It’s the great American story: Make billions, screw over all your competition, divide your family against each other and become a central figure in the contemporary landscape of conservative politics. That’s the tale of Logan Roy (Brian Cox), patriarch of the family at the center of HBO’s “Succession,” now halfway through its fourth and final season.
Logan is the CEO and founder of Waystar Royco, a major media conglomerate. He is conniving and brilliant and rules with an iron fist. After three of his children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) — collectively referred to by many in the show as “the kids” — tried and failed to overthrow Logan at the end of the previous season, he no longer has the precarious familial backing he once did. On the sidelines is his eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), who has spent most the series embarking on a presidential bid in vain.
The new season begins with the kids estranged from their father and trying to outbid him for the acquisition of a rival media company, while Connor plots the closing details of his campaign. But if there’s one thing Logan won’t do, it’s give up without a fight. From the beginning, the tension among the show’s leads is the most gripping it has ever been. The series’ most interesting moments come in times of unrest, and this season is about as unrestful as you can get. A father is at war with his kids, and he reluctantly takes on his daughter’s estranged husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) as an ally. But just like everything else in Logan’s life, Tom is a pawn in a much larger game of chess that only Logan really understands.
Despite the show existing in a reality that only the most privileged individuals can relate to, its appeal remains universal. Behind all the private jets, board meetings and high-society weddings, there is drama of Shakespearian proportion that enthralls the viewer on a primal level. It’s everything that we as humans crave to consume: petty disagreements, crises of power and jaw-dropping twists. And never has “Succession” satiated that desire more than with its fourth season.
The season’s ten episodes take place over ten consecutive days, a timeline that only accentuates the craziness of the Roys’ lives. With private jets just a phone call away, the series can move from extravagant location to extravagant location in what seems like a matter of minutes. The season starts off modestly in a Los Angeles villa, moves up to a yacht on the Hudson River and, most recently, ends up in an idyllic Norwegian mountain retreat.
The season’s most striking element so far is its ability to deliver on an emotional level. As multi-billionaires fighting over the reins of a company chock-full of a history of abhorrent behavior, the show’s central characters certainly have a lot going against them in the likability department. But, without trivializing the ethical complexities of the characters’ actions, the show slowly pulls back layers of their psyches to reveal that there’s more to them than meets the eye. Glimmers of the Roy children’s honest humanity are shown, but it’s hidden behind a complex web of parental issues that lead them to try to simultaneously sabotage and impress their father.
The season’s third episode, “Connor’s Wedding,” is particularly remarkable, featuring an emotional plot that takes viewers on a draining and shocking journey. Carefully considered and impactful directing is mixed in with series-best performances from across the cast, allowing the episode to stand out from the rest of the season — and maybe even claim the title of the best episode of television ever.
But even with such a massive peak in quality so early on, subsequent episodes of “Succession” have not felt disappointing in comparison. And after the events of the most recent episode, “Kill List,” there’s an impending sense that the best of “Succession” is still yet to come.
Finn Kirkpatrick is an arts & culture editor. He is a sophomore from Los Angeles, California intending to study Comparative Literature who likes to review movies and other things of that sort.