That Succession Episode Worried Me
This Mid-Season Recap Contains Spoilers
Usually, I don’t watch a TV show until it’s recommended by five people whose opinions I respect. Especially dramas. While good comedies pay off the whole time, dramas are dependent on the ending and it’s hard to stick the landing. Of course, it helps that Succession is currently the funniest show on television, so it serves both needs.
Season 4 Episode 6 (S4E6: “Living+”) was the first clunker in the entire series. We finally got the equivalant of “Fly” in Breaking Bad, which is still held up as a filler episode in an otherwise great series. (BB is my #2 drama of all time, second only to The Wire.) Then again, great NBA and MLB teams somehow seem to collapse for only one game before rallying back to win the series. Happens all the time.
It’s possible that Succession could overtake BB — depending on the ending. And while a lot happened in Living+, I’m giving it a -. Why? Because we have only four episodes left and there is still so much to resolve. And since every show has its flaws, it seemed they all bubbled to the surface. Was watching Succession (twice through, btw) a waste of time? I mean, I am totally in. When I’m not watching Succession, I’m listening to podcasts about Succession. And when I’m not doing that, I’m reading (or writing) blogs about Succession. And when I’m doing none of those things, I’m thinking about Succession. I may as well call it Obsession.
Per yoozh, there was a lot to love in the episode released on April 30.
With Logan gone, the kids, left to their own devices, would go nuts — and they do. Shiv more personally than professionally, but those CEBros (Kendall + Roman) are truly going off the rails, and in theory, it’s the cringefest we’ve signed up to see.
Succession continues to know its point-of-view: the world-building is epic. It features a lazor-like focus on the family, and in those rare scenes the main characters interact with mere plebes, it displays their total disconnect from anything pedestrian. Nowhere is this more on display than during “Bitey,” the game of chicken played between Shiv and Tom. A show that didn’t know its POV would’ve garnered some laughs from the invited guests’ shocked looks. But this show is not about them; it is about the Roys and the small number of people in their orbit.
At first, I wasn’t sold on “bringing Logan back.” Killing him off a third of the way through the final season was a ballsy move. And part of me feels that the writers made their bed and now need to sleep in it. He’s gone and let’s let a sleeping dog lie. (Or a sleeping boar.) That said, I’ve come around on this point, because it’s not like they did a cheesy flashback. They jarred us with Logan as the first image we see and then kept the show up-to-date through using AI to “make” Logan deliver the critical line that changes the trajectory of the entire episode.
We’re starting to get more insight into this apparently dark place Shiv was in when she met Tom: we now know it has something to do with “TK” and “the Washington situation” and that she felt she’d met “the one” before Tom. Are those related? Probably but we don’t yet know. Intriguing stuff.
Greg was back in our good graces this week, with some pivotal moments and great dialogue. Ironically, he wasn’t funny at all as Robot Greg, but maybe that was the point.
And of course, speaking of dialogue (maybe that’s a double-positive), there were some epic lines:
Gerri to Roman: “You are a weak monarch in a dangerous interregnum.”
Tom about Kendall: “How am I supposed to follow this? He just promised them eternal life.”
Greg: “I think it’s hard to make houses seem like tech because we’ve had houses for a while now.”
But the very best has to be that Kendall and Roman call death “bullshit” and “one size fits all.” Brilliant.
I liked it better after a second viewing, but I still felt like I was convincing myself. There were times it absolutely felt like a parody of itself.
At its best, Succession is obviously incredible. There have been only a few moments that have felt gimmicky. S3 was dope but I didn’t care for how E3 ended with the FBI Raid that went nowhere and E8 with the fake-out on Kendall’s death. LOST did cliffhangers amazingly well but Succession doesn’t (and shoudn’t) do cliffhangers.
S4E6 exposed the show’s faults:
Where is any evidence that Shiv loves Tom? Besides begging Logan not to fire Tom in the S2 finale, I can’t really find any. And the stakes would be higher if we could see she does love him at least a little. (Btw, I believe every review I read misinterpreted the part where “Shiv and Tom both laugh” at Tom’s proposal that they both go live together in a trailer park for love. That’s not accurate. Their laughs are not equivalent. All over Tom’s face, if just for a moment, is the hope that Shiv won’t find this so amusing. That’s what happened. Brilliant piece of acting by Matthew Macfadyen.)
Where is any evidence that anyone besides Logan is good at the actual operation of the business? Not office politics: in various ways, they all are incredible at that. Kendall has vision; he’d be a competent CMO. Roman knows deals; he’d be a solid VP of Sales. Shiv gets public relations and would rock as the VP of External Relations. But despite being COO, Roman has actually demonstrated he can’t really execute. Exhibit A: the exploding rocket in Japan. Karl is CFO but we don’t know how he or Frank, the Vice-Chair, would do in the top job. We only know Frank micromanaged Roman in LA. And as for Gerri, though she probably did do a good job in her role as General Counsel when it came to cleaning up the cruise debacle, did she do a good job as acting CEO? And as far as a permanent role, lawyers generally don’t run companies (law firms excepted and omitted).
And so more specifically to S4E6:
Directing: Director Lorene Scafaria did better with “Too Much Birthday” and “Honeymoon States.” The pacing was off. Everything took too long: toward the beginning, the sibling scene was so drawn out and then ended abruptly with “the huggy thing.” Bring back Mark Mylod, please.
Storytelling: This one was packed with too many coincidences. Logan just happened to refer to his “idiot kids” on tape? Matsson’s plane happened to be a few meters from Shiv’s? Tom happened to walk in on Shiv’s crying session? I can buy one coincidence but three seemed a bit many.
Writing: It sounded sloppy, more like a first draft. It’s a general rule that you shouldn’t repeat words. Matsson and Shiv both use “interior” and then Kendall and Roman use “pump pumpin’” (and yes, Roman’s quoting Kendall but he has a completely different style of talking and often puts things in his own way). And don’t get me started on Bitey. That was so cringe. Subpar writers place things on the nose to be ironic but then Shiv’s “Tom Wambsgans finally made me feel something” was so easy. C’mon, dude.
Conflict: There are multiple conflicts unfolding: Person vs. Self. Person vs. Person. Person vs. Environment. But at its core, though all three kids are Emmy-nominated as lead actors, the main character has always been Kendall and the central conflict has always been Kendall vs. Logan. Now that Logan is gone, it can still be this. But if the writers move the axis to Shiv vs. Tom, I’m going to be massively disappointed. Not because I don’t enjoy their dynamic (though I certainly didn’t this week), but rather because we’ve seen a cishet romatic relationship on television so many times. Sure, I’m biased as a first-born son, but this central conflict of son vs. father is one huge factor that sets Succession apart.
Ken’s Plot: I loved that Shiv won last week and Ken won this week. And I don’t doubt that Ken would attempt to juice the numbers; it was a clear sendup of so many tech companies’ fantastical presentations. But I am highly skeptical that he could go from discovery of this “harebrained scheme” to execution of the presentation in under 24 hours*. I’m reminded of S2 of The Apprentice, when S1’s winner, Bill, grills an aspiring CEO. The latter says he would set the tone and change the culture of the company. Bill: ~”And you’d do all that on Day One?”
*The producers said that each episode was a day, though this one seemed to span two days, so perhaps each one is under 24 hours? To my knowledge, they haven’t yet said whether it’s ten consecutive days.
Roman’s Plot: I love that Roman fires the studio executive. (Not saying that should happen IRL but it totally tracked for his character.) Roman’s new hair is reminiscent of Travis Bickle’s, but his firing of Gerri was truly crazy. I get that his grief is making him erratic, but it’s too farfetched to believe he’d can two powerful people in the span of a few hours.
While we’re at it, I do feel the need to point out that the last episode in Norway seemed to contain a sleight-of-hand. I sent this email to my brothers:
OK, so a lot of analyses are saying that what Matsson did to the CEBros was so ingenious.
Like, how he used Shiv to offer a price so high that the Bros had to take it.
But I don't see how this is as ingenious as everyone else seems to be saying.
Shiv told him to offer a higher price, which he mocked as obvious (because it is).
Then, he calls Frank and offers the higher price.
I get why Shiv sold her bros out since they were going around her (and because she sees the future if & when Matsson buys Waystar).
And I get that Matsson "won" because the bros didn't wanna sell.
And he told Roman that Roman f*cked it because he had a meltdown. And that was probably all part of Matsson's strategy. But it didn't need to be:
All he did was end up spending a LOT more ($192/share vs. $187).
How is that ingenious?
Matsson’s a dick who doesn’t care about the relationship. Why not call Frank directly without all the rigmarole?
Sure, if he somehow figured out a way to go BELOW $187 and still get ATN, then that would've been truly amazing.
Why does this all bother me? Because there’s so much yet to resolve! Here are all the open strings that I’ve found. And they don’t need to address them all. Real life doesn’t work that way. Some things just happen and I get that (but not three things in 24 hours). However, since the finale is apparently feature-film length, let’s see how much they can achieve in the remaining five hours…
What was Shiv going through when she met Tom?
Roman and Shiv (and Colin) — and don’t forget — Marcia and her son know what Kendall did. In her divorce renegotiation with Logan, Marcia secured Amir’s “prospects.” What did that mean?
I’m guessing Logan’s brother and his lawsuit is a closed loop, considering Greg abandoned them to go whole hog with ATN. I’d love to see him return (James Cromwell is my boy) but I’m satisfied with that arc’s conclusion.
Will it back up on Roman that he essentially killed his father? (Btw, this is more than likely. Almost every time Logan’s kids harshly confronted him, he had an adverse physical reaction.) Is anyone on the plane hiding anything about his final moments? Probably not… but Roman still has to worry about Gerri’s phone and what he sent her.
Adrien Brody’s character was in the S4 precap. He’s a major investor and could turn over any deal.
Is the cruises crisis underwater forever? Probably and that's fine, too.
They’ve mentioned “Sally Anne” a few times without really addressing who that was.
Logan threw Connor’s Mom in jail or in a nuthouse.
Matsson’s blood is in bricks and the woman who has them seems quite litigious.
It’ll be a major tipoff once we know the title of the finale since every single season’s finale has been named after the John Berryman poem.
In the S3 finale, Connor uncovers the fact that Logan is trying to stay virile. Kerry had a total meltdown until Marcia kicked her out of the Roys’ home, and it’s perfectly explicable that Kerry is experiencing acute pain from the loss. But… could she be pregnant? (Not to mention Shiv’s pregnancy.)
Matsson had once stated he was very interested in failure. Might he F the deal so he can finally fail fast?
Who'll end up CEO? (Obviously.)
Finally, to predict the ending, one must ask, “What is this show about?” We learned in high school English class that one definition of “theme” is “why the creator made this.” It can be about myriad things, but writ large, is this ultimately a story of an actual succession, a.k.a., the Rise of Kendall, much like… well, I don’t want to spoil other shows/movies. Is this a show about late-stage capitalism? If so, it could end with the implosion or explosion of ATN (and the varied coverage depending on whether the GoJo deal goes through and whether the Roys do acquire Pierce) and/or (if Connor’s 1% polling number — not numbers, since Greg pointed out 1 is the lowest number — plays a role) the victory of the fascist Jeryd Mencken, a first in American history. Or second in a few years, depending upon your politics.
My short-term prediction is Succession returns to its regularly scheduled brilliance tonight and gets the hits pump pumpin’. Let’s Gooooooo.
Rajiv Satyal is a comedian and writer. He resides in Los Angeles.