“Will there be nibbles at this event? I was expecting nibbles,” asks Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) in the second season of “Succession,” before an event honoring patriarch Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) 50 years at the helm of his media conglomerate Waystar Royco.
On “Succession,” food is everywhere. Even the show’s documentary-style cameras often hover around the staff at one of the Roys’ homes or caterers at a lavish event, showing them painstakingly preparing and assembling platters of food — only for it to go uneaten.
Like many things on the show, food is transactional, weaponized by any given character to assert power or signify a lack thereof. Food is also a frequent metaphor peppered throughout the show’s feast of insults. Whether it’s literal or figurative, food usually means the Roys are having a terrible time. As the deliciously vicious HBO series begins its final season on Sunday, here’s a look at the many ways food on “Succession” is ever present, but not to be savored.
‘You’re Not Trusted! You’re Mashed Potatoes!’: Food As An Insult
On “Succession,” characters make a meal out of viciously attacking each other with a cornucopia of spicy turns of phrase. Listen closely to the show’s dialogue, and you’ll hear (“we hear for you!”) the sizzle of food metaphors and references.
“You’ve lied so much you don’t even fucking know anymore,” heir apparent Kendall (Jeremy Strong) tells Logan in Season 3. “Your brain’s scrambled egg, look at you.”
Logan similarly uses several vivid food-related expressions to disparage Kendall. “I’m gonna grind his fucking bones to make my bread,” he says in the first episode of Season 3, moments after Kendall has launched an attempted coup against him. Later, he expresses how little he thinks of his second son and frequent rival like this: “Bring him up in the dumbwaiter like a fucking hamburger.” Kendall is also a regular target of comedian Sophie Iwobi (played by Ziwe, in a clever nod to her real-life persona), who roasts him as “a jar of mayonnaise in a Prada suit.”
These food-related insults are often applied to someone seen as weak, bland or generally undesired. For instance, within the universe of the show, the unnamed president of the United States, whom Logan deems as ineffectual, is “the California Fuckin’ Raisin.” Logan’s business rival Sandy Furness, who is incapacitated due to a syphilis infection, is “the fucking belligerent zucchini over here,” according to Stewy; and a “meat puppet,” according to Roman.
Longtime Waystar Royco executive Frank (Peter Friedman) is the subject of several unfortunate food comparisons by members of the family. As Kendall greets him in one episode: “Yo, what’s up, ancient grains?” When Frank performs the thankless task of stalling for time at the company’s chaotic shareholder meeting, Kendall says: “Fucking Frank. It’s humiliating. All these years, he still has to play maitre d’ at the Bistro of Bullshit.” Logan — who has fired and then rehired Frank several times because he doesn’t trust him, yet also needs his business experience — sums him up this way: “Frank, you’re not trusted! You’re mashed potatoes!” (Poor Frank.)
Mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, a “meat puppet”: the foods in question are often gooey and gelatinous. Similarly, here’s how Roman describes attending his and Kendall and Shiv’s mom’s wedding in Italy: “My mom’s getting remarried to a bowl of porridge.”
Food-related insults aren’t just for people. In Season 2, Roman convinces Logan to shut down digital media startup Vaulter, calling it “a fucking muesli pit” (another food that’s often served mushy). In one of that season’s subplots, Logan describes rival company Pierce Global Media, known for owning more reputable news outlets than Waystar Royco’s, as “self-righteous, fucking-butter-wouldn’t-melt, disingenious Pulitzer pricks.” A few episodes later, Pierce’s CEO Rhea Jarrell lobs a similar insult back at Logan when she declines a lunch invitation from him: “Oh, uh, my tummy is delicate. We really only eat Pulitzer over at Pierce.”
‘A Dildo Made Out Of American Cheese’: Food As Weakness
The show repeatedly turns to food metaphors when characters need to describe a situation of weakness.
Toward the end of Season 2, several Waystar executives and Roy family members testify at a U.S. Senate hearing on a major sexual assault scandal at the company. Logan’s son-in-law Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) turns in an embarrassing performance at the hearing, led by Sen. Gil Eavis, a Bernie Sanders-esque senator, who is also Shiv’s former boss. Even more awkward is that Gil’s top adviser is Shiv’s ex Nate, who informs her that her husband “was just called ‘a smirking block of domestic feta’ by the Atlantic.”
In Season 1, Gil begs Shiv (Sarah Snook) to give his campaign some dirt on Logan and Waystar because, as he says: “I’m holding a dildo made out of American cheese.”
En route to their mom Caroline’s wedding in Season 3, Shiv makes fun of Roman for not having a date: “Did no one on Raya want to come to Italy and sit on your ricotta dick?” (That’s three references to cheese, two of them about genitals and cheese. There are at least two more references about genitals being stuck in food.)
Food always seems to be on the characters’ minds in moments of crisis. In Season 1, Tom is strategizing with Shiv on how to get a leadership role, finding himself stuck in the company’s parks and cruises divisions. “I’ve been eating a lot of shit from the kids’ menu, you know?” he says.
In the aftermath of the sexual assault scandal and Kendall’s subsequent coup attempt, Waystar executive Karl assesses the company’s situation: “This is the full Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors of fucker right there.” Shiv, stuck between sticking with her dad or joining her brother’s coup, describes herself as “in a fucking fuck pie.” A few episodes later, the company is about to hold an employee town hall. Roman suggests choosing a few friendly questions, rejecting a potentially contentious one by saying: “This will make [Logan] shit his Pop Tarts.”
By contrast, demonstrating strength is usually about more solid foods (and keeping them down). On several occasions, Logan describes a potential business deal or idea as needing “protein” or “meat in the sandwich” before it can be seriously considered. Similarly, Tom attempts to defend his shambolic Senate testimony by claiming: “I’m the meat in the fucking sandwich!”
‘Oink For Your Sausages, Piggies!’: Food As A Power Move
“Succession” is all about power, so naturally, the show’s characters often treat food as a transaction and indicator of status.
Early in Season 1, one of our first impressions of Logan’s eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), a manchild with no real job, comes when he organizes the family’s annual charity banquet. He explodes at the entire kitchen staff because Logan’s butter is frozen. Later that season, we learn one of his many pointless hobbies is “hyper-decanting” wine. At one point, he sneers at having to fly commercial, telling Logan the food options on the flight were limited to “a selection of heavily refrigerated cheeses.” (Another cheese reference!)
As an outsider of the family, Tom “You can’t make a Tomelette without breaking some Greggs” Wambsgans is consumed by the prospect of obtaining power and status. Therefore, he is constantly using food as a power move. When the family attends Argestes, an elite corporate conference, he asks his assistant and frequent punching bag Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun): “Did I get the nut and fruit box, or the Champagne and paperweight?” When Greg says he got the nuts, Tom is visibly disappointed.
At his wedding to Shiv, he makes Shiv’s ex Nate leave the premises. To add humiliation, he then forces Nate to pour his glass of wine back into the bottle. The wine — as Tom reminds anyone who will listen — was paid for by his parents, their only contribution to the wedding.
Sometimes, Tom’s food-related power moves aren’t as calculated. In the Season 2 finale, a tense family summit to decide who will be the “blood sacrifice,” Tom intends to tell Logan that his and Shiv’s marriage is on the rocks. But he is too stressed, so he impulsively steals a piece of Logan’s chicken. The camera zooms in on him chowing down on the chicken. Still munching, he says: “Thank you, Logan. Thank you for the chicken,” before dramatically putting his sunglasses back on.
Shocked, Logan yells at Shiv: “What the fuck was that? He ate my fucking chicken! So, what next? Stick his cock into my potato salad?” (Here’s another reference to genitals being stuck in food.)
Speaking of Logan, he always knows how to play the game when it comes to terrorizing his children. So it’s no surprise food is an ingredient in his arsenal. For example, there’s the box of “the relevant donuts” he sends to all four Roy children in Season 3, when Kendall summons them to a secret gathering in order to convince everyone to turn on their dad. Kendall downplays the donuts as “irrelevant,” but Roman and Shiv wonder if they might be poisoned.
“Is it the goddamn donuts? Have you been spooked by fucking donuts? That’s pathetic, Shiv!” Kendall says, when all of his siblings eventually fold, and he’s right back to where he started.
There’s a parallel of this incident at the end of the season, when everyone is in Italy for Caroline’s wedding. Kendall invites Logan to dinner so the two can talk face to face about Logan’s proposal to buy Kendall out of the company. Logan thinks Kendall might try to poison him, so he summons Kendall’s son Iverson to take a bite of the first dish for him. (Yes, he’s willing to risk poisoning his grandson.) “Yeah, it’s OK,” Iverson says.
Logan quite literally turns food into a weapon during the infamous game of Boar on the Floor in Season 2. At a company retreat, he invites everyone to feast, only to lock them in the dining room and start badgering everyone individually. When he detects several people are lying, he forces them into a round of Boar on the Floor to humiliate them.
“Oink for your sausages, piggies!” Logan says while flinging sausages at his underlings, who are crawling around on the floor. It’s both hilarious and horrifying, which fittingly also describes much of the show itself.
‘No Local Foods. I Get The Shits, We’re Fucked’: Food As Waste
A common event on the show is a family meal that turns into a slugfest, and the food is unconsumed. The characters usually aren’t able to relax and enjoy anything, instead nervously picking at their food. Or someone angrily leaves, and the meal is cut short. Sometimes, characters are literally deprived of food, like at the start of Season 3, when Logan and several company executives are in the Balkans, trying to avoid being extradited back to the U.S.
Karl: “Do we want to order some food?”
Logan: “Food? Swallow. We’re on saliva and adrenaline here, until we get on a plane. All right? No local foods. I get the shits, we’re fucked.”
Later in the episode, Karl (David Rasche) is missing. When Logan asks where he is, Frank says: “He really feels he needs a sandwich.” (Good for Karl.)
No one ever seems to eat much at Roy family events. In fact, we even see the food go to waste at the start of Season 2, when the family has gathered at Logan’s Hamptons mansion to decide whether to sell the company after Kendall’s attempt at a hostile takeover. The cameras follow the kitchen staff meticulously preparing and laying out tray after tray of lobster and steak.
But a horrific stench has spread through the house. “It smells like the cheesemonger died and left his dick in the fucking brie,” as Logan describes it. (Another genitals and cheese reference, checkmark.) He screams at the staff: “I don’t want all this shit! It sat around in the stink!” and orders pizza instead.
All those trays of food, probably worth thousands of dollars, go straight into the trash.
‘You’re My Fucking Onion’: Food As Emotional Withholding
At its very best, “Succession” is a tragicomedy, both bitingly funny and also devastating. It almost makes you feel bad for this horrible family, who can never seem to break their cycles of emotional abuse. Food events, like holidays, birthdays and weddings, often punctuate the show’s most dramatic and tragic storylines. Several moments featuring the Roy kids and their parents connect these food-related themes to the show’s exploration of power and the transactional nature of every relationship on the show, creating a throughline across the three seasons so far.
While attending Shiv and Tom’s wedding, held in the U.K. to appease Caroline, Kendall kills a server in a car accident. At breakfast the next morning, Logan makes a tearful and broken Kendall agree to call off their feud, in order to keep his vehicular manslaughter from becoming public. The following season, when the kids are in the U.K. to see Caroline, Kendall and Logan pay a visit to the server’s family. Kendall arrives back at Caroline’s house late at night, hoping to open up to his mom about the situation, which only he and Logan know the truth about.
“If you want, we can absolutely do it now, but you know, it might be better to do it over an egg?” she says over a cup of tea, while Kendall is seated at the kitchen table. The next morning, to Kendall’s disappointment, Caroline isn’t there.
During the same visit, Caroline makes Shiv and Roman an unappetizing meal of pigeon, apologizing it’s not steak, which is what their father would have given them. Even the food demonstrates both the lack of power she has over Logan in access to her children, and her absence as a parent.
That emotional distance comes up again when everyone attends Caroline’s wedding in Season 3. In a rare moment of mother-daughter vulnerability, Caroline laments her distant relationship with Shiv, saying she might cry.
Shiv: “Oh yeah, where’s the onion?”
Caroline: “You were my onion. You are my onion.”
Shiv: “Yeah, well, you’re my fucking onion.”
In the next episode, the Season 3 finale, Kendall has a breakdown. He looks around at a group of servers in a parking lot, who are throwing away trash, before hurrying back to work. It’s this familiar sight that prompts him to confess to Shiv and Roman that he killed the server back in Season 1. The stunning admission gives way to a rare moment of sibling unity.
The three then join forces to try to stop Logan from selling Waystar to tech entrepreneur Lukas Matsson, which would take the company out of family control. Together, they go to Logan’s villa, only to find he and Caroline have removed the kids’ power to override a potential sale of the company, a previous provision of their divorce agreement.
When Roman says they did this out of “love,” Logan spits the word back at his defeated children. “Love? You come to me with love?” he says. “You bust in here, guns in hand, and now you find they’ve turned to fucking sausages!”
Food as an insult, a metaphor for weakness, a power move: It’s all there. Our parents and our families are supposed to nourish us and provide warmth — but not in the Roy family, where everything, including food, is reduced to a cold and calculated transaction.