The fourth and final season of Succession kicks off with another asshole’s birthday party, albeit a much stiffer affair than Kendall’s 40th with its “all bangers” playlist, its full-scale replica of his childhood treehouse, and its entryway modeled after Lady Caroline’s birth canal. By contrast, Logan’s birthday is a staid, old-money, legacy-media-style soirée so exclusive to his inner circle and strategic guest list that the appearance of Cousin Greg’s “plus one” and her giant handbag constitutes a scandal. Yet the two parties are connected, because the birthday boy is utterly, inconsolably miserable — the occasion failing to mask his loneliness and the howling abyss at the center of his life. No one he cares about is present — and though cares is an endlessly complicated term to describe how anyone in the Roy family feels about one another, it still applies. He’s lost the people he loves, his children, who are also the moronic playthings that he likes to bat around.
This first episode doesn’t specify precisely where we are in time, but it’s soon enough after the end of last season that the deal between Waystar and GoJo — a kind of doomed 21st-century version of AOL gobbling up Time Warner — hasn’t been consummated. The deal will finally be official in two days, which opens up some wiggle room for chicanery, especially with daddy and the kids fighting again. In the space between seasons, the alliance between Kendall, Shiv, and Roman has held stable like planets orbiting the gravitational resentment of their father. As Logan approaches his marriage to GoJo, they focus on the billions they stand to inherit from the deal and the possibilities of striking out on their own. They consider themselves young and hip, and if Logan was never going to let them lead his lumbering dinosaur of a company into the future, then by God, they’ll do it themselves.
Their proposed venture, called the Hundred, is exquisitely inane — an assortment of buzzwords and reference points posing as a new-media company. Here are the various ways it’s described to investors: “Substack meets MasterClass meets The Economist meets The New Yorker.” “It’s an indispensable, bespoke media hub.” “Greatest writers. Top minds in every field from Israel-Palestine to A.I. to Michelin restaurants. One-stop info shop, high-calorie info snacks.” At best, the Hundred sounds like a warmed-over, start-up version of Vaulter, the hip company Kendall brought into Waystar at an extravagant fee only to have his father force him to kill it like Old Yeller. Now Kendall would theoretically have the power to give himself all the runway he wants to set the greatest minds to work on high-calorie info snacks, but the Roy children are too distractible to build their own Vaulter from the ground up.
True to form, they immediately find another shiny thing to run after. Word is circulating that Pierce, the respected media company that has been Logan’s white whale for years, is up on the auction block again, and the kids will have enough money between them, post-GoJo deal, to put in a serious bid. The opportunity is too delicious to pass up, especially after Logan humiliated them in their efforts to stop the sale. Kendall and Shiv can’t get away from the Hundred fast enough, though Shiv’s proposal that they do both leaves Roman in the uncharacteristic position of being the adult in the room: “Let’s launch a high-visibility, execution-dependent disruptor news brand while simultaneously performing CPR on a fucking corpse of a legacy-media conglomerate.” But Roman’s relative caution in approaching a Pierce acquisition speaks to an ongoing fear of his father. Defiance doesn’t come easily for him. He’s forever angling for approval.
One of the major themes of “The Munsters” is how little money matters to people with endless amounts of it. The greatest indulgence money buys them is the freedom to turn their lives into a thrilling psychodrama, to make themselves part of “the conversation.” At Logan’s party, the forgotten Roy child, Connor, talks to Greg and his date, Bridget, about his prospects in the upcoming election and how his current share of the electorate, one percent, could get “squeezed” if he doesn’t get aggressive. (A confused Greg asks the obvious question: “Squeezed down? From one? That’s the lowest number.”) To hang on to his precious percent, Connor figures he needs to spend another $100 million and perhaps reconceive his upcoming wedding to Willa as a “razzmatazz”-filled media event. To him, nine figures is a small price for a sliver of national relevance.
Over at the Pierces’ tastefully appointed estate, money isn’t much of an object for the Roy kids as they work to outmaneuver their father. As with the “Tern Haven” episode in the second season, when the Roys spent an awkward weekend with the Pierces, the show delights in exposing the high-toned hypocrisies of a “liberal” billionaire living high on the hog. Nan Pierce fakes a migraine and considers every multibillion-dollar offer for her company too vulgar to even discuss, but her resistance to Logan over the years has always seemed more personal than ideological. Shiv’s assurances that the Roy children will not mess with the Pierce brand are all well and good, but she wants the best deal for her shareholders and her family. Put simply, she’s going to accept the highest bid.
The negotiations turn into a bidding war between Logan and the children, though even Logan seems to have enough business sense to keep himself from overbidding. When the kids eventually get the victory, it costs them $10 billion, because they don’t want to “nickel and dime it” by bidding, say, half a billion dollars less. “Congratulations on saying the biggest number, you fucking morons” is all dad can say after the negotiations are over, and it’s hard to know whether he’s mocking them for overpaying or steaming about losing the company he’d always dreamed about gutting. These are games all of them can afford to play, and their billions put them in the same arena regardless of whether they’re on speaking terms.
Of course, money continues not to buy happiness. In a devastating scene near the end of the episode, Tom and Shiv reconvene in their penthouse for the first time since, presumably, agreeing to a trial separation in the wake of Tom’s stunning betrayal last season. Tom wants to talk. Shiv doesn’t. And that’s perhaps the fundamental difference between them: The Wambsgans-Roy partnership may seem like a wedding of convenience for a go-getting executive type like Tom, but of the two of them, he seems to have understood their relationship as a real marriage. “Do you want to talk?” he asks. “Because there are things I wouldn’t mind saying and explaining.” Shiv shares some of his sadness — they clasp hands wistfully at the end of the scene — but not the same desire and facility for real intimacy. Her father talks earlier in the episode about human interaction as “markets,” and she inherits his thinking. She’s selling her shares in the marriage market.
Sad-Sack Wasp Traps
• Logan muttering “Jesus fucking Christ” to himself while walking away dejectedly from “Happy Birthday to You” recalls The Simpsons episode where Smithers arranges the entire country of Australia to come together to spell “Monty Burns” in candlelight but can’t get the old man to turn his head slightly to see it.
• Logan’s “friend, assistant, and adviser,” Kerry, looks to have a bigger role this season. She fits right in, given how she uses the abuse she gets on one end (Roman: “We would hear you better if you took dad’s cock out of your mouth”) and passes it down the food chain, which here means castigating Greg for bringing “Bridget Randomfuck” to the birthday party.
• More Kendall pitch nonsense on the Hundred: “We have the ethos of a nonprofit but a path to crazy margins.”
• Tom will not stop fucking with Greg, even if they’re now calling themselves “The Disgusting Brothers” for their sexual exploits. Tom tricks Greg into thinking the CCTV in Logan’s house means he’s inadvertently made a sex tape out of his guest-room tryst at the party. But even his rant on Bridget’s bag goes for the jugular: “What’s even in there? Flat shoes for the subway? Her lunch pail? I mean, Greg, it’s monstrous. It’s gargantuan. You could take it camping. You could slide it across the floor after a bank job.”
• Connor, the wedding planner: “What if we got married underneath the Statue of Liberty with a brass band? Get a rapper. I don’t know. Jet packs and confetti guns and razor wire and bum fights and, you know, goodie bags and hoopla and razzmatazz.”
• You never know exactly which Succession lines will get quoted and memed in the future, but “had a bit of a rummage” is a pretty useful sex euphemism.
• Logan asking to be roasted echoes the “boar on the floor” scene when he’s sadistically toying with underlings for sport. Greg doesn’t have a joke for him, so he simply stabs him right in the heart: “Where’re your kids? Where are all your kids, Uncle Logan? On your big birthday?”
• The last scene reduces Logan to a common type: A miserable old man watching Fox (er … ATN) News. The only difference between him and some unloved crank in The Villages is that he can vent directly to the network when he doesn’t like what he sees. And, in two days, when GoJo takes over, he may not even be able to do that.
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