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It is one thing to create one episode of television so phenomenal that it can be instantly considered one of the greatest of all time. It is another — perhaps equally impressive — to maintain the impeccable thread of a brilliant, unendingly nuanced story over the course of many episodes.
But, to no one’s surprise, “Succession” has now managed both these feats with an ease that is beginning to border on the supernatural. The final season’s fourth episode, titled “Honeymoon States,” was released on April 16 and follows the still shaken Roy children as they attend a high-profile wake for their recently deceased father. Building upon the last episode’s fascination with the unsettling mixture of public and private considerations that immediately accompany the demise of a figure as rich and looming as Logan Roy, “Honeymoon States” turns the late mogul’s lavish townhouse into a metaphorical racetrack, with each mourner jockeying for their chance to win the coveted title of interim CEO. A perfect mixture of grief and grubbing, this bottle episode (if the bottle being imagined is filled with the priciest liquor) stands out for its effortless execution of a rock-solid script to perfectly prepare the way for the rest of the season.
No character embodies the craven opportunism surrounding Logan’s wake better than Tom, who spends no time grieving for his father-in-law and instead scurries around in pursuit of a new “protector.” After a somewhat subdued but masterful performance of level-headedness in the face of death last week, Matthew Macfadyen switches on a dime into a corporate-friendly, buttoned-up panic mode. After the camera catches Tom entering the episode from afar with a perfectly timed focus shift, he continues to intrude. Just like the “clumsy interloper” that Karl deems him to be, Tom breaks into the frame when catching Kendall going up the stairs or cornering Roman in a private room, always mentioning that he is “here to serve” with an almost imperceptible breathlessness that Macfadyen nails. And when such efforts bear no fruit, Tom turns to his favorite pastime of impressing the insignificant Greg with embarrassing details of Logan’s death — a comedic moment in which viewers watch as Tom sates his appetite for power by disrespecting his former ally and clinging on to his only subordinate.
And while Tom begins the episode steeped in selfish desire, it is more intriguing to watch this attitude slowly rub off on the Roy children as the episode wears on. Even though the “Big Three” Roy children begin the episode as a seemingly fortified grieving unit — launching playful jabs at Kendall for seeing “the best grief guy” in therapy, hosting a highly characteristic post-mortem roast of their father, and collectively shooing away a money-hungry Greg — it does not take long for their alliance to show its cracks. In fact, all it takes to implode this union are a few pencil marks on Logan’s private, non-binding list of post-death desires, with one ambiguous underlining or crossing-out of Kendall’s name igniting the sibling rivalry of old (an entirely Shakespearean device, for all those searching).
It is this all-important graphite line that truly gives Jeremy Strong his chance to revive the famous, rich-boy swagger that has marked Kendall’s most memorable and wonderfully-acted moments. Filled with the blind hope that he may have had his father’s blessing to become CEO, Strong is able to manipulate Kendall’s grief into something simultaneously genuine and exploitative as he vies for board votes. For a multitude of reasons, the most prevalent of which perhaps being his desire to prove himself to a dead man, Kendall maddeningly shifts from being a supportive brother to a man desperate for the same power he once denounced, a result of the pure Roy avarice that Strong has fascinatingly and entirely mastered. By the time Kendall ends the episode with a self-assured smirk and one of the best callback lines of the entire series thus far, it is already abundantly clear that he is the man to beat.
Unfortunately for Shiv lovers, it seems like everyone’s favorite red-headed Roy is bound to become a major casualty of Kendall’s rogue behavior. Barred from the chance to bear even the title of co-CEO that the board bestows on Kendall and Roman at the episode’s end, a less powerful (and surprisingly pregnant) Shiv suddenly crumbles under her lack of a loving father, mother, and husband. The creative decision to explicitly represent this shattered emotional state through Shiv’s painful fall down the stairs of her father’s home is a phenomenal one, a rare moment in which “Succession” leaves viewers with no room for interpretation.
And now, with episode four down and feelings of grief fully buckling under the pressure of a relentless search for profit, the stage is set for “Succession” to return to its regularly scheduled programming of big business backstabbing in beautiful foreign locales. Connor may have snatched up his father’s home before any of the other children (good for him!), but the real prize of Logan’s still-warm seat is very much up for grabs.
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