Succession” plunges into its fourth and final season with trademark ferocity and a clear sense of purpose, in a world where high-stakes financial transactions and dysfunctional family dynamics go hand in hand. There’s no shortage of qualities to admire about the Emmy-winning show, but none more vital than the theme of a legendary patriarch whose children don’t measure up to him.
Indeed, while little can be said about the first few episodes of the new season without crossing into spoiler territory, the best and signature line has been all over the promotion for the show, with media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) telling three of his adult children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin), “I love you, but you are not serious people.”
“Serious people,” in Logan’s view, are the kind who move markets, command fealty from heads of state and play Monopoly with real conglomerates. Thanks to Cox’s towering portrayal, Logan remains the epitome of seriousness, so much so that he prowls around his own party like a caged panther, possessing little patience for sycophants and well-wishers.
Kendall, Shiv and Roman share those “Masters of the Universe” aspirations (think “Bonfire of the Vanities,” not He-Man), but even with the three having banded together at the end of the third season, there’s a nagging sense their dad’s playing hardball while they’re swinging plastic bats.
On a more fundamental level, the structure of the new season creates sensational (and uncomfortable) exchanges among the key players, as the “next-gen Roys,” as Kendall refers to them, seek to prove that they can play in the big leagues. In Kendall’s case, those endeavors have often seemed border-line delusional, the classic case of someone born on third base who’s convinced he’s hit a triple, in a way that’s alternately delicious and cringe-worthy.
There’s also characteristically riotous stuff in the interactions between Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun), who have evolved into an inordinately foul-mouthed equivalent of Laurel and Hardy, helping make this drama one of the funniest shows on television.
As luck would have it, the new season arrives amid a spate of revelations regarding Fox and its leader Rupert Murdoch, who series creator Jesse Armstrong has acknowledged as one of his inspirations (he once wrote a fictionalized script titled “Murdoch”), along with Sumner Redstone, whose stewardship of Viacom is the subject of the new book “Unscripted.”
If “Succession” has been a more entertaining and absurd window into media empires, these real-life examples offer a reminder that its excesses fall only into the “slightly exaggerated” category.
Smartly, Armstrong seems to be circling back to the program’s origins in laying the foundation for this climactic season. How well the series pays that off remains to be seen, but based on its track record and this stellar start, there’s every reason to believe the serious people behind “Succession” can close the deal.