In "Succession," Kerry reveals weakness by having a dream

In the HBO show, the worst thing you can do is aspire to be something, like a broadcast news anchor

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published April 4, 2023 12:30PM (EDT)

Zoe Winters in "Succession" (Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO)
Zoe Winters in "Succession" (Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO)

This contains spoilers for HBO’s “Succession,” Season 4, Episode 2 “Rehearsal."

The Roy family made their money in media, but we haven't seen too much of it on HBO's "Succession." The adult kids watch the news on TVs, which are often running in the background. The first episode of the new fourth season circled around a buzzy digital media startup called The Hundred that Shiv (Sarah Snook), Kendall (Jeremy Armstrong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) wanted to launch.

Precision isn't Kerry's strong suit. She'll just fling poison arrows and hope something stings. 

But in the second episode, titled "Rehearsal," we get quite a lot of hard — or at least, hard to watch — news as Kerry Castellabate (Zoe Winters), aspiring anchor for ATN, the global broadcast news network owned by Logan's (Brian Cox) conglomerate, takes center stage.

Kerry has been a tough-as-nails character. She knows what she wants, and she says what she thinks, even (or especially) if it hurts other people's feelings. Kerry is the perfect assistant/girlfriend for fiery Logan because she's nearly as fearsome as his character. Logan's bluster doesn't scare Kerry; instead, she smiles toothily at him, a lion looking at another, larger lion. But that's about to change. Because Kerry has a dream — and the one thing you can't do in the "Succession" universe is dream a little dream. It makes you too human.

In an interview with Theater Mania, Winters, a longtime stage actor, described her "Succession" character as "a bit of a scary ghost lurking in the corners." She certainly seemed to come out of nowhere. Kerry had a very minor role starting in the second season of the show; she was a background player, one of many staff who kept the expensive gears of the Roy machine grinding. By the third season, she was described as an executive assistant at Waystar RoyCo, but appeared devoted to Logan and working solely for him. In the opening of Season 4, she moved into girlfriend duties. She organized his birthday party and dealt with the kids, who joked bitterly about her sleeping with their dad.

SuccessionZoe Winters and Brian Cox in "Succession" (Macall B. Polay/HBO)What's her endgame? Maybe stardom. How Lady Macbeth of her. Kerry is ruthless as a character. She's fine with making scenes in public, such as insulting Greg's date while in the middle of a party. In general, she's fine with insulting Greg (Nicholas Braun) anywhere, anytime — even if her criticism isn't exactly accurate. (Greg hasn't really "already grabbed every other woman in Manhattan," as she snaps.) Precision isn't Kerry's strong suit; she just flings poison arrows and hopes something stings.

Logan doesn't like failure; he also doesn't like attempts.

Episode 2 reveals a softer side of Kerry, one in which she's vulnerable and fallible. Kerry wants to be a news anchor on ATN, and being the boss's girl, she gets what she wants. She gets the audition, anyway. A tape of Kerry reading the news becomes the main gag of the episode. She's not the most professional of assistants, not potential stepmom material and lags behind the Roys when it comes to insults. But Kerry is bad at news.

Real bad. She stumbles over names and words, attempting to call the Carolinas "the California." She clasps her hands and swivels in her rolling chair. Greg (always sent to deliver bad news) tells Kerry an imaginary focus group has decided her arms are a problem. Her arms are awkward. They just hang.

Kerry smiles hugely when delivering news of a child abduction and impending deadly storms. As Winters told Variety, "We see her wrestling to present her idea of charm, or what she thinks charm looks like, and she fails. She's in this bubble-gum pink dress trying to act as though she has charm, and I think it just comes off as really uncomfortable."

SuccessionZoe Winters and Nicholas Braun in "Succession" (Macall B. Polay/HBO)Winters said she based her performance in part on Laura Ingraham and Tomi Lahren, telling Variety that she studied "a lot of Laura Ingraham when the camera cuts, mistreating people, getting different information in her ear than she is from the prompter. Tomi Lahren has this very loud, heightened, fast way of presenting. I just took little bits and pieces from conservative political commentators. I didn't want her to be good. I wanted her to be trying."

Early in the show, Shiv attempted to be a political strategist and media pundit. Conor (Alan Ruck) has continued to try to run for office, much to the laughter of everyone around him but especially his family. Roman tries to find love in all the wrong places. Willa (Justine Lupe, of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel") plays at this whole being a playwright thing. And Kendall tries sobriety.

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Patriarch Logan may have one thing in common with Yoda, of all characters. For both of them, "there is no try." In "Succession," when you admit you have a dream — when you want something you may have to work at — that's when you set yourself up for mockery. You acknowledge you're human and have human desires like the desire to better yourself, to strive. Logan doesn't like failure; he also doesn't like attempts. You shouldn't have to try so hard.

Kerry's rise was sudden, and in the way of tragedy, her fall may be just as abrupt. She replaced Marcia (Hiam Abbass), Logan's former third wife, speedily ascending from assistant to mistress (after Logan cheated with Holly Hunter's Rhea in between). Where's Marcia now? According to Kerry, "She's in Milan, shopping. Forever." By revealing the human weakness of want, her unrealistic dream of being an anchor, Kerry may soon be sent on a similar trip.

By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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