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alexander skarsgard_swede_succession_5.jpg

'Bleed the Swede' Goes Horribly Wrong on 'Succession'

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | April 25, 2023 |

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | April 25, 2023 |


alexander skarsgard_swede_succession_5.jpg

(spoilers for episode 5, season 4)

Designer shades. Jay-Z bumping from the chauffeured vehicle (“The Takeover,” appropriately enough). It’s official: Little Lord F*ckleroy is back, baby. He’s large and in charge, with no need of “additional manpower” on deck, even from those with many more years’ worth of experience. Kendall has realized his longtime dream of stepping into Daddy’s shoes for all of a day, but any trace of vulnerability and grief has been paved over by a veneer of bro-y cool he loves to put on—though that lingering glance at Logan’s former office belies his swagger. Grief is affecting both of the “CE-Bros,” though Roman is the more candid of the two when it comes to the spiral of bereavement. Logan’s presence (and lack thereof) can be felt every and anywhere over the course of this wobbling deal, though never more than when things go horribly wrong and billions of dollars are suddenly left on the line.

For the other Waystar players, it’s officially tryouts when Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård is in excellent form here) invites the whole team to join his crew at their annual retreat in Norway. Not only does it give Matsson a chance to run the negotiations close to home turf but it also allows GoJo to determine who on the Waystar team is worth bringing along with the acquisition and who’s going to get their throats cut. It’s yet another blood sacrifice, with the slaughter of a number of suits marking the rise of a new head honcho.

Were it not for Matsson’s literal obsession with blood, specifically using his own to psychologically torture his ex (and direct report, which, what the hell), it would be easy to root for him. It’s well-established that the kids are suffering from some serious Dunning-Kruger, but watching Roman and Kendall try to conduct the deal of a lifetime is like watching a toddler try to repair a Rolex. Sure, they’re trying to shake off the “Village Elders,” but it takes some real hubris to shrug off any of their offers of advice. They’re so obviously ill-prepared that the moment they say hello, Matsson can immediately smell blood in the water. It’s like watching a cat playfully swat at the world’s most overconfident gnat.

Kendall and Roman are knocked back on their heels even more when Matsson switches up the offer by demanding that ATN also be thrown into the pot for significantly more money. Roman is committed to keeping his father’s vision of retaining ATN and infusing it with the Pierce acquisition. Shiv, still operating as their sort-of-but-not-really silent partner, has zero qualms over eliminating it (“Yeah, well, let’s just keep one of his old sweaters. Less racist”). Kendall, on the other hand, wants to keep ATN and then some. He proposes tanking the deal, which is a massive violation of their fiduciary obligations. But the chance to essentially ‘upstage’ his dad by not only being a CEO but being an even better one (never mind how little bearing it has in reality) makes the proposal feel like mere corporate shenanigans. There’s also, of course, the enduring sense of birthright woven through the company ownership, which is why it doesn’t take much for Kendall to coax his baby brother to pivot.

There are numerous power struggles occurring throughout the entire Waystar crew as they deal with their European counterparts, such as Karolina sizing up Ebba (Eili Harboe), the GoJo comms point person and unwilling recipient of the aforementioned liters of Matsson’s blood. Tom’s plight is much more fraught, however, because with the deal shaken up now to include ATN, his relative safety (minus the metaphorical knife that Shiv’s brothers are wielding, of course) is now in peril. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring much professional cache to “the Vikings” beyond a tepid rejoinder on Sundar’s cargo pants. Greg, rat that he is, can sniff Tom’s weak position. With Sporus setting sights on other partners aside from Nero, his attempt to sidle up with the siblings to form the “Quad Squad” is met with less than enthusiasm. It does, however, provide us with Matsson’s hilarious, “There’s more of them!” outburst.

Matsson’s humor floats in and out, quickly supplanted by a sharp tongue when displeased, a feature that comes into clear focus once the fake congeniality begins to fall away and his and two brothers’ dislike of one another begins to make itself known (Matsson: “I don’t care what you think. You’re a tribute band”). Sensing the rift between the co-CEOs with their sister, Matsson gets Shiv alone to assess the status of the deal. Shiv, possibly for the first time ever, finds herself as the most important person in the room. She accepts his offer of cocaine (though is never seen taking any, almost certainly to soothe viewers concerned about her pregnancy) and sips her drink; she’s not simply an alternative Roy sibling, she’s the Roy whose expertise is now being sought out, never mind how rudimentary much of that counsel is (“Deniability is difficult, given she has so much of your blood”). It’s a development that, for the moment, serves Shiv well, though how steadfast his favor is has yet to be seen.

One thing that’s in short supply is Matsson’s patience and for good reason. Between the punishing 3-hour bad film and the planted stories, Kendall and Roman tilted their hand. Matsson can see the writing on the wall (“Are you Scooby-Dooing me here?”), a move that pushes him from testy to hostile. It’s bad enough that he refers to their now-dead father as a “prick” — despite the charge being 100% true, Roman’s love makes him refute it, poor soul—but once Matsson begins to hit below the belt (“I think he’d be embarrassed if he saw you two now”) it’s too much to bear; Roman unleashes to the point of referring to him as an, “inhuman f*cking dogman.” The brothers go straight from the frying pan and into the fire once a now-unhinged Roman outright confesses to tanking the deal. In any other world, dealing with any other businessman, Roman and Kendall would be facing mammoth penalties and immediately stripped of their titles.

Had they known that Matsson was the sort of man to repeatedly exsanguinate himself just to make a point, Roman and Kendall may have made different choices (but probably not). Because Matsson’s scorn and loathing make him do the world’s biggest zig when they were expecting a zag: Lukas Matsson ups his offer to a jaw-dropping $192 billion. An astounding amount of money, in fact, the ultimate “f*ck you” money. Because even though Matsson’s spent far beyond what he intended, he almost surely went to bed that day thinking that picture of Roman and Kendall looking completely lost was worth those literal billions. As groaning over the highly anticipated kill list commences—especially among the Waystar execs who are still many years away from retirement—Roman and Kendall now find themselves caught on a hook they can’t groan or squirm their way out of, only silently bleed.

Best Quotes:

Hugo: “We’re snakes on a plane.”

Greg: “Old Lady France? F*cking don’t f*cking bet against the old f*cking, uh…the-the baguette…the baguette might be mightier than the bagel.”

Greg: “The Roy Patrol. The Old Team. The f*cking…the…da family.”
Shiv: “Da f*ck?”

Shiv: “Uh, three-point PR plan just off the top of my head. Point one might be hard for you, but stop sending people your blood.”

Tom: “Your earlobes are thick and chewy. Yeah, like barnacle meat.”

Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t wishing she could also be “sick on vacation mania and free health care,” she can be found on Twitter here.