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At long last, television’s best theme song is back.
And with it, comes television’s best show, “Succession.” Season Four of HBO’s highly-lauded Emmy-juggernaut premiered on March 26, wasting no time in reminding viewers why it deserves every bit of praise it has received. In a virtually flawless premiere teeming with new and intriguing family dynamics, masterfully written dialogue, and its trademark brand of searing comedy, “Succession” effectively sets the stage for what is bound to be a remarkable final season.
After three seasons spent squabbling and undermining each other in increasingly craven campaigns to win their father’s favor, the thought of a team-up between the “big three” Roy children (Kendall, Siobhan, and Roman) is simultaneously frightening and irresistible. And luckily for viewers, Jesse Armstrong and the other creators of “Succession” chose to use the Season Four premiere to continue developing upon this new spirit of sibling cooperation forged in the iconic final moments of Season Three’s finale.
Much like the viewers themselves, the three Roy children portray a tangible sense of discomfort with their newfound partnership. While they continue to make illicit jokes at each other’s expense, the actors are unsurprisingly adept at infusing their words and mannerisms with a layer of lightheartedness that has previously only existed in fleeting moments of unity. Of the three siblings, Kieran Culkin’s Roman masters this nuanced change most brilliantly, using his trademark squirming and wisecracking to portray the paralyzing effects of his competing desires to be accepted by his siblings and loved by his father; this ongoing interior dilemma and its unexpected consequences (read: Roman’s endlessly complicated love life) remains one of the show’s strongest points, and time seems to have greatly strengthened Culkin’s ability to depict this state of constant affliction.
In addition to previewing some of the novel features that will develop in the new season such as the sibling team-up and Logan’s disturbingly complex relationship with his young assistant, the Season Four premiere also continues “Succession”’s unfaltering tradition of superb writing. For evidence of this claim, look no further than the scene in which Logan Roy (Brian Cox) sits in a diner with his trusted bodyguard and philosophizes about the nature of humanity and the afterlife. While such a scene in any other show may run the risk of being painfully trite or overly esoteric, “Succession” falls into neither trap and instead delivers a poignant reflection on universal questions of mortality from a character that continues to defy the construction of the archetypal villain. Even when all outward signs point towards Logan’s disregard for his children, his doubts about the worth of humans and pessimistic outlook on the afterlife convey a deep sense of shame, guilt, and fear for the way he has misled his family. A show’s ability to write a character whose every line is infused with such deep subtext is a mark of excellence and a promising sign of more genius to come in Season Four.
Even though “Succession” does set aside time for heavy, reflective moments in its final season premiere, the episode also abounds with sharp humor. Everyone’s favorite bromance between Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) is alive and well, now branded with its own not-so-ironic moniker: “the disgusting brothers.” The premiere includes a soon-to-be classic interaction between the two men, in which Tom pranks Greg by convincing him that he has been caught having sex on the (imaginary) cameras in Logan’s home. But the episode’s true peak of comedy comes in the form of Tom’s classist rebuke of the gauche designer handbag that Greg’s girlfriend brings to Logan’s birthday party, which he cleverly mocks as being big enough to hold her “lunch pail.”
Even in an exposition-heavy episode tasked with setting up conflicts for the season to come, “Succession” succeeds on all fronts and easily retains its status as the strongest show to grace the small screen in recent years. While any predictions about the show’s conclusion would be premature, viewers should expect Sarah Snook’s performance as Siobhan to perhaps steal the show in Season Four; her strained marriage to Tom results in the premiere’s most wrenching scene, and Snook asserts a quiet fury throughout that conveys just how great television can be. But, after three seasons of many such moments, what else could viewers expect?
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