Succession, series 4 episode 4, review: shock, agony, ruthless ambition – it's all to play for now

Waystar's future is up for grabs: Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin - HBO
Waystar's future is up for grabs: Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin - HBO

Warning: this review contains spoilers for episodes three and four of Succession

How do you follow that? Episode three of Succession (Sky Atlantic) had such a sense of finality that it felt like a full stop. Logan’s last scenes had a restlessness and resurgent momentum to them, which made his death feel like even more of a buffer. One minute he was as vital as ever, plotting schemes and barking orders down the phone, and the next he was being unloaded from his plane in a body bag, while his children wandered shellshocked around the wreckage of Connor’s (Alan Ruck) floating wedding.

The writers decided that after the earthquake, some aftershocks were in order. The biggest news was delivered right at the start, as Shiv (Sarah Snook) found out she was pregnant. It was a signal that while this episode could not top its predecessor for shock and awe, it could still set plenty of bombs for later in the series.

But if last week was all about the core Roys and their response, here we saw what happened to those not bound by filial duty. The younger siblings were mostly on the defensive while the vultures descended on the carcass. After a sleepless night, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) clicked back into celebrity heir mode, walking in sunglasses through a crowd of paparazzi to the old man’s flat. There he found Marcia (Hiam Abbass) doing a wonderfully serpentine Scottish Widows act. Thought she was gone? Not a bit of it. “We were very close,” she told Kendall, who did his best to be polite. “It was complicated, but we spoke intimately every evening.” Subtext: I’m here for the money, and I’ve spoken to my lawyers.

She was well prepared for Kerry (Zoe Winters) turning up and trying to get back up to Logan’s bedroom. “We were talking about getting married,” Kerry told Roman (Kieran Culkin), who was taking a surprisingly keen interest in her.

Matthew Macfadyen's Tom finds himself without his protector - HBO
Matthew Macfadyen's Tom finds himself without his protector - HBO

You would not bet against Marcia swooping up the whole lot. Of all the characters in Succession, she has Logan's steel and drive, having known life without money, and endured countless humiliations along the way. She has sensed the moment to attack.

Everyone spoke in this duplicitous language, superficially respectful while furiously positioning themselves for what might come next. A rich person’s death is a cynics’ charter. With so much money around, even a hushed “sorry for your loss” sounds grasping. Greg (Nicholas Braun) poked his head around, while it was made clear to Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), now without his lord and protector, that he was out on his own. Karl (David Rasche) had a delicious response after Tom had the audacity to throw his hat into the ring to lead the company.

“The negative case would go: ‘you’re a clumsy interloper and no-one trusts you. The only guy pulling for you is dead, and now you’re just married to the ex-boss’s daughter and she doesn’t even like you, and you are fair and squarely f---ed.’” As a friend, you understand.   

Logan’s will was never likely to be simple. But the risk with wills, dramatically, is that they put things down in black and white. Logan’s pencilled additions were an ingenious solution: notes of intent that may or not have been intended as serious statements. Kendall finding his name underlined – or was it crossed out? – puts things down in grey. Kendall’s agony, of not knowing what his father thought of him, will last his whole life: another kind of hell, for a son who has already been through plenty, mostly of his own making.

On the surface, the children remain united against the external distractions. The fragile entente won’t last. With six episodes to go, the battle for Waystar Royco is on.

Episode four of Succession is available now on Sky Go and NOW and airs on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Monday 17 April