Recap: Succession (S4, Ep4) — In Another Stellar Installment, the Strong Prey on the Weak
Editor’s Note: this article contains spoilers. You’ve been warned.
This article is written by Sam Layton.
With an episode like last week’s, how could anyone not be uncertain? When Connor (Alan Ruck) got married to his longtime girlfriend on Succession two Sundays ago, nobody could have predicted that his father would spend part of the ceremony gasping for air on the floor of his plane and most of it dead. So now that the main character of the show is gone, where does it even go? Creator Jesse Armstrong has given himself a free pass to do whatever he feels like with the aftermath of the most important event in the entire show, so “Honeymoon States” will remembered as “the episode that responded to how Logan Roy died.”
What makes “Honeymoon States” work so well—I’d argue it works almost as well as “Connor’s Wedding”—is the way it takes advantage of its audience’s uncertainty about what could happen next by having a few of its characters take advantage of the rest of the cast. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and his long-absent stepmother Marcia (Hiam Abbas) dominate Logan’s wake by having the confidence to appear like they’re on top, despite the fact that their supposed power could not exist at all. Absent from season three almost entirely, Marcia greets the siblings at the wake and assures that she and Logan “spoke twice a day,” while Kendall is hit with the absolutely stunning revelation that Logan has a will that names him as Waystar’s next CEO.
“This thing is old, and you’ve tried to put him in jail, like, twelve times since then,” Roman (Kieran Culkin) comments on the document’s validity, but Kendall doesn’t care. There’s a debate over whether Logan underlined his name or crossed it out, but again, Kendall doesn’t care. Perhaps taking Logan’s example from season one where he forced his way into a meeting and swayed the final decision completely illegally, he forces himself to believe that yes, it was underlined, and runs with it.
Near the end of the episode, PR representatives Karolina (Dagmara Dominczyk) and Hugo (Fisher Stevens) point out that if Kendall is to step up as CEO, his frequent feuds with Logan and troubles with addiction may be brought to light, and they should therefore start a preemptive counter-campaign that brings up all of Logan’s horrible actions, both in general and as a parent. Roman, who will be operating alongside Kendall because of Waystar’s formal succession plan, is appalled, but Kendall has other ideas. He approaches Hugo alone and strong-arms him into going ahead with the plan, having knowledge of Hugo’s insider trading with his daughter.
“It’s what he would do,” Kendall affirms, taking action and speaking for his father, his voice and expression deceptively affable.
The characters who can’t (or aren’t willing to) play off Logan’s death as well? Tough luck, most notably for Shiv (Sarah Snook). The episode starts with the bombshell (that I definitely didn’t catch on a first watch because I’m not fluent with gynecology speak) that she’s pregnant—almost certainly by husband and former Logan faithful Tom (Matthew Macfayden)—and she carries this weight with her all throughout the wake. At one point, Tom tries to talk to her, acting as though he didn’t earlier lump her in with the “screwups and dipshits” that he said opposed Logan. Perhaps put off by Frank’s (Peter Friedman) earlier assessment of his value now that Logan is gone, Tom tries to get in good with his estranged wife with rather off-putting statements like “let me show you some kindness.” Shiv has always seen through him, though, and she sees through his shallow emotional appeal when he tries to dredge up nostalgia around the first time they met.
“That was a while ago, wasn’t it?” she says before leaving.
But even if she can score a victory over Tom, (which, admittedly, doesn’t seem that hard) she can’t get one over on her brother.
“Well, it sure as fucking shit doesn’t say Shiv,” Kendall snaps when she calls the document’s validity into question.
After years of toiling under Logan and deciding to side with Kendall when he needed her, Shiv is again denied the power that she’s always tried to work legitimately for, and the humiliation goes from internal to external when she trips in front of everyone, just as how Kendall did at the birthday party that started his mental decline at the end of last season. Does this mean that the final conflict of the series will be Shiv against Kendall, (and by extension Roman) who is undoubtedly becoming the new Logan? I mean, maybe.
And in the wake of his father’s death, Roman perhaps has the least expected reaction of all—compassion. Yes, foul-mouthed, volatile Roman watches as his father’s ex-assistant/paramour Kerry (Zoe Winters) struggles to hold herself together as Marcia kicks her out of the wake, and he tries to help her. There are different ways to read this scene—it could be Roman clinging onto someone that reminds him of Logan; it could be him finally showing some human empathy with his monstrous father gone; it could be both—but Roman does it, which makes me worried about whether he’ll survive as co-leader of Kendall’s new regime.
With Logan gone, in theory, any of his children (except Connor, let’s be serious here) could take his place—it’s just a matter of who’s up for it. Roman is too weak-willed. Shiv could be a potential candidate—look at the way she manipulated a victim of Waystar’s sexual assault cruise into not testifying near the end of season two—but she’s much better at following orders than giving them. Kendall has been hardened by his push-pull relationship with his family into the “killer” Logan wanted him to be, so now he can practically do anything. Despite the fact that Logan is gone, the story of Succession is still going, and instead of being about a father and his children, it’s about those children and the mess their father left behind.
This episode of Succession is now available on HBO Max.