It’s fitting that the first power rankings of Succession’s final season involve an actual power struggle. The three youngest Roy children face off with their father in a high-stakes competition to purchase the Pierce family’s many holdings and correctly discern the true meaning of Nan Pierce’s many headaches, both minor and major. It’s an episode full of maneuvering among both the characters and abstract concepts like “time.” Sometimes, these rankings will reflect actual power plays within the episodes; sometimes, particularly interesting or insightful moments in said episodes; and sometimes, my capricious whims.
So, let’s see who came out on top in “The Munsters.”
Shiv Roy, professional edition
Sure, the Siblings Roy bested their father for once, but let’s be honest: The two biggest reasons they won are (1) Nan Pierce hates Logan and (2) Nan Pierce likes Shiv. She has since season two’s “Tern Haven,” when she attempted to corner Logan into naming Shiv his successor. As such, in this episode, Kendall and Roman largely cede the floor to their sister when it comes time to make the Pierce deal.
Plus, our favorite hippie turned capitalist has been getting some entreaties from the possibly-soon-to-be-victorious Jimenez campaign. (Whoever the newly mentioned Jimenez is, they seem to be the Democratic nominee for president.) And the idea the Siblings Roy abandoned in favor of purchasing Pierce was originally hers. Everything’s coming up Shiv!
Yet, if there’s one eternal truth about Shiv Roy, it’s that she tends to follow up huge victories with even bigger losses. Thus, her starting the final season of Succession on such a high seems guaranteed to end in disaster.
Kendall and Roman, bros for life
The obvious question to ask at the end of season three was: Just how long can the alliance among Kendall, Roman, and Shiv hold? We now have a partial answer. Despite considerable squabbling, this alliance has held for at least one more episode. They did it, everybody! The Roys have learned to love!
What’s most striking is how good Kendall is at making sure Roman feels emotionally cared for. He checks in on his baby brother’s feelings, he makes sure Roman feels listened to, and he withstands Roman’s insults with aloof good humor. (Watch Jeremy Strong’s performance when he’s not speaking, and you’ll see just how often he looks out for his other two siblings from the sidelines.) What’s more, both brothers are also there for Shiv when she’s clearly distressed at news that Tom might be dating Naomi Pierce, and when it becomes clear that she’s the person to make the final push for Pierce. Does Kendall press the point when it’s time to propose numbers? Yes. And does Roman restrain the worst of his sarcasm? Also yes. But mostly, they let Shiv do her thing. For maybe five seconds, this almost seems like a functional family unit.
Who wants some fancy new digital-journalism outlet when you can purchase an ancient newspaper publisher with a ton of institutional cachet and a cable news channel? And spite your legacy media–loving father in the process? Print media: an industry even Roman Roy can belatedly get excited about!
Greg, disgusting, but in kind of a saucy way?
Seemingly every character in “The Munsters” says “disgusting” at least once, in Jesse Armstrong’s latest example of how specific turns of phrase wind their way through this incestuous knot of wealth-engorged ticks, all sucking the blood of the same barely living creature. (See, the creature is the planet, and I’m going to stop this metaphor immediately.) Patients zero for “disgusting” seem to be Greg and Tom, a.k.a. the disgusting brothers.
Succession’s own Bert and Ernie are both technically single, and as such, they’re swapping stories and having a high old time. In Greg’s case, that means bringing Bridget, a woman he met on a dating app, to Logan’s birthday party. Yes, Bridget asks leading personal questions of the guests and gets a selfie with Logan. What’s most important in terms of these rankings, however, is that Greg has a seemingly mutually enjoyable sexual assignation with her.
Does “has a sexual encounter with his date” really merit coming in fourth on the power rankings? Maybe, if everybody else is having a down week, and Greg’s having fun! The scene where he’s trying to hype himself up to tell Logan he slept with a girl in the guest bedroom while Logan grows ever-more-fucking furious at the rapidly degenerating Pierce deal is probably the funniest of the episode. Point: Greg!
Tom, disgusting, but in a very sad way
You’d be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that Tom had figured out a way to walk a very thin tightrope between “keeping Logan happy” and “giving Shiv just enough information to let her plot her course.” After all, he tells Shiv about his meeting/date with Naomi Pierce, which snowballs into the Roy kids’ victorious Pierce bid, yet keeps just enough information to himself to preserve his place at Logan’s side. It’s a smooth move for old Wambsgans!
Alas, the maneuver seems mostly to have led to Tom being sadder than ever. Every so often, Matthew Macfadyen lets you see just how deeply Tom loved Shiv at one point. If the core idea of Succession is that money crowds out all room for anything like love or vulnerability, Tom is that idea’s walking, talking avatar, and the husk of his love for Shiv is its fullest expression.
So for the moment, Tom is riding high, even getting a cryptic reassurance from Logan that his position within ATN might possibly, sort of, kind of in a way remain the same if he and Shiv split up. Yet inside, he’s the saddest boy in the world. Aw!
Time. It’s weird!
Judging from the mirroring this episode does with the series’s pilot (a classic final-season-premiere move!), I guess we are to infer the events of the series took place over much less time than you’d think — at most, two or three years. That seemed wrong to me, until I realized it’s still technically March and not, like, May. Time is broken, on Succession and in my brain.
Nan Pierce’s headaches
God bless Cherry Jones for making a meal out of this woman playing the Roys off of each other by all but throwing herself down on a couch and declaring, “My word! I have a case of the vapors!”
Connor, Willa, and tasteful weddings
A sense of apocalyptic dread has come to hang over Succession. In “The Munsters,” perhaps surprisingly, that sense of impending doom hangs most heavily over Connor and Willa. Connor has sunk so much money into an election where he might win a single percentage point, which might get him a voice in the conversation. (What party is he running as in this wack-ass election? Press A for Libertarian, B for reform, C for the Conhead party, or D for all of the above.) He needs to inject himself into the news cycle, which means he wants to turn his and Willa’s wedding into a ridiculous clown show, held at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
It sounds like a typically silly Connor plot until you hear the desperation in Alan Ruck’s voice when he reveals just how terrified Connor is about having wasted so much money on the election, and the despair in Justine Lupe’s voice when Willa says that, actually, she kind of just wanted a nice wedding? The world is ending, and Connor and Willa just found out.
Death, the great equalizer
Technically, death should rule every power ranking ever written, but “The Munsters” is especially interested in death, with Logan musing at length over whether there’s anything after this life. (He doesn’t think so.) Even in the less death-haunted plots, characters are worried about legacy, about establishing their names, about building things that might outlast them.
Some of this is just normal final-season-premiere business. It’s really common for a show like this to begin its final year contemplating the ultimate end we all meet. (The Sopranos remains the very best to ever have pulled this trick.) And some of it is just mirroring a pilot that featured Logan nearly dying. Regardless, it’s all a little spooky and grim. I like it!
The Waystar board members
Forced to hang out at Logan’s birthday party until all hours, unable to come up with good jokes to save their lives, and flailing around when the Pierce deal falls apart, Gerri, Frank, and Karl serve as a kind of all-purpose council of fools, even as the episode deliberately robs them of the opportunity to tell actual jokes. It adds to the feel of a production of King Lear that’s both funnier and more horrible than you expected.
She’s the real power behind the scenes, even though only the Siblings Roy seem to realize this. She’s not a board member, so she possesses no actual power, but her soft power over Logan seems to have grown between seasons. Kerry is the only person on this list I anticipate rising precipitously throughout the season.
Logan has lost before. Famously, he could never quite close the deal on Pierce, and he got outmaneuvered by Gojo’s Lukas Matsson, and … actually, Logan loses a lot when his kids aren’t involved. Yet in “The Munsters,” his kids finally got one over on him, to the degree that he is the one who calls them on his birthday, instead of the reverse. (Truly functional family.)
Pay attention to the first half of this episode and see all of the little ways Logan’s unraveling is foreshadowed, right down to Tom telling Greg that Logan stays up late at night watching all his security camera footage … only for the episode to reveal that Logan stays up late at night watching ATN and calling poor Cyd to complain about what’s on his television.
Never count Logan out, I know. But he’s at a very low ebb this episode.
The global rise of fascism
We’ve got an election where the Democratic candidate is presumed to be ahead and the Republican candidate terrifies many as being (whisper) kinda fascist? (whisper). And we’ve got a potential third-party spoiler in Connor. And the episode brings it up enough times to remind you the election is imminent. I’m sure this will resolve in as normal a fashion as possible.
Shiv Roy, personal edition
Sarah Snook does this thing with her face where you see every single emotion Shiv has spent her entire life repressing dance through her eyes, and you can see her consider spilling her guts and then decide, no, she’s not going to do that today.
I don’t know how much Shiv ever loved Tom, nor how salvageable their marriage would have been if she had finally had a hard conversation with him. In that last scene of the two of them methodically talking through the dissolution of their marriage, Macfadyen plays a man who just wants to finally fucking talk about it, and Snook plays a woman who keeps edging up to saying something meaningful about her entire, ash-covered life, then simply refusing to do so.
Thus, Shiv’s greatest triumph is immediately followed by the end of her marriage and her dog no longer recognizing her scent. In a lesser show, this would be some “maybe women can’t have it all!” bullshit. On Succession, it’s very specifically, “No, Shiv Roy maybe could have had it all, if she’d just opened her mouth and said the thing for once.” But she didn’t. She can’t. She won’t. She never could.
Pour one out for what sounds like, truly, the worst website/app/interconnected online experience of all time. Substack meets MasterClass meets The Economist meets The New Yorker? Closing the rankings here so I can make sure this never becomes a reality.
More From This Series
- Memorialize the TV Finales Airing This Memorial Day
- ‘I Told My Assistant, “They’re Gonna Fire Me”’
- Kieran Culkin Takes on the Role of Investigative Journalist
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