All empires should fall ultimately, and thus HBO’s Succession is coming to an finish. The smash-hit, awards-bedecked sequence premieres its fourth and remaining season on March 26, closing out a dynastic household drama that has captivated thousands and thousands with its heady mix of ribald language and harsh energy taking part in. Expectations are excessive, and based mostly on what I’ve seen of the season to this point (4 episodes), they won’t be dashed.
They might be subverted, although. To elaborate on that, I’m afraid, would lead me into spoiler territory—a land I dare not tread. What I can verify, a minimum of, is that Jesse Armstrong’s smooth and interesting sequence stays simply that because it begins its final lap.
When final we left the Roy household—rulers of a media conglomerate recognized for its conservative cable-news community, theme parks, cruise line, and different ancillary companies—they had been confronting a schism like by no means earlier than. Youngsters Kendall (Jeremy Sturdy), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) had conspired in opposition to their father, Logan (Brian Cox), to dam the sale of the corporate to an oddball Swedish tech zillionaire, Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). However Logan acquired wind of the plan—due to Shiv’s sneaky husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen)—and the youngsters had been despatched reeling into the chaos and embarrassment of defeat.
Season 4 picks up with the youngsters regrouped, about to satisfy with potential traders for his or her shiny new media startup (some kind of bullshit information portal they’ve known as The Hundred). It’s right here that Armstrong will get to flex his keenest satirical skills—the way in which the youngsters, particularly Kendall, speak about this new enterprise will sound eerily, nauseatingly acquainted to anybody who has trudged by the media mines up to now 15 years. That is Succession at its finest, each foolish and high-stakes, a guiltily enviable glimpse into monied folks’s well-appointed existences and a giddy skewering of their noxious vanities.
Every actor is working in peak kind: Snook’s agile depiction of Shiv’s slippery makes an attempt to maintain the ethical excessive floor, Culkin’s biting-sad rendering of Roman’s defensively caustic humor, Sturdy’s petulant dork satisfied that cash has made him sharp and funky. Cox’s Logan, evident at his kids by many layers of assistants and fixers, is as hectoring and scary as ever, however the wintry, Learian unease of the primary season has, maybe, crept again in.
Logan the fading titan would possibly truly miss his kids, even when just for their dependable nuisance. The youngsters in all probability really feel the identical method, although they’ve (maybe tragically) satisfied themselves they’re lastly freed from his thrall. Within the early episodes, the Roy kids safe what seems to be to be a significant victory, lastly getting one over on imply previous dad and putting in them as the usual bearers of the household identify as the longer term rushes at them.
However success is tenuous on Succession, which pitches the present someplace between thriller and pathetic comedy. That make-or-break pressure, its lunacy and its dread, is amped up within the episodes I’ve seen, although to not a evident diploma.
On the similar time, a melancholy has descended on these terrible folks. Sure, as a result of the present is ending. But in addition as a result of not one of the characters appear ready to really, lastly get what they need—Logan’s large cash-out, the youngsters’ escape from below his thumb. They’re dealing with the finality of life after the scramble, a prospect that ties them into new and stressed knots. From time to time we hear them converse of alternate lives, ones during which the Roys (and people of their shut orbit) are off someplace else merely having fun with their cash—utilizing it to “purchase snowmobiles and sushi,” or dwelling in Milan, “procuring eternally.” However they’ll in all probability by no means get to that languid Eden as a result of, because the trite previous analogy goes, if a shark stops swimming, it dies.
It’s fascinating to see Armstrong and his writers rounding the bend like this, circling again to the primary season’s temper of impending, irreversible change. This temperature shift makes the present slightly bit much less enjoyable, perhaps. However it additionally would possibly result in Succession that means one thing ultimately. The present’s final level will not be a comforting one, nor one with any sort of actionable entreaty. However simply as Shakespeare and the Greeks tended to have one thing heavy to say about their ruinous and ruined royals, so too would possibly Armstrong.
At occasions, nonetheless, the present may be too pert and snarky for its personal good; Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), the lanky oaf stumbling up the corporate ladder, has turn out to be significantly cartoonish, too meme-able through the years. His inhuman bumbling is method misplaced this season, as numerous different characters round him appear to be drifting again all the way down to earth, albeit slowly and with a lot thrashing.
However that’s a comparatively minor critique of what’s in any other case satisfying and shocking—based mostly on what I’ve seen, anyway. Succession might nonetheless crash and burn proper together with the Roys. Or it might finish on a wonderfully unsettling observe, the identical one which Armstrong has been taking part in, with spectacular steadiness, since season one. It’s the sound of the ground above us (and these are excessive ceilings) creaking below the burden of its inhabitants. It’s the insistent fear that they’ll come tumbling down on high of us or, a lot worse, preserve ascending till we can’t hear them anymore—their gilded kingdom so impossibly away from the mess they’ve made for the remainder of us. Both method, I worry I’ll miss them once they’re gone.