Succession review: The Roys return with a fantastic final season
It’s almost the end for Succession (Sky Atlantic, Monday). The fourth and final season of the brilliant satirical comedy-drama begins with an echo of how it all began in 2018: a birthday party for terrifying patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox).
Clad in a cuddly grandfather cardigan (a failed attempt to humanise a roaring beast), Logan, in full lion-in-winter mode, glides through the room, a half-nod here, a fabricated quarter-smile there, barely bothering to hide his contempt for the sycophants orbiting him.
Is revisiting a familiar setting a sign that Succession has succumbed to staleness and repetition in the final stretch? Don’t you believe it. It’s still utterly fantastic.
I can’t reveal too much about the four episodes given to reviewers, and wouldn’t dream of doing so anyway. HBO rightly regards spoilers with the same withering gaze Logan reserves for when Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) says something stupid.
What we can say is that creator Jesse Armstrong, who’s asked reviewers not to flag up in advance which episodes are the pivotal ones, and his co-writing team pull some truly jaw-dropping surprises out of the bag. If Succession can stick the landing – and on the basis of the first four hours there’s every indication it will – the final season might well end up being the very best of the lot.
For now, though, the story picks up a short time after the momentous events of season three.
Logan, having outfoxed his children and quashed their cack-handed plan to overthrow him by cutting them out of the decision-making process, is on the verge of completing the merger of Waystar-Royco with Gojo, headed by entrepreneur Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard).
Out in the cold, the hapless trio of Roy nepo-babies Shiv (Sarah Snook), Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) – or “the rats” as Logan calls them – are labouring under the delusion they can survive on their own.
They’ve cooked up a daft new media venture called The Hundred, which will supposedly bring together the finest minds in the land in various fields and offer their expertise for a price.
It’s intended to be a “one-stop info shop” – or as Kendall, newly clean and sober but cutting as reliably ridiculous a figure as ever, describes it: “Substack meets Masterclass meets the Economist meets the New Yorker”. Um, okay.
Sceptical Shiv, wary of The Hundred suddenly turning into The Zero, is keeping her options open by having “talks about talks” with prospective employers.
Meanwhile, Connor (Alan Ruck), their half-brother from Logan’s first marriage, is still nursing hopeless dreams of becoming US president, despite polling at a laughable one percent.
He asks much younger fiancée Willa (Justine Lupe), whose enthusiasm for their imminent nuptials seems to be draining away fast, if he should sink another $100m into his campaign to prevent his election prospects sliding into absolute zero-point humiliation.
After last season’s sneaky betrayal, Shiv’s soon-to-be-ex-husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) is a fully-fledged member of Logan’s inner circle – for now, at least.
His hilarious double act with gormless Greg, which is part-bromance (they’ve nicknamed themselves “the Disgusting Brothers”) and part-master-and-pet relationship, remains one of the greatest of Succession’s many pleasures.
It doesn’t take long for Shiv, Kendall and Roman’s uncharacteristically united front and determination to go it alone to fall apart. They get wind that Logan is about to make an offer for the Pierce media conglomerate. Should they stick with their own venture or should they make one final attempt to screw their father by making their own bid to buy Pierce?
Despite the misgivings of Roman, who appears to be the only one who feels anything remotely resembling love for Logan, it takes about 10 seconds for The Hundred to be abandoned and the siblings to revert to type.
The best scenes in Succession are often the ones featuring just Logan and his offspring. Episode one gives us a humdinger set in, of all places, a karaoke bar.
“Jesus, you’re such f***ing dopes,” Logan tells them, more in disappointment than ager this time. “You’re not serious figures. I love you, but you are not serious people.”
But this is seriously great television.