Romance is illusory on HBO's hit satirical drama Succession, as every relationship is a facade or a business partnership disguised as true love. This doesn't exclude Waystar Royco baby Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) and Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), whose Elmer's Glue-bonded courtship is in the slow process of deteriorating.
With a powerful name like Roy tacked to the end of Shiv's name, bonehead Tom likely had an ulterior motive when it came to marrying her. Meanwhile, Shiv gets off on the dominance that comes with having him on a leash. It's a white-collar-adorned disaster.
In Season 1, Tom would've done anything and everything for his dear, wealthy Shiv. However, by Season 3, Tom — who has now married into the Roy family — has emerged as a new man, one who neither trusts nor worships his selfish wife. Shiv's mind games may have worked on a less secure Tom back before her affair and Operation Destroy Logan. But, these days, Tom refuses to accept a power imbalance at the hands of his fiery spouse. Here's what's going between the two capitalistic lovebirds.
Do Shiv and Tom love each other?
It's a thought-provoking question. Does the word come with a contract? Shiv always had the upper hand in their relationship, despite somewhat needing Tom as a reliable, loyal servant she can lean on. Tom — who was a nobody in the media biz before meeting Shiv — was understandably devastated by Shiv's affair with former flame Nate Sofrelli (Ashley Zukerman), as well as her request to make their marriage open.
Shiv made said request (which was more of an announcement) on their Season 1 wedding night. Tom attempted to embrace his wife's needs, soon realizing that he was no longer one of them. This was the beginning of the end of their debatable happiness. “If I think about it, a lot of the time, I’m really pretty unhappy," he told her at the end of Season 2.
During Season 3's first act, viewers are finally introduced to a version of Tom exuding chutzpah and sprinklings of pride. His sadness is slowly morphing into resentment for Shiv.
In Season 3, Episode 2, titled "Mass in Time of War," Tom phones Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) to inform him (and threaten him) that Logan is very much keeping a watchful eye on him. When the always anxious Greg (who has reluctantly sided with Team Kendall in WWIII) fires back at Tom, relaying that Shiv just arrived to see Kendall, Tom (on Team Logan) is shocked. In a test of their trust, Tom then calls Shiv to "check in" and ask where she is, hoping that his wife will be honest. Obviously, she isn't.
"Me? I'm, uh, home," responds a phony Shiv, who is secretly meeting with her snake of a brother, Kendall. "Yeah, talk to me if there's big stuff," Tom, feeling betrayed, says. Shiv thanks Tom for calling and reminds him that she loves him, you know, as a typical husband and wife do. But when Tom responds with a slow "thank you," the mood shifts.
As expected, Shiv proceeds to ask Tom if he loves her, which results in a "Why?" It is a tense conversation, prompting Tom to unveil more of his bottled-up emotions. "You know, you can't just take my love and bank it, and then take it with you to the love market and see if you want to invest in me. But um ... yeah, I do. I do," Tom says. "It's good to know we don't have an unbalanced love portfolio," he quips, before following up with one final "I love you."
As healthy people know, this isn't how a stable couple speaks to each other. It was one thing to feel betrayed as a husband, but to simultaneously feel betrayed as a business partner, well, only time will tell how long Tom Wambsgans will stand for it.
Tom's character growth has made his ridiculous personality slightly more likable, and if WWIII was a war between Team Shiv and Team Tom, we'd be on Team Tom. A puppy dog can only take so much abuse.
New episodes of Succession air Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on HBO and HBO Max.