FIRST LOOK: Succession (Season 4)
NOTE: This is an account of my impressions concerning "Succession's" first episode (title: "The Munsters") of season 4.- WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
The opening of the ultimate season for HBO's, deservedly exalted, epic family saga Succession contains all the ingredients that made the show one of the most popular of the last decades, thus atoning for the viewership's long wait after the finale of the previous cycle and setting the stage for another titillating battle of wits between the members of the Roy family. The ever-shifting, fluctuating power dynamics between the Roys have etched on our retinas some of the most indelible moments in recent television history with the astute dialogue being the decisive factor that sets this show apart from the other generic family dramas. Succession's creator, Jesse Armstrong, has created a fascinating fictional universe within which the characters-players move like pawns on a chessboard, each aiming to either acquire or retain their sovereignty and influence over the rest. Veteran American actor Brian Cox plays the elderly patriarch Logan Roy, one of the most fully-fledged fictional personas in terms of character outlining, a despotic father who is frequently enjoying playing his children against one another using his immense life experience and cunning to create a divide-and-conquer situation which serves his main purpose, that is to remain the commander in chief in the family firm, Waystar Royco. Logan's apparent procrastination to announce his decision to retire and let one of his children to lead the business pervades the totality of the show from the first episode onwards.
Season 3 ended with a bang and the three siblings Kendall, Shiv, and Roman have now formed an alliance that firstr took shape in Tuscany a few months back. Togethere they are planning on launching a new project called "The Hundrend", a new media brand that will hopefully "redefine news for the 21st century". Shiv is reeling after her husband's, Tom, betrayal in the finale that robbed the Roy kids of the chance to permanently dethrone their father and the two of them are in a state of "trial separation" with the future of their relationship seeming bleak as it becomes evident in the exquisite phone call sequence where both actors, Sarah Snook and Matthew Macfadyen, deliver their lines in a highly detached manner whilst the underlying emotional tension is lurking behind their interaction and rises to the surface through the actors' employment of nuanced body language and colorful speech intonation. Kendall seems to be feeling a lot lighter than we're used to, and one plausible reason is that in Tuscany, he finally confessed his involvement in the death of the waiter a few years back, an event that marked his soul and led to disastrous consequences for his personal life, bolstering his drug addiction and accelerating his manic-depressive cycles. William Hughes writes in avclub.com: "Jeremy Strong is no longer playing Kendall as a man with a poison burning him from the inside out". It seems that the screenwriters finally resolved to offer some moments of respite to the tormented character, brilliantly performed by Strong in his best work thus far in his career..
The beginning of the fourth season's first episode mirrors the show's premiere as, once again, it's Logan's birthday and he holds a party in which a variety of celebrities crowd the vast space of the house, without however succeeding in elevating the patriarch mood's who seems to be deflated and morose, having only Tom on his side now as all his other children, except for the day-dreaming utopianist Connor, have teamed up against him. His solemnity can't be helped and not even the prospective selling of Waystar to GoJo and Lukas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgard) in the next 48 hours does anything to ameliorate his negative disposition. Furthermore, Logan has a plan to acquire Pierce Global Media, a rival conglomerate led by matriarch Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones), a move that will fulfil his obsession to crush Pierce's empire, a lifelong enemy. During the party, Logan "is fumbling, confused in the dark, barely in control of his own body" while he refers to his three children as "rats" during a discussion with Tom. The audience can easily understand that Logan misses his two sons and daughter, nevertheless he is less than willing to do anything that might be considered as a recession. When Kendall, Shiv and Rome decide to join the queue for the Pierce acquisition, another Roy Vs Roys confrontation will test the strength of familial bonds.
There are some surprises mainly having to do with the characters' behavior that seems to significantly switch especially in the cases of Roman and Greg. Blabbermouth and crude Roman is now the one who is more invested in the idea of "The Hundred" while his siblings are more eager to settle the score with their dad than becoming involved in a risky startup. He has actually put a great deal of work on the project and his arguments sound reasonable and well-thought, nothing like his usual ranting filled with sexual insinuations and veiled insults to everyone around him. Greg makes a faux pas in Logan's birthday party bringing alongside a woman whom she met online and embarrasses him every chance she gets. When she makes the mistake to ask Logan for a selfie, the old man dubs her "Bridget Randomfuck" in a thinly cloaked attempt to degrade her. Despite the above, Greg seems to be a little more self-assured and less self-conscious, more eager to solidify his agency among his eternal tormentors, namely Logan and Tom. These two diversities may be the first step in a fascinating character development in the next episodes and it would be interesting to see a reversal of roles both inside and around the Roy family. Greg even finds the courage to ask Logan where his children are only to receive the cynical response-question how his cocksucker grandpa is doing.
The bidding war between the 3 siblings and Logan regarding the Pierce acquisition is the main narrative engine of this first episode which "displays a nuanced portrayal of the passing of time and the way that jealousy, power, and betrayal affect how people move forward" according to Cidnya Silva. The siblings eventually win a pyrrhic victory, however the main point is in establishing the antagonistic tone of this new season that will mark the ending of one of the most majestic family sagas that ever appeared on our televisions. Cameron Frew writes that "the series is destined for the all-time pantheon, but it needs to go out on its own terms to earn such stature" and I couldn't agree more. I trust that Jesse Armstrong, who has explicitly stated that there will be no spin-offs of Succession, thus forever eradicating any hope for a revival, will provide a finale worthy of the show's precious qualities that are ever-present since its beginnings. There are many questions hanging loose: Will the children take their revenge over their father and oppressor or will we witness another failed coup that will leave Logan untarnished? Will Logan's legacy remain intact or will he suffer a massive fall? What will the future of certain -ambivalent- characters look like? For Kendall? For Tom? And above all: Is one of the kids going to blaze a trail and become a worthy adversary for Logan while also redeeming his siblings? Fasten your seatbelts tight and let your eyes, mind and soul wander alongside some of the most impeccably drawn characters in the recent television history.
Join the discussion