March 27, 2023

The Final Season of “Succession” Arrives with a F***ing Bang (Season 4 Premiere Review)

Succession is my latest obsession. For years, I’ve been hearing all sorts of talk around every corner of the internet about how incredible it is, how it outpaces nearly every other HBO original series, and how it elevates every single one of its performers to the next level of their acting careers. In the second week of March, with three weeks until the premiere of the fourth and final season, I decided I would stop missing out. I pressed play, and my perception of what makes a dramatic series succeed irreversibly changed.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

On average, I watched two episodes a day, somedays so much as five. I became enthralled with its characters and fascinated with its penchant for playing out its biggest drama off-camera, instead primarily dealing with the way the characters react to these events. It’s something I’ve never seen before, and it’s one of the things that sets Succession apart from the rest in an incredibly unique way.

The final season premiere turned into an event. Even though I had just finished the show-stopping third season two days before, it felt like I had been waiting far longer to see how it would all resolve. And just like that, it’s back to live TV again — no more binging, no more auto-play that would resolve the previous episode’s cliffhanger in an instant. We have to wait a week to see how it all turns out, and that’s part of what makes shows like this work so well. They make you wait, they make you theorize, and they make you excited to see more.

Every one of the series’ deliciously awful main characters are back, and they’ve all come to play. The power dynamics within central company Waystar Royco and the central Roy family have shifted many times since the series premiere, as allegiances change and favor flips at the drop of a hat. The Season 3 finale tipped the scales in a manner that perfectly sets up a plethora of avenues for the series to find its end, but as is the case with this show, that conclusion is nigh-impossible to predict accurately. Succession enjoys throwing curveballs, but I appreciate that everything still feels very grounded in reality — the stakes are not Game of Thrones-like in that anybody could die at any time, but because of Succession’s naturalism, it feels even more tense, as the terrible things that happen feel more tangible and likely to happen in real life.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

Everything that has contributed to the show’s success is returning in full force, especially the brilliant writing that has contributed endlessly quotable lines over the course of the show’s run. The best quips in the fourth season premiere belong to Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin), as they so very often do — and now, as Roman is spending his time with an almost entirely separate set of characters from the previous season, there’s plenty of untapped potential that I expect the series to explore in the remaining nine episodes.

The marriage between Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) and Siobhan Roy (Sarah Snook) is put on full blast, after seasons’ worth of strain and deterioration. Snook and Macfadyen, fantastic scene partners who interestingly only share the screen half the time — despite their characters being married — are giving the performance of a lifetime. I hope Snook is properly lauded at this year’s Emmys season; Siobhan (known colloquially as Shiv) has always been one of the show’s more fascinating characters, and it looks like her arc this season will be as compelling as ever. And I can’t discuss the cast without mentioning Brian Cox, who brings a new ferocity to the now-iconic role of Logan Roy, who comes into direct conflict with the combined front of his three youngest children for the very first time in Season 4.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

I maintain that this series would be nothing without its excellently-built characters, and their relationships once again take center stage as the core of the drama. The series takes full advantage of everything that came before, in-keeping with its remarkably meticulous sense of continuity. As consistently incredible as it is, the highlight of the series is, as it has always been, the juxtaposition of ridiculous minor storylines with hardcore real-world brutalities of business. There are many ways Succession could end, but I think it’s best not to try and anticipate it. This is a show that functions best with surprise, and the fact that it’s ending on its own terms is a rare thing that should not be taken lightly. There are undoubtedly a wealth of surprises yet to come, and if the past three seasons are any indication, Succession’s final sprint will surely shock and awe.

New episodes of Succession air Sundays on HBO and HBO Max at 9pm.

Check out the latest episode of Runtime, Babe, where Rowan and Davis discuss the series in the lead-up to the fourth season!

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