At some point, surely, Logan Roy must lose. (“Right. … Right?” his children echo in unison, exchanging anxious looks.) In Succession’s highly anticipated fourth and final season, there’s only so much more track in the circuit that’s both confined the series from the beginning, and guaranteed its status as one of the finest on television year after year. That circuit goes like this: Iron-fisted media titan Logan (Brian Cox) reigns with impunity. One or multiple of his minions and peers—filial or otherwise—confront him on the battlefield. Loyalties are tested, and the man in the chair prevails, seemingly through sheer force of personality. In the process, he humiliates his friends and enemies alike, but none more so than his own children, Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin).
The specter of inheritance has always haunted Succession as much in a figurative sense as a literal one. Who, of the Roy children, is most like their father? Who most deserves to sit in his chair? Can any of them do it? Do they even want to? And if they do, why? To impress him? He’s never impressed. His life’s greatest pleasure is to heckle and subdue them. It’s how he’s maintained his perch for decades: his children are too busy hating themselves to bother hating him enough to act on the impulse. And when they finally get organized enough to act—as Strong’s Kendall has attempted multiple times—Logan kicks up the psychological and emotional punishment to a degree best described as gleefully sadistic. It’s the game he knows how to play best, and he can play it fast, as befits his impatience. No one can withstand long in his dungeon of the heart. It’s carnage every time.
The havoc that game has wreaked on the Roy siblings is evident from the early moments of the season 4 premiere, which takes place some time after the season 3 finale. (If you recall, that episode ended with the Roy kids trying to use their company veto power, only for Shiv’s now-separated husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), to warn Logan of their errant fidelity. Game, set, match.) Now, the kids are united, if on unsteady ground. They’ve never spent enough time on the same side to trust one another in the same room. As Kendall and Roman bat around logo ideas for a new media start-up called The Hundred—an “indispensable bespoke information hub” billed as “Substack meets Masterclass meets The Economist meets The New Yorker,” a terrible idea that would get significant funding in the IRL media landscape, only to lay off all its employees within a year—they side-eye Shiv for any signs of betrayal.
Meanwhile, Logan lurks through his own birthday party as his children discuss the supposed upcoming sale of WayStar RoyCo, the family company. Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) arrives with his date, Bridget, in tow, only to get berated by Logan’s assistant, Kerry (Zoe Winters). (“This isn’t a pre-fuck party,” she tells him, to which Greg shoots back, “I am a cousin. I get a plus-one. I’m like an honorary kid.”) Greg’s confidence is boosted only slightly in the presence of Connor, who’s polling at 1 percent in his presidential bid and practically shriveling at the idea of dropping to decimal points.
Miles away, Shiv steps out of a pitch meeting to field a call from Tom, warning her that he had a social, not sexual, drink with Naomi Pierce, Kendall’s ex-girlfriend and a member of the empire controlling Pierce Global Media, WayStar’s biggest competitor. Shiv’s too rattled by the idea that Tom’s sleeping with another woman to initially grasp what his call actually reveals: Roys are talking to Pierces, and if that’s the case, then something’s going on with the WayStar sale.
The siblings put their heads together long enough to work this out, and Kendall’s team uncovers Bridget’s Instagram from Logan’s party, from which she’s tagged another Pierce family member. One Pierce is strange. Two Pierces is a sign. Logan’s eyeing an acquisition, and the kids are going to get ahead of it. They start working out a plan while Tom tries to tease out Logan’s loyalty to him, an impossible task under normal circumstances but especially under Tom’s, as a soon-to-be ex-husband of Logan’s daughter. “If we’re good, we’re good,” Logan says. “Well, that’s heartening,” Tom replies, grinning like a traumatized schoolboy.
As Greg tries to manage Bridget—who’s busy asking Logan for selfies and congratulating him on the “big deal” she wasn’t supposed to overhear—Kendall, Roman, and Shiv decide to fly out and negotiate with the Pierces. (After a long, entertaining weighing of pros and cons amongst siblings, Kendall sums it up thusly: “Just think about how fucking funny it would be if we screwed Dad over his decades-long obsession.” The motivation speaks volumes.)
Logan waits to hear back from the Pierces himself, during which we get an intriguing set of scenes that present Logan on the precipice of victory, and utterly dissatisfied. He strolls through Central Park, strangely anonymous. “Nothing tastes like it used to,” he tells his “best pal” Colin over dinner. He even breaches the subject of eternity: “You think there’s any afterwards…afterwards?” (Of course, he has to have his final say on the matter: “We can’t know. But I’ve got my suspicions. I’ve got my fucking suspicions.”) Meanwhile, his children jump at the idea that he might want to hear from them on his birthday; Kerry called to ask if they’d consider getting in touch. But they won’t do it without a direct ask or apology from the old man’s mouth. We all know Logan will never acquiesce.
Logan returns to the birthday party once he’s heard about the rival bid, and the two teams group up in their respective war rooms. In Logan’s, Karl (David Rasche) reveals that the enemy camp is led by “the kids,” and Tom attempts to cover his tracks by implying the siblings might have learned of the Pierce takeover “a million ways.” In the Roy kids’ group, Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones) recovers from her “appalling migraine,” and—after waxing poetic about her embarrassing tastes in wine—tells Roman, Shiv, and Kendall that their trip has been “in vain.” The siblings don’t take the bait. “How’s your financing?” she asks them, before quickly adding, “Not that I understand it all. I don’t want to talk numbers. It’s not about the numbers. Eight? Nine? What’s next?” (Nan loves nothing more than to pretend to be apathetic about her obscene wealth.)
Team Dad and Team Kids huddle with their councils as Dad bids $6 billion and Kids bid $8. Nan is dissatisfied with both options. Tom calls Shiv to suss out the enemy camp’s ceiling, and Shiv—her hackles raised any time her separated husband moves his lips—barks out the number $12 billion. “Fuck off,” Tom says. “Sure. Ours too.” Privately, Kendall thinks $10 billion is more reasonable—“Can’t I just jizz in her Break Bumper?” Roman protests—and the siblings agree: $10 billion for PGM. Final offer.
The deal goes through. Team Dad loses. Logan has Tom call the kids, and their father keeps his message brief: “Congratulations on saying the biggest number, you fucking morons.” Shiv, Kendall, and Roman laugh and bump fists, but through prolonged, strained glances, their doubt personified in the high-note strings playing over the scene.
Finally, the rivals cross paths in the bedroom, as Shiv returns home to the apartment she once shared with Tom (and Mondale, their dog). There’s a gentleness in which Tom approaches his wife, even now, as Shiv collects her dry cleaning and jewelry, complimenting his physique only to mock him for it in the same breath. His face is almost too calm to match the torment in his words as he replies, “Do you really want to get into a full accounting of all the pain in our marriage?”
Shiv jumps straight to the topic of divorce. And of course she does, because it’s always been easier for Shiv to deflect blame and redirect her allegiance rather than confront her personal failings. (This behavior is what has always made her such a delicious hypocrite.) “I don’t think it’s good for me to hear all that,” she says as Tom repeatedly tries to share his feelings, and it might be the most honest thing she’s revealed throughout their entire marriage. She can’t withstand anything that might exacerbate her self-loathing, something Logan has already ensured she’ll never rid herself of entirely.
The two of them lie down together on the bed they once shared. They’re not united, exactly, but neither have they managed to completely untether themselves. “We gave it a go,” Shiv croaks as Tom squeezes her hand. She can’t celebrate the day’s victory any more than she can truly mourn this loss.
Across town, Logan sits alone in a dark room, his face lit only by the evening news. There, he confronts his company’s obsolescence—which, of course, is also his own. He calls Cyd Peach, a high-ranking executive at WayStar Royco’s news network, ATN. “Are you losing it?” he demands. “Are you fucking losing it?” We’re meant to ask ourselves if this question should, rather, be addressed at Logan himself. How, after three seasons of humiliation, can his kids have defeated him this easily? Has he lost his touch? Is Logan no longer the giant he thinks he is?
It’s true, at some point Succession had to break the foundation it’s built itself upon: that Logan will always rig the game to win. This time, absolute control has slipped through his fingers, but both the manner of the Pierce bidding war and his children’s ongoing trauma bonding imply his pieces are still in play. The kids are already shaking at the mere implication of his counterattack. Fret not, L-to-the-OG fans: Logan Roy has lost nothing yet.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is a staff culture writer at ELLE, where she primarily covers film, television and books. She was previously an associate editor at ELLE.