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The Roy siblings battle for influence and control over the fate of their father’s empire, Waystar RoyCo, as the stubborn patriarch refuses to step down or name a successor. In the fourth and final season, as the company prepares to be sold to a tech mogul, everything in their lives is up for grabs.
Multiple Emmy winners Brian Cox (patriarch Logan Roy), Jeremy Strong (second son Kendall), Kieran Culkin (third son Roman), Sarah Snook (only daughter Shiv), Alan Ruck (oldest son Connor), Matthew MacFadyen (son in law Tom), Nicholas Braun (cousin Greg), and J. Smith-Cameron (Corporate Counsel turned interim CEO Gerri). Look for the return of Alexander Skaarsgard (tech mogul Lukas Mattson).
If its successive Emmy wins for Best Drama are not enough of a draw, the inescapable media coverage and social conversations around Succession will draw you in to stay up on the weekly must-watch.
The show’s popularity might be mystifying to many, given that it lacks a protagonist to root for or even the seductive hotties, racy sex scenes, or bloody showdowns of other HBO hits.
To understand its outsized influence, you could look at the real life stories that have inspired the series, which explains the relevance of the show to so many in media, entertainment, and tech while providing some clues as to where the final season might take us.
But Succession works because there is much more to it than its ripped-from-the-headlines muses. The dialogue is piercing, the stories are full of suspense and surprise, and the characters — despite what they might appear on the surface — have some layers. You may not find any who are completely likable, but that just makes it easier to enjoy it when karma comes knocking, as it inevitably does. And the best part is, you’ll never see it coming.
The Quick Refresher
The setup of Succession is deliberately Shakespearian in scope. Brian Cox embodies the majestic presence of Logan Roy with vulgar intensity, the king whose throne is the coveted prize among his children. Logan has built a vast empire from the ground up and now presides with a tightened fist over Waystar RoyCo,, a multimedia conglomerate encompassing, among other things, cable news, feature films, publishing, websites, theme parks. and cruise ships (this last one became key in a second season scandal that haunts the empire). Logan is getting on in years and his physical and mental health are in decline, but being the megalomaniac he is, he struggles to admit his own mortality. He’d rather run the company himself forever than see any of his children take over. But he can’t, and the evidence of that becomes increasingly hard to ignore.
The main contenders for the crown are Logan’s three children from his second marriage (he’s currently on his third). There’s Kendall, a recovering addict who’s stood loyally by his father’s side—and in his shadow—for years. As the one with the most experience in the executive suite, he’s always assumed he was first in the line of succession. Until it becomes clear that he isn’t. His car accident in Season 2 made him guilty of manslaughter, but his father managed to cover it up.
There’s also Logan’s only daughter, Shiv, who was lured back into the fold from a successful career in left-leaning politics when her father dangled the prospect of leapfrogging over her older brothers. Then there’s dark horse, Roman (Culkin), Logan’s youngest son, who is desperate for his father’s approval but has to convince him that after years of not taking anything seriously, he’s finally willing to buckle down and do the work.
From his point of view, Logan is a victim of his own success. While he bootstrapped his way to the top, his children were born into a world of privilege. They may have inherited his ruthlessness, but they never had to struggle the way he did, and never built an empire from the ground up. They’ve had everything they’ve ever wanted handed to them, so it’s only natural the knives would come out when they all want the same thing: to lead the company.
Of course, they also had to grow up with an ice cold bully for a father. The short-tempered, take-no-prisoners attitude that served Logan well in business isn’t ideal for a stable and happy home life, and all the Roy heirs bear their scars in different ways.
Adding to the drama are the rest of the family—both literal and corporate—taking sides, working against them, or simply trying to not get sliced up in the fray. Like Connor (Ruck), Logan’s eldest son from a previous marriage, whose ambitions lie mostly outside the company, including a quixotic campaign for president. Connor actually had a comparatively normal upbringing before Logan made it big, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fair and balanced. He’s still a Roy, which means he has as little self awareness and as many daddy issues as the rest of them.
Probably the most entertaining and absurdly funny scenes in the series are those between Tom (Macfadyen), Shiv’s husband and an executive at RoyCo, and Greg (Braun), the grandson of Logan’s estranged brother, who comes to his great uncle for a job when he falls on hard times. Both of these guys are ambitious and opportunistic in their own ways, but there’s no denying they owe their positions to nepotism. Tom in particular feels insecure in his role within the family, and the more he tries to fit in the less they respect him. I don’t know who decided to keep throwing Macfadyen and Braun together, but whoever it was they deserve a raise, as every scene the two share is pure gold.
To jump into the fourth and final season, you might want to to catch up on what happened in Season 3. Or you could cram-watch it. Expect to have Season 4 episodes more or less spoiled across social media, news feeds, group text threads, or at your company’s water cooler. This is workplace drama, after all.
As the all powerful Roy family faces the same fears of obsolescence as the rest of us, Succession has ever been more relevant. The blurred lines, dramatic rifts, and tectonic shifts promise to reach a riveting crescendo in this final season.
This is a show you will want to watch with friends or co-workers, as there is much to discuss.