‘Succession’ Episode 5: Shiv Plays the Cool Girl Who Can Shrug Off Sexual Harassment

After being pushed out of her brothers’ “CE-Bros” alliance, Shiv forges an unlikely alliance with Lukas Matsson, who sent an employee his own frozen blood (??).

‘Succession’ Episode 5: Shiv Plays the Cool Girl Who Can Shrug Off Sexual Harassment
Photo:Graeme Hunter/HBO

We are now, somehow, halfway through the fourth season of Succession, and this week’s was a pretty big episode for Shiv—in case the implosion of her marriage, sudden death of her father, and revelation of her pregnancy over the last few weeks weren’t spicy enough. As the Waystar Royco family treks to Norway to close the deal with GoJo’s eccentric CEO Lukas Matsson (masterfully played by Alexander Skarsgård), Shiv, who was pushed out of her brothers’ “CE-Bros” alliance last week, moves to forge an unlikely alliance with Matsson. And the alliance naturally hinges on what a Cool Girl™ Shiv is.

Throughout the episode, Matsson delivers shock after shock, starting with surprising Roman and Kendall by making a play to buy their late father’s baby, ATN, which was excluded in the original agreed-upon acquisition deal. But amid an uncannily intimate fireside chat with Shiv over drinks, Matsson one-ups himself: He reveals his former romantic and clearly inappropriate relationship with his employee, GoJo communications executive Ebba, and that, in the aftermath of the relationship, he harassed Ebba by sending her roughly 16 “bricks” of his own frozen blood. OK!

To Matsson’s surprise, Shiv is entirely unfazed by his disclosure and even helps him by offering some candid advice—namely, to stop sending blood: “If you’re the creepy stalker guy who sits in the dark writing code and dripping into an IV bag and harassing your direct reports, it’s going to have an economic impact.”

She continues, “Deniability is difficult, given she has so much of your blood.” But Matsson is mostly won over by Shiv’s reaction; he tells her he likes her—specifically that she “can take a joke,” much like her late father. This is fairly high praise for a woman like Shiv, whom Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne might have characterized as a “cool girl” and TikTok feminists might label a “pick me”—that is, a woman who conforms entirely to male desire by, among other things, laughing off their worst “jokes” and predatory, generally awful behavior, in exchange for being liked.

Through her little friendship with Matsson, it appears that she conspires with the Swede to tank her brothers’ plan to blow the Gojo deal and hold onto their positions as co-CEOs, as Matsson ups his offer to a number that Waystar can’t turn down. Shiv also clearly has a hand in Matsson’s “kill list,” which sees nearly every Waystar executive but Gerri and Karolina ousted.

It’s a textbook deal with the devil, and one that hardly required any effort from Shiv, who’s spent now 3.5 seasons doing her utmost to compete with men in soulless corporate environments by adopting their antics. In Season 2, she convinces a victim of Waystar’s sexually predatory cruise line to back down from testifying before Congress by pretending to talk to her woman-to-woman—so, we already know she isn’t one to have any moral trepidation with workplace sexual misconduct. Shiv clearly knows Matsson is deranged; but in the same way she appealed to him as a business ally by being the rare woman nasty enough to shrug off his Ebba situation, Matsson’s comparison of Shiv to her father seems to have spoken to her.

In the same way most women’s bargains with the patriarchy wind up blowing up in their faces, given Matsson’s clear instability and the fact that we have a good five episodes left this season, I’m fairly confident this little alliance doesn’t end well for Shiv. But until next week, I guess.

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