As a series, Succession has been a fascinating show to follow as it took shape. Throughout season one it became clear, this was a hard story with even harder characters, few of whom could really be called likable. However, the drama found its footing and after three seasons, the Roy’s still might not be all that likable, but it’s easier to understand and feel for them. As the fourth and final season prepares to drop on HBO this week, the moment is poignant. Will this complex drama bring things to an elegant conclusion? Let’s enjoy the ride.
It should be noted that I received a screener of Succession season 4, episode 1 for review considerations. So, this review is based off of that episode only.
As we rejoin Clan Roy, the drama from last season’s tumultuous finale hangs heavily in the air. Logan (Brian Cox) attempts to celebrate a birthday while orchestrating a smooth purchase of Pierce Global Media. However, his children’s absence is starkly apparent, leaving Tom (Matthew Macfayden) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) twisting in the wind.
Meanwhile, all is not quite right with the Roy siblings either, as each tries to not only hold onto their tenuous relationship, but also exercise their growing individualism. Shiv (Sarah Snook), in particular, struggles to find her place as the world she knows drops out from under her. The same can also be said for Roman (Kieran Culkin) as he struggles to make peace with all of the change they’ve seen.
From the beginning, the season manages the unlikely. It elevates Succession from an acting perspective. This series long ago established itself as a masterclass in performance. Since the first season, these actors made these characters – who often are the furthest thing from likable – pull audiences back for four seasons. This is soapy, dramatic, character-based viewing at its finest.
As the final season hits the airwaves, there’s an over-arching tragedy hanging in the air. While audiences have seen some painful humanity shine through in some of these characters, Tom and Greg in particular, the Roy’s are hard as nails. While they have feelings, they don’t show them. Feelings are a liability.
It seems, however, even the Roy’s are struggling with everything going on. There’s an unspoken but poignant pain hanging over this episode. The performances across the board are tradiitionally good. At the same time though, Snook and Cox reach new levels in their ability to bring power to the unspoken. This family might not be vocalizing their feelings just yet, but they’re not hiding them anymore.
This is at it’s most painfully apparent as Tom and Shiv broach the condition of their marriage in the premiere’s closing minutes. All of the cruelty, the iciness of Tom’s closeted vulnerability flies out the window. Things are broken in this marriage, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings for one another. The scene is a career-best for Snook in particular, who reaches levels we haven’t seen from Shiv thus far.
There’s a sense of finality in these unspoken moments as the drama speeds towards its finale in just ten short weeks. Despite all the drama of the three previous seasons, the divide within the family is as a big as it’s been. As the first episode comes to a close, it feels like a monumental undertaking to bring the fascinating, but decidedly complicated story, to a close. Let’s see where it goes from here!
Kimberly Pierce has been a podcaster and film critic for more than five years. Her passion for cinema started when she watched Singin’ in the Rain (the movie which remains her favorite) in middle school leading her to an eventual passion for film history.