Succession review: a masterclass in machiavellian power plays

Joseph Gonzalez, Staff Writer

The Emmy Award-winning show Succession has taken the television landscape by storm once again with its highly anticipated fourth season – it is an absolute triumph. This captivating HBO drama series continues to evolve and enthrall audiences, exploring the intricate dynamics of power, family, and corporate greed with unparalleled finesse. Season 4 has truly solidified Succession’s place as one of the finest shows of our time. 

As the name of the show implies, we finally got to see who would succeed and win the war of “succession” over the in-show Waystar RoyCo company. Succession is a tour de force that explores the dark underbelly of power, wealth, and family dynamics. With its impeccable writing, exceptional acting, and gripping storytelling, this show stands out as a true masterpiece in the realm of television dramas. Showrunner Jesse Armstrong delivered what most TV series often fail to, a gripping ending.

First and foremost, the writing in Succession season 4 is nothing short of genius. The sharp, witty and ruthlessly clever dialogue we have come to love is present in abundance, capturing the essence of each character and their motivations flawlessly. The script keeps us on the edge of our seats, filled with unexpected twists and turns that leave us craving for more at every episode’s end. The series continues to expertly balance moments of biting – often explicit and creatively inappropriate – humor with moments of emotional intensity, creating a truly addictive viewing experience.

The strength of Succession lies not only in its central character but also in the meticulously crafted ensemble cast. The performances in Succession are unparalleled and Season 4 takes the already stellar ensemble cast to new heights. Brian Cox is simply mesmerizing as Logan Roy, the enigmatic and domineering patriarch. His portrayal is both commanding and vulnerable, showcasing the complexity and depth of his character. Jeremy Strong’s performance as Kendall Roy is equally brilliant, delivering a performance that blurs the line between sympathy and the utmost disdain for the spoiled billionaire child. The entire ensemble, the mesmerizing Alexander Skarsgård – who somehow was able to bear the weight as the show’s primary antagonist as the Elon Musk-inspired Lucas Matsson after the shocking death of Logan Roy earlier this season. Sarah Snook as the cunning Shiv, Kieran Culkin as the stunted manchild who grows fond of a revolting form of desire and love, Matthew Macfadyen as my favorite character, Tom Wambsgans and Nicholas Braun as Tom’s assistant and “friend” Greg, among others, consistently deliver outstanding performances that make each character feel distinct and essential to the story.

Season 4 dives deeper into the intricate power dynamics within the Roy family, as well as their relentless pursuit of control over the multinational media conglomerate, Waystar Royco. The series fearlessly explores themes of ambition, betrayal and the corrupting influence of wealth, painting a scathing yet compelling portrait of the ultra-rich and our largest system of capitalism and media consumption. Succession continues to challenge our perceptions of morality, forcing us to question our own ethics and how far we would go for power and success. 

This series played no games in ultimately naming an heir, a “winner” of the show – though, whether or not CEO is truly a victory remains a question for the audience. The true, perhaps most successful machiavellian of the show was the timid midwestern Tom Wambsgans, husband to Shiv Roy. This remarkable feat of Tom, who has been backstabbed by his wife numerous times – even facing the possibility of jail time during the earlier stages of the story –, is no mistake. Armstrong’s message of a true cutthroat emerging not from the pampered elite but from a person who wants power more than anything, yet born without it. This shocking finale underscores the grotesque nature of corporate ladder-climbing and refuses to play into a satisfying ending for the Roy children. Afterall, the entirety of the show demonstrates their inability not only to be the potential CEO but humane, loving people. Tom’s ascension is meant to illustrate the reality of our cruel corporate-dominated world – and it does so with grace.

Visually, Succession is a feast for the eyes. The cinematography beautifully captures the opulence of the Roy family’s world while juxtaposing it with the cold, clinical nature of their power games. The luxurious settings, stunning locations, and meticulous attention to detail all contribute to the show’s immersive atmosphere, enveloping the audience in the rarified air of the ultra-wealthy.

Beyond its captivating storytelling and exceptional performances, Succession serves as a scathing critique of wealth inequality, corporate greed, and the corrupting influence of power. It holds up a mirror to the societal structures that enable and perpetuate the Roy family’s dominance, making it both a highly entertaining drama and a thought-provoking social commentary.

All things considered, Succession is an absolute triumph that pushes the boundaries of television excellence. It seamlessly weaves together a compelling narrative, impeccable performances, and thought-provoking themes to create a truly unforgettable viewing experience. Whether you’re drawn to its intricate power dynamics or exploration of familial relationships, this show has something for everyone. Prepare to be enthralled, shocked and left craving for more as you dive into the world of Succession.