This Week’s Most Noteworthy Performance: Matthew Macfadyen

Matthew Macfadyen in Succession Season 3 Episode 7
©HBO via EW

Each episode from Succession brings stellar performances from its actors, with Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, and Kieran Culkin often being singled out. And while the entire cast always brings an extraordinary effort, this season has been Matthew Macfadyen’s time to shine. For the majority of the season, Tom Wambsgams has been facing prison time due to the Waystar Royco cruise scandal. The anticipation of his imprisonment and its consequent behaviors has led us to see a range of emotions from Tom.

Matthew Macfadyen’s most memorable work (so far) can’t be missed in the previous two episodes, “What It Takes” and “Too Much Birthday.” 

Tom often has a polarizing dynamic with the Roy family. While he’s technically family, he is still an outsider of sorts and seems to always be pining for their approval, especially for Logan’s. And although he offers himself up for the prison sentence and holds a brave face publicly, he’s scared shitless and struggling to cope. Even worse, his wife doesn’t care. In “What It Takes,” we see Tom at his lowest point. He’s explicitly stated that he doesn’t allow himself to hope, and we see he has been preparing for his prison sentence by eating crappy food. However, in “Too Much Birthday,” he is ecstatic to learn that the investigation on the company will likely end in settlement, and he won’t have to go to prison.

Matthew Macfadyen has always done a superb job portraying Tom’s awkward demeanor around the Roys–there’s always a sense of uncertainty from Tom’s end whenever he interacts with one of the Roys. Whenever times of distress or joy, Macfadyen has always been able to deliver Tom as someone who is aware that every word and act could be brutally scrutinized by Logan and his offspring. There’s also the chaotic energy that comes with every Tom and Greg interaction.

But in this episode, Macfayden brilliantly displays Tom’s brewing thoughts throughout the season–his vulnerability, fear, and feelings of isolation. You can see the inner conflict in Tom. Does he accept Kendall’s offer and go against the company? Or does he rely on previous experience and place his trust with Logan, despite the lack of empathy from his wife and the family company? You realize that Tom is truly alone with no one to lean on, except for Greg. He’s so desperate for comfort, love, and appreciation, especially from Shiv.

In the latest episode, Macfadyen gets to exercise a range of emotions from the opposite end of the spectrum. The mounting feelings of hopelessness that had been building up the entire season burst out with massive relief and joy as the prospect of prison time diminishes. There’s such childlike happiness in Madfadyen’s performance, you can’t help but smile as Tom is unable to physically contain his excitement. The misery that has plagued him has been removed from his shoulders, so naturally, Tom celebrates by getting high. With Tom’s luck, his high is riddled with paranoia and sadness.

It’s an unsettling image, particularly with Kendall’s birthday party in the background. It appears that Tom’s unhappiness is not quite over yet, perhaps signaling a shift in Tom’s role moving forward. Wherever this potential may lead, we have no doubt that Matthew Macfadyen will deliver with mesmerizing ease.

You can catch Succession airing Sundays on HBO and streaming on HBO Max.


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