Succession S04E01 Review: You Are What You Do

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Succession starts its final season as it did its first: Logan’s birthday and there is a big deal about to be secured. This time, it is Pierce that is about to be acquired by one of the Roy’s as the siblings battle against their father after last season’s betrayal. It is a nice touch to go full circle with the announcement that season four will be the final instalment of the Roy family. 

Everyone involved is still reeling from the betrayal, with Greg (Nicholas Braun) being the only one having a good time while everyone else is still reeling. The siblings Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) have united to form their own business venture, The Hundred, yet it is only Roman who is taking it seriously which is far cry from where he was when the series premiered. Kendall has secured funding, and Shiv… Shiv has a lot going on in her personal life. The harmony of the sibling alliance becomes tested when Shiv hears from Tom and puts it together that Logan (Brian Cox) will be finally buying Pierce. Shiv and Kendall immediately want to pause The Hundred and take Pierce from their dad so they can finally beat the patriarch, with Roman hesitant and wanting to focus on something they could build for themselves.

Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) in HBOs Succession

Looking at the characters now in comparison to where they were in the pilot reveals a masterclass in character development and performance, as each of them is in completely different places than where we first saw them. Roman is more put together and determined to succeed in business, Kendall is more determined than ever to take down Logan, and laments how funny it would be to screw their dad out of his decade long obsession with Pierce, Connor wants to be part of the presidential conversation after being interested in politics from a young age, and Shiv is juggling the business and personal aspects of her life.

As for Logan, he remarks how he has everything he could want: he got a huge deal done, he has ATN, the election, and is about to get Pierce. He does not have his kids (except Connor), and the resentment and anger at that bubbles through Cox’s performance as he is irritated at people being happy around him despite them being there to celebrate his birthday. How angry he is at losing control of his siblings and how he deflects that anger to others is brilliantly demonstrated when he demands that his staff roast him for his birthday and none of them do. All except Greg, who, like Tom, has found his voice and calls Logan out on his behaviour but hits Logan where it hurts by asking, “Where are your kids?” making Logan defensive, showing how raw both sides are feeling. Like a typical abusive parent, Logan becomes nastier when he is called out but never believes he is the problem.

Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and Tom Wambsgans (Matthew McFadyen) in HBOs Succession

Every performance is without fault and adds layers and depth to an already excellent series and episode, but the intercutting between Logan and the siblings as they battle for Pierce is cleverly done to show how different both sides are, both visually and emotionally. Visually, the siblings are basking in bright sunlight in an open house full of light while Logan is huddled in a dark office cramped in with his team of experts that feels tense. The siblings are unified but lack serious business sense and rely on emotion and a questionable business advisor, while Logan is surrounded by business savvy people but has none of the emotional warmth that secures the siblings Pierce. It is a great visualisation to show how opposed the two teams are and where the lines are drawn. To add to the coldness of Logan, he barely refers to his children as that or by their names, only calling them “the rats” or “your wife” with vitriol. As the siblings win the deal, Logan calls them (possibly for the first time since the events of season 3) to berate them. Shiv and Kendall are unified in their joy at beating their father at the cost of ten billion dollars, but Roman looks concerned.

Underneath all that, the rawness of the betrayals are present throughout the episode and is something we are likely to see throughout the season. No other betrayal was bigger than Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) turning against Shiv to side with Logan. It was a long time coming given how he was treated by the siblings and Shiv, but that does not stop the hurt. Tom has grown a backbone since the season 3 finale and is looking out for himself and his position, getting reassurances from Logan that they will be fine should he and Shiv divorce. He and Shiv are no longer together, and Shiv has been inflicting pain on Tom for the past three seasons, coming across as uncaring to him, but the tables have turned. Shiv is hurt by the betrayal and that Tom is using their separation to hook up with models and other people, which she throws at him in a confrontation at the end of the episode. Shiv tells Tom about the pain he has caused them, and Tom retorts about how much pain has been caused in the marriage, to which Shiv responds by closing down. Tom wants to talk, but Shiv does not, and she is hurt by his actions, possibly more than she thought she could have been. There is a lot hanging in the air between them and a lot left unsaid in the raw confrontation that will undoubtedly build up the confrontation we have seen snippets of in the trailer. Tom is colder but more assured than he has been in previous seasons, and it is exciting to see where this season takes him.

Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) in HBOs Succession

One of the beauties of Succession is that not much happens, but it is driven by powerhouse performances from a stellar cast and impeccable writing. Tied with breath-taking cinematography, everything about the first episode promises an emotional ride filled with turmoil and confrontations that will be built up and will surely implode on every character. The episode closes with Logan alone, stewing in the darkness and not looking his best. Perhaps an ominous thought about the patriarch’s fate? Despite thinking he has everything, he looks as if he has lost it all and still defaults to anger and berating those he sees as beneath him.

For the MVC of the episode, it was a tough choice. Roman is a close second as we are seeing his development and his loyalty to his siblings but also his business savvy and determination to build something. Tom takes the title this week for growing a backbone and driving the episode as he cements his footing and his position.  


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