Review by Sean Boelman
After becoming a bit of a sleeper hit, HBO’s Succession is now one of the most acclaimed shows on television right now. It was recently announced that the fourth season is set to be the last, leaving fans with anticipation to see how the saga of the Roys will fall out. If the first episode is any indication, this may be the best season of the best series ever created.
As is the case with previous seasons, we start the first episode of the final season in medias res, as the Roys continue their power struggle to determine who will control the Waystar Royco empire. This episode again takes place during one of Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) birthday soirées, but it makes “Dundee” look like child’s play by comparison.
For the first twenty minutes or so of the episode, it’s dryly funny and sharp. However, it quickly begins to escalate and turns into one of the most exhilarating episodes of television that you will ever see in your life. The negotiations that happen in the last thirty minutes of the episode are so delectably petty that they will have fans giggling with glee.
The most interesting thing about this season — at least for the first episode — is that it features the siblings in an uneasy alliance, as the finale of season three hinted at, rather than each other’s throats. It’s a very different dynamic than we are used to seeing from the characters, but it is still devilishly fun and feels like an entirely natural progression of their arcs.
This episode really returns Cox to the spotlight after a couple of seasons that were arguably more dominated by the performances of the actors playing the Roy kids. Cox has such a commanding, confident screen presence that is virtually unrivaled by anyone else in the cast. He delivers every single line with the sharpness of a razor blade.
Of course, the rest of the cast does a great job too. Sarah Snook shows her cold side as Shiv yet again, while Jeremy Strong plays it much quieter than usual — but seemingly deliberately so. Matthew MacFadyen and Nicholas Braun are at it once again too, bringing fans’ favorite dynamic duo to increasingly wacky heights.
Mark Mylod’s direction in the episode is among the series’s best. There are so many power dynamics at play that have to be captured through the performances and editing, and they’ve never been done better. And, as if anyone expected anything less, Nicholas Brittell’s iconic score slaps as hard as ever, creating the tension masterfully.
The first episode of the final season of Succession hits the ground running, setting the bar extremely high for the remaining episodes. It’s always good when the creators of a series are able to end the show on their own terms — because the result is a conclusion that feels as deliberate as this.
Succession debuts on HBO on March 26 at 9pm ET/PT. One out of ten episodes reviewed.