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A Dissection of 'Succession' Season 4 feat. The Nicks

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

BFB writers Nick O. and Nick Z. hopped on Zoom to discuss the final season of Succession. The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.


Spoilers for seasons 1-4 of Succession ahead.


So, About Season 4


Nick Z: So what are your overall thoughts on the season? What did you think?


Nick O: I thought it was very good. From the first three seasons, I thought it was already one of the best series of the 21st century. The writers didn’t succumb to pleasing the fans in terms of the ending, and I thought that was a good thing because many other series tend to mess up their finales trying to overthink or please a particular group of people.


NZ: I agree. I felt like from the very first season they knew, “This is what we’re going to tell our story about, here’s literally what it’s about, here’s thematically what it’s about, and we’re going to stick to that and we’re not gonna let popular opinion dissuade us from telling the story we want to tell.” You definitely don’t see that as much these days. I also think the decision to stop it after four seasons, which apparently the cast didn’t realize until they’d stopped filming, shows real intention, that they didn’t want to drag it out or try to make more money off it.


NO: They went out when the ovation was loudest. Many other shows would try to draw out a fifth or sixth season with the whole Tom and Shiv thing, or with the Mattson acquisition, or with the Mencken presidency.


NZ: Yeah. This is also a show where not a lot is explained to you, especially as far as backstories go, all the trauma the show sort of hints at, and even with actual events like the election. After it happens, we still don’t really quite know the outcome and it’s just left to dangle, and I feel like the show does that a lot. What did you think of that approach to things?

NO: I think it’s like The Sopranos, that cut to black. It helps the conversation. Two years, three years, five years, ten years, people still will be discussing the events after Succession, whether Kendall took the suicide route, whether Mencken really did win. It’s going to let the conversation flow, and I think that was good of the writers to end it on their own note while still leaving room for fans’ interpretation. I did think they left just a little bit too much open – if you look back at the whole season, there are lots of subplots that were just dropped along the way, and you don’t remember that they existed. I thought “maybe they’ll come back to this” but they never really did. Like the cruises thing, I thought, “Okay, Greg has this upper hand, those documents he didn’t shred.” That was one of my few disappointments. I thought that one could have been crucial but they left that on the side.


Dangling Plot Threads


NZ: I remember watching season three where the whole “Tom going to jail” thing just goes away. And part of me loves this show so much and is so obsessed with this show that in the moment I’m very much willing to forgive the dropping of plot threads and them not following up on certain things. I’ll be like “Oh, that’s not really that important.” I think to an extent that’s true, for example, with the waiter. That never really comes out. They use it against Kendall in that last episode, but he’s never really gonna face the consequences of that, and it becomes more for character development and building themes. But looking back, I will say the show does sometimes act willy-nilly, and if it doesn’t think something is important anymore it’ll just drop it. Do you remember how Roman had a wife and kid in the first episode?


NO: Now that you mention Roman, the whole Japanese explosion beat just happened and was pushed under the bridge. The rest of the family didn’t even know about it, just Roman and Gerri and probably Shiv.

NZ: Yeah. I think that the ending, like The Sopranos, was a little anticlimactic, but not in a bad way. I feel like the show, throughout its run, has peppered in bits of that. You thought cruises was gonna be something and it just disappears. You thought the waiter was gonna be something, same thing. The show likes to lean into that, and so I think the ending was very much in line with the show. I don’t know if you saw that quote that was like “When the show starts, you’re just dropped into these characters’ lives, and when it ends you’re leaving them at that point, and we just saw them in this brief period of their lives and that’s it.”


NO: I didn’t really like that about the show, but I was still high on the ecstasy of the finale, and then later I started to think “Oh. There are a lot of things that were just ended so abruptly.” Maybe, just maybe, they could have drawn out another season, but I was just impressed by the fact that they didn’t succumb to the pressure of an extra season or two. I like that the writers can just stop where they want to, but I still feel like they could have drawn out one more season just to give conclusion to these characters. There are a lot of things that are still in the open.


NZ: I think also, with every season…the first season, Kendall’s trying to get control of the company from his dad, the second season ends again with him betraying his dad, the third season ends again with them trying to betray their dad, and this season again they’re trying to get control of the company. I feel like there’s this cyclical nature the siblings find themselves caught up in, and the show is about generational trauma, cycles of abuse and whether or not you can escape them. Had they done a fifth season, I would have loved to spend more time with these characters, see their dynamics, their jokes…it would have been really fun seeing Connor up to whatever bullshit in Slovenia, and also just getting to see more of Mencken and more of the other side characters who are so well done, but I think it would have definitely have also felt, like you said, just spinning their wheels a little. Just kind of the same formula - I don’t think the show is formulaic, but it would have been just another cycle.

NO: Yeah. And I thought, the finale was the first time we really had the three siblings bonding. It was a very good finale, a good one-and-a-half hours, but I thought we could have had a little bit more of that because, like you said, we are just getting to know more about their origins, their backstories, and the show could have expanded or talked more about that in another ten episodes maybe.

NZ: Yeah, and now that I think back on it, I feel like every season finale we get a small bit of the kids having a good time together. Like in the first season, at her wedding, they're all hanging out at the boat. And then when they're on the yacht in the second season, they have a few jokes between them. And then season three, obviously, they team up and then here in season four in the kitchen. But no matter what, it still comes tumbling down because the way they've been raised has been in competition and always looking for their father's approval, and no one can have what the other can't.


Shiv the Shiv

NO: And speaking of the father's approval, you know the Twitter discourse about the motive behind Shiv's decisive actions?

NZ: For me it's a mixture of things. I don't think it's any one thing, but I think the biggest thing was that as the girl of the family she could not stand seeing him get what she so desperately wanted because she was promised it in season two, and then almost immediately her dad starts messing with her and taking it away from her. And so she's grown up knowing, “Oh, it could never be me because I'm the woman.” And then finally when she has a chance to have some kind of say in the matter, now that Logan's gone, she just can't give it to her brother. Even if he's technically the most competent, I feel like she just cannot stand him having it, and if she can't have it, no one can. And she gets to be with Tom, so as long as she's with Tom, she's the closest to it and that's the best thing she can hope for.

NO: I saw a couple of people trying to spin it around, saying Shiv was trying to protect Kendall, trying to save him from himself and I was like, “What's this bullshit?” That was obvious envy and jealousy, nothing more than that. And there were a lot of people trying to spin, trying to say Shiv saw that Kendall was going to turn into Logan or was going to ruin the company. There was no way she did that. Even Roman had some kind of eleventh hour breakdown in the office there. At least Roman opened up before the board meeting. You know that scene when Kendall sat on the chair in their father's office? Yeah, okay, it's just a chair, but you could see it in their facial expressions that it wasn't just a chair. Despite all their crowning him king the night before, they still weren't convinced that it should be him and not them. I mean, they would've accepted anybody else, but just not Kendall. So I don't agree with anything else but jealousy. Any other thematic interpretation I just discarded.


Roman’s Fate

NZ: What did you think about the scene where Roman and Kendall are in the office and Roman asks, “Oh, why couldn't it be me?” And then Kendall hugs him to break his stitches up. What are your thoughts on that scene?

NO: I thought it was Kendall being selfish, but at the same time it was Roman knowing why Kendall was being selfish. It was like Stockholm syndrome. Roman knew what Kendall was doing, trying to get his eye all bloodied up. So Kendall said Roman knows he didn't want it and it was obvious. I think everybody who watched the show should know that Roman knew he couldn't do it. He just tries to make himself believe he could do this, but he knew deep down that he couldn't do it. So he just wanted…when you're looking for something to stop you…that was it there. That's why he accepted Kendall peeling off his eyes, because if this is what would stop me, let it just be. That was what I thought about that. What did you say?

NZ: I agree. I wouldn't say Kendall was setting him free because I don't think Kendall is that selfless. But I think Roman was definitely looking for some kind of permission to be absolved of the responsibility and in a way that doesn't look like he's just stepping down. What did you think of that final shot of him in the bar where he has that little smile to himself? How'd you read that?

NO: Oh, I don't know. I think it was just the taste of freedom. He was a waffler throughout the show. Today he is with their father, tomorrow is back with his siblings. The next day he's texting with their father again. I think he was just happy to have those mental gymnastics off his shoulders. I just think that was it. If I was one of the siblings, I always said I would just take the money and run. He finally came to that conclusion. I feel that's what he was smiling about…Roman, he wasn't really in the whole…when he came in the first episode, the way it was portrayed is like he had been away for a while away from the business. I think he was there before running, what was he running, television or something?

NZ: Yeah, in Los Angeles or something.

NO: Yeah. And then he messed it up and left the company and then came back when the season started. So he seems like someone who is happy to be away, but just doesn't want his father's disappointment. “Why are you not in the company? You should be like Kendall.” Kendall being in the company makes him feel less of their father. Why is Kendall taken after our father and why am I not? So I feel he was doing something he didn't want to, just seeking their father's approval. And so he was glad that was all behind him. I believe that was what the shots tried to depict.


Tomlette Takes Top Spot

NZ: Yeah. What did you think of Tom being the CEO? How did you feel about that in the moment and in the general scope of the show?

NO: I think it's very funny because it was built up really well. From the first season it was always this guy who’d wash and kiss anybody's feet. They portrayed him well as that servant. He even said it, “Ready to serve.” He kept shouting, “Ready to serve! Ready to serve! Available to serve!” He sold himself, marketed himself up. But ironically, I thought in that final episode, I thought it was too easy. I wasn't really convinced by Mattson’s sudden change of heart to turn. I thought the writers could have made it a bit more convincing. He said he wanted the guy who would put a baby in Shiv and all that…I didn't really buy it, I'm not going to lie to you.


But, in the buildup, yeah, I got how he got there. But just the final arrow, the final strike, the final decision was just like, “Oh, so this is how these people are going to go about it after building him up as an elite strategist and then he just gets a favor, he passed. It was a bit too easy, but I think that was a defeating end to it anyway. Although, I still don't find that Tom is that kind of CEO individual…he doesn't have it in him.

NZ: No, I kind of agree. Him becoming CEO felt just like another domino falling. Sure, he was like, “Yeah, I'll serve, and I'm here to do what I'm told,” and that's what gets him the job. But there are so many other things that have to fall into place for him to get there. And it feels like him getting the job is just sort of a natural outcome of what's happened. So yeah, I agree. It does feel a little easy, for sure. And yeah, he definitely does not have…he's not Logan, he doesn't have the juice or anything. I also think that's kind of what Matson wants him to be.

NO: A puppet.


NZ: Yeah. Now, when I think of, “Oh, what would a fifth season look like?” it’s hard for me to envision Tom doing anything meaningful as CEO, and I feel like the way they would try to take it is, “Tom is brought back to the siblings' side or something.” I don't think that would work, really.

NO: That would mean the fifth season would just be… the first episode, Kendall is back fighting for power again. That's just what they would have to do because I don't think they could write four or five episodes of Tom as CEO – it's going to be a disaster. And then, speaking of Tom, another thing that was just shelved too easily: the ending of the seventh episode. The election episode, “America Decides,” where Tom was on the news for breaking the Mencken Wisconsin result. And I thought, “Okay, Tom is going to get into some kind of trouble with the authorities and all that, but that was also waved away.

NZ: I think you're right. And I also feel like with the way elections happen in real life, even if the news calls it, that's not the end-all-be-all. And I think the episode definitely put a little too much stock in the idea that the news can call this election and that's what's going to influence people. Realistically, they're gonna probably do a recount and in the last episode they had one line or so referencing the fact that maybe Mencken isn't going to win, but they didn't really go beyond that. And so I felt like it made that election episode a little self-contained, which isn't the worst thing in the world ultimately.

NO: Yeah. It was still a very good episode.


Greg the Egg

NZ: I feel like I've always heard the show described by the creators or by other critics as being partly about how the personal struggles and the relationships and dynamics between these super rich people, all the shit between their family, how it trickles down into the lives of regular people. And that was the ultimate “These people are fucking up everything, fucking the world up.” Just out of spite and being petty, like when Kendall realized that Shiv was lying about having talked to Nate. And then the way that Greg didn't stand up for her because she was really pushy with him and didn't offer him anything, which is so typical of her, to just not know how to play the game.

NO: That was very funny. That was Greg right there. He has things on every single one of you. You don't threaten him, you entice him with an offer. You can’t say “Oh, I'm going to pull out your intestines.” Nobody, even I, wouldn't fall for that. It just showed her incompetence there once again. I mean, she could have even tried to call Nate at the very least, just make an attempt at convincing him. He says, no, and you hang up the call, but not calling him at all, that was very foolish.

NZ: I agree. What did you think of Greg's arc throughout the whole show?

NO: I had a friend, he was really on Greg's side, and I'm like “How is this possible, what are you watching?” And he kept telling me, “Greg is going to take over.” Greg and Tom, actually. He was like, “It's going to be the both of them.” And I was always laughing. Second season I was laughing. Third season I was laughing. And then with the dynamics of the fourth season, I started seeing the possibilities, you know. “Oh, this Greg guy, this tall human has everybody in his palms in terms of information…my friend might be right.” So I thought it was well written, going from this dumb guy who was in a mascot costume, puking around the theme park, to basically assistant to the CEO.

His arc was very geometrical. He was still dumb Greg. Still stumbling, still being clumsy, but his arc sort of built him in terms of the information he was getting. I like that they did that. They didn't try to turn him into some greedy, evil kind of person like the siblings. He was still everyone's go-to guy. So yes, he had an arc, but he didn't really have an arc at the same time. He was still dumb, he just had more information and it made him more powerful in the grand scheme of things. And his actor, who is that? What's his name again, Nicholas?

NZ: Nicholas Braun, yeah.

NO: Yeah. Nicholas Braun. I thought he was very good. Him and Matthew MacFadyen, to me they were two of the best actors on this show. They portrayed their characters very well.

NZ: Yeah. I think with Greg, he has information, but he does not know how to play the game like the others do. And it's almost by dumb luck that he stumbles onto the information that he does. And even when he goes to use it against people, he's always asking Tom, “Oh, is it okay if I blackmail you?” He is just never really sure of himself. He's really quite lucky to even still be in the company after what Tom offered him. But that scene where he was translating what they were saying on the phone, he was just there because they like to keep him around as a punching bag. He's never really in any position of power.

He was also such a piece of shit this season, and I don't know if you also heard the news about the allegations against him of sexual misconduct that came out against the actor as the season was starting. Knowing that, I was like “Fuck this actor.” And then Greg was just being more horrible than usual. They had him firing all those people. Or if you remember when he's at the house with Marcia and Kerry comes in and Greg is just talking so much shit. So it felt really good when he comes crawling back to Tom in that final scene and Tom says, “You fucking piece of shit.” I was going “Yeah, Tom, you tell him!” And then he put that sticker on him and I thought, “Yeah, that's what Greg deserves. Nothing more.”

NO: Yeah. Seeing him slap Tom, I thought, “Greg has really grown into his shoes.” That was when I knew he had completed his arc. And then he made a statement in the finale, he said something along the lines of having enough information to bring down a whole planet or something like that. That was when I was very worried that this guy might actually win the throne, but then he still found a way to mess everything up. That's why I say he had an arc but he was still the same person throughout the arc, no matter how evil he seemed to get, his dumb side always got in the way.

NZ: Always. That's true. I think the implication in that scene where Tom said he could be his assistant is that Greg is going to be making $40,000 a year, nothing like he was making towards the end of the show. I feel like that's where he started too, when Tom was making fun of him for not having a good suit and stealing cookies to put in dog poop bags. That's where Greg is going to end back up.

NO: I think that just completely summarizes his character arc, he just went full circle for four seasons and dropped back down to where he started, being this raggedy man.


The Death of a Patriarch

NZ: And I think now that Logan is gone, that was Greg's “in” to the company. And so I think if it weren't for Tom, Greg would be on his own. I also think that if you took it to a fifth season, it would be hard to carry the momentum because they killed Logan off so early in this season.

NO: I couldn't believe that. I didn't believe that until like the fifth episode. I said he was going to come back.

NZ: Same. I feel like most shows would save that for the finale. Going into this season, I was thinking they’d probably kill off Logan because if this is the final season, you have to answer that question of succession, who's going to be the successor. I thought maybe in the last episode or the second-to-last episode, he is going to die. But I loved the way they just took the rug out from under us, especially because that third episode, the way it opens, is with Logan off to a business meeting, he tells Roman to fire Gerri, and then Connor's wedding is obviously going to be stupid and funny and you're just expecting another normal fun Succession episode. And then bam! Emotional devastation.

NO: That was very audacious of them, very, very audacious. Having seven episodes left to write without the main character of the show, they really pulled it off. I was thinking, “How do they want to write this whole season without Logan?” But by the time you're on episode seven, eight, you'll even forget that.

NZ: Yeah, you're already so far past that. And I think because the show is about generational trauma and abuse, it was good that we saw the aftermath of his death and how these kids respond and how they feel and what happens to them when this huge, massive presence who was everything to them in their lives is gone. So I think it was good that we had most of the season to see how that affects them, but I think if we had gone another season, it wouldn't have been the same.

NO: We wouldn't have gotten that if he had died in the penultimate one, we probably wouldn't have seen Roman break down at the funeral or Shiv's whole arc from not caring about Kendall being CEO to suddenly caring. It would have been a very rushed episode. So I think killing him off early as they did was beneficial.

NZ: Yeah. And I also feel like they did a good job of giving us, even after Logan died, a couple of moments with him. There was that video of him yelling at someone on a set. And then we saw him during Kendall's presentation, and then I thought that final video of him in the final episode where he's naming the presidents and you have Karl singing. That was beautiful.

NO: Yeah. That was the best part of the whole season, in fact. I tweeted something, I said, “Okay, this is too good to be true.” Kendall being crowned king by his siblings, and the moment with Logan, I think everybody at that point must have been sucked in by the goodness of that moment and nobody realizes that they were setting us up for a huge sucker punch. I think that was just the writers just letting us have that moment, just to reduce the effect of what is coming. It was like the calm before the tragic storm of Tom taking over and Kendall's breakdown. It was the best part of the season. I'll probably go back to watch that video clip time and time again. Seeing Logan that way, I don't think we ever got to see that for three whole seasons, he was never in such a joyful mood.

NZ: Yeah. They've had their moments of fun together and they're sweet to each other sometimes but never to that extent. And I feel like at the very start of that scene when Kendall goes into the water, your mind kind of immediately goes to “Oh shit, is he going to drown?” And the siblings are joking about murdering him, but I almost wouldn't put it past them. And so then once things calm down, you see they're happy, it almost took away any worry I had. And then once the real argument happens at the end of the episode it's just devastating.


Picking a Favorite

NO: It was the whole show, the whole season. I think maybe I prefer the second season.

NZ: Me too, for me it's 2>4>1>3.

NO: I think I'll go 2>4>3>1.

NZ: I love the first season, but they were definitely still finding their footing and figuring out who the characters were. I also think the direction was still a little inconsistent. But I think as that particular season went on, it just got better and better. But there’s the whole thing with Roman being married, and you see a lot more of Kendall's kids, and they just kind of move away from that figured out, “Here's what we really want to explore, and we're not going to focus so much on Willa’s play or whatever.”

NO: But the third season was the one that eventually drew apart those on the side of Kendall and those on the side of Logan because that was when they had the back and forth. So I think I really enjoyed watching all that play through down to Caroline's wedding. I think season three for me probably has the best finale with the siblings and Kendall, the reveal to them about the waiter.

NZ: I think I still have to sit with it because this finale was incredible. But they all are, every time, every season, the final three episodes always hit. With season three, because they filmed it during COVID, it was a lot more talking in offices and a lot less globetrotting, whereas, in season two, every episode felt like an event.

NO: Season two is one of the best seasons of any television.

NZ: I agree. And then season three felt a little more scaled down in comparison. I think they still did an amazing job, obviously. But I think that's just personal preference.

NO: I think when it comes to personal preference, anybody should still have season two, with the “boar on the floor” episode.

NZ: Yeah. Oh my God. Amazing.

NO: For that, it's one of my favorite seasons of television.

NZ: I think my favorite episode is probably the one where they go and visit the Pierce family. I just love seeing the bizarre twins that the Roys have in the Pierces.

NO: One thing I noticed when you mentioned this, the second made the best use of round tables. Whenever there were a bunch of people at the table, you just knew you were in for a hell of a time.

NZ: That's so true.

NO: When they were at the summer house, the boar on the floor, at the Pierce’s, and on the yacht. That season incorporated every character, everybody was involved. They were all moving together. It wasn't really centered upon one or two characters. It was everybody, Karl, Gerri, Frank, whatever. Season two also had the funniest scenes with Tom and Greg and Gil.

NZ: Oh, the hearing?

NO: Yeah.

NZ: Yes. That was so good. I loved that.

Do you remember the first episode of season four, when they go to visit the Pierces and make a deal for their brand? There was a whole episode dedicated to that. And that didn't really go anywhere.

NO: Yeah. I was discussing the show with my sister and that was the first thing she mentioned, that they let the whole $10 billion thing slide.

NZ: I guess the implication is maybe, in addition to being voted out of the company, they also probably can't pay whatever they owe. But that feels so insignificant compared to the emotional devastation that the show ends with.


A Worthy Conclusion

NO: I think they were really saved by that finale. The finale was so good that you don't think of anything else. You're just high on it. Maybe two days, weeks, then you start to look back and see that it wasn't a very perfect season or a very perfect show, as much as I loved it, as much as I think it's one of the best of this decade. But yeah, with the Pierce deal, I thought that would come into play a lot at the ending, and then, nothing. That really disappointed me.

NZ: Yeah, I guess we talked about how the show will just do that. They’ll just throw things in and out as they please sometimes. And sometimes that's just how these things happen. Like with the cruise scandal fizzling out. Generally, corporations and people in power aren't really held accountable, and I think that's realistic for sure. So I get it.

NO: Obviously it’s realistic in terms of the world outside of the show, America generally, but within the family, within the corporation, I thought it might still play a hand in determining who was going to go to jail or gain the upper hand.

NZ: I think part of the reason I love the show so much is that it's very subversive and you think it's going one way and then it'll go another way, and it doesn't feel cheap. It feels thoughtful and considered. I think sometimes it's hard to tell “Did I like that because it is really subversive?” or are they just like, “Oh, we're not going to follow that up.” And am I just dick-riding the show and being like, “Oh wow, that's so subversive.” Even if it's maybe not that great.

NO: Yeah. I think for me the show was more of a character study. So that might be an excuse for letting those simple things just come into the show and then leave, because if you are being fair, that's how it happens in real life. Like Hugo coming to tell Kendall that his daughter did insider trading. On paper it looks unnecessary, but when you think about it, it's something that could actually happen on the side, So maybe I should give them a little more slack for that.


Succession seasons 1-4 are streaming on HBO Max.


-Nick O. and Nick Z.

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