Succession Season 4 Episode 2 review: The worst family in America

Cameron Frew
Brian Cox in Succession Season 4 Episode 2

Succession Season 4 Episode 2 ups the emotional pain of the Roy family division, shining an uncomfortable light on the depths these people will go to just to have the high ground, if only for a little while.

“Why does everyone ask how I’m feeling?” Logan (Brian Cox) barks in the opening seconds of the new episode. He’s right to question it: Gojo is about to buy Waystar and he’s raring to take ATN by the horns. It’s not quite retirement, but it’s the twilight phase of his legacy, doing what he wants when he wants.

But his heart, no matter how black and mostly impenetrable, is partly broken. With the exception of Connor (Alan Ruck), a self-confessed runt, his kids loathe him and want to destroy him. They didn’t show up to his birthday party, which made him sad, and they stole PGM at the last second, which angered him.

Their constant attempts at patricide are a source of great grief and anxiety; he loves them, but they’re undoubtedly his rivals. However, in Season 4 Episode 2, Succession almost allows him to become the victim of their hatred – the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

It’s Gojo eve in Succession Season 4 Episode 2

We’re a day out from Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) buying Waystar. Despite everyone feeling the need to check in, Logan is feeling good, so he decides to pay an impromptu visit to ATN. “Happy Christmas, you clock-watching f*cks,” he snarls to himself.

Meanwhile, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are watching PGM’s hottie-less news coverage. “I can seem to tear my eyes away from the bald man talking about NATO… I have a boner,” Roman quips, while Kendall peruses the channel’s dookie-filled schedule and mutters: “A show about politics called Inside Baseball, how confusing is that?”

There’s a real finesse to how Jesse Armstrong brutally and slyly reminds you how stupid these people can be. For example, Kendall pitches a “global-global” hardcore channel that solely focuses on Africa every day (“That sounds like Homework: The Show,” Shiv jokes), while Roman says they should use primetime to go “full Clockwork Orange.” These lines make you splutter, but they also show how hollow they are, intellectually that is.

While Kendall and Roman weigh up the pros and cons of boring their new audience into a comatose state, Shiv excuses herself to check how the search for a divorce lawyer is going. She has a huge problem, and it’s come straight from her daddy’s playbook: Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) has held all the best attorneys on retainer so they’re conflicted. This moment is beautifully sketched by Snook, as it’s the same face we saw in the Season 3 finale: She can’t believe she’s been outsmarted and left vulnerable again.

Logan Roy is like “Jaws… if everyone worked for Jaws”

We cut to the ATN newsroom, with Logan stalking the aisles and glancing over the shoulders of his “Stakhanovites”, aghast at his sloths working at one email every five minutes. “He’s terrifyingly moseying… like if Santa was a hitman,” Greg (Nicholas Braun) tells Tom, in one of the lines that feels a little too explicitly meme-able – Succession’s one-liners have always been its most obvious strength, but this episode stretches the believability of their wittiness.

Tom rushes back to the office while taking an enraged call from Shiv. Here’s the truth: she knows he’s done the best thing, and that’s why she’s so angry. As he points out, her family is capable of ruining him with the snap of a finger if he doesn’t take proper precautions. Nevertheless, she calls him Logan’s bitch boy and gives him a message for dad: “F*ck off and stay out of my life.”

Tom and Greg in Succession Season 4 Episode 2

Tom, the sociopath that he is, hangs up the phone and focuses on the task at hand: appeasing Logan however he can. Logan asks Tom and Cyd – she calls Tom her “social secretary,” in an example of the episode’s most cutting lines – if they watched Kerry’s audition tape to be an anchor, and they waffle their way through some faux-positive response. Logan obviously sees right through it, but he’s happy to coast on their lies. “Whatever you two geniuses think,” he tells them.

The tape isn’t even embarrassing, despite the siblings’ vicious mockery (“Must act natural to fool the humans,” Kendall jests) – it’s just bad. Kerry has no experience, and this is a transparent effort to put his attractive girlfriend on national TV. It’s the episode’s weakest component, especially when Tom gets Greg to tell her she’s not ready, which he handles with about as much grace as a broken sprinkler. She threatens to “take him apart like a human string cheese,” and that’s that.

Shiv plants the seed for another betrayal

Fuelled by the fury of her father advising her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Shiv phones Sandi Furness (Hope Davis), the daughter of Logan’s rival Sandy (Larry Pine) … who happens to sit on the board with Stewy (Arian Moayed). Sandy and co. want to squeeze Matsson for more money, and while Shiv initially turned her down, the idea of making her dad sweat is suddenly even more appetizing.

Back at ATN, Logan asks Tom to get everyone’s attention, which he flounders through. If you had him at the top of your power rankings, you should reassess them. Two episodes in, and their dynamic is clear: Logan likes having him around as a sort of business busboy, someone who will say yes to anything. He’s also not a natural leader; he’s mawkish and awkward when talking to his staff, compared to someone like Cyd who’s never felt the need to fake anything.

When Logan speaks, the whole room falls into the orbit of his sweary sun. “I f*cking love it here,” he shouts, scorning his “lily-livered” competitors and ordering his “pirates” to “kill the opposition.” It’s a scintillating, appallingly malicious speech; in this final season, Cox may be delivering his best performance.

Dream wedding becomes Connor’s nightmare

Kendall, Roman, and Shiv try to make their way to Connor and Willa’s (Justine Lupe) rehearsal dinner, impeded by Logan canceling their chopper ride without their knowledge. They’re stopped by Stewy and Sandi en route, who try to convince them to join their side and force Logan into asking Matsson for more money. Shiv acts like it’s the first she’s heard of it, but Kendall and Roman aren’t interested – nor should they be! They’re less than 24 hours away from cashing out billions of dollars.

When they arrive, they catch Willa as she’s drunkenly fleeing the venue and find Connor alone upstairs, mulling his future over with a glass of wine. While her brothers want to offer him some comfort, even in the form of insults that’d bring a shattered tear to your eye, Shiv doesn’t care. She wants one thing: to fortify their position and make her dad suffer. They’ve always been careless with their half-sibling, but the closing stretch emphasises how much of their dispassion he’s absorbed.

Kendall, Shiv, and Roman in Succession Season 4 Episode 2

Connor tells them that Willa broke down during her speech at dinner and asks to go to a “real bar with chicks and guys with blood in their hair.” When they walk in, they tell on themselves with snide comments about the drink selection. “Do you think they know to make a vodka tonic?” Roman asks. “A house red… do I dare?” Shiv says. Kendall treats the place with a fair degree of enthusiasm and seems quite comfortable, until a call from Matsson shell-shocks him into a state of bitterness.

They call each other “brother” and speak in cool assurances, but this is a punch-down. Matsson essentially threatens Kendall, warning him not to join Stewy and Sandi or he’ll tank the deal. It’s moments like these that remind you why Strong has garnered so much acclaim; his whole world falls apart behind his eyes, his confident swagger turns into a slow, disorientated stumble, his contented babbling turns to suspiciously considered support of Shiv.

Kendall and Shiv don’t have good motivations: he feels small, she’s angry. Roman’s right, he’s the only one who’s genuine about dad and his ambitions. Their hackles are raised when they catch sight of a text from their father on Roman’s phone, but there’s nothing alarming about the messages, despite their wide-eyed, Judas-y glaring. He takes some convincing, but Roman agrees to the team-up, and news of the board’s mindset reaches Logan fast. “They’ve got some f*cking juice,” he says.

Connor Roy steals the episode

While Connor drags the soul out of Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat on karaoke, which Kendall describes as “Guantanamo-level sh*t,” Logan surprises them all with a visit to the bar. He slowly, carefully tries to atone for his numerous backstabs, but each seemingly serious word is met with childish pushback from Kendall and Shiv. “Holy sh*t, did dad just say a feeling?” Kendall says in a dopey voice, while Shiv snarls: “You’re a human f*cking gaslight.”

We hate to say it, but Logan is the one talking sense in this scene. He’s right: the deal is good, everyone comes out on top, and the kids can go do their own thing without his input or presence, not to mention they’ll be set for life financially. “I love you, but you’re not serious people,” he says, before walking out.

Roman is left scratching his head, while Kendall and Shiv seem to relish their dad’s frustration. But why were they there in the first place? To celebrate Connor’s wedding, and he’s been nothing but a bloodstain on the canvas of another round in the Roy family ring. This sets him up to deliver the episode’s most devastating line: “The good thing about having a family that doesn’t love you is that you learn to live without them.”

Ruck’s character has long been the easiest punching bag in the show, but Season 4 seems like it’s priming the audience for some sort of redemption – or, at the very least, allowing him to have the last laugh, even if he’s crying.

Before the episode ends, Connor returns home to find Willa cozied up in bed, and she grabs hold of his arm into a cuddle. Then comes the closing bombshell: Roman stops in at his dad’s apartment, and he asks his youngest son to return to the fold. “There’s a Night of the Long Knives coming, I need a fire-breather… smart people know what they are,” he says.

Succession Season 4 Episode 2 review score: 4/5

The second episode of Succession’s final season feels like a response to the thrilling punchiness of its premiere; there are laughs aplenty, but this is altogether sadder and angrier.

Succession Season 4 Episodes 1-2 are streaming on HBO and Sky now. Episode 3 will be available to watch on April 9 in the US and April 10 in the UK. Check out the rest of our coverage here and the trailer for the weeks ahead here.