Succession Season 4: Episode 1 brings betrayal, schemes and tragedy back with a vengeance

Review: It's the beginning of the end for the family everyone loves to hate

The Roy children, Shiv, Roman and Kendall, are back with one last roll of the dice to seize control of their father's media empire. Photo: HBO
Powered by automated translation

“So this is it?” mumbles Tom to his soon-to-be ex-wife Shiv during the season curtain-raiser of HBO’s mesmerising Succession. Well, almost.

Warning: the following article contains spoilers.

Since creator Jesse Armstrong announced this will be the fourth and final season, we’ve all had to get used to the idea that this really is it, that our annual date with the Rupert Murdoch-like media mogul Logan Roy and his loathsome, entitled (but utterly compelling) family is coming to an end soon. Yet there’s no time for tears, not when knives this sharp are out.

After the fissure caused in the family at the end of season three, pitting Brian Cox’s foul-mouthed Roy against his own children, this swansong of a season is shaping up to be Shakespearean in its scope and ambition. If Logan is King Lear, then who is his Cordelia? There is no one left to succeed.

The loneliness is palpable in this episode, whether it’s Logan cursing all the guests at his birthday party or Shiv (Sarah Snook) being blindsided by Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), who tipped him off at the end of the last series about his offspring’s brewing rebellion.

In this episode, penned by Armstrong, it’s months on from the volcanic events of last season. Logan is looking to sell his beloved empire Waystar Royco and make a new acquisition, Pierce Global Media.

Meanwhile, Shiv and brothers Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin, as acid-tongued as ever) are brainstorming a new “disrupter media brand” they’ve named The Hundred. At least until they catch wind of Logan’s intended purchase. When they do, they throw their diamond-encrusted toys out of the pram and launch a rival bid.

Directed by Mark Mylod, a regular on the series who last year led the Golden Globe-nominated film The Menu, the episode has the feel of a crank handle gradually being wound up.


Created by: Jesse Armstrong

Stars: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Nicholas Braun

Rating: 4/5

While the camera rarely stops moving in the scenes with Shiv, Kendall and Roman, darting around as if trying to catch their synapses firing, viewers shouldn’t expect the fireworks just yet. The beauty of every previous season of Succession is how the best episodes catch you unaware.

Everyone gets their moment to shine here. Half-brother Connor (Alan Ruck), now running as an independent presidential candidate in the imminent election, pleads with his fiance Willa (Justine Lupe) to consider turning their nuptials into a PR stunt to boost his destined-to-fail bid at the polls. He wants it held in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, with, as he puts it, “a little bit of hoopla” to get it mentioned in the news cycle. The shameless hubris of these people is gag-inducing.

Meanwhile, fan favourite Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) has put his foot in it again, bringing a date to Logan’s birthday, who embarrasses herself by asking Logan for a selfie and worse. He keeps referring to him and Tom as “the disgusting brothers” — that sweetness that he had in season one has seemingly evaporated after spending all this time in the company of the Roys.

Where he ends up in the Succession pecking order is one of the great as-yet-unanswered questions. The dialogue, as always, is as sharp as barbed wire, with Logan and his children all hurling unprintable insults at each other with terrifying velocity. That may be why some tune into this show — the writing is unparalleled in American television right now.

But what keeps viewers watching are the character dynamics, the power plays, the back-biting, the greed, the ostentatious displays of wealth and the staggering self-interest. Perhaps now, you can add tragic fails to that list. From Shiv’s imploding marriage to Tom to Logan dining with his bodyguard Colin, a rare person he can trust, these are emotionally bombed-out characters.

Maybe this really is it, as Tom says. Bridges burned, no going back. Whatever happens over the coming weeks, you won’t be able to avert your eyes.

Updated: March 28, 2023, 7:59 AM

Created by: Jesse Armstrong

Stars: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Nicholas Braun

Rating: 4/5