Sarah Snook only discovered Succession’s fourth season would be its last at rehearsals late into filming. She was “disappointed” – but can she have been surprised? Though wickedly hilarious, Jesse Armstrong’s one per-center-skewering dramedy has had one idea – that the jet-setting elite are tragically loathsome – and though that idea is executed to perfection, you had to wonder how much longer this blacked-out helicopter of a show could keep its propellers rotating.
The good news is that, as its fourth and final series gets under way, Succession is firing on every cylinder. Thuggish Rupert Murdoch stand-in Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is back turning the air blue. His vipers’ nest family, including Snook as brains-of-the-operation Shiv, are ratcheting up their conspiracy against him. Logan’s idiotic eldest child Connor (Alan Ruck) frets his single percentile polling figure in the US presidential election may slip to zero – and is considering spending $100 million just to stay in the “race”.
This is Succession playing the hits. But what smashes they are. And what zinging dialogue. Having failed to oust their father from Waystar Royco last season, Shiv, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are planning a disruptive new start-up called The 100 – “Substack Meets Masterclass meets The New Yorker” – or, as Roman sees it, “clickbait for smart people”.
[ Succession finished on a high after a flabby season. Now it should end ]
[ ‘Succession? I thought, I don’t want to write for a load of white men who are evil’ ]
Nobody watches Succession for the plot. Which may be why the story remains perfunctory. This season Shiv, Kendall and Roman are determined to get back at their father for, as they perceive it, selling Waystar out from under them.
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‘I miss breakfast rolls and the sense of humour but our life in the US has been as normal as anyone else’s with young kids’
Initially their plan is The 100, described by Kendall as having “the ethos of a non-profit but the path to crazy margins”. But then they discover Logan is making a play for the Pierce media empire – an old-school conglomerate loosely based on the Sulzbergers and the New York Times. And so they try to one-up him by wildly overbidding for the company.
Shiv’s estranged husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), is meanwhile still in Camp Logan after betraying his wife in order snake his way into his father-in-law’s affections. He is also easing back into single life. He and hapless cousin Greg have dubbed themselves “The disgusting brothers”. But their life of footless freedom proves a minefield, as we see when Greg (Nicholas Braun) ends up “making a sex tape by accident”.
They’re all as dreadful as we remember. But under the comedy lurks horror. As Succession never tires of reminding the viewer, these people aren’t just running each other down. They’re also running the world. The joke in this jet-fuelled black comedy is ultimately on us.
The first episode of Succession season four is on Sky Atlantic at 9pm today; it’s also available to stream on Now