[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Succession” Season 4, Episode 1, “The Munsters.”]
“Succession” sure knows how to take the “happy” out of “happy birthday.” Following last season’s devastating bash for Kendall (Jeremy Strong), the beginning of the end starts with another commemoration, this time absent a vaginal entryway or sippy cup cocktails. Logan (Brian Cox) doesn’t celebrate like his son, though he doesn’t celebrate like he used to, either. Way back when “Succession” first premiered, it was Logan’s 80th birthday. The Roy family gathered at his palatial New York apartment, before heading out in helicopters for a fateful softball game. Now, after the fallout in Tuscany, there’s no warm welcome when Logan comes up the elevator. Three of his kids are on the opposite coast. His wife, Marcia (Hiam Abbass), is in Milan… shopping… forever. The birthday boy shuffles through his many rooms as if looking for an escape, wondering aloud why everyone is so damn happy.
The better question is why he isn’t. In the interim months between Season 3’s finale and now, Logan has gotten everything he’s claimed to want: He’s two days out from netting a massive payday and securing his personal legacy by selling Waystar Royco to GoJo CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). He’s fended off his children’s attempt at a hostile takeover, time and time again, and he’s about to acquire his white whale: Pierce Global Media, led by his left-wing nemesis, Nancy “Nan” Pierce (Cherry Jones). As Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) tells him, “This is it. You landed the plane Logan. 48 hours and out — congratulations.”
But even before such salutations prove premature, Logan isn’t pleased, and his first question to Tom hints at why: “Have you heard from the rats?” he wonders, admitting (as much as a stubborn old man like Logan can) that he misses his kids. Soon after, he’s fleeing his own party with his bodyguard and “best pal” Colin (Scott Nicholson). His night only goes downhill from there, as his birthday dinner at a random diner gets interrupted for impromptu negotiations for PGM — negotiations he technically loses… or does he? When taking the bigger picture into account, Logan may be the winner once again.
Echoes of “Succession’s” series premiere echo through “The Munsters.” Again, it’s Logan’s birthday. Again, his party isn’t the top priority. (It may literally be his last priority.) Again, Kendall is trying to close an acquisition to impress his papa, and once again, he gets the deal done only to be brutally undercut by the implication it isn’t nearly enough. Back then, Kendall was told Logan isn’t stepping down as CEO, despite promising his first-born son the top job. Today, Kendall’s only birthday communication with his father comes in the form of a one-sided phone call where Logan bellows at his rogue children, “Congratulations on saying the biggest number, you fucking morons.”
Is Logan a sore loser? Sure. He wanted Pierce, and he wanted it bad. Kendall wasn’t wrong in calling the New York Times-esque media company his father’s “decades-long obsession.” But Logan is also right in assessing his children’s tactics: During the last-minute negotiations, the Roy “sibs” have no concept of the money they’re spending — it’s telling that Roman, of all people, tries to emphasize the scale of a billion dollars — and they don’t know or don’t care that Nan’s playing them against themselves. All they see is revenge, and they pay upwards of three “bill” to stick it to their dad.
Beyond their dodgy business acumen, what they neglect to realize is how their decision to engage with Logan again will affect their psyches, which appear shockingly healthy at the onset of Episode 1. The first shot of Roman sees him doing actual work — he’s not sending dick pics to Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) or masturbating against his office window. He’s holding a meeting for the sibs’ start-up, The Hundred, “a revolutionary new media brand that’s going to redefine news for the 21st century.” Is it bullshit, as Shiv (Sarah Snook) later claims? Absolutely. Just about anything that features the words “boutique” in the pitch deck and aims to be “clickbait but for smart people” probably isn’t destined for greatness. But still, it seems Roman has been working these three months — spending personal capital, signing writers, and courting investors — instead of licking his wounds.
The same goes for Kendall. Lest we forget, the last time we saw the second-coming of Weird Al, he was one day removed from floating face down in a pool. He then had an emotional breakdown at his mother’s wedding and could barely stand up. Just a few months ago, Kendall was broken, and he could’ve been shattered after rallying for yet another failed coup. Instead, he’s striding into the Pacific Palisades mansion howling “Romey!” and cracking jokes about torturing journalists. (Yes, that one stung.) Kendall seems good — really good — and it can’t be a coincidence that such contentment comes after three months of hard separation from his toxic father.
Can he, Shiv, and Roman keep the good times rolling now that they’ve gotten a taste of vengeance? Maybe, but the forced laughter after Logan’s verbal backhand foretells a far less jolly future. After all, the Waystar Royco CEO is about to be a very wealthy man with a lot of time on his hands. Once the GoJo sale goes through, and without PGM as his new plaything, what else will Logan have to do besides pester the wayward children he so clearly misses? Logan has always wanted a worthy adversary — it’s the only way his victories carry any meaning — and he’s also wanted at least one of his kids to rise to the challenge. Stealing PGM isn’t exactly proof positive they’re ready to tangle with pops, but they did poke the bear, and this bear loves to fight back.
“Succession” Season 4 would have to test the Roy trio’s newfound bond; they came together once to stand united against their father, but can they sustain their partnership after decades of being pitted against each other by a diabolical puppet master? Season after season, we’ve seen Kendall, Shiv, and Roman try to work with each other, protect each other, be there like siblings should, only to fall prey to a temptation at the core of their beings — and put there quite purposefully by their papa. Even after this week’s successful (if less-than-brilliant) triumph, fractures are already evident.
Better buckle up, fuckleheads. Our latest birthday is only the beginning.
Bridget Randomfuck, we barely knew ye. Greg’s (Nicholas Braun) date to Logan’s birthday proves to be exactly the kind of tension-breaking, insult-baiting break Episode 1 needs, allowing everyone from Tom to Kerry (Zoe Winters) a pot-shot (or six) at the unsuspecting woman “from the apps.” Hearing Tom’s run of censures — just about her handbag — feels as close to a warm welcome back as “Succession” can get (and the quip about carrying “flat shoes for the subway” brought down the house at the series’ New York premiere).
Still, I have to wonder just how far Tom’s razzing went: It’s easy to believe Logan has security cameras “out the wazoo” in his own home, but he’s not reviewing the tapes in Episode 1’s final shot. (He’s watching ATN.) So did Tom make Greg tell Logan about “rummaging to fruition” just to fuck with his favorite Sporus? Or was he really looking out for the foolish little man, knowing that the tape would eventually be flagged to the master of the house? I have to lean toward the former, but please share your opinions either way.
Moving from the Disgusting Brothers to Tom’s other romantic relationship, his marriage to Shiv appears to be dunzo. Not only have the two entered into a trial separation following last season’s betrayal(s), but now Shiv appears to be locked into a divorce via the Pierce acquisition. Nan — who, it must be said, sucks — mentioned how messy it would be for Shiv to be married to an ATN executive, and without missing a beat, she promised divorce proceedings. (A claim that raised Kendall’s eyebrow, if not Roman’s.)
At episode’s end, she wakes Tom to take more stuff of their apartment, remind Mondale what she smells like, and tell her aggrieved husband it was over, cutting off any attempt he makes to talk through their issues. Paired with her repeated need for independent protection back in L.A. — when she told her brothers, “I have to look out for myself because no one else will” (and in case Roman gets “his dick caught in an A.I. jerk machine,” which is, of course, quite a plausible concern) — Shiv is ready to fly solo, or at least she’s preparing for it. Not trusting her brothers, her father, or her husband will do that to a person, though it’s hard to believe Shiv will ever be able to separate from the Roys, even if she can separate from Tom.
Logan’s request from a roast may not have gone over well (though I’m proud of Greg for giving it a real shot), but it’s the perfect excuse to honor Episode 1’s funniest crack. Perhaps I’m biased by how much I despise Nan — there’s something about her smug superiority complex that gets under my skin — but I’ve got to go with Roman’s two bald-faced jabs at her faux ignorance:
“I know, it’s so confusing,” he says when Nan pretends to be overwhelmed by bids of “eight or nine” billion. “What comes after nine? 9B?”
And lest we forget his opening insult, after Nan pretends to have a headache before “feeling better” and agreeing to see them: “All right, we get to talk to an old lady about newspapers. Amazing.”
Shout-out to Justine Lupe as Willa for nailing a delicate joke amid Connor’s torrid pitch for an extreme wedding. After asking his bride-to-be if she would be OK with “bum fights” on her big day — you know, for the free publicity — Willa respectfully stammers, “I’ve always– I mean, it’s dumb, but I quite wanted a nice wedding.”
Dare to dream, Willa. Dare to dream.
And speaking of ATN, I originally neglected to include the news chyrons from Season 4’s opening credits sequence. So, for posterity, this year’s read: “China Hack Could See 40M Americans Entombed in Their Electric Cars” and “Deep State Blunder: Classified Docs Displayed on NBA Jumbotron.”
Where do these rank for you, dear readers? In the realm of “Why Are So Many of Our Older Celebrities Dying?” but still a touch below my favorite: “I Smiled at Her by the Photocopier: Now I’m Facing Chemical Castration.”
“Succession” Season 4 releases new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.