Succession, series 4 episode 1 review: it's magnificent, but thank God it's nearly over

Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong in series four of Succession - HBO
Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong in series four of Succession - HBO

You could rewatch the third series of Succession (Sky Atlantic) to get yourself back up to speed for series four, but one exchange in this launch episode to series four pretty much covers it. The Roy siblings – Roman (Kieran Culkin), Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) – are asked about the state of relations with their father. “It’s just a complicated, private situation,” says Roman. “Whereby we all hate him,” adds Shiv.

The trio are – for once, and probably not for long – united. They’re planning a new, terrible-sounding venture called The Hundred. One of the joys of Succession is how the script is only one per cent more ridiculous than things you actually hear in the media world. The Hundred will be an “indispensable, bespoke info hub” offering “high-calorie info snacks” and “clickbait for smart people”.

But then the siblings get wind of their father’s plan to buy another company, Pierce Global Media, and decide to launch a rival bid. Logan’s betrayal by his three youngest children – he betrayed them first, of course, but doesn’t see it that way – has cut deep and left him lonely. Third wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass) has gone (“She’s in Milan, shopping, forever”). Logan is reduced to having dinner with his bodyguard, Colin (Scott Nicholson), and telling him: “You’re my best pal.”

Everything we love about Succession is present and correct: the crackling dialogue, the comedy pairing of Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), the eye-poppingly opulent lifestyles.

But it is something of a relief to know that this series will be the last. There is a danger of the show becoming trapped in a loop of scheming and bitching and Shiv’s unflattering vest tops. There are only so many times that you can watch Brian Cox blow his top as Logan.

There is real pleasure to be had in some of the smaller roles, though. Justine Lupe is perfect as Willa, gritting her teeth to marry Logan’s idiot son, Connor (Alan Ruck), who is still running, forlornly, for president. The writers also have fun with Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones), who considers her left-leaning media empire to be morally superior to Waystar, but can hold her nose just long enough to pocket a few billion dollars for its sale. “I don’t want to talk numbers,” she says to the Roy children when they arrive with a rival offer. “Totally. Shall we just say our number, though?” suggests Kendall.

The sums are ludicrous: Connor thinking of spending $100 million just to maintain his minuscule poll rating, his siblings adding “an extra half bill” to an offer price. The show is so detached from how most of us behave that when there’s a moment of humanity – Tom and Shiv at the end of the episode, grieving for the end of their marriage – it strikes home.