Succession Season 4 Episode 4 review: Coronation derby

Cameron Frew
Kendall, Roman, Shiv in Succession Season 4 Episode 4

After last week’s sudden blow to the Roy hierarchy, Succession Season 4 Episode 4 is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat answer to the question: what the hell happens next?

Episode 3 saw the world, on-screen and off, lose a titan: Logan Roy finally f*cked off for good. The meteor caught the dinosaur, and the tectonic plates are already rumbling; how will the market handle the news, will Lukas Matsson proceed with the deal, and most of all, who will step up the lead the new world order?

As Shiv quips, it may be the worst day of the siblings’ lives, but it’s a “coronation demolition derby” for everyone else at Waystar. Plots are being formed, corners everywhere are occupied by peering eyes and eavesdropping ears, and the tension of the show’s inevitability has never been this potent.

Don’t expect any room to breathe or mourn: in Season 4 Episode 4, Succession quickly and directly addresses the matter at hand, but even with the king dead, checkmate remains many moves away. Spoilers for Succession to follow…

Succession opens with another bombshell

We’re walloped with another bombshell before the credits. Kendall is “knocked out” by his dad’s passing, Roman has “pre-grieved” and appears to be totally fine, while Shiv has another problem: she’s pregnant, presumably with Tom’s child. Snook’s performance in this scene is a portrait of despair and uncertainty: Shiv seems to be hoping for some sort of problem with the baby or her body, but everything’s a-okay.

Her expression reveals a smattering of thoughts, none of them positive. She’s the only daughter in a dynasty long governed by its abusive patriarch, and she hoped her mum was dead over her dad, so is she equipped to be a parent herself? Will she force herself to kowtow to Tom? Perhaps most worryingly, to her at least, will she be side-lined as a mother while the men take charge?

Rather than any sort of time jump, Episode 4 takes place a day after Logan’s (un)timely death on the plane. Family and friends have gathered in his palace apartment, all organized by a character we’re absolutely delighted to see again: Marcia, Logan’s no-bullsh*t wife who exerts her force without hesitation. Death becomes her, so to speak.

Kendall is confused to see her, but she reveals: “We spoke every morning and afternoon… we were very close. It was complicated, but we spoke intimately every evening.” Shiv later jokes: “I think I might sue her for making me think of dad doing phone sex.”

A ring full of hats

One aspect of Succession’s craft that’s rarely highlighted is the direction. Mark Mylod reached the apex of his powers last week, but Lorene Scafaria’s work here exemplifies the power of blocking: as the kids sit in a separate room, Tom steps into the background. Shiv looks across, but it’s nothing more than a charged glance. As he walks away, Greg appears, but the frame pulls out of focus, just as the kids pay no attention to him even when he comes into the room.

Greg in Succession Season 4 Episode 4

There’s a lot going on with Greg in this episode, and if you’re not picking up what Scafaria and co. are putting down, you’re being willingly obtuse: why would the show be emphasizing the presence of a family member in the periphery so much towards its endgame? He orbits around Marcia, and when she has to talk to Connor and Willa, the camera keeps him in the shot as he drifts away, vowing to “catch up” with her later. Remember, this is how Tom managed to get the upper-hand: always watching, always hovering.

Meanwhile, the “old guard” are discussing who should take the role of interim CEO, and Gerri and Karl are sharpening their elbows: the former has already done the job successfully, while Karl’s post as CFO makes him the natural successor, at least right now. And then there’s Tom, who tells the “greybeards” he simply wants to be considered, and Karl lays out the reality in brutal fashion: he’s a “clumsy interloper” who’s “fair and squarely f*cked” without Logan or Shiv.

A piece of paper changes everything

The siblings poke fun at their dad’s obituaries – “Did you ever see dad laugh like that?” Shiv asks, to which Roman says: “Only when a hobo was on fire” – and discuss how he was “racist, relaxed on sexual assault,” but not a paedophile. Meanwhile, Karl and Frank “scurry like little rats” upstairs.

They find a piece of paper in Logan’s personal safe. At first, they “joke” about the idea of flushing it down the toilet, but despite Gerri not believing it to be “germane”, they reveal its contents to the kids: on this paper, said to be written four years ago but amended with scribbles perhaps recently, Logan wrote that he wanted Kendall to be CEO if he died.

You can feel the gravity of the show shift as soon as Frank says his name. His whole future instantly becomes a blur in his head. But when Shiv looks at the paper, her first reaction isn’t excitement on behalf of her brother or any sort of support. She clocks the line near his name and ponders: “Underlined or crossed out?”

Shiv in Succession Season 4 Episode 4

They’re horrible people, but peacetime between them has been lovely. Yet, their harmony is incredibly fraught, evidently, as the mere chance of Kendall stepping up puts them at odds with one another again. “This thing is old and you’ve tried to put dad in jail 12 times,” Roman says, and when Shiv questions the intention of the paper in the first place, Kendall snipes: “Well it sure as f*ck doesn’t say Shiv.”

That’s not all: remember what I said about Greg? Well, his name was also jotted down on the paper as an “addendum of miscellaneous matters, with a question mark.” He eagerly theorizes that he could be Kendall’s number two, a notion cruelly laughed off by everyone in the room. Roman jests that his dad probably couldn’t remember his name, but all of their mockery comes from an anxious place: none of their names were on it, but Greg’s was, and if Kendall’s name was struck off, does that mean what it could mean?

When most of them leave the room, Kendall and Frank stay behind, and he begins to doubt himself. “He made me hate him and he did… I don’t think he liked me,” he says, but Frank assures him that he may have been an “old b*stard,” but he loved him. There’s a real beauty to Strong’s performance, for all the hoopla about his approach; method acting often produces a transformative performance, and there’s tremendous sensitivity to Kendall that we all take for granted.

Kerry vs Marcia is an easy fight

We get brief appearances from Colin, Logan’s bodyguard and “best pal” last seen with a petted lip at the airport – “He’s like a dog without his person,” Roman jokes – and Ron Petkus (played by Barry’s Stephen Root), the political donor last seen in Season 3, attempting to “body-snatch” Logan in a eulogy full of conservative political rhetoric.

Kerry, Logan’s assistant last seen chuckling in his wake on the plane, wasn’t invited. Alas, she arrives blubbering and begs Marcia to let her go upstairs and get her things. Marcia isn’t interested in playing games with children, and she already filled a bag with everything she left behind. She’s utterly distraught, and in a rare moment of compassion, Roman runs over and tries to comfort her. As he helps her pick up her stuff after it spills onto the floor, she makes quite the confession: Logan, apparently, planned to get an annulment so he could marry Kerry.

Before Roman can talk to her about it, she’s forced to leave out the back. “Marcia, was that really necessary?” he asks, but she’s unfazed – she’s happy to see her go back to her “little apartment.” Greg stood by her side the whole time, providing a snide commentary to Kerry’s hysterics. Clearly, Marcia may have more sway than we think.

Two against one

Tom is in peak pathetic form throughout Episode 4. He’s not a top dog, he’s no longer a confidant – he’s nobody, a ticking time bomb waiting to be punted out of the Waystar empire. So, he starts grovelling: he appeals to Kendall, hoping they can put their past conflicts behind them; and then he goes to Roman in a bid to convince him he was the one Logan actually wanted, not Kendall.

Roman in Succession Season 4 Episode 4

That said, it works. When Kendall gets Shiv and Roman into a room, Roman chafes against his big brother’s plans to ascend, arguing his own merits (and they’re all fair, given everything that’s happened). Surprisingly, Kendall agrees. “I see that, bro,” he says, and they agree to both rise up as COO’s in the interim… so what about Shiv? “Three is… wonky,” Roman says, and Kendall thinks her lack of experience could be unattractive to the board. However, they’re not trying to “f*ck” her: they promise she’ll be equally involved and never cut out from negotiations and discussions, it’s just a power play so they can finish the deal with Matsson and get out with their billions.

Shiv is visibly shaken by it, despite agreeing. As people clap and chant “long live the king… and the other king”, she excuses herself, stumbling on the verge of tears. She even falls down some steps, but snaps when Tom tries to help her up.

Kendall and Roman sit down with Karolina and Hugo, who have two options to “burnish” their reputation: they release some cuddly photos and stories of them with Logan, or they burn their dad in favor of strengthening their position. Roman shrugs it off as “disgusting sh*t”, but just as the episode is about to end, Kendall orders Hugo to do it, or he’ll “pull out the strap-on” – aka, he’s blackmailing him over his daughter using insider information (Logan’s death before it was publicly announced) to sell her shares and make a lot of money.

Succession Season 4 Episode 4 review: 4/5

Succession reminds us all of its greatest accomplishment: managing to retain and intensify the suspense around the eventual successor, thanks to brilliantly discreet direction and flawless performances.

Succession Season 4 Episodes 1-4 are streaming on HBO and Sky now. Episode 5 will be available to watch on April 23 in the US and April 24 in the UK. Check out our other coverage below:

Season 4 cast | Season 4 release schedule | Season 4 runtimes | Is Succession based on a real family? | Who will succeed Logan Roy? | What time does Succession drop?

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