There are no winners in the Season 4 premiere of HBO’s Succession. At least, no evident ones. “The Munsters” is a pretty standard episode of the highly-regarded series, managing to play to the writer’s strengths in keeping with their format while still allowing the character’s new lows to plummet to greater depths to explore. In an echo of the series premiere, the season starts with the celebration of Logan’s (Brian Cox) birthday, but this time his kids aren’t present, instead off and bidding against him. It casts a mournful tone over the episode, as we watch Logan make his way through his party and guests as his assistant tries to get one of his (favored) kids to reach out to him. It’s one of the lower points we’ve seen of the character, and even still the true concern lies with his children.
Because despite working against him after the massive betrayal of Season 3, Kendall (Jeremy Strong,) Shiv (Sarah Snook,) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are showing themselves to not be great business owners, something we knew in the past but never were faced with so blatantly. They’re all intelligent but “The Munsters” make a strong case for them needing a team of people around them to help point them in the right direction, otherwise they’re going after companies that make no feasible sense or bidding against their dad in an attempt for a weak power grasp rather than anything that would correct their course. It’s not so much watching a trainwreck in slow motion as there’s always the chance they’ll pull something together, and more so that looming possibility of something going wrong that keeps us on our toes.
Some of the strongest parts of this week’s episode are the little moments of the strengthened relationship between the three youngest Roy siblings. Succession can stick to familiar plotting but what makes it tick and allows it to be fresh each time out of the gate is how it writes these characters and the complicated dynamics they have with one another. This episode is perhaps the warmest we’ve seen Kendall, Roman, and Shiv interact with one another, from Shiv kissing Roman on the cheek as a hello, to the brothers clearing the room when they realize that Shiv is upset.
The show somehow becomes more stressful during peacetime because we know that, without one another, these three characters are vulnerable and alone, and even this camaraderie is shakily built with Roman seemingly the only one actually thinking of making a business of their own rather than one that simply exists to annoy Logan. We want them to stick together and support one another but it being Succession and Logan positioned in a place perfect for his style of manipulation means that we’re already waiting for the inevitable fissure that will take place.
The three getting along makes Logan’s party a grim event. Sure, Connor (Alan Ruck) is there but there’s never been a question of who Logan’s least favored child is. In a moment of sheer stupidity, Greg (Nicholas Braun) tries to joke roast him by asking where his kids are. It’s amazing Greg is still alive by the end of the episode. A character who has, from the very start, been a conniving social status ladder climber, his true colors being revealed and/or highlighted each season is one of the show’s better slow-burn character studies. Those who believe he’s the most morally sound of the bunch haven’t been paying attention.
The episode ends with a brutal scene of raw, unwavering emotion with Shiv and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) as the two run into one another at their still-shared apartment. Snook is particularly great in this sequence, the betrayal and hurt she’s feeling so naked on her face that it’s easy to forget for a moment just how much she hurt and used Tom in return. Them laying in bed, holding hands, is perhaps some of the most genuine intimacy we’ve seen the two share and it’s devastating because again, like anything good or amicable on this show, we know it can’t last. The egos in the game are all too big to settle for anything less than what they believe they deserve.
With “The Munsters,” Succession returns with a simmering throughline of pent-up frustration, even quiet rage, as all of the characters try and steady their footing on the new ground they stand, some of which is more unstable than others. Logan is lonely, and Shiv and Kendall are reckless. But the latter two are in a more precarious position, as they continue to allow their father to have control of their narrative, even when they believe they’ve regained the upper hand.
Feature image courtesy of Macall B. Polay/HBO
Featured Image Courtesy of HBO
Succession Season 4 Premiere - 8/10