The Final Season
Aired On: HBO / MAX
Release Date: 05/28/23 [Finale Date]
"The Roy family is known for controlling the biggest media and entertainment company in the world. However, their world changes when their father steps down from the company."
[Review contains spoilers for S4x03 “Connor’s Wedding”]
Reader, I’m at a loss for words –
I’ve had weeks to brace for impact. I told myself I’ve pre-grieved the end of Succession, but no. When the sun set on our Number One Boy, Kendall Roy for the last time. It all came down like a ton of bricks. I’m not ready to let any of these rich weirdos go - but sometimes it’s just time to cash out and f— off. That’s what Jesse Armstrong has decided to do here. Rather than continuing the Roy family shenanigans, he’s deciding to end the prestige television show with one final spin. What Armstrong and his amazing writing team give us is a grand slam of a final season that's ever so emotionally nasty and deeply human. Along with masterclass TV directing and a gallery of performances that will forever be among the best in the medium, Succession season 4 wraps up the show to a legendary degree.
The structure of this final season is fascinating. My review of the season premiere, "The Munsters" covered the Roy siblings (Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin) finally going after the Roy patriarch, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), promising the season of Logan v. The Sibs. But here's the thing: Logan dies three episodes in very suddenly as he's flying to meet up with Lukas Matson (Alexander Skarsgård) regarding their pending sale - during his eldest son's wedding, no less. It was a clever ploy to show that, no, the siblings aren't going against their father. They're attempting to save their father's empire from free fall after his untimely demise.
It still feels like Logan is among the cast in the show; his ghost hanging over his children making cataclysmic decisions. This is the season that the show has been leading to: Logan's death and the literal succession of his empire. Which of his children will inherit his media mogul throne? Well, all that is answered and more - but also, in great Succession fashion, it also incorporates real world implications of the actions of these characters. However, season 4 also wants us to keep in mind one crucial point. The Roy siblings - Kendall, Shiv and Roman, in particular - are more than anything, spoiled rich brats. Spoiled rich brats with little to no experience in handling media, or the massive and sometimes dire consequences it has to the American culture.
Through the cataclysmic fallout of Logan Roy's passing, character emotions get even more explosive, and the performances get especially captivating. There are peak performances from everyone. Sarah Snook and Keiran Culkin, who give Shiv and Roman tremendous depth here; Snook’s Shiv sees pressure closing in on all sides and is finding herself almost alone in this deathly corporate freefall. Culkin cranks Roman’s nihilistic masochism to eleven and seeing how it impacts the path of the company post-Logan, it’s almost like watching a trainwreck you can’t look away from. And of course, who could forget our Number One Boy? Jeremy Strong’s performance as Kendall has always been one of the main driving forces of the show and his presence in season 4 is as electric as ever, and the sheer range he displays in Kendall is even more dynamic. Seeing these three together on screen is just absolutely electric, and you’re either left emotionally exhausted or laughing your ass off after each scene with them together.
Not to mention the writing here; with a season with such high caliber performances, the writing is even sharper and meaner. Armstrong wanted to go out strong here, and he really did. The episode “Connor’s Wedding” was already hailed as a show staple as it aired, however, I’d argue that this season even swung out with even stronger episodes than that. Two personal favorites of mine would be 4x05 “Kill List” and 4x08 “America Decides”. “Kill List” has the siblings go to Sweden as they deal with an erratic Lukas Mattson as he attempts to acquire their company. This episode in particular has a monologue towards the end that will become a top favorite, and the cinematography of the Swedish alps is just eye-popping. “America Decides” has the sibs dealing with American democracy; this episode very intentionally calls to many media blunders in past elections - most notably the 2000, 2016 and 2020 elections - and makes us ponder on just how many powerful idiots like these people have their own hands in American democracy. It’s such an amazingly written episode with such evil energy that I almost got knots in my stomach watching it. A perfect display on how the Roy siblings can impact the real world in the most horrid and careless ways.
Season 4 of Succession may go down as one of the best final seasons of a series in history, joining the ranks of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Sopranos, Mad Men, and so on. Armstrong and the writing staff give us an electrifying season that’s emotionally callous, achingly human, gut-bustingly hilarious, masterfully performed, and just perfectly put together. All the way to the very last episode it’s a fight until the end for a seat at the top, and boy is it a great one.