Type keyword(s) to search


From Sunny-Side Up to Hard-Boiled: The Evolution of Greg Hirsch

How Succession's Cousin Greg transformed from bumbling hanger-on to legitimate power player.
  • Nicholas Braun in Succession Season 4 (Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO)
    Nicholas Braun in Succession Season 4 (Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO)

    Succession's Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) has come a long way from his days of puking through the eyeholes of an amusement park mascot costume. Over the past four seasons, viewers have watched as Cousin Greg transformed from bumbling hanger-on to legitimate power player by ingratiating himself to the "most important" people at Waystar Royco, advice his mother gave him way back in Season 1, Episode 2, "Sh*t Show at the F**k Factory." This strategy earned Greg a spot in the room (sometimes even with a plus-one), but it also required him to compromise his integrity — and now, he's poised to make his most ruthless move yet as he mulls turning on his Disgusting Brother in arms, Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen).

    The extent of Greg's heel turn is surprising considering his prominent role as Succession's (and specifically Tom's) punching bag in early seasons. As the grandson of Logan Roy's (Brian Cox) estranged brother Ewan (James Cromwell), Greg is a Roy by blood, but when he was first introduced, it was clear he didn’t belong. The 6-foot-7 Braun spent much of Season 1 in an oversized green raincoat, a look that indicated just how out of place Greg was in this world of fitted suits and short stature. Tom, himself on the fringes as a Tall Guy marrying into the Roy family, immediately recognized Greg's weak position and took advantage: Under the guise of mentoring a fellow "outsider," Tom forced Greg to be his errand boy. He belittled Greg at every possible opportunity, whether that meant insulting his deck shoes — "Are we talking to each other on the poop deck of a majestic schooner?" — or demanding he leave Thanksgiving dinner to shred incriminating documents relating to the cruise line scandal.

    Tom's abuse of Greg is one of the show's most consistent storylines, but he's by no means the only family member who has exerted their will over the lanky interloper. At Logan's behest, Greg babysat Kendall (Jeremy Strong) during Tom's bachelor party, but in order to keep his promise and prevent Kendall from overdosing, he had to do four lines of cocaine himself. "My dad's going to be super disappointed if his son OD's," said Kendall, goading Greg into it. "He's counting on you to look after me."

    In Season 2, Greg took a meeting with a reporter writing a book about Logan — Greg insisted it was only "a precursor to see if [he] might be willing to meet" — that led to one of Succession's cruelest (and most memorable) moments: Boar on the Floor. When Logan learned there was a traitor in their midst, he began pointing fingers, ultimately forcing Greg, Tom, and Waystar CFO Karl (David Rasche) to crawl around on the ground, oink like pigs, and fight for sausage links. The experience was thoroughly humiliating, but it also marked a turning point in Greg's relationship with Tom, who knew Greg spoke to the journalist, but declined to give him up to Logan to save his own hide.

    But even as Greg took his lumps, early signs of his Machiavellian spirit emerged. He was smart enough to keep some of the cruise line documents, which he used to blackmail Tom, who beamed with pride upon learning what his protégé had done. Greg then gave those same documents to Kendall in the Season 2 finale, "This Is Not For Tears," prompting the Roy civil war that formed the backbone of Season 3.

    Greg's alliance with Kendall proved to be short-lived: He lasted all of four episodes before returning to Team Logan, having successfully used his leverage to win a promotion. Upon learning of his grandson's reconciliation with the "crapulous shills" at Waystar, Ewan announced that Greg's $250 million inheritance would be going to Greenpeace. Two seasons prior, Greg probably would have just taken the L, but by the halfway point of Season 3, the Roys' litigiousness had rubbed off on him, and he hatched a scheme to sue Greenpeace for defamation. ("Who do you think you're going to go after next? Save the Children?" asked Tom.) This B-plot was played for comedy, but it represented a noxious shift in Greg's thinking. The cousin-once-removed who was nearly kicked out of Logan's birthday party in the series premiere now believed he was entitled to the Roys' riches, and he was willing to do whatever it took — even suing an environmental protection organization — to get what he thought he deserved.

    Just a few episodes later, in the Season 3 finale, "All the Bells Say," Greg the Egg's gradual transformation into self-obsessed, inner-circle family member became complete when he and Tom tipped off Logan about Kendall, Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv's (Sarah Snook) plan to kill the GoJo deal and oust Logan from the company. (This, after Greg ditched crisis manager Comfrey, played by Dasha Nekrasova, to "wheedle away" at a countess eighth in line to the Luxembourg throne.) Tom framed the plan as a lucrative "deal with the devil," and despite his hesitations, Greg, the Sporus to Tom's Nero, agreed. "What am I going to do with a soul, anyways?" he asked. "Souls are boring. Boo, souls!"

    Greg's deal with the devil finally earned him a seat at the table, which has made him more confident than ever before. When Tom informs Greg that he's been kicked off the plane to Sweden because Logan finds him "visually aggravating," he's so sure of his standing that he complains about the CEO's pettiness. It helps that he's no longer the low man on the totem pole: In Season 4, Kerry (Zoe Winters), Logan's assistant-slash-lover, emerges as the bottom feeder of the group. Greg is forced into the unfortunate position of letting Kerry know her ATN audition tape is a disaster, but being on that side of the conversation, in the first place, indicates he's one step above her in the food chain.

    But in the wake of Logan's death, Greg realizes his partnership with Tom may no longer be advantageous, and he begins searching for someone more powerful to cozy up to, just as his mother suggested. As Karl explains when he's oh-so-helpfully laying out "the negative case" for Tom to assume control of Waystar, Tom is "a clumsy interloper" whom no one trusts or, in Shiv's case, even likes. With Tom's role in the company (and the family) in jeopardy, Greg is alone in a way he hasn't been since the pilot: He has no inheritance to fall back on, his relationship with the Roy siblings remains hostile post-backstab, and he has no skills to speak of, something that makes him an undesirable asset to the company's old guard.

    Now, though, he's developed the tools and the moral squishiness to come out on top — or at the very least, graduate to the bottom of the top. In "Honeymoon States," he offers his cousins his condolences, then immediately wonders "how things will shake down" at the upcoming board meeting. We'll likely never know where the "rumor about Logan's health" came from, but it's certainly possible that Greg was involved, whether he leaked it intentionally, to spite Tom and his army of "Greglets," or accidentally to the woman he was chatting with when Tom called with the news. In truth, it doesn't really matter, as Greg has already proven he's no longer looking out for anyone but himself. If (and when) he betrays Tom, it won't be a surprise, but an inevitability. After all, who cares about loyalty when you've already relinquished your soul?

    New episodes of Succession air Sundays at 9:00 PM ET on HBO. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Succession, HBO, Brian Cox, James Cromwell, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun, Sarah Snook