When Jesse Armstrong first announced the Roy family saga would end with the fourth season of Succession back in February fans of the HBO show were distraught, the show was on such a high so why stop now?
Succession’s new season premiered in March and it has delighted viewers every week, with each shocking moment serving as a watercooler talking point for days on end. But one thing that seems evident, with only three more episodes left to go, is that Armstrong made the right call to end the show when he did.
Season 4 began in the aftermath of its previous season, with Roy siblings Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) teaming up for an offensive against their father Logan (Brian Cox), who had taken away their right to veto a deal he’d made with tech billionaire Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård).
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The media mogul was tipped off about his children's plans by Shiv’s husband, Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), and the betrayal has further driven the wedge between the couple – because, let’s be honest, their toxic relationship was already on the rocks long before that moment.
Raring to go toe-to-toe with Logan, the trio had an early victory by persuading Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones) to sell her company to them rather than Logan. They readied themselves for all-out war, and said some harsh words to the patriarch along the way, only for their world to fall apart when Logan suddenly died.
The episode in which this happens is, so far, the best of the series. Strong, Snook and Culkin gave a masterclass in acting as they portrayed the raw whirlwind of emotions that their characters went through while they desperately tried to make amends when it was already too late to do so.
Since then, the story has revolved around the three characters. Kendall and Roman are co-CEOs while the deal with Matsson is ongoing, though both are proving more volatile than anyone would have expected. Kendall keeps coming up with new schemes at a manic pace, while Roman is firing practically anyone he lays his eyes on.
Shiv, meanwhile, is doing all she can to back the right horse, the one that’ll get her the position in the company that she’s always wanted, even if that potentially means betraying her own family to do so.
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The drama has had some real highs this season but, when you really think about it, where else can it go? What else is there to say?
With Logan gone the only thing left to do now is see the show’s titular premise through to the end and answer the question we’ve been asking since the beginning: who will take the throne at Waystar Royco?
In some ways you can feel that this is the case. The story, as well-written as it is, feels like it is going around in circles until it reaches that final hurdle. Kendall and Roman want to finish what their dad started, then they don’t want the deal, then, in the most recent episode, Kendall thinks 'to hell with it', maybe Waystar Royco should take over Matsson’s GoJo brand?
Supporting characters are being pushed to the sidelines in favour of the Roy family drama, with promising people like Gerri (J Smith-Cameron) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) being used so sparingly that they’ve basically lost what character development they had before this season.
Connor (Alan Ruck), bless him, doesn’t get much time to shine either, even though he is also a Roy sibling with a Presidential campaign underway, albeit an unsuccessful one.
Only Tom has really remained front and centre, and mainly by virtue of his link to Shiv. It’s a good thing, too, because episode 7’s standout moment was the explosive argument between the estranged couple when they finally talked about their marriage and its failings.
What Succession is doing well at this season is allowing the cast to have more introspective moments, scenes in which they can really show off their acting skills by pouring their hearts and souls into their respective characters.
But, even with this, it feels like the story hasn’t got much left to give, or at least like there weren't enough ideas to sustain another season.
There’s only so many ways the show can end with current plot lines. What else is there but to see which of the Roy siblings succeeds Logan — if any of them — and where they end up once that final decision is made?
So, it makes sense why Armstrong chose to end things now rather than drag it out any longer.
Better to end on a high than sully your legacy with a lacklustre coda.
Succession season 4 airs on Mondays on Sky Atlantic, and it is also streaming on NOW.
Watch the trailer for Succession season 4 episode 8