- Succession -Is Cousin Greg A Good Person Or A Bad Person On 'Succession'?
As Cher quizzically ponders midway through the 1995 classic Clueless, what makes someone a better person? Are you defined by the company you keep? Does inherently being a good person cancel out wicked deeds? Well, on HBO's Succession, a poisonous bite from the nest of Roy vipers can indeed contract you not only with the virus of knowing what went down on Waystar Royco's cruise lines, but also with a tendency to veer towards the avaricious rather than stay on the moral high ground.
And caught directly in those crosshairs is dear old Gregory S. Hirsch, Succession's tangential Roy who can't catch a break in this family of Logan-pleasers. This kid has been through the ringer the last two seasons of Succession, thanks to his power-hungry relatives who are each jockeying to become Daddy Logan Roy's number one boy (or girl, in Shiv's case). He's been mocked for his deck shoes, become Ken's coke delivery boy, and was even deemed a sprinkle in a metaphorical ice cream sundae. He's at least the banana.
But due to being sidelined and trying to stay in the game, this bumbling Hirsch's ambition has grown, inciting him to commit blackmail and leave California Pizza Kitchen in the dust. What happened to the guy who preferred Cajun chicken linguini to a rare fried songbird?
I'd argue that we can't judge Greg solely on his status as the Frankenstein-like monster his circumstances created. Rather, it's fair to recognize that in Greg surrounding himself with the most conniving of manipulators, they've ingrained in him that he's got to buck up and become a "Machiavellian fuck" just to survive.
But I'm gonna hit rewind and take a step back to keep a ping-pong tally of Cousin Greg's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moments. The times where you could see he was trying his best to look out for himself while following his moral compass vs. the instances where he slipped and his greedy talons popped out. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Greg the Egg. Let's discuss.
Good Person: Modesty Accounts for Something, Doesn't It?
When Greg fumbles the bag his first day as a mascot at Waystar Royco's family theme park, he doesn't want to just make everything better by pulling his Roy relative card. On the phone with his mom, he tells her, "I didn't wanna be an asshole, and like, get into it all." He eschews the perks of nepotism... at first.
Bad Person: Not-So-Humble Brag
But on his first day on the corporate ladder, Greg is hit with a hard dose of reality that being a Hirsch will get him nowhere at Waystar. So he pulls out the namedrop to get past the exclusive velvet rope. He's a Roy from here on out.
Good Person: Let's Go with a No on the Death Pit
Greg isn't just a yes-man whose job is to alleviate Tom's guilt and fear over knowing about Mo Lester and Bill's history of cover-ups at Parks and Cruises. When Tom wants to give Greg the "virus" of knowledge, Greg at first balks at it. He looks before he jumps and rightfully does not want to be buried beneath a pile of malfeasance. But when Tom calls him part of the family, Greg can't help but be swayed by a sign of validation - even if Tom isn't technically a Roy either but a Wambsgans.
Bad Person: I Smell a Rat
When Tom wants to have a press conference and clear the air on Parks and Cruises to shine a light on the scandal and not face potential repercussions down the line (Oh, Tom, you were right on that one, weren't you?), his hopes are dashed by Gerri who reminds him to be a good little Sin Cake Eater and toughen up. But how would she know about his plans? Because Greg ratted Tom out to Gerri, and let Tom think Shiv was the one to betray his confidence. A smart play in the chess match of bureaucracy, but a blow to friendship and loyalty. Not to mention ethics.
Good Person: Canadian Road Trip
Like a respectful and dutiful grandson, Greg drives all the way to Canada to pick up Grandpa Ewan and bring him down to New York for the Roy family Thanksgiving meal. And that is not a short drive, mind you, even with an economics podcast to pass the multiple hours. Although thanks to the quality time with Gramps, Greg learns some keen Bertrand Russell aphorisms that serve him well by the end of Season 2, like "One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s 'work' is ever so important."
Bad Person: We Do Not Destroy Incriminating Documents, Gregory
Greg literally shreds evidence that implicates the Parks and Cruises team at Tom's behest...on Thanksgiving, when no one is around. This is all on Tom's orders, of course, but Greg still puts his head down and goes through with it.
Good Person: But He Keeps Some for Good Measure
Greg does have the wherewithal to save a few documents a) to serve as his own insurance policy if the Waystar ship were to sink (which it does) and b) because he knows what he did was wrong. That's why he asked if his name would be in the ledger and recorded for posterity as the one who checked out these documents. The answer is yes, Greg, as Senator Eavis points out months later at the Senate hearing over the Parks and Cruises scandal. Greg still has enough of a conscience to not be able to complete his whipping boy commands without some friction. It's not a cold cut job of a soulless slave to capitalism.
Bad Person: Doesn't Hand Them Over to the Authorities
Yeah but instead of dialing 911 on clandestine family matters, he uses the documents to his own benefit by blackmailing Tom into giving him a promotion. And rather than receive a slap on the wrist, it's a proud moment for Greg to be a slippery fish riding the waves out. Back down the morality slide we go.
Good Person: Wholesome First Paycheck
When Greg's pay finally comes in, all he wants to do is celebrate at his favorite restaurant, California Pizza Kitchen, and splurge on their Cajun chicken linguini. He never looked down on it until Tom told him he had zero taste, which wrought...
Bad Person: Here Comes the Snobbery
Greg eventually developing a snob's uppity palate. I'm sorry, you have a preferred rosé by the time you're sitting pretty on the Roy family yacht? A favorite kind of champagne? So much for beggars can't be choosers anymore.
I'd be remiss to ignore his newfound distaste for the scrambled eggs congealing at the buffet the morning after Shiv and Tom's wedding and referring to waiters as the "Hobbit-y" people. Let's not forget your start at Waystar, Gregory, where you were vomiting through your amusement park costume after getting high. None of these Hobbit-y people displayed such behavior during your breakfast, now did they? The gall.
Good Person: Listens to Grandpa Grumps
When Grandpa Ewan comes down for the vote of no confidence shareholders meeting, he takes Greg out to dinner and dishes out some sterling advice: paddle your own canoe. And while Greg struggles to stay on this course for most of the series thus far, it's a spark that burns within Greg even if it dims at times, showing he clearly has an understanding that he shouldn't put all his eggs in the dangerous Roy basket.
Bad Person: Chooses Uncle Fun Over Grandpa Grumps
Ewan is so disgusted by Logan's dealings that he issues an ultimatum to his grandson: stop working for Waystar or lose your $250 million inheritance from me. When Greg approaches Logan at his Dundee celebration (in the bathroom, mind you, a choice spot for a resignation), he tells his uncle that he wants to negotiate a bit of a "Grexit." But Logan convinces him to stay in the toxic cesspool of Waystar by promising he'll look after him, and Greg foregoes the large sum awaiting him down the line - of money and of scruples. When he tells Connor about his decision, even he warns him of the grave mistake he's made - do not trust his dad.
Good Person: Helps with IT Confusion
We've all struggled with how to work a computer, especially those of us who are relative tech novices. So it's very sweet that Greg helps Logan learn how to deal with buffering on his computer. Those swirling circles on home screens are endless!
Bad Person: Becomes Ken's Coke Supplier
Because Logan says if he looks after Kendall he will listen to Greg's request for a lateral shift at the company, Greg grows closer to Ken and even does his lines of coke at Tom's bachelor party. Even though Greg deems that evening as an out-and-out nightmare and Logan's promise never comes to fruition, he ends up sticking with Ken and eventually doing an about-face to become his errand boy for fetching him coke - even if it is of the undesirable park variety. Ken obviously has a track record with drug addiction, so Greg is not helping his friend out by enabling his self-harming habits.
Good Person: Supports Tom at His Wedding
When Greg sees that Shiv and Nate are too close for comfort on the eve of Shiv and Tom's wedding, he feels torn between telling his friend or letting the icky feelings lie. He decides to inform Tom about the potential affair, even though it gets him beaten up in the snow. He couldn't let his friend walk down the aisle without knowing. And while Tom and Shiv talk things out on their own, Tom shows Nate who's boss at the wedding reception, with a nod of support from Greg in the corner.
Good Person: ATN Gives Him Gnarly Vibes
Look Tom, maybe Greg would have preferred that you let him sink at Parks and Cruises than bring him into the lion's den that is ATN. I mean, in Greg's eyes, "being in at ATN is kinda like the one thing I didn't wanna do." He considers ATN against his principles and understandably, a "very toxic element in the culture." Don't lie if you're the news. Don't be racist. Reasonable stipulations if you're a news org, no?
Bad Person: Helps Tom Knock Some Skulls
In a futile attempt to impress News division boss Cyd Peach, Tom enlists Greg to be his eyes on the ground and trim the fat at ATN. He wants to rack up skulls to lay waste to as a power play and show of dominance. But is laying people off really the way to go for an ego boost? Feels pretty heartless and Greg does end up complying.
Bad Person: Speaks Ill of Logan On the Record (Accidentally)
In very bad form, Greg takes a pre-meet (but really a meeting) with Michelle Pantsil, who is writing an unauthorized biography on Logan. Greg thinks he's such a head honcho that she'd want to meet with him, but she preys on his yearning for validation that he really is "in" at the company and with the family that he lets information slide that may come back to haunt him if Ratfucker Sam has anything to say about it. Lesson learned for Greg: Do not let your pride cloud your judgment!
Good Person: Greg Tells Tom He Wants to Leave ATN
Greg wants out at ATN and tells Tom he wants to seek greener pastures. His sense of righteousness is coming to light. He does not support a workplace's culture that supports using employees as human furniture, let alone "verbal assaults, physical humiliations, Nazi stuff, shooters...I just don’t love it. I don’t really love it, and I wanna go explore."
Bad Person: Breaks Tom's Heart
One consequence of wanting to depart Waystar's News hub is that it comes as a brutal breakup for Tom, who responds by pelting Greg with water bottles to make him stay. "It doesn't feel fucking good, Greg!" Looking out for yourself comes with the collateral damage of a person's feelings in this case, and I still contend Tom was more heartbroken over Greg than Shiv.
Good Person: Greg Saves Tom with ATN's New Slogan
Remember, when it comes to ATN, we hear for you! Thanks to Greg, Tom is able to come through with a slogan to serve up at his presentation in Argestes after "we're listening" doesn't go over so well with the legal and comms teams.
Bad Person: Aiding Listening in on Customers Here
Yeah so "we're listening" doesn't work because ATN actually is listening in on their viewers...and that is just glossed over like it's totally fine?! "It’s just apparently in the EPG on the set top boxes, the voice activation mode, it does um ... there’s a gray area in terms of our data collection, so we actually are listening. We are sometimes listening quite aggressively," Greg says. So while Greg is doing his job by helping Tom evade legal censure, he is in fact abetting spying on people. So that is not quite so gray in fact - that is black as night illegal, Greg.
Good Person: Jiminy Cricket Weighs Heavy
After the exposé on Parks and Cruises is published and lawyers go around questioning employees at Waystar, Greg feels the heat and guilt mounting. Yeah of course he does, because he hasn't completely sold his soul to the corporate machine. When Tom makes him burn the incriminating copies of documents Greg kept at his apartment, Greg still sneaks a few in his pants because he knows in his gut that tampering with evidence is wrong.
Good Person: Cheers Ken During His Rap Performance
While all of Ken's siblings laugh at the buffoon of himself they think he's making during his unforgettable "L to the OG" performance at Logan's celebration in Dundee, Greg is standing up dancing along to the song and cheering him on. That's what you want in friends! People who support you, even in endeavors that can be perceived as rather, well, embarrassing. But hey, that song slaps. Hard. So I'd be doing the same, Greg.
Bad Person: Doesn't Cut His Toenails
It may be sails out, nails out bro. But Greg did not come to party by refusing to clip his toenails before heading out on the yacht with the Roys. No one wants to see those, bro.
Good Person: Gets a Pedicure on the Boat
We all thank you for ridding yourself of your benign fungus by taking advantage of the Roy complimentary spa team on the boat. Who just brings a pedicurist with them on a family vacation? What a world.
Bad Person: Says Gobbledygook on the Stand at the Senate Hearing
Call it nerves. Call it saving one's hide. But Greg says absolutely nothing and purposefully specializes in circumlocution when he's called up to testify by Senator Eavis on his involvement in the Parks and Cruises scandal. He listens to Ken's M.O. to "never answer the questions," unlike Tom's poor showing the day prior. But obviously, in doing so, Greg is obfuscating justice, which tips the scales in negative favor.
Good Person: Greg's Papers Come Back with a Vengeance
But Greg redeems himself when he sees how the family was so willing to throw him under the bus, let alone have Kendall take the entire fall. He is not a Greg sprinkle, and neither is Ken just a scapegoat. So what does Greg do? Throws it all to hell and presumably shows Ken the papers to bring down Waystar, which Ken references at his electrifying press conference at the end of Season 2. They stepped into the light, and held the press conference that Tom wanted at the outset - even though it's long after the fact, and Tom's head is the one that may now be on a spike.
The Final Verdict...
I don't think Greg is a bad person. I think deep down he's a good person, as evinced by his final showdown with the Cruises documents and handing Kendall the evidence to sink Waystar Royco and Top Dog Logan himself. He looked at the monster within himself that the Roys created and said sayonara to the unforgiving suits culture of corruption. I just think he fell in the with the wrong crowd, and when he looked inside the belly of the beast, he didn't like what had become of himself and where playing their game had led him. Court hearings. Destroying evidence. Boar on the Floor. And the most tell-tale sign of Greg being a good person? He knows his worth is more than just a damn Greg sprinkle, that's for sure.