“Succession” season four is over so it’s time for an update to the review. There is no way to properly do this without spoilers so… SPOILER ALERT
After the “Succession” season four opener, we knew they were heading out with a bang. Everything good about the show was evident in that opening episode – amazing one-liners, family feuding, high-stakes business deals – but we also saw some of the character’s deeper emotions – and this never really stopped. And what an ending.
One of the most meaningful scenes in that opening episode was when Logan skulks out of his own birthday party, accompanied only by bodyguard Colin. They end up in a diner and Logan declares his bagman his “best pal”. He still doesn’t let him really offer up an opinion though as they discuss the afterlife. Those themes of loneliness and isolation continued throughout.
Things moved on, but initially, the Roy kids were on the same team. They were in LA, plotting the launch of their new product The Hundred – “Substack meets Masterclass meets The New Yorker.” I could only think of the cricket competition!
Despite financiers sitting outside waiting to meet them, they almost instantly abandoned their startup when they realise they could potentially usurp their father and buy Pierce instead of him. Off they head to wine country to negotiate with Nan Pearce where Roman delivered one of that season’s many great lines:
Great, I’m meeting an old woman about newspapers.
They won the bidding war and tension between father and offspring continued to build up in the opening episodes, climaxing with a confrontation at a karaoke bar where the kids were for Connor’s “bachelor party”. It really showed the love and anger that exists between them all, as Logan branded his kids “not serious people”.
The next day, the day of the wedding… he collapsed on the aeroplane and died, with the children desperately trying to control the uncontrollable and, despite the anger and bravado, being absolutely broken by his death.
Season four, episode three of “Succession”, in which Logan dies, is one of the best hours of television I have ever watched. The cascading emotions of the children, the sniping and manoeuvring of the WayStar Royco execs, it all played out perfectly. The next episode, which is set at the wake/board meeting, continued all this and was similarly incredible. With the Roys and their associates, there is never a divide between the personal and business.
Each episode has too many great lines to recount here. Tom’s “Little Greglets” was particularly superb in episode three. That said, nothing is beating “Hey Buddha, nice Tom Ford’s” from Roman in episode two.
I was not shocked that Logan died this season. I was shocked that the writers killed him off so early. Indeed, actor Brian Cox does not seem particularly happy about it.
It was an extremely bold thing for them to do, but it was not to the detriment of the show. Yes, the central focus of “Succession” went, but a) he still dominated everything that his children and former employees think about b) his absence let others get more of the spotlight. The performances in “Succession” season four were spectacularly good.
Most of the episodes in “Succession” season four are up there amongst the great moments of TV, and the election night episode was no different. It showed us deep into the souls of the three Roy children and maybe gave too honest an insight into US media too. Roman was out of control and just playing a game. Kendall, broken without his kids, almost does the right thing but doesn’t. Shiv genuinely cares about the politics but can’t quite swing things her way. It is all very, very dark, climaxing with that confrontation in the board room as Greg is sent to deliver the message that ATN is calling the election for far-right firebrand Jeryd Mencken. It is ultimately what turns Shiv towards Mattson.
“Succession” Kids Team up
Not only does Kieran Culkin’s Roman have the best lines, but he also seems to be the only Roy child with any sense of what money is worth. Connor even considered spending $100 million on ads for his presidential campaign in order to keep polling at one per cent and buys his father’s old home for $63 million at his wake.
Early in the season, Shiv, Ken and Roman teamed up, united against their father. No surprise, that the alliance broke. Ken and Roman came together to be joint CEOs, promising to keep Shiv in the loop. Obviously, they went back on that very quickly. However, the confrontation at the top of the mountain in Norway was spectacular, revealing again Roman’s emotional vulnerability and Kendall’s weakness.
Shiv’s siding with Mattson felt in character – she’s cross with her brothers and knows how to do politics. For most of the season, she seemed to be grounded while the men around her were losing it.
The scene in their mother’s kitchen in the final episode, where the siblings are once again united, gave me real hope they would end up as a team. It is probably my favourite ever scene from “Succession”. But the unity never lasts and Shiv ultimately flips in the final boardroom vote, unable to hand power to Kendall.
The Disgusting Brothers
You cannot discuss “Succession” without discussing Tom and Greg, the self-appointed “disgusting brothers”. Throughout this season their interactions were absolutely amazing. And never forget Tom’s comments about how embarrassing Greg’s date’s large handbag is. His ability to wind Greg up, including about that date and Logan’s home CCTV system in episode one, is incredible. They need one another. Greg had a canny way of knowing the gossip, such as the so-called “kill list” as the takeover was playing out. This skill kept his head above water for most of the season, until he overplayed his hand with Kendall, to Tom’s fury. However, even after their fight, Tom still said he’d keep Greg around.
Then there is Tom and Shiv’s marriage. I still think there is genuine love between them. Shiv needed him at the funeral. However, throughout the season there was huge amounts of animosity and cruelty too.
Which brings us to… the ending. The final shots of all three Roy kids were incredible. Roman at a bar, drinking a Martini – beloved by Gerri. Kendall all alone, save for Colin looking at water (again). But for me it is all about the handhold between Shiv and Tom. This could have been a moment of victory for them – one of them is the CEO! – but too much water has gone under the bridge. With a child on the way, there is still so much to sort out too.
Perhaps it should have always been obvious that Tom would end up as the CEO. It’s not clear if that is a win, but it felt right that none of the children finished on top. They are simply not up to it, despite them thinking it is their birthright.
I love the bravery of ending a show whilst it is on a high, but part of me can’t help but wish there was more to come so we know how some of the unresolved issues play out.
[Photograph credit: Claudette Barius/HBO]