext: The Roys are deeply screwed up, so there's plenty of jokes about fucking each other. Jeremy Strong once said, in the HBO podcast, that Kendall and his dad are in a sort of horribly poisonous love story.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Jeremy Strong has a talent for Broken Tears, which is probably the reason why Kendall cries this way at least once every season.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: “Lion In The Meadow” is important for the climactic last few episodes of season three, Kendall foreshadowing the Despair Event Horizon at his birthday, Gerri telling Roman he needs to think professionally 24/7, Shiv starts realizing she’s a No-Respect Guy at work, Tom talking about Nero and Sporus to Greg, and Logan trying to get Kendall The Dutiful Son again, with it nearly working.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: In the pilot, Kendall feels humiliated when Lawrence calls him a daddy’s boy and when Frank & company ask him if he wants to call his dad. Five seconds later his dad calls.
  • Internal Homage:
    • In “Safe Room”, Shiv watches Kendall and Logan be (assumedly) close with a look of disappointment on her face the same way Roman did in “Pre-Nuptial”.
    • “All The Bells Say” has Shiv and Roman repeat a conversation they had in episode two, only instead of “it’s not going to be you as CEO because… you know”, it’s “dad won’t pick you because he thinks there’s something wrong with you” honesty.
    • In “Chiantishire”, Kendall asking to be let go and Logan wanting to keep him in the mailroom calls back to two scenes, “Lifeboats”, in which Rava doesn’t want to stay and Kendall is Entitled to Have You, and “Safe Room”, in which Greg wants to be “professionally open” and Tom demands he stay.
    • Caroline’s wedding is a nod to Shiv’s wedding at the end of season one, as they’re both marrying men who are more interested in getting Logan’s approval than them, and Shiv gives a speech full of stealth insults like Caroline did with her.
    • The image of Roman and Shiv curled protectively around Kendall while he cries in the third season finale is similar to their hug in “Pre-Nuptial”.
  • Interrupted Suicide: In “Safe Room”, it’s offscreen but Kendall gets fetched by Colin when he’s very close to jumping off the roof, and it’s safe to say that Logan was told about it afterwards.
  • In Vino Veritas:
    • Kendall is so tightly wound and afraid most of the time that he only can say how he really feels if he’s utterly wasted.
    • Trying to sniff out who betrayed him in “Hunting”, Logan encourages everyone to drink more and stay in the room, as that might get tongues loosened.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • The season two premiere where Kendall enters Waystar echoes the pilot, but instead of striding in (and embarrassing himself) like he owns the place, he has to hold the door for everyone and gets ignored.
    • Shiv (nearly in tears) telling Kiera that being The Rape Victim is all she’ll ever be has a direct line to Logan telling Kendall that if the car crash comes out “you’ll never be anything else”.
    • Logan manipulates and gaslights Shiv into feeling guilty she’s not out there saying nice things about him, using “my daughter, my only daughter” the way he called a crying Kendall “my boy, my number one boy” to break him down even harder.
  • Irony:
    • Getting Stewy’s equity money is probably the only sensible thing Kendall did as temporary CEO, but it’s what Logan is most mad at him for, as it’s a sign of what he assumes as “insidious influence” Stewy’s hold on the son he’s most programmed to follow orders.
  • It's All My Fault: Shiv and Roman deny dad’s offers in the pilot just before his haemorrhage, and end up feeling guilty, which in turn makes (especially Roman) them more anxious about standing up to him.
  • It's Not You, It's Me: After Kendall is denied the CEO job, he confronts Logan with “you fucked me”, Logan starts with the line and then proceeds to list the reasons why it was all his son’s fault (was in the nuthouse three years ago, bent over for Lawrence, chose family over business).
  • I Want to Be a Real Man: Due to their father having loud and toxic ideas of masculinity, both Kendall and Roman feel inadequate (Kendall having mental illness problems heightened by his addiction, Roman having sexual/sexuality issues that make him feel like there’s something wrong with him), and the only way they know how to be ‘alpha’ is imitating Logan.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Waystar (and Logan in particular, considering his son’s mental illness has a lot to do with him)’s main tactic against Kendall in season three is using his bipolar against him, they’re not exactly wrong that he’s having a particularly bad manic episode and doing it because of personal issues with his dad.
  • Just Following Orders: Both Shiv and Kendall numbly state, after deals they don’t want to do, that they just do what their dad tells them.
  • Just for the Heli of It: The Roys habitually spend more money than most people could even dream of on everything — including, from the first episode on, using helicopters for quite short trips. The shot of a small fleet of helicopters flitting from the center of New York to the outskirts for a family outing set the tone for the series.
  • Kinky Role-Playing: Confronted by his girlfriend Tabitha over their lack of a sex life, Roman gets her to pretend to be a corpse while they have sex. He's turned off because she's too active and not convincingly dead enough.
  • Kissing Cousins: Joked about by a jealous Tom, who teases Greg that he’s spending a lot of time with Kendall, “a girl could start to wonder”.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: All of the working Roy children have an inflated sense of competency in their fields, which often results in them getting outmaneuvered and embarrassed. Even Shiv, who seems to be the most competent of the bunch, is implied to only be as successful as she is because her job (getting Democrats elected in New York City) is hard to fail.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: To paraphrase Jesse Armstrong, everything is important (even jokes) and not ambiguous but not explicitly said, like when the camera pans to the staff while Nan Pierce is offering up food like it’s her own, or in the season one finale where Logan is calling Kendall a hothouse flower and everyone looks vaguely unwell like this has happened many times before.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Naomi and Stewy both are amused with watching the Roy family be a complete freak show and implode. With the addition that they also end up caring more than they want to, it’s a reflection of the audience watching the actual series.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The subtext of the morning after “Boar On The Floor”, with Tom awkwardly agreeing with some Waystar guys that he had too much to drink and can’t remember anything.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: The Roy kids aren’t good people in the slightest, nor is Logan a complete monster, but the season three finale is the best example of how they’re able to show that they love each other in ways that actually help each other, versus how angry he is that Roman is “only” offering him love.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Kendall's adolescent son still likes to be read children's picture books. A disapproving Logan clearly sees him as a future Manchild just like Kendall.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The first three season finales, "Nobody is Ever Missing", "This Is Not For Tears", and "All The Bells Say", are phrases from the poem "Dream Song 29" by John Berryman.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: A key reason Kendall is not ready to handle taking over the company is because Logan has been keeping so many things close to him. Such as the fact the company is about three billion dollars in debt.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: Kendall sums it up when he pleads to Naomi that his father does love him, it’s just the wrong type of love expression. The show is full of mangled people who try to love each other, sometimes succeeding, sometimes in the wrong way, and sometimes the love is there but it’s just not enough.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Not wanting to lose Tom, Shiv begs Logan to not let him take the fall for the cruises scandal, which not only makes Logan quietly dismiss her as a potential successor due to her siding with her husband over family, it also inadvertently leads to Kendall's disastrous press conference in the final moments — and it doesn't even seem to have that much of an effect on Tom as it is.
  • Made a Slave: The subtext of Logan controlling Kendall in season two, Ken can’t complain or say no (partly because he feels like he deserves it), has to do whatever his dad says including the banal just making him coffee and both Shiv and Roman make cracks about him being Logan’s new fuckdoll. He can’t even attempt suicide without Being Watched. It’s only when Logan makes the “no real person involved” text explicit, about both him and Andrew the waiter, that he grows a spine, though is manically still traumatized by the whole thing and wanting his dad’s attention.
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: Subverted in “Hunting”, where the men would love to believe they’re manly, but get their hunting made easy by staff. Tom lampshades it, saying they’re all such shitty hunters that they’re shooting piggies in a barrel.
  • The Masochism Tango:
    • Tom and Shiv. They love each other, but she refuses to be vulnerable around him and treats him like an emotional punching bag, while he hides his darker side from her and uses Logan’s abuse of her as a way to climb higher professionally.
    • With all the gross subtext implied, Kendall and Logan. Strong even said that Kendall in the s2 finale was showing love in the violent way that it was taught. The bear hug is charmingly described as trying to fuck dad to death, what Logan does with Kendall in season two gets paralleled over and over to sexual abuse, Logan being kind about his son to Josh gets dismissed as “you’ll say anything to get fucked on a first date”, and according to Kendall they’ve been doing this shit forever. (but after all that, a rejection from Logan can still make Kendall suicidal.)
  • May–December Romance:
    • The other siblings jab at Connor for "dating" a call girl who appears to be no more than half his age. Connor labors on the delusion that their arrangement will surely become an actual romance even though she clearly dislikes him.
    • Roman has a weird, sexualized obsession with Gerri, who is nearly twice his age. People who find out about it are confused and disgusted.
    • The siblings all gossip about the romantic relationship that their father is probably carrying out with his significantly younger assistant.
  • Meal Ticket:
    • Connor pays a woman to be his girlfriend. His family has to repeatedly remind him that she's a prostitute, but he's deluding himself to believing that she'll eventually fall in love with him. She clearly doesn't like him and is uncomfortable with how much he loves her, but can't leave him because she relies on his money to finance her theatrical writing.
    • Tom does seem to love Shiv a lot, but it's also obvious that part of the reason he's with her is because she's rich, and her family has given him a powerful job that he doesn't seem qualified for.
    • Logan's current wife had a hard life in Beirut before marrying him and clearly endures his defects of character because of his money.
  • Meaningful Background Event: When Logan is putting his hand on Tom’s shoulder as thanks, Shiv can be seen doing the same to Roman in comfort as he sinks to the floor.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • In cruises, a victim went overboard and nobody did anything because they thought it was a stowaway. The wording gets repeated twice, with Kendall being told he’ll be thrown out of the window once he’s all used up, and Roman complaining Gerri is throwing him overboard when she fucks him over.
    • In “Hunting”, Logan loudly targets everyone except Kendall, putting his hands on his shoulders as a sign of protection and owning him, giving new context to when he does it to child Kendall (who also bows his head and looks uneasy) in the credits.
    • Logan draped his hands on Kendall’s shoulders as a sign of power and control. In the season three finale, Kendall needs comfort and Roman puts his hands on his shoulders as support (which unleashes a cathartic curl up in on himself and cry), while Kendall does the same with Roman when he needs him later.
    • Logan hitting Roman is a lot like when he hit Iverson, getting the same Papa Wolf reaction from Kendall and excusing himself with “I barely made contact”.
    • Logan told Shiv that she’s marrying a man beneath her, and Sarah Snook talked about how Shiv thinks Tom is as far away from her abusive father as possible. But, like how her dad possessively put his hand on her shoulder in the credits, Tom does it in “All The Bells Say” after betraying her, but pretending to be nice.
    • When Logan is trying to separate Roman from Kendall and Shiv, he tries to pull him closer and move him around like he did with Kendall in the season one finale. It fails this time, but only because Roman’s siblings are there to protect him.
    • In “Chiantishire”, Roman (drunk on being his dad’s fave) stands between Kendall and Logan like Kendall doing his dad’s bidding in “Hunting” to gang up on Roman, both of them their dad’s attack dogs.
  • Meaningful Look: Shiv and Roman communicate in a lot of these, especially if their father is barrelling around and there’s no space to actually talk.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The show is about a modern-day dynasty going by the name "Roy," meaning "king."
    • A "shiv" is a slang term for a switchblade or improvised weapon.
    • Rhea, with whom Logan has an affair in season 2, shares a name with the wife and sister of Cronos. Cronos is notable in mythology for eating his own children to prevent any of them taking his place.
    • Romulus – Logan's nickname for Roman – killed his own brother.
    • "Kendall" is a near homophone for "Ken doll," a suitably emasculated reference point for Ken's role in the family.
    • The killed waiter’s nickname is Doddy, one letter away from daddy, and he plays an important role in forcing Kendall to be daddy’s boy again.
  • Men Don't Cry: Logan routinely mocks Kendall for crying a lot, while refusing to admit responsibility for such being a big reason why he’s like that, and calls Roman a “faggot” for a company-mandated interview about how much he loves his father.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: While the show itself will treat various eccentricities with care, being mentally ill is a very bad and embarrassing thing to be in the Roy family, whether it’s Roman never getting taken seriously when he wants to actually talk about trauma, Connor having a mentally ill mom who was abandoned by Logan, Kendall being treated by everyone as The Crazy One, even Shiv cathartically dancing is made fun of.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup:
    • Though they had problems before, Roman ultimately breaks up with Grace when she admits she likes a children's movie he had tried to kill, for no other reason than he thinks it makes no logical sense.
    • Kendall falls instantly in love with the lead actress of Willa's play, Jennifer. He persuades her to abandon the play to come out to Scotland with him, only to ghost her (and asks an employee to break up with her for him) because she said "awesome" too much when she was speaking to Logan. Although it's implied the real reason is just as petty: that she casually pointed out he talks about his dad a lot.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe. Kendall’s very first scene is listening to a song about needing to come together as a community… while being driven around in his fancy limo. He also compares himself to The Great Gatsby while looking for Sex for Solace with anyone, and is a fan of Bojack Horseman for how funny it is. Not for nothing does he end an episode face down in water like both of them.
  • Misery Builds Character: Ewan, Marcia and Logan all share the belief that the younger generation are acting like babies, and just need to toughen up.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Womanchild Naomi and Only Sane Man Rava in the same house in “Secession”. Instead of seeing how annoyed Rava is about the whole thing, Kendall just sees it as being surrounded by hot women and “he’s doing something right”.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal:
    • Kendall was loyal to Logan and had just completed a major deal for Waystar-Royco. He fully expected his father to name him the new CEO. Instead, Logan decides to stay on and treats Kendall as a failure. Fed up, Kendall tries to take over the company.
    • Frank also treats the Roys like his own family, but gets cruelly fired by Logan moments after singing his praises. As a result, he allies with Kendall in the takeover bid (which gets him really fired).
    • Shiv walks all over her husband Tom, throughout Season 3 in particular, resulting in Tom betraying Shiv and her siblings to Logan as he screws them out of the company by selling it to Matsson.
  • Monochrome Casting: It’s a show about a stupidly rich Republican family and the company they own, so it’s very white. There’s a few black characters or characters of colour, Rava, Jess and Stewy mainly, but they don’t appear much.
  • Mood Whiplash: The season one finale has a genuinely cute conversation between Kendall and the waiter joking about how the latter should hold the former hostage because he's rich, and then they swerve into the water.
  • Motif:
    • Watches. To the more middle class characters (Tom and Greg mostly), they’re a sign of great importance. To the Roys, unless it’s engraved with something personal on the back, they don’t mean anything.
    • Bathrooms. Kendall has a breakdown in one, Roman flirts with powerful and shitty men twice in one, Shiv practises a smile in the mirror while her dad is sick, and so on.
    • As well as the Arc Words “is this real”, no real person involved. The Roy family aren’t really “real”, with all their wealth shielding them from the outside world, but it’s also Kendall/Shiv/Roman’s status as abused trophy children that parallels them with the migrant workers and sexual abuse victims of the cruises. Season Two Kendall is a dead-eyed broken Empty Shell, and he projects that Roman isn’t a real person either when he has a later breakdown at his party, hitting Roman’s Trauma Button.
    • Bodily functions. The whole series starts off with Logan pissing in the wrong place, Kendall wakes up in his own shit after a coke bender, and the show always follows these up by focusing on the working class staff having to clean up their mess.
  • Mouth of Sauron: Shiv at the hospital and Kendall in the second episode of the third season lay into each other, her calling him a weak willed idiot and him calling her a Granola Girl (just more insulting), with the weak excuse that it’s what dad and the market think respectively. Roman lampshades it both times.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Kendall, Roman and Shiv all have this instinct when it comes to their dad, Kendall more than once in the past been the hollowed out Empty Shell he is in season two, Roman needing to believe that his father is in the right and anyone opposing him is wrong, and Shiv this close to escaping but still desperately craving his attention and protection anyway.
    Logan: Because when I say something will happen, that thing will happen. Am I right, kids?
    Shiv': …right.
    Kendall: Um. Right.
  • My New Gift Is Lame:
    • The Roy kids gripe about how it's impossible to give Logan anything he'll like. He already has everything he wants, and whenever something new comes out that he might like, he'll always get a dozen of them. Logan gives away the watch Tom gave him almost immediately. When Connor tries to go unconventional and give him some starter dough to make old-fashioned sourdough, Logan condescendingly thanks him for the "old bread."
    • In the midst of a depressive episode, Kendall's girlfriend gives him a watch for his birthday, and he hates it intensely. After muttering, "I already have a watch," he announces that he needs time to think about why she would give that to him, and he storms off.
  • Naïve Newcomer:
    • Greg is Logan's grandnephew, but he grew up in a middle-class setting and had little interaction with Logan's side of the family until his mother sends him to New York. He is now smack in the middle of all the Roy family drama but is not really a player in it yet. He is out of his depth and is quite bewildered by what is happening around him. He seems mostly incapable of any sort of cunning until the end of the first season, where he implies he'll blackmail Kendall with the cruise scandal unless he gets to keep his job, and even Kendall is kind of impressed with him.
    • Tom is effectively treated as this by everyone in the family, which initially leads to some rivalry and conflict with Greg.
  • Nepotism: Most of the Roy clan works in the family business, whether or not they're qualified. Tom and Greg also earn positions simply for their connection to the family. Even Marcia's son by another marriage gets to head the European animation division. In season three Logan prepares to sell the company, and all the siblings realize that they'll never be allowed to maintain their positions without Logan as the boss.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The marketing for “Too Much Birthday” leaned heavily on the Cringe Comedy, that it would be worse than "L To The OG" and that Kendall was being himself. The last one was a bit of misdirection, as after a season of blustering in public, he has a crying breakdown, so very much being himself.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The Roy family are broadly based on Rupert Murdoch and his children. Like Logan Roy, Murdoch is a foreign-born media magnate whose holdings push a conservative narrative, and most of his children have joined the family business. Kendall's love of rap music and rocky relationship with his father also seem to be nods to James Murdoch.
    • Likewise, the Pierces are broadly based on the Sulzbergers, the longtime owners of The New York Times.
    • Gil Eavis, who Shiv is supporting for president, is pretty clearly based on Bernie Sanders as a vaguely Jewish liberal senator who focuses on wealth inequality.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Zig-zagged. Most of the Roys are pretty industrious in spite of their wealth. Kendall and Roman occupy high positions at the company (though Roman rejoins the company after a period of unemployment at the beginning of the series). Shiv is a political strategist for the Democratic Party. Connor is the only Roy child who "does nothing," though he denies this description. In the second season, he starts a political campaign to run for president and produces a play. However, as much as they like to deny it, none of them are as talented as they think they are and all have more or less coasted to extremely influential jobs they haven't earned on the Roy name.
  • Noodle Incident: Something bad happened to Shiv in London, enough that Tom worries about to ask if she’s okay, and she tries to make a beeline to talk to her brothers, but beyond that she’s not telling.
  • Not Helping Your Case: After Kendall doesn’t do what he’s told (dropping the lawsuit), Logan plants stories of Kendall back on drugs and raving before the vote of no confidence. And as Rava said, angrily ranting that he’s not actually on drugs is what he used to say when he was using, so Ken can’t win and unsurprisingly falls right off the wagon.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Connor, Kendall, Shiv and Roman all find Mo and the Wolf Pack a Trauma Button, and they were Logan’s old crew along with being abusive regarding cruises, but the camera only shows them once at Mo’s funeral, as old men laughing and talking.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The series centered around the Roy siblings as they each jockeyed for their father's favor and, with it, future control of Waystar-Royco. At the end of Season 3, their father sells the company, with the Roy siblings having no control over the deal or the company's future management.
  • “Not If They Enjoyed It” Rationalisation: The subtext is there, mostly used to keep someone in line, with Shiv/Ken saying Roman is a sex pest so is overreacting to jokes about how he can’t fuck, Kendall being told he should appreciate being groomed and not blow it (and on some level he’s relieved to be submissive to his dad, trying to recreate it), and Roman making jokes about how Shiv wants him to rape her.
  • Not So Similar: However, the Pearces also genuinely believe in their own values, as shown when the cruise ship scandal finally gets too big to be ignored and Nan calls off the deal, to Logan's shock.
  • Nouveau Riche:
    • Tom thinks that Conspicuous Consumption is how you "be rich" and is marrying into his money.
    • Since Logan is a Self-Made Man, the Roys are new money as a family. The old-money Pierces regard them as crass.
  • Odd Couple: Tom and Greg are both outsiders to the Roys and often find themselves dealing with each other as a result. Tom quickly latches onto Greg, at first offering mocking camaraderie and bullying. Although this lessens up as the season goes on, which shows them exchanging moments of bonding in the finale.
  • One Last Field Trip: Before Shiv’s wedding, and before Kendall thinks he’s going to destroy everyone with the bear hug, the trio (they forgot Connor) meet up in the old place and share a joint like old times. Of course everyone only gets more enmeshed with each other after, but the sentiment is the same.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Guaranteed.
    • Shiv is The Stoic and extremely cool and unemotional even by those standards, which makes it even more jarring and serious when she breaks down and begs Logan not to make Tom take the fall for the cruise ship scandal in Season 2.
    • Logan is a total violent asshole, so even his mumbled apology to Roman after hitting him hard shows an unusual streak of remorse and guilt over physical abuse (probably due to his own abusive past.)
    • Connor is usually quite comfortable as the only sibling with no interest in running the company and leading the family. In season three, however, Kendall says the quiet part out loud and calls himself "the eldest son," prompting Connor to go on an uncharacteristic tirade about the respect he deserves as the real eldest son.
  • Overly Preprepared Gag: Roman spends an episode trying to find out whether his exploding satellite caused any deaths that he'll be liable for, possibly incurring prison time. He eventually learns that the injuries were limited mostly to the loss of two thumbs. Later still, a relieved Roman celebrates with a Has Two Thumbs and... gag.
  • Parental Incest:
    • Shiv visits Logan when he's doped up on morphine and confused, and when he takes her hand he tries to pull it towards his crotch. She's appropriately squicked out and leaves. There’s also questions to be had with just how many sexualising jokes Roman makes about her when he’s trying to be bootleg Logan, and she fires back with how much he must want to fuck their mother.
    • Logan is fond of insinuations that Kendall will bend over and let himself get fucked, or that he’ll spread on the first date. Roman, as is his way, calls Kendall a Sex Bot for their dad to use.
    • In “Safe Room”, on Shiv’s first day at Waystar, Tom does an unfortunate analogy that ends up with Shiv having sex with her dad.
    • And then there’s Roman, whose fawning sucking up to dad gets him comments like how he must want to give his dad a blowjob and he taunts how Shiv is just angry because he’s now the one having sex with dad.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Thrown out the window, with Parental Incest jokes flying everywhere, and Logan coming off predatory to his own children, complaining at Roman for “not liking pussy” and telling him to get straightened out, and Kendall getting fucked is a common theme with his insults.
  • Past Victim Showcase: Done by the camera at the end of “Hunting”, as Shiv is happy to be finally bought in, but Kendall is in the background of Logan’s study, silent and part of the scenery, showing how her being bought in is going to end up.
  • Patched Together from the Headlines: The warring family are the Murdochs (see No Celebrities Were Harmed for exactly how), but they also run theme parks and cruises that are heavily reminiscent of Disney Theme Parks and several high-profile controversies and speculations, such as the possibilities of cover-ups occurring within, especially in Season 2 when similar controversies become a major plot point. They also bear some striking resemblance to the Kennedys and then there's the fatal car crash.
  • Patricide: Kendall makes a lot of references of killing or being able to kill/replace Logan, but ultimately he doesn’t want him dead, panicking when it’s time to actually deliver the “let’s fuck dad together” bear hug and admitting “I’ll be broken when you die”, despite the fact that being around his dad has made him think about killing himself multiple times. It’s also implied that the vote of no confidence is the first time he’s really tried to kill his dad (Roman telling him he’ll only be respected that way), but he’s tried to squirm away before, fucked it up and brought back under heel.
  • Pedophile Priest: Logan complains to Kendall about Shiv/Tom’s service not being Catholic, joking “fucking all those kids really hurt the brand” and making it clear he doesn’t give a shit.
  • Place Worse Than Death: Kendall was Reassigned to Antarctica in the form of having to go to Shanghai for a year. It’s never made explicit why he finds it so traumatizing (beyond having to be away from his family and a father he worships), but he’d do anything to not go back there.
  • Plausible Deniability:
    • Tom discovers that the cruise line division is covering up a wide range of crimes that occur on their ships, from systematic sexual harassment to murder. He is legally required to report this to the authorities, but if he does then it will cost Waystar-Royco millions in lawsuits and lost revenue. He lampshades the fact that by being so diligent he cost himself plausible deniability. If he stopped looking when he realized that something fishy was going on, he could truthfully say that he had no knowledge of any specific wrongdoing. Now, if he is ever forced to testify on the matter, he will be committing perjury if he denies knowledge. Similarly, if Tom tells anyone about what he found, that person will lose plausible deniability and will become part of the conspiracy.
    • Early in the series, Kendall thinks that some negative press about the situation at Waystar would help his case to be appointed acting CEO, but he can't be the source for such a story. He gets around this by calling Lawrence Yee to demand that Lawrence run no stories about Waystar, gratuitously insulting Lawrence in the process. This, of course, gets Kendall both the story he wants and an excuse if he's asked about it later.
  • Plot Parallel: The cruises with the abuse that goes on with the Roy family. Nobody wants to know about the abuse victims or the extorted dancers, and Logan tries to tell the world that he’s a great father who encourages his children. Roman makes a lot of references to sexual abuse in the past, Shiv tells a rape victim that she understands because her father strung her along, and Kendall uses the cruise victims as a shield to hate his father for making him so fragile.
  • Political Correctness Is Evil:
    • Roman whines a few times in season one about the need for trigger warnings and how Shiv used to be “fun” before she went all liberal.
    • In “Safe Room”, Cyd complains that if they cave to firing neo-nazi Ravenhead, then who’s next.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Harriet Walter confirmed that Caroline thinks of her children as mini-Logans, is afraid of them, and the fact that Kendall (who was going to confess, not complain about her being abusive) or Shiv might really need their mother for once isn’t considered.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure:
    • Being The Baby of the Bunch, Greg has no clue who Gore Vidal is.
    • Subverted when Shiv assumes that Connor hasn’t seen Indecent Proposal (a film where a billionaire essentially just sexually extorts a couple), but Wila has to tell her that it’s one of his favorite films.
  • Popularity Cycle: This is regarded as Logan's MO by all familiar with his methods:
    • He chooses a favorite (in Season 2, it's Rhea; Gerri is a past example) who can do no wrong before inevitably casting them aside when he gets bored with them — or even just when he gets them, as Shiv learns when he flatters her into joining Waystar-Royco before losing interest in her. Marcia is smart enough to call him out on this and his infatuation with Rhea — which is over before the end of the season because she doesn't drink — is what pushes her to leave him.
    • This is also one of Logan's favorite methods of "parenting" the kids that work with him. He promises Kendall the top job, but mobilizes Roman and the board as best he could against him when it poses a threat to him. He then promises Shiv his job, but loses interest. He even briefly promises Greg advancement to get an advantage over his brother Ewan. Shiv then tries to reassert herself by telling the Pierces she would be the successor, which drives Logan against her and compels him to name his usual least favorite, Roman, as his successor after Kendall appeared to take the fall for the cruise ship scandals.
  • Power Dynamics Kink: Roman is treated as Ambiguously Gay in Season 1, as he never sleeps with either of his girlfriends but he has a lot of sexual tension with his (male) trainer, whose job it is to push him physically. Season 2 confirms that Roman has little interest in sex; he jerks off multiple times to Gerri humiliating him and verbally attacking him for being a loser and a dumbass, and he can only try to have sex with his girlfriend when she's pretending to be dead.
  • Privilege Makes You Evil: Played with before being played straight. While the Roy kids haven't had an easy time of it (Logan is a horrible person who relentlessly criticizes, abuses, and scorns them) and we are encouraged to sympathize with them, it becomes clear that their massive wealth have given them all an outsized sense of importance and a means of avoiding consequences that lead to them perpetrating evil. For instance, Kendall is a very sympathetic character a lot of the time, but he still let a man die out of self-absorption and used his family's resources to cover it up.
  • Promiscuity After Rape: Heavily implied to be the case with Shiv, dealing with Rape as Backstory very badly by going hypersexual.
  • Psychological Projection: It’s a good rule of thumb that whenever the siblings insult each other for whatever, they’ll have a point, but it’s also what they’re feeling themselves, like Kendall calling Shiv a Daddy's Girl, or Roman mocking others of being no use to dad, or Shiv complaining that the boys have no spine against him.
  • Psychotic Love Triangle:
    • Tom makes jokes about Shiv finally sleeping with her father and ultimately wants Logan’s love and attention more than from his wife.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Comfry was initially supposed to be Jess getting a bigger part to play, but Juliana Canfield was busy with other filming.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Both Roman and Kendall are deemed inadequate by Logan because they’re too weak. Ironically enough, Kendall is the only character who has killed someone, but is plagued by guilt. And Roman can play the game of being a killer, but he has too many emotions to handle it for long.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Marcia gives one to Shiv in the penultimate episode of the first season, calling her out for being spoiled and entitled as she actively works against the one man who gave her the privilege to do so.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: “I Went To Market” implies heavily that Logan sending Kendall to do a year in Shanghai was a punishment, most likely to try and toughen him up but just made him feel even more miserable.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: The show borrows its premise from King Lear, with three children vying for the affections of their aging father and control of his empire.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • Everyone is clearly afraid of Logan in the pilot, but he himself acts like a fairly genial gruff old man until Kendall is mad that he’s planning to stay on as CEO, then he proves why everyone is so afraid of him, degrading his son in any way he can think of.
    • Everything being set up in season three, that Kendall is still having a breakdown just a manic version, that Shiv is realising she’ll never be allowed in the boy’s club, that Tom is throwing his hand in with Logan and Roman is flying too close to the sun before crashing, isn’t entirely evident until the last few episodes when it all explodes.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: The curse of the Roy children, who have grown up pampered and unloved, so that they feel inadequate compared to the success of their father and seek his approval, but have been given none of the tools to actually achieve anything and earn that respect.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Kendall trying to take Logan down for the cruises. In a lot of ways, Logan deserves it, especially as Kendall was broken over and over in the last season, it’s heavily suggested he took part in the abuse and even Shiv implies she has to watch out in the company. But the problem is, Kendall is on a sanctimony high and doesn’t want to admit his own wrongdoing, panicking in private and still defending daddy to Shiv. He acts like a mini-Logan until it all falls apart.
  • Running Gag:
    • Shiv calling Tom a "good guy" when people ask her why she's settling for him.
    • Tom's hatred for Cyd throughout Season 2.
    • "Greg the Egg" (which Caroline calls Greg at the wedding) becomes one in Season 2, too.
  • Sad Clown: Kendall steers hard into this behavior in season 3, trying to reinvent himself as a hip, enlightened whistleblower and champion of the people. He continuously keeps an upbeat, casual, and jokey persona, trying desperately to laugh with the world rather than be laughed at. His facade ultimately cracks when the pressure becomes too much, and he sinks back into his underlying depression.
  • Sarcastic Confession: After Logan offers her the company, Shiv tells Roman immediately, but frames it as just playing with him so he thinks she’s bullshitting.
  • Scandalgate: Shiv refers to the incident at a public panel where she calls her father a "dinosaur" as "dinosaur-gate".
  • Scenery Gorn: In terms of the show, as most of it is filmed in glorious houses or gorgeous scenery that the characters never notice. But Kendall admits what he did with the waiter, and his siblings comfort him, in a glaring, dusty spot by some bins. This was intentional on Mylod’s part, as there’s nowhere to hide.
  • Scenery Porn: Not that the characters notice, far too wrapped up in their own wealth and misery, but there’s always gorgeous shots of wherever they’re going this time.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Shiv tries to sink a negative story about her candidate by reminding the station pushing it that her family owns them.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Gerri would love to leave in “Hunting” to sort out the Pierce deal (and escape), but Logan is in a worse mood than usual and doesn’t let her.
  • Security Cling: The Roy siblings in their Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments. Kendall cries on Shiv’s shoulder in season two, she and Roman support him when he cries again in the season three finale, and Roman grips onto Kendall’s hand tight when he has his own breakdown.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    • Kendall's vote of no confidence. He works tirelessly, feeling a great deal of guilt, to organize against Logan. He then worries about one vote which isn't supposed to show up...and his anxious phone call ends up alerting the (very ill) board member that he's trying to keep her out of the meeting. This results in the numbers tipping against Kendall and he tries to fly out to see her. Due to a terrorist threat, he can't make it, but gets extremely late for his own meeting, having previously been very early. He ends up calling the vote via cell phone and running across New York to get there in time. This means that some of the people who would've voted for him lose their confidence in him, and enables Logan to bully his way into staying at the vote. Even Roman and Gerri opt not to support Kendall due to his absence. Kendall gets there a minute too late, he loses the vote, and the board voter who he feared would vote against him? She voted in his favor anyway.
    • Hearing a story of Connor trying to get a dog with cancer to go to someone else, paying a guy three grand to give it a good life but getting it shot anyway, seems to be the final straw for a probably relating to said dog Kendall to get Off the Wagon and try to become a methhead.
  • Self-Serving Memory:
    • Comes up when the guys all attend a bachelor party. Roman yells at Kendall over how, as a kid, Kendall would lock Roman in a cage and feed him dog food in a bowl, which made him "go weird" and eventually pushed Logan to send Roman to military school. Kendall claims it was a game and that Roman enjoyed it. When Roman snaps about it to Connor, Connor confirms that the cage was indeed a game they played together, and tells him that, as he remembers, the "dog food" was actually chocolate cake and the reason Logan sent him to military school was because Roman asked to go.
    • Logan criticizes Ewan for writing a begging letter for the farm he now owns. Ewan claims this wasn't the case and Logan seems to have no interest in the farm anyway.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Kendall and Roman are definitely not good guys, but Logan will yell at them for any slight feeling or affection, calling them every single gay slur he can think of, mocking Kendall for being Prone to Tears and stuttering, while shouting at Roman for saying he and his siblings still love their father.
  • Serious Business: Connor flips out because the butter is too hard at his charity event, "firing" his event manager and all of the staff during a tantrum. He then personally apologizes to various tables for the butter. In fact, when Logan asks why he's apologizing, Marcia replies with disdain that "the butter is frozen," showing that Connor's concern is probably well-founded. His guests really are that particular.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: A running gag in season three has Greg's uncle constantly using ornate adjectives like "histrionic" and "intractable" around Greg, who pretends to understand.
  • Sex for Services: Kendall jokes about throwing in a blowjob so he can get Vaulter, only to be horrified when Logan has come in and heard all that. Logan at least thinks Kendall has actually done this, asking if he opened his legs early for Sandy and Stewy in the proxy battle deal.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Everyone uses degrading sexual metaphors for business and there’s maybe one not-miserable sex scene in the show. Connor and Roman are on the side of dealing by being anti-sex, while Shiv and Kendall cope by really getting around.
  • Sex Is Violence: Most of Logan’s language is mixing sex, violence and degrading anyway, but he apologises to Frank for the boar on the floor night as “things got a little fruity”. Frank goes along with it, and Kendall looks like he wants to be dead.
  • Shadow Archetype: The Old Guard (Frank, Gerri and Karl) represent who Logan wants his children to be like; Kendall to be like Frank a doormat who always comes back, Shiv to be like Gerri putting everything else on hold for Waystar, and Roman to be like Karl, sexual deviant,but loyal and willing to beg.
  • Shallow News Site Satire: Vaulter is a trendy online media brand recently acquired by media titan Waystar Royco. It seems loosely based on various media companies, such as Vulture (note the name), Vox (for its explanation articles), and Buzzfeed (for its clickbait). A visit to the Vaulter offices in season two shows that it is populated by young writers and has a fun, open-concept type of office. They have headlines like "Wait, Is Every Taylor Swift Lyric Secretly Marxist?" and "5 Reasons Why Drinking Milk on the Toilet Is Kind of a Game-Changer". However, the show portrays their business model as unstable, as they can artificially inflate data and are subject to the whims of the Facebook algorithm; by episode's end, Logan orders Kendall to dismantle it for being hogwash, and so the latter fires everyone and incorporates only their revenue-generating ideas into the greater Waystar portfolio.
  • Sherlock Scan: Shiv has a fun one towards Gerri, figuring out that because her dad is in a secret meeting, she’s being distracted, and Karolina, Jess and Colin are all involved, her brother is in trouble.
  • Ship Tease: Between Gerri and Roman. In the second season, the former helps the latter masturbate twice and Roman "proposes marriage" for the two of them to work together to take over Waystar-Royco.
  • Shirtless Scene: Kendall gets the most, and Roman gets a few, but Roman is body checking himself out of Weight Woe and Kendall is just covered in shame 24/7.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Some rapid-fire Star Wars references in “Lifeboats”, with a bit of foreshadowing, as the revealed to be evil in so many ways Waystar is compared to the death star, Kendall is called Darth Vader (who was the manipulated dragon to Palpatine/Logan) and Ambiguously Bi Tom is labelled C 3 PO. “Prague” also has Kendall trying to convince himself (and Dust) that he’s the “rebel alliance”, not like evil Waystar.
    • Episode 6 of Season 1 is titled "Which Side Are You On?" after the Florence Reece song by the same name. A version of the track plays over the episode's ending.
    • Logan calls Greg "an Ichabod Crane fuck".
    • Kendall refers to his position at Waystar as being carried around in Logan's pocket like Stuart Little.
    • At various points in the show, Kendall is referred to as "Yuppie Robocop" and Ken.W.A..
    • Tom is called "the cunt of Monte Christo".
    • Frank quotes Shakespeare's Coriolanus.
    • Tom calls Greg "his little R2 unit" and "the talented Mr. Greg".
    • Jesse Armstrong confirmed that all the references to children’s books in season three were to show that Connor, Kendall, Shiv and Roman are ultimately still children, and how they’re treated from then to now hasn’t changed.
    • Jesse Armstrong compared what Logan does to Kendall in season two, just making him completely lobotimised and defeated to The Manchurian Candidate. Kendall and Shaw also are pretty similar, arrogant and hard to like, but easily cowed and submissive.
    • As well as a ton of references to King Lear, Armstrong took from The Celebration, with the pilot being the same name, Michael going off to military school like Roman, and the father telling Christian what else was he for with Kendall admitting to Shiv the same thing.
    • The Happier Home Movie subversion credits are a direct reference of the opening scenes of The Game.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Jesse Armstrong had a quote about everything in the show, from speech to what the docu-style camera focuses on to jokes, is there for a reason, and they’ll cut out anything that makes their point too obvious.
  • Shower of Angst: After accidentally killing the waiter, Kendall washes his clothes and tries to make himself look like he didn’t almost just drown. It’s a bathtub but the sentiment is the same.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • As Black Comedy as the show is, with everyone being horrible, the Roy kids' fear of their dad has been praised for effectively showing trauma responses.
    • Pick any interview with Jeremy Strong and he’ll be talking about researching famous (or at least rich) people who have been abused, from Edward St Aubyn to movies like The Celebration, so he can get to just how badly Kendall feels.
    • Kendall’s not so ambiguous disorder (at least not the main one) is bipolar, and the drugs this man takes react with bipolar in… interesting ways, both in show and in real life. In “Prague”, when he’s depressed and with suicide so on his mind he’s wearing a shirt about it, he’s adamant about getting ket (decreases suicidal leanings in bipolar patients, although in small doses, and Kendall isn’t the best at harm reduction). But when he gets two awful truths in one, that dog pound was real and enjoyed, and he’s still seen as a Roy, he aims to do so much coke his heart explodes and he’s full of hypomanic posturing until it wears off next episode and he’s back to panicky little nothing.
  • Signature Shot: Mostly surrounding the golden trio, the show will often have the camera zoom out so they’re filmed from far away, making them look impossibly small in the space they’re in.
  • Sin Eater: In "Sad Sack Wasp Trap", Gerri tries to persuade Tom to cover up evidence regarding several illegal acts committed on the company's cruise lines. As seen in the page quote, Gerri likens this to Tom being a sin eater.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Kendall was completely absent in the trailer for “All The Bells Say”, both because of the Driven to Suicide Cliffhanger of “Chiantishire”, and because any of his scenes before the Internal Reveal have him as a ghostly Empty Shell.
  • Sliding Scale of Plot Versus Characters: The plot can stay the same for many episodes, with the focus being on how the characters are twisting themselves to either be on Logan’s good side, or moving against him, or having their own breakdowns.
  • Slut-Shaming:
    • Proving he’s very much not the White Sheep he thinks he is, and Like Father, Like Son, Kendall gets humiliated by Dust and ruins them by putting out the word that they’re junkie sluts who inject seed capital into their arms.
    • Caroline and Marcia both make cracks about Shiv sleeping around. And while that’s true she does, Marcia decides to call her a spoiled slut after Shiv wants to take down Logan for sexual abuse in cruises. Her brothers also add on, Kendall (who does Sex for Solace just as much as she does) lashing out that she only has any worth for her “teats”, and Roman obsessed with how much sex she has.
  • Soccer-Hating Americans: Roman listens in on in total confusion to a European business contact's plan for a soccer team:
    Eduard: Agent in Spain, big baller. I buy the club, he loans me nine shit-hot players. We climb the ladder, take the second Champions League space, UEFA goes full European super-league, flip it, walk away.
    Roman: I have no idea what you're talking about, but it sounds fucking slick, dude.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Invoked In-Universe, along with Parody Retcon:
    • When one of Waystar Royco's movie productions is panned by critics and dubbed "The Biggest Turkey In The World", the firm harnesses this reputation to try and make it a cult hit. They even have staff (including Roman at one point) dress up as giant turkeys at their theme parks.
    • In season 3 it is hinted that Willa's debut as a playwright and actor has bombed. Connor suggests she tries to market it to an ironic audience and make it a cult hit; Willa is upset at this because, for her, it wasn't about the money.
  • Speech-Centric Work: This is a very dialogue-heavy show and the ratio of speech to action leans more towards speech than action. There isn't a silent scene that often, at least in Season 1.
  • Spiteful Spit: After acting like he’s going to save the company but backstabbing them all cos daddy told him to, a Vaulter employee spits at Kendall. As he’s running on Empty Shell mode, he doesn’t really care.
  • Spiteful Suicide: Two of Kendall’s suicide attempts are on some level to disappoint his dad, wanting to jump off the Waystar building and, after hearing that Logan got Greg to babysit him, plans to snort so much coke his heart explodes.
  • Staging an Intervention: Spearheaded by Shiv, she, Roman and Connor have one for Kendall after his Bungled Suicide. They mean well (and get through to him later when he has a breakdown), but their brother can’t compute kindness without an agenda, and Connor ends up ranting he’s the eldest son, and while he loves the golden trio, they treat him like crap.
  • Status Quo Is God: Deconstructed, as even when characters want consequences, the only punishment you get tends to be what Logan wants. You can't die, you can't go to prison, there's no real person involved, all that happens in the much talked about shareholder's meeting is that Shiv gets humiliated by her father.
  • Stealth Insult:
    • In the pilot, Roman declares that he was a bad fit and never a “corporate cocksuck” anyway, with the loud implication that Kendall can suck just fine.
    • As a sharp-tongued British aristocrat, Caroline Collingwood is an expert at these. She notes how "clever" it is that Tom's middle-class parents are letting everyone at the wedding know that they bought the wine. Tom acknowledges that he's just been "stabbed."
    • As well as Logan calling Tom “the cunt of Monte Cristo”, said count is fuelled by bitterness and revenge, a fitting insult for the Social Climber more in love with his wife’s father than his actual wife.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Only one line makes sense in Kendall’s “L to the OG” and that’s “I’ve been through hell, but since I stan dad, I’m alive and well”, during a time when he’s Logan’s submissive little doll.
  • Stylistic Suck: Jeremy Strong himself is a good singer, but Kendall’s full version of Honesty is so painfully earnest and apropos to his own situation (no matter how much he wants to tell himself he’s just doing it as a joke), that getting every line sounds like a strain.
  • Succession Crisis: It's even alluded to by the title. Logan postpones his retirement because he considers none of his four children as suitable heirs to his vast media empire, and the children repeatedly demonstrate this with their squabbling over who gets what and their dickish behavior in general. It's also invoked in that Logan loves to dangle the possibility of being his successor in their faces.
  • Suicide by Sea: Going with his long motif of water, Kendall attempts to kill himself by putting his face in the pool and breathing in. Judging by his losing his grip on the beer bottle, he gets far enough to pass out.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music:
    • On the drive to get cocaine, Kendall and the waiter listen to “The Isle Of Arran” by Lyle Carner, with the last line before the swerve being “my dad didn’t want me”.
    • Kendall playing “Rape Me” at Shiv’s press conference has layers to it, it’s a way to humiliate his sister and embarrass her in public (especially when “I’m not the only one” plays, as she’s had a lot of hints that she suffers Rape as Backstory too), it’s a trolling immature way to remind everyone of what Waystar has covered up, and it also applies to his mental state, thinking he can take (and deserves) any kind of abuse and still traumatised from being Logan’s number one boy.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Nobody’s a good or even likable person, but even with Logan and Caroline, the monstrousness comes from somewhere. In the case of Tom and Shiv, the show sets up that they love each other but they also clash, Tom feeling used and controlled, and Shiv mostly just wanting a relationship with someone opposite to her father.
  • Take That!: ATN, a Bland-Name Product stand-in for Fox News, is repeatedly described as a right-wing propaganda platform rather than a genuine source for journalism. When the Roys are positioned to take over PGN, the stand-in for CNN, Shiv has an uncharacteristic crisis of guilt when she wonders how much damage it will cause to society if nobody is delivering real journalism on television.
  • Team Dad: Shared between Connor and Kendall, the former taking the kids out on camping trips when their actual father couldn’t be bothered, and the latter with a martyr complex who feels like he has to save his younger siblings (while also lashing out at them and desperately needing help of his own).
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Kendall’s ridiculously homoerotic Badass Boast to Lawrence in the pilot (“I’m gonna lock you in a silver cage, fuck you with a silver dildo and pay you so much money you sing whatever song I want.”) ends up being what happens to him in season two, Logan putting up plexiglass around Waystar so he doesn’t kill himself, Roman and Shiv thinking dad is fucking him, and brings Professional Butt-Kisser to a whole new level.
    • Tom, Roman and Kendall are convinced that the vote of no confidence will go off without a hitch, and of course it ends up spectacularly bombing.
    • Even before the takeover bid, Kendall tells Roman that doing his own thing is better than being carried about in Logan’s pockets. It comes as no surprise then that he’s dragged back in (though his own failure and Logan seeing the opportunity) at the end of the season.
    • In “Pre-Nuptial”, Kendall and Logan have a tense talk where Logan wants Kendall back in the fold. He’ll get his way in the next episode, but in the worst possible way for Kendall.
    • At the start of his 40th birthday party (an over stimulating nightmare even if you don’t have an Ambiguous Disorder), Kendall gets all little boy excited about how it’s going to be the best birthday ever and he can prove to everyone he’s not fragile. He ends up looking over his balcony and thinking about suicide.
    • While Tom’s already thinking about it, Kendall puts one of the nails in Shiv’s coffin when he tells Tom that betrayal will help her respect him more. Cue the finale where he, Shiv and Roman are betrayed and she especially is angry and crying.
  • Theme Naming: A subtle example, as Logan, Connor, Roman and Kendall recall Lear, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia from King Lear.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted. While it doesn’t actually do much good, Roman, Shiv and Kendall all have therapists who sound exhausted with the Roy family hellhole. According to word of god, Ken’s therapist isn’t even that good, and mostly just tells him to forgive his parents.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Played for drama. The Roys are cavalier about wasting fine food laid out for them, since it's such an infinitesimal amount of their wealth. Logan has a whole banquet tossed because the house is smelly. Food served during business meetings almost always goes untouched. Roman takes a sip of wine at his mother's wedding and then tosses the rest over the railing. When Kendall and Logan meet for "dinner," there's much ballyhoo over whether Kendall poisoned Logan's pasta, and neither of them eat a bite.
  • Thicker Than Water:
    • Ewan Roy seems to despise his brother Logan, but he would never betray him. He is outraged when he finds out that Kendall and his siblings are conspiring against their father.
    • Greg is pretty much a stranger to Logan and his family, but he is Ewan's grandson, so he is given a job where he has access to Waystar-Royco's top executives and is used for sensitive tasks. Tom regards him as trustworthy because he's family, but also expendable, because he's only distant family.
    • One of the themes of the show is that if the siblings actually come together, like at the end of “Austerlitz”, or the hug in “Pre-Nuptial”, or “All The Bells Say”, they have a chance to prove they haven’t been completely ruined by both their father always pitting them against each other and their own moral-rotting wealth. They’re also the only ones who (despite arguments and being Conditioned to Accept Horror) know what they’ve been through, and can only really offer love/comfort to each other, even if it’s still awkward and mangled.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Being the heads of a conservative media empire, the Roy family tolerates and occasionally allies themselves with far-right figures if it serves the company.
    • In season 2, ATN is protested over anchor Mark Ravenhead's Nazi ties. In a discussion with Tom, he keeps digging himself deeper, revealing he named his dog after Hitler's dog, read Mein Kampf several times and even implies Holocaust denial. He is later let go as a peace offering to the liberal-leaning Pierce family.
    • In season 3, the Roys start endorsing aspiring presidential candidate and white nationalist Jeryd Mencken. While Roman finds him relatable because of their shared edgelord demeanor, Shiv is disgusted.
  • Tragic Dream:
    • Executive producer Lucy Prebble has talked about how if Kendall, Roman and Shiv could come together they could run a successful company, tragedy of it being they can’t for long, as family dynamics were always them being pitted against each other.
    • The core failing of Tom and Shiv is that she wants out of her family and hates herself for being manipulated by her father and ambition, while he wants in the family no matter how much the company horrifies him, and neither of them actually talk about this.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Once learning about the company's dark secrets, one of Tom's first instincts is to come clean about the situation as a way of producing reform while saving the company's reputation. He is stopped, however, once it becomes clear to him that elements within the Roys' inner circle aim to shut down the possibility, and the second season has him frantically scrubbing any trace of evidence about it while actively helping the cover-up.
  • Trauma Conga Line
    • Kendall in the second season, due to being completely under Logan's control. He's made to give an embarrassingly inadequate explanation for backing out of his plot on live TV, forced to completely destroy his pet project, repeatedly falls off the wagon and generally has to act as nothing more than a defeated puppet and spy for his father. When confronted about one of his actions, he can only summon a miserable, pathetic, "My Dad told me to."
    • Roman, over the course of the third and fourth episodes of the second season. His attempts at impressing Logan by going behind his back to try to work out a deal with the Pierce family backfires horribly and nearly ruins his father's plans, and Kendall spies on him for Logan to find out that he was considering talking to the biographer. This leaves him a pathetic, sniveling mess begging for his father's approval, who dismissively calls him an out-of-touch moron. Following Gerri's advice, Roman enters a management training program, which turns out to be a hokey ground-floor operation that puts him in one of the Waystar-Royco theme parks as a mascot — ironically, the same character he had raged against in the first season.
  • Traumatic Haircut: While the actual cut itself doesn’t bother him, Kendall shaves his head after his birthday breakdown, and his mother (usually not one for emotional concerns) comments that he looks so tired.
  • Trophy Child: Kendall, Shiv and Roman are all used by Caroline and Logan as tools to hurt the other parent, both as children and as adults.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: According to Connor, traumatic events of Roman being asked to be put in a cage/Kendall shoving him in there were encouraged by Logan, thinking of them as two attack dogs and punishing the weaker one.
  • 24-Hour Party People: Most obviously at Shiv’s wedding, when she has five bridesmaids who are never seen again, and like the rest of her family, she has very few friends.
  • Unexplained Accent: Willa Ferreyra (portrayed by Justine Lupe) has a Coloradan accent which is a bit like a Midwestern or Texan accent depending on where you're from in the state even though she's stated to be from New Mexico. Similarly, Tabitha has a Maine accent despite canonically being a New Yorker, and it's never stated In-Universe that she's a Mainer. Although this is down to the actresses' backgrounds. The In-Universe explanation for the discrepancy hasn't been noted.
  • Unnervingly Heartwarming: On the surface, the number one boy scene is Logan comforting Kendall while he cries. But it’s how Logan carries out the slow build-up of knowing his son’s involvement in the death, and only being tender (moving him around like he’s a doll) now that he’s broken Kendall down and can do what he wants with him. It was going to be even worse originally, having “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” play.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Roman and Shiv do worry about how much of a dissociated walking corpse Kendall is acting like in season two, but after a few attempts at trying to talk to him (and jealousy over how much Logan fawns over him), hang back and imply heavily that Kendall self destructing and then being glued to dad is just a common cycle for them, this just being the worst of it.
  • Unwanted Assistance: In Season 2, when Tom finagles high-end promotions for himself and Greg to the company's Fox News-styled network. While it's obvious that Tom brought Greg along mainly to continue to have him as his "gofer," he also believes he is doing the best for both of them. Greg, for his own part, states he would have been happier back in the Parks division, as the politics of the network conflict with his morals.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Greg is prepared to stay loyal to Logan, losing hundreds of millions in inheritance from his grandfather in the process, but Tom and Connor mock the idea of his consolation $5 million being any kind of decent money. This is partly what makes Greg decide to turn around and help Kendall to expose Logan.
  • Victory Is Boring: Matsson talks about how bored he is with simply making money, saying, "Success is boring. Analysis plus capital plus execution. Anyone can do it!"
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: There’s whole seasons worth of deleted scenes and alternate versions of takes that were cut because Jesse Armstrong wants everything to be obvious but not explicitly stated in text.
  • Villain Has a Point: Logan makes it clear to Kendall that he finds him incompetent as well as untrustworthy due to his history as an addict. Kendall falls off the wagon (albeit due to his plot to oust Logan failing and Logan firing him) and makes some of his worst mistakes while using again, including accidentally getting someone killed.
  • Villain Protagonist: Logan Roy is essentially the villain of the series, with all of his awful family as the antiheroes who have been ruined by a life in his influence.
  • Virgin-Shaming: Downplayed, as Roman isn’t a virgin, but he’ll get mocked by everyone for not wanting to have sex, and when he’s angry about one comment too many, his siblings bar Connor assume he’s just overreacting.
  • Visual Innuendo: Right in the pilot, Kendall shoves a burrito in his mouth while teasing that he’ll throw in a blowjob while buying Vaulter. He quickly swallows it when he realises his dad has heard all that.
  • Visual Metaphor: Lawrence Yee tells Kendall that he'd never do business with the Roys, then steps into the elevator and rubs sanitizer on his hands, literally washing his hands of the family.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Kendall and Stewy go way back, and hang out together as friends even though Kendall openly sees Stewy as an untrustworthy parasite.
    • While Connor, Kendall, Roman and Shiv all frequently go too far with each other, they’re also the type to say shitty things and then get together at Thanksgiving. Roman and Shiv have to find excuses to actually go to their brother’s party in the third season, but they’re still happy to give him hugs.
  • Wacky Startup Workplace: Vaulter, the trendy media brand recently acquired by Waystar Royco. While we see their "renovated warehouse"-look open-concept office, Roman comments they have 'beehives upstairs', implying other trendy amenities we don't see.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: All the Roy children. Roman openly is desperate for any kind of attention or approval from Logan, Kendall desires respect from him even when he's working against him, and even Connor in his own way doesn't like to go against Logan. Shiv becomes more of this in the second season, when she becomes desperate to be Logan's successor.
  • Wedding Episode: The first season finale is set across Shiv and Tom's wedding.
  • We Used to Be Friends: After Logan forces Kendall to screw over Stewy in the second season, their old friendship falls apart and Stewy spends the season trying to ruin Waystar-Royco wherever possible.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Which Side Are You On?" Kendall's motion for a vote of no confidence finally happens and it fails when traffic forces him to arrive late and Logan refuses to leave the room, pressuring Roman into abstaining and then refusing his attempt to vote. Logan stays on as chairman and fires half the board that voted to remove him, including Kendall, who's left shell-shocked on a busy street in New York.
    • The first season finale, where an innocent minor character dies as a result of one of the leads, and Logan regains power and control in the end.
    • The third season finale, where Logan, with some underhanded help from Caroline and Tom, sells Waystar to Matsson and shuts Kendall, Roman and Shiv out of the company.
  • Wham Line
    • Logan telling Kendall that his keycard was found near the scene of the accident where the young caterer was killed, and one of his assistants spotted Kendall with a compromising appearance. Not only does it mean Logan knew about the accident, which Kendall had thought he had gotten away with, but Logan is also fully prepared to weaponize it as blackmail. Kendall's winning strategy with Sandy has to fall through and he's left completely at the mercy of Logan, knowing that if the truth got out it would ruin him forever.
    • In the second season premiere Kendall learns from security that the waiter he was involved with in the accident was alive and conscious at the time of the crash and had tried to free himself, so when Kendall hid from a passing car and built an alibi instead of getting help, he really did kill him.
    • In "Tern Haven" Shiv's "Oh for fuck's sake, Dad, just tell them it's gonna be me"
    • In the second season finale, Kendall seems to be preparing to take the fall for the cruises scandal, until he adds a "But..." and then dives into exposing Logan's involvement in the cover-up on live TV.
  • Wham Shot: The final minute of the third season finale. Logan's just foiled the Roy siblings' seemingly bulletproof plan to block the GoJo takeover; somebody warned him in advance, giving him time to reopen his divorce agreement and get rid of their power to block a supermajority. The siblings have no idea who could have possibly sold them out... and then Tom walks in, and Logan pats him on the back.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A non-scifi example. During the cruises scandal, crimes involving dead migrant and sex workers were callously filed under "NRPI" — "no real person involved." Logan also refers to the dead waiter from the first season as "NRPI" which also motivates the still-guilty Kendall to take his very public stand against him.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Zigzagged by Kendall's accident. When trapped in a sinking car, Kendall manages to escape and surface, but immediately dives down again and makes several efforts to save the car's driver before relenting due to exhaustion. There was no one to witness what happened, so he could have worried only about himself. However, once on land, Kendall immediately begins to cover his tracks to avoid responsibility for the accident.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Tom to Shiv's lover at his wedding. After a season of the latter mocking him both behind his back and in front of it, Tom takes no little pleasure in utterly humiliating him at the reception before having him escorted out.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Logan makes no bones about showing that he feels this way about all his kids.
  • Wicked Step Mother: The Roy kids all distrust Marcia, their father's current wife. They suspect that she's manipulating him to get more power and wealth for herself. One of the precipitating incidents of the show is Logan trying to install her as an additional trustee. When Logan falls ill, the Roys are suspicious when she doesn't let anyone see him, and they discuss how they know almost nothing about her.
  • Women Are Wiser: Seemingly played straight before being subverted. Shiv likes to appear above it all while her brothers argue, Marcia is in general a coolheaded conspirator for Logan, and Geri is a highly respected board member who manages to end up on the winning side all the time. But Shiv proves that she's no wiser than her brothers by leaving her own career to fall in with Logan's mind games, and then loses Logan's respect, just like her brothers, by asking him to spare Tom from the cruise ship scandal, and Geri has managed to be successful due to canny exploitation of her circumstances (such as her evasion of betraying Logan despite promising Kendall she would during the no-confidence vote)).
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: The Evolving Credits will have a Fox-like news headline each season spewing something ridiculous, like “genderfluid illegals entering the country twice”.
  • Worst Wedding Ever: Shiv and Tom’s wedding goes ahead, but she tells him she wants an open marriage because Love Is a Weakness, Kendall has to deliver the bearhug letter early which means his whole family hates him, Roman’s earlier than planned rocket bombs, Shiv discovers her dad was involved in the cruise horror show, and Kendall accidentally kills a waiter, making him Logan’s glorified hostage.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: “Chiantishire” has Logan admit that the buy out that made Kendall spiral at his birthday (and what his son is crawling back for) was “a bit of fun”, and never actually intend to deliver on it.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: While they mock him plenty, and none of them are good people, Shiv and Roman are uncomfortable with Kendall calling himself bad and a killer, telling him he’s fine. They also assume in season two that Kendall is blackmailing Logan who did something bad, the thought that the reverse is true; that Kendall did something terrible, never crosses their mind.
  • You Are Not Alone: They’re awkward about it, but in sharp contrast to Logan who made sure that Kendall was isolated, Shiv and Roman comfort Kendall when he cries about the waiter, and he in return comes with them to face their parents (and ultimately be disappointed like he’s been over and over), more handmaiden than leading the coup
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: When Logan browbeats Roman into abstaining from casting the deciding vote of no-confidence, he calls him "Romulus," which seems to be a childhood nickname; Logan uses it more in the second season, usually when twisting Roman's arm.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In “The Summer Palace”, Roman and Shiv warn Kendall that Logan will use him and throw him away when he’s all dried out. “Safe Room” has him know this full well, admitting if dad didn’t need him, he doesn’t know what he would be for, and by the end of the season he’s the sacrifice, Logan digging his own grave by inadvertently admitting he doesn’t count either his son or the waiter as a real person.
  • You Leave Him Alone!: In a season of pathetic lapdoggery that he goes right back to afterwards, Kendall shouts at Logan “don’t you fucking touch him” when Roman is backhanded.

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