This article contains major spoilers for Season 4, Episodes 1 to 3 of Succession, as well as the entire series leading up to Season 4, Episode 3.
Rule #1: Never trust an HBO wedding.
From an edge-of-your-seat bidding war to a shocking death, Season Four of “Succession” has brought back all the fun — and emotional damage — that viewers have come to know and love about one of modern television’s greats.
At last, after a two-year hiatus, HBO’s “Succession” has returned for its epic final season. The world’s favorite family comedy-drama has started its final season right where it left off — within the first three episodes of the season, viewers are pulled straight back into the riveting, satirical world of the grandiose Roy family and their familial and corporate conflicts.
The series centers on the contentious succession of the Roy family’s media conglomerate, Waystar Royco, headed by the imposing and authoritative father, Logan (Brian Cox). Over the course of three seasons, his kids — especially the rebellious, emotionally troubled Kendall (Jeremy Strong) — have constantly lingered in their father’s shadow, hoping they can one day take control of the company. His other children, Roman (Kieran Culkin), Siobhan “Shiv” (Sarah Snook) and Connor (Alan Ruck), as well as their sneaky first cousin once removed Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun), possess their own desires for the future of the company (although Connor is struggling to run at 1% in the polls for president of the United States at the moment).
Before the fourth and final season, tensions have flared. Logan has decided to sell Waystar to promising tech company GoJo, run by CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). Shiv’s husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), secretly informs Logan that his kids are planning to lobby an opposing majority to vote against the sale, so Logan completely cuts Kendall, Shiv and Roman out from the acquisition. This conflict sets up the final season by pitting wife against husband, children against father and putting the future of the company in the air.
Season Four picks up a few months after the events of the Season Three finale. The kids have come together in Los Angeles, where they receive news that Logan is trying to purchase Waystar competitor Pierce Global Media (PGM), run by the old-school Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones).
To get at Logan, the kids decide to make their own offer to Nan, starting a bidding war for PGM between Logan and the kids. The constant back and forth of bidding, phone calls, threats and lies make this scene one of the most memorable moments of the first episode, titled “The Munsters.”
At last, the siblings propose the highest bid of $10 billion, causing Logan to concede. The fast-paced, witty writing of showrunner Jesse Armstrong paired with the erratic direction of Mark Mylod instantly reminded viewers how effective “Succession” is at executing suspense and comedy of the highest quality.
The second episode, titled “Rehearsal,” is the episode of Logan Roy. Logan delivers an empowering speech in the newsroom of Waystar’s news outlet, ATN. Provocative, encouraging and forceful, Logan reaches a new level of Machiavellian leadership that reminds not only those trying to take him down but also the audience of his commanding presence.
It also continues the witty dialogue, corporate scheming and messy familial drama seen in the rest of the series, ultimately culminating in an intense and emotional confrontation between Logan and his kids.
Logan, to our surprise, displays empathy for his children in this conversation, trying to apologize for the betrayal viewers saw last season — but there is simply nothing that he can do to win back his broken children’s trust and love. Unless …
This is when the third episode, “Connor’s Wedding,” shocked audiences around the world. Coming into the episode, HBO promoted it as a fun, light episode about the wedding of Connor and his partner Willa (Justine Lupe) and a continuation of the family dysfunction. But about 15 minutes into the episode, audiences are utterly taken aback.
In probably one of the greatest misdirections in TV history, “Succession” kills off Logan Roy. Tom, who is on a plane with Logan, informs the Roy siblings, who are at Connor’s wedding, that Logan has collapsed after experiencing shortness of breath. This phone call then triggers some of the greatest acting performances from the four children in the entire show.
As an audience, we are placed directly in the position of adults who have just lost their aging father while they were fighting. The scene that follows is about 27 minutes long, and the camera captures every action of the children as they are put on the phone, listening to their father get chest compressions. Uninterrupted shots never let the siblings off the hook, capturing every subtle display of their grief.
The acting and writing are unparalleled in this episode as the siblings deal with an unexpected wave of emotion. As Tom instructs the siblings to say their last words to their father, Roman, Kendall and Shiv are at a complete loss, stumbling over their words and failing to articulate the discord that has plagued their relationship with their father for so long.
It is painful, heart-wrenching television. Roman stutters, “You’re gonna win, because you just win,” followed by an unconvincing “uh, you’re a good dad.” Kendall, who has had his fair share of issues with his father, admits, “I can’t forgive you. Um, but it’s okay. And I love you.” Shiv, arguably the sibling with the most distaste toward her father, sorrowfully says, “Don’t go please, not now, there’s no excuses but … it’s okay Daddy. I love you.”
Their inability to express their grief embodies the tragedy of the Roy family. There is a bleak honesty about the episode, giving viewers a truthful representation of death and grief as experienced by the siblings. The writers could’ve chosen to have Logan die profoundly in the series finale, but death does not align with a structured path — and “Succession” decides to give the Roy siblings and viewers the realistic shock of an unexpected death.
Funnily enough, we don’t even get to see Logan die, making us constantly second-guess ourselves and wonder whether Logan is pulling another one of his elaborate games to manipulate his kids. The last shot when viewers see his body being carried off the private jet, however, affirms his death as reality for us. Viewers are forced into empathizing with the Roys because they are humanized and reminded that not even their immense wealth will set them free from death.
Ultimately, the first three episodes of “Succession” have already made their mark on television forever. “Connor’s Wedding” will be remembered as the one that changed everything, the one where the outcome foreshadowed by the show’s own title came true: Logan Roy is dead.
With seven episodes remaining in the season, “Connor’s Wedding” has elevated the final season to new heights, and the succession of the Waystar throne is set up for an epic showdown.
Leave a Reply