Succession Season 4, Episode 4 Recap: Honeymoon States
“Well, it sure as fucking shit doesn’t say “Shiv.”
This episode is about the balance between grieving and maintaining power. It’s now that we see just how much control really means to the siblings; their empire is tantamount to life for them because they don’t have anything else. They can lose their father, they can even lose their connections with each other, but as long as they have their power, their appearances, respect, they’ve won, or at least, that’s what they’d like to believe.
We open this episode with Kendall (Jeremy Strong), grief stricken on his living room floor, Roman (Kieran Culkin) tense and agitated as he completes his morning routine, and Shiv (Sarah Snook); visually shocked and in bed. This morning is heavy for Shiv for two reasons: her father is dead and she is just coming to realize it again after waking up in the morning, and the Amniocentesis results are in, her baby is healthy. She has to schedule her 20-week scan soon. (What?!)
With Logan (Brian Cox) truly dead, a wake is held in his honor and the Roy siblings head to his house for the occasion. Notably Marcia (Hiam Abbass) is there, but Kerry (Zoe Winters) isn’t. Marcia is Logan’s legitimate wife and she wants everyone to know, she stands at the entrance and receives everyone. She defends her relationship with Logan, telling Kendall, “We were very close. It was complicated, but we spoke intimately every evening.” She is of course, indirectly announcing her claim to Logan and his/their fortune. Kendall looks bewildered by the whole discussion and then further dizzied when he searches for his siblings, but encounters people he seems to consider inconsequential. You can feel him asking himself, “Are these people all there is?” Being on the top of the food chain, the Roy siblings are unable to fathom why anyone would be so undignified as to cling to other people’s money. They operate in a weird space where they are always greedy for more money, more power (calling it entrepreneurship), and although both of these things come from other people affording it to them (networking), they are unable to look upon Marcia or Kerry without some level of disdain. To them, you should just be comfortable and gracious in accepting the position you are born into, or work hard on your own to build something (lol). It’s whatever though, they’ll throw Marcia a couple pennies (millions) to placate her, if she really really needs the money that bad. This is who they are outside of work and business: hollow.
Roman is mostly numb to everything that’s happening. He was grieving his father in anticipation of his death so for him everything was expected. (After all, the Succession series starts with Logan’s poor health, so it’s not as if they/he didn’t see it coming.) Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) walks and catches Shiv’s eye just as she tells Kendall and Roman, “we should huddle, cause for some of us, it’s a sad day. But for others, it’s Coronation Demolition Derby.”
The call with the board is 11am and emotionally transparent as ever, Tom wants to get a sense for who will be selected as CEO because he wasn’t to be considered. Greg is more than happy to drop the “f” word: family, to remind everyone that he is indeed one of them. Suddenly, Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) calls Roman. Kendall suggests holding off on answering to get their duck in a row and tucked away in a pantry, Frank (Peter Friedman), Karl (David Rasche), Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), Karolina (Dagmara Dominczyk), and Tom discuss who would likely receive the role as interim CEO. They all want to do, but one thing is for sure. It won’t be Tom. Karl puts it like this to Tom, “you’re a clumsy interloper and no one trusts you. The only guy pulling for you is dead. And now, you’re just married to the ex-boss’ daughter. And she doesn’t even like you. And you are fair and squarely fucked.” (This is how you know British people wrote this show.)
When the siblings finally call Matsson back, someone else answers. Apparently Matsson is on a super tight schedule now and he can’t seem to get away for a call. Kendall suggests meeting in a week, Matsson wants to see them in 24 hours at his company retreat to negotiate. It’s the annual retreat for fucks sake, they can’t wait just because someone died! And so, the siblings reluctantly acquiesce.
Connor (Alan Ruck) arrives with his new wife Willa (Justine Lupe) and almost immediately, Marcia tries to cut at Willa to distinguish a hierarchy difference. She tells Willa “look how far you’ve come,” but Willa is self-aware; she’s able to see the clear similarities between them, so she’s not fazed by this quiet nudge at insulting her. Instead, Willa tells Marcia, “Well, look at us both. Right?” With that, Marcia quickly looks Willa up and down and moves on. Did Willa really win though? She is going on a makeshift presidential tour for her honeymoon and Connor just bought his dead father’s house for their marital home without consulting her. But it’s too late now, Marcia already spat, almost immediately in fact, to seal the deal. (Do you think money is tight or did she just hate Logan that much? You see why Marcia is just like Willa? This is such a Willa move.)
In his role as executor, Frank was able to come across a “worrying piece of paper” among Logan’s things. No one else knows about the paper, but him and Karl. Should they tell the others they wonder? Before they have a chance to decide whether the paper will disappear, Gerri walks in and effectively makes the decision for them. The siblings are all competing over who is going to handle their grief the best when Hugo walks in with hard copies of obituaries, an excuse to pull Kendall aside to ask for his help with circumventing the trouble that comes with insider trading.
That the siblings are grieving their love for their abuser, is not lost on them. They crack jokes, as they interpret the truth behind the polishing of Logan’s mean past in different obituary phrases. In one obituary, Logan was a “complicated man” meaning: abusive; one says Logan was a “Sharp reader of the national mood” so, racist; Logan was also “a man of his era?” try racist and relaxed about sexual assault they say. They only stop when Tom calls them to Logan’s library for the big discussion about the paper and tries his last effort in clinging to the Roys through Kendall.
When Kendall, Roman, and Shiv are finally in the library, it’s reveals to them that Logan (perhaps) wanted Kendall to take over as CEO. Even though none of this matters in a material way, one could argue that Logan underlined Kendall’s name. Yup. All this time, he was playing his children against each other, but he knew who he really wanted to pick. The problem is, as expected from Logan, even in his death, he leaves things murky. Shiv seems to think he crossed out Kendall’s name though. Shiv and Roman are reluctant to agree to Kendall’s nod for interim CEO and things get briefly catty. (Greg is even on this letter and boy is he happy about it.)
After everyone leaves the room though, we are finally able to see how much this underline/cross out means to Kendall. He thought his father didn’t like him, but this might be the thing that helps him to hate Logan a little bit less. It’s also the moment that gives Kendall the permission to unlock the darkest bits of him, the bits like Logan. This piece of paper basically says that Logan thought Kendall was the one most like him, most like his image, so now, Kendall feels compelled to follow through on his dad’s vision for him and so, he asks for Frank’s support in gunning for the CEO role again. Outside, mumbling together, Shiv openly mocks Kendall for being so feverish about the CEO position and this unverified paper, but we all know that both Roman and Shiv wish they were in his position. To have their dad even consider them as he seems to have considered Kendall, would be a big deal. Just as Shiv begins expanding on her issues with Kendall as the leader of the company, Tom interrupts her. Tom’s doing his rounds with the Roys, trying to find someone to take the bite, so that he can cling to their name; now, he’s on Shiv and he can only rely on their previous relationship and emotional manipulation to get by. Guess being Logan’s protégé paid off; he learned something.
With all this going on, we simultaneously learn that Colin (Scott Nicolson) wears jeans (apparently that’s not okay) and has a kid, and also Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), the conservative (heavily racist) presidential hopeful is en-route to the house.
At some point, Republican donor Ron Petkus (Stephen Root) honors Logan with a farewell speech that people seem to take issue with. Stewy (Arian Moayed) and Sandi (Holly Hope) attend to give their condolences and instigate. However, the true instigator becomes Kerry, who apparently ignores Marcia’s message to not show up, to show up and gain entry upstairs. Roman decides to defend her (maybe because she was connected to his dad), and makes Marcia out to be the villain. I read this to mean, Kerry is a white woman and crying, ie. White woman tears in play, and Marcia may speak French, and play the part of a white lady, but she’s not white. (It’s implied that she’s Lebanese.) So, a Lebanese, non-white woman, is making a white woman cry, and it doesn’t matter that Marcia is offended (rightly) at the intrusion in her marital home by the mistress, how dare she make a white woman cry? In the end, despite Roman’s performance of kindness (don’t forget how he used to talk to Kerry), all he can say is he will get her private number and check if his dad made arrangements for her.
Anyways, Stewy is the only one who is able to make Kendall laugh. Kendall almost cries, but holds back and quickly switches into business mode: back me, he tells Stewy. After a lot of back and forth, Stewy agrees. As Kendall reconvenes, with the team, he finds all the Roy siblings watching Willa and her mom. Kendall wants to talk about next steps, but they are ignoring him and at some point, his Logan comes out a bit. It’s so familiar, all the guests quietly excuse themselves. Kendall negotiates a co-leadership deal: him and Roman. It’s not clean enough to include Shiv though. Shiv doesn’t like it, but at least she gets to walk into the room with the executives as if she’s in charge, before, of course, stepping aside. With Stewy’s backing,; Ken and Roman are confirmed as co-CEOs. Greg says it best, “History is happening,” and it’s capturing Ken and Roman, but entirely missing Shiv and she feels it. As she walks out from Logan’s library, she looks defeated, angry, and her fidgeting fingers tells us, she needs to vent. She sees Stewy laughing with someone and tells them to shut up, followed by her tripping, to underscore her humiliation from the library scene. It prompts us to be reminded of why she no longer wears pretty dresses and signifiers that she’s a woman. She thought she was one of the boys, but she was reminded that she wasn’t and now, here, she’s tripped and everyone is crowding around her as if she is a damsel in distress; this is her nightmare.
Now that the leaders have been decided, a few formalities are required so Hugo and Karolina ask Roman and Kendall to a quiet room to go over things like the statement announcing them, the biographical details for communications and PR. Kendall is ready, sober, and sitting and Roman is taking the pills he found on his father’s desk. This dichotomy is important and sets the tone for who they each are as leaders. According to Hugo, there are two ways to go about their leadership announcement: a nice package of photos with dad or shit on Logan to stress how competent they are. Roman is sure he doesn’t want to shit on their dad, but Kendall is not so sure. After looking at a picture of Logan’s dying wishes with the underline/cross out on his phone, he tells Hugo to shit on his father and he underscores this with a reminder that if he doesn’t get it done, and quietly, he can ruin him. Logan would be so proud.