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‘Succession’ Season 4 Premiere Recap: Many Happy Returns

The Roy family is back for a fourth and final season, and everyone came out swinging. Let the humiliations begin.

Season 4, Episode 1: ‘The Munsters’

Have you ever noticed that “Succession” is a show about deal-makers in which hardly any deals are ever completed? Every major acquisition or transfer of power always seems to be 48 hours away. Everyone always needs to iron out a few more details, get a few more stragglers from the board into the fold, toss in a few more sweeteners for the major shareholders, et cetera. How many times over the course of this series have the principals actually signed on the dotted line?

I can think of one: when Siobhan Roy (Sarah Snook) married Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen). And even then, Shiv blew up the deal on the couple’s wedding night by telling Tom she wanted an open marriage. Given a choice between no wife and barely a wife, Tom chose to stay in the mix, hoping Shiv might one day wake up and realize she had already found her true companion. But the string of humiliations over the past few years has not been easy for Tom. As Season 4 begins, the two are on the brink of divorce.

Yet even when it comes to dissolving a contract, these two cannot quite finish what they started.

Tom and Shiv are at the center of both halves of this lively and highly entertaining premiere of the show’s fourth and final season. After betraying his wife and allying with Logan Roy (Brian Cox), Tom is starting to realize that his father-in-law perhaps values him mainly as a way to keep tabs on his rebellious kids. Tom even broaches the subject of a Shiv-free future, asking (after a hilariously rambling prologue), “What would happen were a marriage such as mine, and even, in fact, mine, were to falter to the point of failure?”

Logan’s typically cryptic reply: “If we’re good, we’re good.”

The Tom half of this episode takes place in New York, at Logan’s birthday party, which for the guest of honor is a miserable occasion. (We know this night is going to be a bummer when Nicholas Britell’s typically mournful string cadence plays as Logan mingles.) He gets so fed up with all the cheerful “Munsters” scarfing up his food that he ducks out with his bodyguard and “best pal” Colin (Scott Nicholson), escaping to a diner where he grimly ruminates on how, if you really think about it, people are just economic units, and how once we die, our place in the market dies with us. “I think this is it,” he mutters. “Realistically.”

What eventually rouses Logan on this deeply depressing evening is what is happening across the country in Los Angeles, where Shiv, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are plotting revenge for the vicious way Logan blocked their recent coup attempt. These “new-gen Roys” are planning to launch “a high visibility, execution-dependent disrupter news brand” called The Hundred, with insights provided by the 100 top thinkers in all the major fields usually covered by the media — business, tech, food, politics and the like.

This all sounds great to Shiv — really, it does, she over-insists — until she gets a tip from Tom that in addition to Waystar’s impending megadeal with GoJo, Logan wants to land a big fish he has been salivating over for years: the left-leaning, Roy-hating Pierce Global Media, which Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones) is desperate to sell. Sure, The Hundred had potential investors lining up outside Roman’s fancy hillside house. Nevertheless, Shiv, Kendall and Roman still jet up to Nan’s palatial estate and vineyard, where they become the ones who have to line up and wait.

Shiv (center, with Jeremy Strong, left, and Kieran Culkin) hopes to convince the Pierce family that she and the other younger Roy children aren’t “fake fruit for display purposes only.” 

Shiv wants primarily to be taken seriously so that Nan will stop thinking of the Roy kids as “fake fruit for display purposes only.” The younger Roys know that they can offer Nan assurances about preserving the P.G.M. brand that Logan would never honor (despite Tom’s promise to the Pierces of “a little tummy-tickle on culture”). And they are pretty sure they can line up the financing after their dad’s GoJo deal goes through and they cash out of Waystar, netting about $2 to $3 billion. The real question is: Do they want this?

Kendall clearly does, because he is driven by a hunger to beat Logan. Shiv wants to do something big, which is probably not The Hundred. (I mean … it is The Hundred, not The Billions.) Roman, though, is skittish about going another round with their dad, having just been soundly whipped.

Roman eventually falls into line, and with as much fake enthusiasm as he can muster, gets ready to “talk to an old lady about newspapers.” But Nan is tricky. She insists there is no way to back out of her tentative deal with Logan and groans that she is tired of hearing about numbers, while sneakily steering her new suitors toward an offer well beyond the $7 billion Waystar was planning to spend. The kids settle on $10 billion, which turns out to be a “definitive,” conversation-ending bid.

Earlier, Logan’s children had gotten a call from his friend, assistant and adviser Kerry (Zoe Winters). (Who is also possibly his lover and the future mother of his child? Logan’s love life is another deal that never quite seems to close.) She suggested that maybe they could ring him up and wish him a happy birthday. Instead, Logan’s party ends with him demanding Tom call Shiv so he can growl at “the rats,” hissing, “Congratulations on saying the biggest number.”

This brings us back to Shiv and Tom. They end their busy day by meeting awkwardly in their New York apartment, where Shiv has popped by to pick up some outfits Tom thought she did not want. (“I don’t want to be restricted to my favorites,” she says, a tossed-off remark that says a lot about Shiv’s whole vibe.) They bicker a bit about how Tom and Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) have been tomcatting around, calling themselves “the Disgusting Brothers.” She suggests they “move on” from this marriage, to which he offers a Logan-esque, “uh-huh.”

Then they collapse next to each other on the bed and hold hands. They are not going to talk things out. They are not going to reconcile. They are not going to have sex. But neither of them wants to leave, so they are going to stay in the same space together a little while longer. Whatever is going to happen with them, they will figure it out tomorrow — or maybe never.

Due Diligence

– Cousin Greg comes in hot in the season premiere, bringing an un-vetted rando named Bridget (Francesca Root-Dodson) to his uncle’s birthday party. Bridget is “a firecracker” and “crunchy peanut butter,” who at one point sneaks off with him and has “a bit of a rummage” in his pants. She also posts pics from the party on social media, asks Logan for a selfie and carries what Tom describes as a “ludicrously capacious bag” that one would slide across the floor after a bank job. So when Colin indicates that he needs to eject her, Greg does not stop him. (“I don’t want to see what happens in Guantánamo,” he says. “Do your ways, and God be willing.”)

– Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) is in a funk all episode because he has been told he needs to spend another $100 million on his presidential campaign just to maintain his current 1 percent in the polls. So he asks his fiancée, Willa (Justine Lupe), if she would let him drum up some free publicity by having their wedding underneath the Statue of Liberty with “a brass band” and “bum fights.” (Y’know, hoopla and razzmatazz.)

– You may be thinking, “What about The Hundred?” This promising start-up may have just stopped, but we will always treasure the many ways its founders tried to define it. It is “like a private members club but for everyone.” It is “an indispensable bespoke information hub” with “high-calorie info-snacks.” It “has the ethos of a nonprofit but the path to crazy margins.” (Tag yourself! I’m “Substack meets Masterclass meets the Economist meets The New Yorker.”)

– Always remember: Logan is not being horrible. He is being fun.

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