Succession fans got something of a gut punch recently when series creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong confirmed Season 4 would mark the end of the HBO hit. However, Succession fans should take heart: the first four episodes of Succession‘s final season are absolutely magnificent. Armstrong and his writers’ room finally let the metaphoric dominos they’ve been setting up for three seasons fall. The dialogue is as brutally sharp as ever and the ensemble cast pulls out some of their best, most devastating work yet. But what makes Succession Season 4 such a masterwork is the way the HBO show stays true to its core cynicism while honestly exploring the heartache and insecurities driving its ruthless power players. Succession Season 4 isn’t just good. It’s poised to handily sweep the 2023 Emmys.
Succession Season 3 ended with the three main Roy siblings â Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv (Sarah Snook) â finally joining forces to take their father down. However, the triumvirate’s plan was betrayed by Shiv’s husband Tom (Matthew MacFadyen). Logan Roy (Brian Cox) managed to rally the support of the kids’ estranged mother Caroline (Harriet Walter), Gerri (J. Cameron-Smith), other key board members to edge them out and secure a deal to sell the bulk of Waystar-Royco to GoJo head Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard).
Succession Season 4 opens on the emotional (and economic) aftermath of the Season 3 finale. In the months that have passed, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv have solidified themselves as a team aiming to strike out on their own, without Daddy’s help. The trio have their sights set on launching a news service for the 21st century until they get a whiff that Pierce might be up for grabs once more. Logan, meanwhile, is as fixated as ever on getting the GoJo deal across the finish line, but he’s equally perturbed by his children’s absence in his life. The Logan Roy we meet in Succession Season 4 ruminates aloud on what comes after death, who his best friend might be, and how he feels about his prodigal sons and daughter.
The first four episodes of Succession Season 4 are among the best installments in the show’s entire run. Every character is their most fully-realized self, from the still-awkward and hilarious Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) to the callow Tom Wambsgams (Matthew MacFadyen). Small spoiler: Greg and Tom now call themselves the “Disgusting Brothers” and they are up to new levels of gross, barely competent behavior. Guest stars and supporting players from years past are effortlessly woven into the main Roy family drama, as if past plots were just seeded to lead to these final, tense Succession moments.
Succession Season 4 also happens to be Armstrong and the writers’ most ambitious season yet. Huge swings are made from the jump and every one of them lands with creativity, nuance, and grace. The most impressive thing about the writing in Succession Season 4 is how major emotional moments are amplified by the smallest of details: a hand tentatively reaching for another hand, a shoulder jerked away, or even a Sudoku game.
Succession Season 4 finds its critically-acclaimed cast working in what can best be described as “beast mode.” Logan’s newfound “vulnerability” lets Brian Cox put a little bit of King Lear into the character. Tom’s betrayal allows Sarah Snook further explore the darker side of Shiv even as she begins to thrive in league with her brothers. Jeremy Strong’s Kendall has never seemed so even-keeled, giving Strong a chance to test out an air of confidence. Kieran Culkin has never been better, showing an emotional depth to Roman we haven’t gotten much opportunity to hitherto explore. J. Smith-Cameron, Alan Ruck, Justine Lupe, Fisher Stevens, Zoe Winters, and everyone else in the cast is just operating on a next level. (I could go on and on.)
This is the time of year when the networks and streaming services hustle to release their best and brightest titles before the window for Emmy nominations closes. Based on the four episodes HBO sent select critics, Succession is going to sweep that particular awards show. It hasn’t just met the bar of its Emmy-winning third season, but broken new ground. If the rest of Succession Season 4 keeps up this pace, the show stands to win all the Emmys. More importantly, it will make Sunday night television a rare occasion again.
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