Back when Succession first began winning awards and becoming HBO’s latest critical darling, I hesitated to start watching. Life is full of terrible rich people being terrible. Did I really want to watch an entire show dedicated to such a premise? Well here I am, watching season 4, and I am reminded why the answer to that question was a resounding yes. The season 4 premiere reminded me why Succession is my favorite drama about trashy rich people.
Spoilers ahead for the latest in the drama between Logan Roy and his children.
At its heart, Succession is ultimately a family drama about rich people, and how their dysfunction manifests in the fights over control of Waystar Royco. When we last saw the Roys, Logan had fended off his children’s’ unified front to prevent a sale to a tech billionaire, leaving them hanging out to dry. The season 4 premiere picks up a few months later, with Kendall, Shiv, and Roman planning to start their own new media venture while Logan is finalizing an acquisition of Pierce Global Media, a media rival that Logan has tried to buy out for years.
A blunder by Tom, who was seen out in public with Naomi Pierce, tips Shiv off that Logan is about to buy PGM, and so what do they do? They toss aside their buzzword slideshows about their own brand new thing and retreat to what’s comfortable in the Roy family: screwing over family to grab control of something easier.
Succession always revolves around the Roy family taking various sides in proxy wars over media companies as a substitute for the actual family issues causing said conflicts. It’s no surprise to see Kendall and Shiv so eagerly abandon The Hundred just at the possible chance to get back at their father, because that is ultimately their main goal. What’s funny is how they can barely even try to hide it. When Kendall tells Roman to put aside all the personal reasons motivating their sudden shift away from their original idea, what is the argument he eventually makes? That it would feel good to hurt Logan and take a dream away from him.
The bidding war between Logan and his children is deliciously intense and disgusting to watch. Seeing billions of dollars so casually tossed around with no real, honest goal beyond hurting each other is exactly the kind of trashy, out of touch melodrama that makes Succession so good to watch, but makes you also both hate and feel for everyone here.
Really, the deeper they fall into succeeding professionally, the more miserable they all are. Just look at Logan when this episode begins. Here he is, on his birthday, with all of his dreams on the verge of coming true, and I swear he has never looked more lethargic and miserable. It clearly bothers him deeply that his children will not even call him. It is not until he realizes his buyout of Pierce is at risk, and from his children, that we see the fiery, motivated man we know from Succession’s previous seasons. What finally breaks through to make him talk to his kids? When they snag Pierce from under him and he calls to insult them.
All this literally just because he would not call and talk to them, and they would not call and talk to him. Absolutely no one here is emotionally equipped to live a healthy, fulfilled life. They just try to consume everything in their path, in hopes that they will find that emotional contentment that eludes them.
And yet they are so divorced from the reality of everyday, average human emotion that they will likely never find the contentment they want. Logan’s best friend is now his security guard, who doesn’t actually care about the man, and certainly won’t after Logan reduces human beings to economic units. Shiv pretty much decides to burn what is left of her marriage as a bargaining tool with Nan Pierce. Roman, strangely, is the closest thing to a voice of reason here, and the only one with his own sense of ambition, but he can’t bring himself to fully speak out against his siblings.
Contrasting them against the Pierce family, who are all home and unified as they help destroy what is left of the Roys, was brilliant. We know the Pierce family has their own issues, but here they are, together in home and purpose as they both make a fortune off their enemies and turn them all fully against each other.
Despite all the anger and hurt between them, though, the Roys just cannot make the decisions that distance themselves from each other. The Hundred could have given Kendall, Shiv, and Roman something new, something that belongs to them, but Kendall and Shiv barely hesitate to go after Pierce because it is something familiar that brings them back into their comfort zone, directly in contact with their father. It is a toxic vortex of wealth and power and abusive influence that has seemingly ruined their lives beyond repair, even when dealing with people outside their family.
I mean, what do these kids know besides an established family brand? What do they know besides building upon existing money? They sounded clueless about creating their own new media venture because they were. They only know how to use what has already been provided to them.
The whole premise sounds so miserable, and on one level it is, but on another Succession remains incredibly funny. Part of it is that these are horrendously evil billionaires who bring this pain on themselves, but Succession also uses the outrageous excesses of the Roy family’s wealth to outstanding comedic effect. Whether it’s Greg’s “date” to the party, Connor wanting to turn his wedding into a massive PR event, or the many amazing one-liners peppering most scenes, I am so entertained by all these disgusting people.
For all intents and purposes, the Roys are no different from a family you would see on Maury Povich or Jerry Springer. They just have money and much better script writers.
I think it’s a good thing Succession is ending with this fourth season. As entertaining as the Roys are, you can only pit them against each other in so many ways before inevitable plot retreads and manufactured drama ruins things. Things seem generally beyond repair now. Kendall, Shiv, and Roman are not only firmly positioned and poisoned against their father, they have taken one of his lifelong dreams from him and positioned themselves as his biggest rivals. Previews suggest Logan’s other enemies will use those three to try and take Logan down as well. This feels like an endpoint.
I’ll just be over here hoping that Succession’s endpoint actually ruins these terrible people.
Images Courtesy of HBO
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