There’s a Cousin Greg Inside All of Us
“Have you ever seen, like, so, a doobie?” asks Greg Hirsch of HBO’s Succession. “You’re gonna go to the party. You’re gonna get him a nice gift. And you’re gonna look nice,” replies his mother. After a weed-induced vomiting episode in the presence of a crowd of children, Greg is out on the street, fired from his great uncle’s prestigious media company: Waystar|Royco. Finagling his way into great-uncle Logan Roy’s family business with charm and desperation, Greg is dubbed “Cousin Greg” and adopts the role of a glorified intern.
Cousin Greg begins as the show’s humblest character in a sharp contrast to his Voss Water drinking relatives vying for the title of CEO. Greg just wants to be there. In Nick Carraway-esque fashion, he creeps his way into the world of the rich and powerful through dirty work and becoming a human doormat. He shifts from the fringes of the Roy family towards center field, becoming more integral to the Waystar team as he dodges jail time.
Succession relies upon its main characters — to call them protagonists feels too kind — being horrible people trying to climb the ranks of power. Kendall descends into a dark spiral that destroys his interpersonal relationships, Shiv all but abandons her marriage, and Roman remains a bumbling perv. Taking over the family company creates a blind vindictiveness that all three siblings fall victim to; however, Greg — sweet, sweet Greg — is a clumsy fool in his ascension to power within the company. Before his search for stability swells into a lust for luxury in season three, Greg is the everyday guy fighting for a chair at the table. That is, if the average person won the nepotism lottery.
Our current job market is turbulent; the cost of living has gone up while salaries remain the same. The Roys of the real world, the Murdochs and the Carnegies, sit on immense fortunes in the same cities where the unhoused die in the streets. The mythical “American Dream” drifts further and further away. Climbing the proverbial ladder grows more and more impossible. We may not know a Kendall Roy, but we are, or have been, a Cousin Greg. Just like the tasks of summer internship, Tom Wambsgans’s commands to Greg are exploitative and demeaning. The illegal unpaid internship feels no different than Greg’s illegal document-burning. Greg is a punching bag, a lowly employee sitting far beneath the ranks of his family members. Everyone has fallen under the command of an exploitative superior at some time or another. Sometimes, we’re just a Gregg in someone else’s Tomlette. We’ve all sought an ascension to a role better than our own. There’s an innate urge to rise to the cream of the crop inside of us. Even when we shake our heads and pretend that the rat-racers and ladder-jumpers are soulless, there’s still the internal desire to achieve the most.
Nepotism benefits Greg in a way few can relate to, but his precarious position as the underdog is all too familiar for the average Joe — or as one may say, the average Greg. Greg’s begrudged malleability grounds him in the tangible world outside of the Waystar|Royco empire. Succession’s harsh edges are softened by his bumbling goofiness. Under the layers of glitzy grime, the Roy family hides a charming secret, a secret by the name of Greg. In a world fraught with all too cunning businessmen, it’s time that we embrace the sweeter side of corporate greed that manifests in our beloved Greg. Don’t we all want to be the silly guy with a seat at the table?