By Kaleena Rivera | TV | March 27, 2023 |
By Kaleena Rivera | TV | March 27, 2023 |
(spoilers for episode one, season four)
It’s with a sense of the poetic that the fourth season opener of Succession takes place much as the season one premiere did: with Logan Roy’s birthday party. There’s a mirrored symmetry happening, as the first episode, “Celebration,” sees the occasion marked with a quiet affair, surrounded primarily by his family. Although one would never describe Logan Roy as “cheery,” there’s a liveliness there, at least until his fate-altering stroke put an end to the festivities. One year later and Logan’s birthday is celebrated, not with any of his kids—save Connor, whose presence (in a move ripped straight out of the show) I completely forgot about until this writing—but with dozens of strangers. He’s listless, ready to snap at the next available target. It’s not until Greg, sycophant that he is, tries to play in one of Logan’s signature mind games that we finally see a spark of life return to him. Logan may think of himself as free from any desires outside of money, but without those “rats” of his, there’s a source of vitality (toxic as it is) that’s now cut off.
Getting Greg and Tom in the family separation isn’t much of a consolation prize, though only Tom has the minimal awareness required to suspect as much. The power Logan wields is so enthralling that it’s all too easy to forget that any sacrifice, your marriage, for instance, is only ever enough to keep you within Logan’s orbit at best. As we’ve seen with each of the kids time and time again, Logan’s affection lasts about as long as phases of the moon. Happily, it gave us that sensational scene with Tom taking the better part of a minute to stammer his way into asking about the status of his and Logan’s relationship should he and Shiv get a divorce (“What would happen were a marriage, such as mine, and, you know, even in fact mine, uh, if that were to falter to the point of failure?”), to which Logan’s characteristically noncommittal response is, “If we’re good, we’re good.”
At least Greg is a source of mild entertainment. The trade off for having a court jester in the House of Roy, however, is coping with his various screw ups. His date for the evening, Bridget (Francesca Root-Dodson), she of no last name (Kerry: “Is it Randomf*ck? Bridget Randomf*ck? Is she from the apps, Greg?”) being among those mistakes. But unless there was indeed some surveillance equipment in that sizable Burberry bag of hers, it’s unlikely she’s a corporate spy, though her casually tagging a member of the Pierce family on Instagram is indirectly responsible for setting off a multi-billion dollar bidding war. It’s best for everyone if Logan remains blissfully ignorant of that fact, however; better for him to have the awkward knowledge of Bridget and Greg’s mutual ‘pants rummaging.’
But Greg is the only person that comes close to making Logan smile, especially in that awful roasting scene (Logan: “Come on! Roast me!” Greg: “Where are your kids?”), which is only second to the diner scene with Colin in terms of awkwardness. Logan is known for putting his employees through the wringer, but emotional abuse may be preferable to being granted the absurd label of being your billionaire boss’s “best pal” (actor Scott Nicholson needs to be recognized for his perfect combination of discomfort and feigning polite interest). It brilliantly shows just how lonely Logan has become. Kerry, the closest thing he has to a genuine confidante, can see it exactly for what it is. Although there’s more than a little self-interest on her end, Kerry’s effort to have the kids call Logan is almost sweet.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned kids have spent the last three months working on making a name for themselves with The Hundred, a new media company/faux-highbrow content churner with a gobbledy-gook description (Kendall: “Substack meets Masterclass meets The Economist meets The New Yorker”). But the moment they find out their father has once again set his sights on acquiring the left-leaning Pierce Global Media, i.e. his petty brass ring, Kendall and Shiv jump at the chance to foil him, even if neither one will admit it. Incredibly, Roman is the only one with reservations. Rightfully so, since putting what sounds like all of their financial eggs in one basket sounds like the makings of a disaster.
Indeed, as we watch the kids attempt to haggle with Nan Pierce (whose pretend disgust by all the talk of money is just as gross as Logan’s “Who wants to smell Greg’s finger?” bit) it becomes increasingly obvious that the kids have no idea what they’re doing. Nothing has demonstrated their ineptitude thus far like casually bumping up their initial offer by several billion which, as Roman tries in vain to point out, is an extraordinary amount of money. Even after liquidating their five percent once the GoJo deal goes through—and we’ve seen enough major deals get tanked to know that even with 48 hours to go, there’s still plenty of time for it to go off the rails — $10 billion dollars is a terrifying stretch, and the casualness with which the Roy kids propose it is better suited for a game of Monopoly than a dollar amount greater than many countries’ GDPs. They may be under the belief that, at long last, they’ve beaten their father, the momentous occasion marked by one single scornful comment from Logan (“Congratulations on saying the biggest number, you f*cking morons”), but something tells me that they’re about to take a bath on this particular deal.
Out of the two camps, Tom and Shiv have spent the episode speaking to one another, operating as the mouthpieces for their respective sides, but it’s not until late in the evening that the two genuinely talk. It was a marriage doomed from the start (when a confession of infidelity comes on the same evening you exchanged wedding vows, how can it not?), but it makes things no less sad. Tom was always going to be broken-hearted despite the fact that part of Shiv’s appeal was her position in Waystar Royco, but it’s Shiv’s bitterness that elevates the misery. She may not have ever loved Tom, she’s even said as much on several occasions, but the thought of him sleeping with other people is intolerable. It’s utterly selfish and a perfectly human reaction. “Do you really want to get into a full accounting of all the pain in our marriage?” Tom asks. Rightfully so, despite his jaw-dropping betrayal last season, it doesn’t make it any easier hearing Shiv’s voice crack as she speaks.
For all the dark humor and outlandishness that Succession doles out, the emotional beats are heart-wrenchingly real. The vast majority of us will never mourn the potential loss of a “PJ,” but there’s more people in the Complicated Parental Relationship Club than not. So, too, is the marriage of Tom and Shiv, who, ambitions aside, were never right for one another, but can still lay on a bed while holding hands, mourning their brief time together (Shiv: “We gave it a go”). As the episode concludes with one final look in on Logan, whose persistent gloom obliges him to harrass ATN boss Cyd in the middle of the night from sheer boredom, it promises that despite each family member exchanging turns as the victor over the course of this saga, nothing but loss awaits them.
Kendall: “I’ve smoked horse-“
Roman: “He’s scared of needles. He’s not a real junkie.”
Kerry: “We’re not a f*cking Shake Shack, Greg.”
Tom: “Did you rummage to fruition?”
Greg: “I think it is best if you go do what you have to do. I don’t want to see what happens in Guantanamo.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor of Pajiba. When she isn’t wondering if the series didn’t just Poochie the hell out of Marcia, she can be found on Twitter here.