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daddy issues

What can we expect from the final season of Succession?

We take a look at what we can learn from the first episode.

IT’S ALWAYS BETTER to end a good TV series before the audience gets tired of it.

The Sopranos is held in such esteem partly because it ended on a high after six seasons – and gave fans a divisive ending to chew over. Lost, meanwhile, is famed for its unsatisfying and drawn-out ending. More recently, Fleabag showed that two seasons is just enough to explore a character’s story, without overstaying the huge welcome.

So it’s somewhat a relief – no matter how much you adore it – to know that Succession (which debuted in 2018) has just started its final season. While it aired in the US last night, it will air at 9pm on Sky Atlantic tonight for us. Some fans will already have streamed it on Now TV, where it’s been online since 2am (simultaneously airing with the US).

The critically acclaimed and much-loved satire, created by Peep Show creator Jesse Armstrong and with heavyweights like Adam McKay and Will Ferrell executive producing, has always cast a cold and wry eye over the world of the ultra-rich in the US.

For the uninitiated, it focuses on the Roy family, a media dynasty not too dissimilar to the likes of the Murdochs or Maxwells, headed by conniving and cantankerous father Logan (Brian Cox). Despite growing up in relative poverty in Scotland, Logan’s blossomed to become a self-absorbed billionaire despot, devoid of any semblance of real emotion besides anger and contempt.

So it’s not a surprise that Roy has sired four children who sup from the same self-absorbed waters, but who run the gamut when it comes to intelligence and nous. (It’s really brought home when you meet four of the children’s anti-maternal mother, played by Harriet Walter.)

Across the three previous seasons, we’ve watched his daughter Shiv (played by Sarah Snook) – his favourite – attempt to one-up her siblings and use her dad’s favour to position herself as next in line to run the family company, media and entertainment behemoth Waystar RoyCo. She’s the most capable of the gang, but she’s also most likely to sell someone out to get what she wants.

Her eldest brother, Connor (Alan Ruck), is a dimwit with the self confidence of a genius, who by the end of the third season has decided to run for US President.

Another brother, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), believes the world revolves around him and his outlandish ideas. His fragile sense of self motivates him to try and seize power when he can, with usually disastrous results.

And baby brother Roman (Kieran Culkin) might have a grand name but he has the self-esteem of a newt, constantly self-aggrandising and indulging in adolescent sexual behaviour as a way of manipulating others.

Then there’s Tom Wambsgan (Matthew Mcfadyen), in a marriage-slash-arrangement with Shiv, who is told on his honeymoon that his new wife desires an open marriage. While he’s simpering to Logan and Shiv in order to be awarded some of the Roy bounty, he takes out his manipulative side on Roy relation Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), in a masochistic pairing where Tom holds his boot on Greg’s neck.

But while Greg may give off an air of simplicity, inside he is as power-hungry as his relatives. 

Around these main characters is a coterie of Logan Roy’s advisors and confidantes, who fear as much as support him, and who are willing to allow his children be used as pawns in his business dealings.

Where there’s love in Succession, it’s love for power and money, rather than real, human love. The finale of season 3 saw the biggest display of genuine emotion when Kendall broke down to his siblings, confessing his role in an accidental death, and talking about being lonely. But even that incident saw any real emotion – on both sides – being shortlived. 

The third season ended on a cliffhanger that saw Logan push out his children as he began to set the wheels in motion for Waystar RoyCo to merge with the company GoJo (run by tech billionaire Lukas Matsson, played by Alexander Skarsgaard). Roy pulled the rug from under his kids, as the move would mean they would get nothing from the merger. To make things even worse, they were betrayed by their mother and by Tom in the process. 

Logan even told his children during the dénouement in an Italian villa: “I have you beat, you morons!” Quite the parenting style. 

The thing about Logan Roy is that he’s heavily motivated by playing games. He likes to dangle shiny prizes on strings in front of his hapless children, which they mistake for proof of his love. Then he wrenches them away in order to make them grovel. 

What can we expect from season 4?

TV Promos / YouTube

This final season opens with the Roy kids attempting to wrest any sort of control out of the disastrous situation. No amount of private aircraft, helicopter jaunts, fancy NYC apartments or drugs can make up for the fact their dad has beat them at the family game of chess. Now they have to figure out how to beat him back.

We had a sneak peek of the first episode of Season 4 (‘The Munsters’) before it aired, and though we won’t spoil any plot points, we can say that Succession fans will find all that they love about the series still intact – with some elements ramped up to a delicious degree.

It’s as pitch-black as you’d hope, and even though some of the plot points feel familiar, knowing there’s a conclusion to come helps them feel less drawn out.

The whip-smart pitter-patter between Greg and Tom is delightfully amped up, with some of the best lines coming out of Mcfadyen’s mealy mouth. And while Greg seems to be on the back foot as a result, he’s also showing that he hasn’t lost his ability to use naivety as a cover for sneakiness (he brings a guest to an event who provides for some of the episode’s funniest moments).

Connor continues down the road of delusion, with his desperate attempts to find power and positivity where there is none just underscoring his mortifying wimpiness.

Shiv, Roman and Kendall spend much of the episode together, but we see how Shiv’s personal life is – a little unusually, for someone who’s on the icy side of cold – affecting her. It’s a bit unsettling to see the siblings showing some unity, but it’s unlikely any harmony will last very long. Let’s just say that their conversations are mostly made up of wordy grenades lobbed at each other.

And Logan Roy is… Logan Roy, but perhaps an even worse version of himself now that he’s bested his kids. As regular viewers know, any happiness that the Roys achieve from outsmarting (or out-stupiding) each other is always shortlived. Even though Logan has made his children suffer, his joy was temporary. He’s on to the next power battle.

There are set to be many rollercoasters to come over this season’s arc. That’s not least because though Succession features a lot of talk about deals and acquisitions, these are generally drawn out affairs that don’t always come to fruition. 

We’ve watched numerous situations like the one which opens Season 4 unspool during previous seasons, and watched as no real conclusion was found. That could be frustrating at times, but now that we know there will have to be a conclusion to the series, we can hope for some rounding up of the problems that have plagued the Roys.

But Succession being Succession, we’d be wrong to expect a neatly concluded season, all tied up with a velvet bow. Expect the unexpected as the Roy vs Roy battle continues in the glitzy gladiatorial ring reserved for the ultra rich. No one is safe from being pushed out, pushed over or pushed to the brink.

Even more excitingly, we also know from the promos for this season that some old faces will be returning, each bringing their own brand of chaos with them. What could Shiv’s old flame, political fixer Nat Sofrelli, be helping her with? Will we see them rekindle their affair? And will she and Tom have as nasty a divorce as their marriage?

Also returning is the Trumpian (or worse than Trumpian) proud boy political candidate Jeryd Mencken. He has a certain energy with Roman, which we might see leading to more romance than Roman achieved with his father’s legal advisor Gerri. But we also know that Mencken is able to look sweet while saying appalling things, so allying with him might not be the smartest move.

As Logan Roy faces the end of his time with his company, he also has to contemplate the fact he’s into his final years. His waning mortality has been an undercurrent throughout all the seasons (it’s called Succession, after all), and one question is whether this season ends with him in as bad a place health-wise as he was in the first season, kicking off even more desperate behaviour from his children. 

Regardless of his health, though, Roy won’t let go of Waystar RoyCo without a bloody battle. Across the next nine episodes, there are bound to be many low blows in these dirty fights – just how us Succession fans like it.  

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