“Succession” threatened to be the story of how an excessively selfish son, with far less talent, insight and venom than his father, could one day take over a media empire and become heir to the kingdom or be swallowed by it.
It felt like too obvious a metaphor for the Murdoch family, obsessed with drawing real-world parallels wherever they could.
That version of “Succession” (from HBO), however, has seemed like a bait-and-switch since the season one finale, when it became clear that Logan would continue to wield power in both the world and the family for at least a few years. More years. and that Kendall (Jeremy Strong) could never really step out of his father’s shadow.
What replaced it was a far superior team-up show about a deeply screwed-up family trying to survive each other without stumbling from their perches atop a world that doesn’t look much like our own.
With the death of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) finally occurring, the fourth season of “Succession” returned to where it all began: the exact same dynamic it began with.
In the end, “Succession” leaned into the innate tragedy of its brothers. Shiv (Sarah Snook), who votes for the GoJo deal, reinforcing her own relationship with power and leaving Kendall and Roman (Kieran Culkin) out of it.
It’s a move that feels calculating and winning, completely at odds with the sibling bond we’ve seen before this season.
The show’s writers decided that the Roy brothers’ divisions will always win them over in the end.
And this deal is her father’s final revenge: an event that would forever divide their relationship. But Logan, and his successor, wasn’t always all that Succession was.
From the moment Logan died, the second and third seasons of Succession seemed to have stopped mattering.
All the sibling bonding, fighting, tempers, and backstabbing that occurred during those two years went out the window in favor of the old dynamic the show introduced us to in Season 1.
Shiv constantly seeks to place herself in the closest possible proximity to power without actually wielding it herself, eternally just steps from the people who matter most, right where her father always put her. Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) is power-hungry and more than willing to completely degrade himself to rise from his humble roots, and completely unable to separate his love for Siobhan from the power his family and his name give him. grant.
Roman is the fucking one who desperately wants to be his father in terms of power and position without the competence, courage, or patience to see things through, and the only thing left behind is a void, a nothingness that he can’t help.
Then there’s Kendall, always the kid primed from adolescence for greatness and always losing the votes of confidence from the people who mean the most to him, and with no idea how to see reality or life beyond that fact.
None of this is to say that these ideas are wrong, bad, or even uninteresting; they’re just not the ideas the show has spent the last two years trying to communicate to viewers.
Since season 2, “Succession” has suggested that Logan and the WayStar may not actually be the final media monolith that Logan and his lackeys like to frame.
With technology on the rise, from streaming to startups, Logan’s way of doing business seemed dated and the main interest of the show came from watching three (sometimes four) brothers trying to escape the slipstream created by business. of his father in his agony. There were glimpses of what their dynamic might be like without him: fooling around on a yacht or tending to each other during small scenes at big weddings.
All while Cox’s seismic performance created an inescapable gravity field that pushed each Roy back for their own reasons.
With Logan gone, the series itself seemed to get stuck in the black hole he left behind.
Instead of escaping, they all become desperate to fill the power vacuum, exactly like when it seemed like Logan was on his deathbed in season 1, not having learned a single lesson in the meantime.
Now, it’s true that Roy’s kids often don’t seem like the lesson-learning type (after all, Logan certainly didn’t raise them to be), but stagnation of characters doesn’t make for good television, especially if the The show revolves around those characters who really can’t stand their lack of growth.
By the end of season 3, Roman and Shiv had become competent businessmen with hard-won faith in each other and their brother after the family civil war.
However, after just a few episodes into season four, they were both back to their season 1 selves: Roman was impulsive and fickle, firing people at will, then changing his mind a moment later. Far from the independent streak he’s had over the past two seasons, Shiv goes from finally feeling like he might deserve power to backing Mattson and doing anything to bask in the glow of authority. Even Kendall, who seemed to spend two seasons in a row learning that he wasn’t his father and didn’t have to be, spends season 4 hovering between being the one who can do,
It can be argued that the reason for this regression is that the version of these kids we saw in the first few episodes of season 1 is the truest version of them: when the cards were on the table and dad was dying, their real came out. the same.
The problem with that is that he’s not the most interesting version of any of the Roy kids, and the series seemed to learn that the hard way as it built towards a killer season 1 finale and stronger second and third seasons.
Watching the Roy brothers find ways to work together and discover that the three of them were the only solid ground in each other’s lives over the course of Seasons 2 and 3 was the glue that held together the corporate jargon, profanity-laced babble, and the upside-down fantasy world that “Succession” had so successfully built.
Season 4 returns the brothers to their more feisty, power-hungry selves.
Theirs may be a tragedy from the start, but the nature of their tragic connection felt like it had moved to a place more real and more heartbreaking than who got to stay with the company at the end of the day.
At its core, “Succession” is and always has been the show it told us it was: a story of who came to control a media empire when the legendary giant who built it finally died.
In other words, it was a show about winning a job. And for that story, this ending was great. WayStar Royco is now nothing more than a throne to sit on in name only. It’s a bloated media empire, controlled by a mildly self-serving billionaire who wants a puppet where everyone can see the strings.
For Tom, the eventual winner, the glitter on the crown is distracting enough from the strings that it doesn’t matter.
The pity is that the best version of the program was the one that remembered how little this job mattered.
For at least two seasons, “Succession” managed to be more than just big business.