Succession Recap: Getting Your Melancholy Everywhere


Honeymoon States
Season 4 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 5 stars


Honeymoon States
Season 4 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: David M. Russell/HBO/David M. Russell

In managing an ensemble as big as the one in Succession, with so many ruinous battles and bits of intrigue in every corner of a room, creator Jesse Armstrong and his writers often turn to simple, elegant devices to serve as a fulcrum for the drama. Last week, it was the drafting of the statement to announce Logan Roy’s death, which then became the opening salvo on who gains control over the company’s future: the plane people or the kids. This week, it’s a piece of paper discovered in Logan’s private safe. More specifically, it’s a piece of paper with Kendall Roy’s name on it as his preferred successor. The name is underlined in pencil for emphasis. Or maybe it’s crossed out. The document is an important expression of the founder’s wishes. Or maybe it’s totally irrelevant. It all entirely depends on the motives of whoever’s looking at it.

It’s absolutely delicious. Not even death can keep the old man from sadistically tormenting the people closest to him. They probably would have done just fine falling apart on their own, but the document gives Logan a presence in the room that seems unlikely to dissipate any time soon. Roman jokes that Colin — who wears jeans (!) and has a kid (!!) and mysteriously appears to have a life independent of serving the Roys (!!!) — looks like a dog without its master, but there sure are a lot of purebreds wandering listlessly around the Roys’ $63 million Manhattan home and barking at each other. Colin will move on to another job and go home to his family, but the plane people and the kids are stuck without a clear path forward and little to guide them but the vague, perhaps dated wishes of the despicable man who’s still dictating their lives.

The day after Logan’s death, the same sycophantic “happy birthday” crew that so enraged him in the first episode this season is solemnly whispering “sorry for your loss” while loading up their plates with canapés. However, the price of admission is a greeting from Marcia — the widow in black, which is to say, the black widow — who will either graciously accept your condolences or swallow your soul like a spirit from The Evil Dead. Connor is thrilled to come to terms on a spit-shake deal for the house, but the pleasantries Marcia offers his wife (“Congratulations. Look how far you’ve come.”) are about as savage as the show has ever gotten, and it’s perfectly TV-Y7. Yet the same business-related urgency that percolated under the grief in the last episode is present here because Waystar’s leadership crisis must be resolved, like having to swear in the new president after an assassination. And that involves jockeying on several fronts, not just between the plane people (Gerri, Karl, and Frank) and the kids, but within the two groups as well — the board could theoretically approve anyone. Rest assured, though, it’s only an interim position until the GoJo deal is finalized, which is definitely something that is going to happen because everyone really, really likes it.

The alliance between Kendall, Roman, and Shiv has held together through the spit and bubblegum of grief and a shared interest in keeping “the Keystone fucks” in Logan’s inner circle from wresting control of Waystar. Yet there’s a reminder early in “Honeymoon States” that there’s an election around the corner, and the three are not on the same page about Jeryd Mencken, the alt-right demon who could become president, which is something a conservative network like ATN would have to metabolize. Shiv still can’t abide his “smirky autocratic face,” but Kendall thinks it’s good business for them to “have a relationship.” So not only are they immediately off the same page on this crucial political moment, the idea that they could steer this creaky old legacy-media ship into some theoretically cool, hip 21st-century company seems unlikely. They’re still in the business of angering geriatrics and alienating them from their grandkids.

Before the business part of the episodes goes down, the wake turns into a quietly hilarious roast, as the august eulogies that Logan’s tabloids and political allies prepare for him are translated by the poor souls who actually knew the man. The kids may be on the verge of breaking apart, but they’re a great comedy team when poring over the obituaries: “A complicated man” (Kendall: “Threw phones at staff.”); “A sharp reader of the national mood” (Roman: “He’s a bit racist.”); “He was very much a man of his era.” (Kendall: “Again, racist. Also, relaxed about sexual assault.”) The three really get a big laugh out of “well-connected,” which they suggest is a euphemism for “pedophile” until Kendall quips that his father “wouldn’t even hug his grandkids.”

Around the edges of this affair, poor Tom labors to ingratiate himself to everyone in the inner circle. It’s Karl, of all people, who offers the most brutal assessment of his position: “You’re a clumsy interloper and no one trusts you. The only guy pulling for you is dead. And now you’re just married to the ex-boss’s daughter, and she doesn’t even like you. And you are fair and squarely fucked.” Tom gets rebuffed by nearly everyone he courts, like Roman, who calls him “Tightrope Tommy” for “riding his subtle cycle across Niagara Falls.” Yet Tom’s persistent refrain that he seeks to be “of service,” combined with a salesman’s relentlessness, may keep him afloat in the long term. In full Mr. Darcy mode, Matthew MacFadyen seizes on Shiv’s vulnerability to remind of a time, not so long ago, when they had something real together. His use of her full name, Siobhan, rather than Shiv, feels weighty, like he’s reverting back to the humility of courtship rather than the familiarity of a broken marriage.

The timing might work out for him, after all. In the frantic moments before the board is ready to meet about appointing an interim leader, Kendall returns to the piece of paper with his name on it and insists they use this opportunity to keep Waystar under family control. Roman believes it shouldn’t just be Kendall; Roman was closer to Logan and also co-COO. And so, in breathtakingly short order, Kendall and Roman steamroll Shiv into supporting them as a leadership duo that keeps her “on the inside,” which is a promise but certainly not a position. When she leaves the meeting where the board has approved the Kendall/Roman team, Shiv looks extremely unhappy, recognizing too late that she’s conceded power to siblings she has no reason to trust, despite their love for each other.

When Shiv takes a tumble down a stair, we’re reminded of the big revelation at the beginning of the episode: She’s pregnant. She rejects Tom’s gentlemanly effort to help her up, but how long will she be able to reject him? This child is a real product of their marriage — a seriously contentious issue at one time — and now she’s feeling alienated and pushed out of the company. That’s Wambsgans country!

Meanwhile, Kendall and Roman are the dogs who have caught the car. As Karolina ushers them into Daddy’s office — a sanctum so unfamiliar to them that they didn’t know he was into sudoku — they have to start making real, difficult, consequential decisions about the day-to-day and long-term operations of a massive media conglomerate. These “screwups and dipshits.” It’s like the famous final scene in The Graduate, where Dustin Hoffman breaks up Katharine Ross’s wedding to some square, and the two of them hop aboard a bus to leave the whole crazy scene behind. As they head toward their future together, the moment’s exhilaration starts to fade, and a troubling look passes on their faces: Now what?

Sad-Sack Wasp Traps

• Quipping about Kerri’s location, Roman speculates that she’s “in Marcia’s trunk, inside an anaconda, inside a sarcophagus,” but Marcia’s real-life treatment of her is no less gruesome. The humiliation of crudely stuffing a bag full of Kerri’s things and scooting her out the back like the trash is so bad that even Roman feels Marcia has gone too far — the same Roman who said some very unflattering things about Kerri’s muffled phone voice not long ago.

• Gerri also not buying tickets to the Tom redemption tour: “Oh, you’re sick with grief? You might want to put down that fish taco. You’re getting your melancholy everywhere.”

• The loaded talk from the plane people about losing the piece of paper is wonderfully ham-fisted: “What if your hand goes a little wobbly, and a draft takes it away, and it gets flushed down a toilet by mistake? I’m kidding.” “Of course, you’re speculating in a comic mode.” “In a humorous vein.”

• Tom also gets to pop off on Logan’s legacy when Ron Petkus (Stephen Root) turns up to pay homage. “A man of humility, grace, dignity …” (“… who died fishing his iPhone from a clogged toilet. The man lived on Wonder Bread and steak-frites. He hadn’t had a shit in 20 years.”) “He was a man without vanity.” (“He was a man who wasn’t wearing his compression socks so he could look hot for Kerri.”)

• Poor, stupid Hugo. His daughter happened to sell off Waystar stock before the market learned of Logan’s demise, and, well, he cannot recollect whether he might have talked to her on the phone. Jeremy Strong gets a lot of attention for his dramatic intensity, but his weary “Oooooh, Hugo” line reading is comically on point.

• A discussion of Logan’s art investment feels painfully true to a billion “assets” around the world. Roman: “He’s got like a shit-ton of investment impressionisms. Like three Gauguins no one has seen for tax reasons.” Frank: “I think his suggestion was it might be smart, tax-wise, just to leave them in the Geneva vault.” Shiv: “Fuck it. Why not just burn them for the insurance?”

• Lovely scene with Frank consoling Kendall. The two have been close for whatever reason, perhaps because they’re on the receiving end of the same wrath. “He was an old bastard, and he loved you,” says Frank. “He loved you.”

• Sandy Furness smiling in his wheelchair. “That’s just how his face looks these days,” his daughter explains.

• The Roy kids pause from their grief and scheming twice in this episode to make fun of the common people, first with the cracks about Colin and again with Willa’s mother, whose happiness over her daughter being among the rich is like Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas. “Does she know she can go back?” Shiv comments on her full plate. It’s distasteful to them to be around people who don’t know how to be rich.

• An absolutely killer ending with Kendall reversing course on how the communications team should spin their relationship. He looks again at a cell-phone photo of his name on his dad’s piece of paper — it’s definitely crossed out. He strong-arms Hugo to boost his ascendence by sliming his father in the media. Their war continues.

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Succession Recap: Getting Your Melancholy Everywhere