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On Succession, someone finally wins a kiss from daddy

Let the succeeding begin.

Two men and a woman sit on couches looking at papers on a coffee table.
Shiv (Sarah Snook), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are totally going to stay a team.
David M. Russell/HBO
Whizy Kim is a reporter covering how the world's wealthiest people wield influence, including the policies and cultural norms they help forge. Before joining Vox, she was a senior writer at Refinery29.

Note: This article contains spoilers for several Succession episodes, particularly season four, episode four, “Honeymoon States.”

In “Honeymoon States,” the fourth episode of Succession’s final season, everyone’s weaponizing Logan’s memory to suit their own ends.

While he was alive, Logan maintained a tightly held image of shrewdness and unassailable power, but even he can’t control how he’ll be remembered. Early in the episode, the Roy children rifle through their father’s many newspaper obituaries; “The reviews are in,” Roman quips. They’re full of euphemisms that the kids have fun translating. According to one, Logan was a “complicated man,” which Kendall takes to mean “threw phones at staff”; another calls him a “business genius,” which is clearly a generous way to describe someone who never paid taxes.

The core drama of this episode, however, revolves around another piece of paper: a document that Waystar vice chairman Frank Vernon (Peter Friedman) discovers in Logan’s private safe. It turns out that at one point, Logan (Brian Cox) had named Kendall (Jeremy Strong) as his successor. Kendall is rocked by what looks like tangible confirmation that Logan chose him, but is also plagued by the maddening ambiguity of the piece of paper. It’s riddled with pencil scribbles, including a mark near Kendall’s name. Was Logan underlining it or, as Shiv (Sarah Snook) pounces on as a possibility, was he trying to cross Ken’s name out? (“It sure as fucking shit doesn’t say ‘Shiv,’” Kendall bites back.)

Later, he asks Frank if it’s real, hardly able to believe his own eyes. It feels like not only proof of Logan’s esteem, but even whatever love and affection he had for his second son. It’s also cruel in quintessential Logan fashion — an ambiguous bit of chicken scratch from beyond the grave for Kendall to obsess over. “He made me hate him, and then he died,” Kendall says ruefully. Frank reassures him. “He was an old bastard — and he loved you,” he says.

Kendall and his siblings probably won’t ever know for sure what their father really thought or intended, but that won’t stop them from interpreting Logan’s cryptic last message through the lens of their desires and insecurities. Being named Logan’s preferred successor is legally meaningless — the CEO is decided by a board vote, not by Logan’s will. The other Waystar execs, and Kendall’s siblings, are quick to point out that the document is undated, and that no one was informed of its existence. But for Kendall, it has all the meaning in the world: He now has a narrative about what his formidable father wanted, and he’s running with it.

Musical chairs of power

The entirety of “Honeymoon States” takes place in Logan’s apartment, where a circus of political leaders and titans of industry have gathered to mourn the recently deceased family patriarch. Even Marcia (Hiam Abbass) has returned from her shopping trip in Milan, staking her claim over her castle (and also swiftly selling it to Connor when he shows interest in it). The main event, however, is a board meeting where a new interim Waystar CEO will be appointed. The family dining table is now occupied entirely by Waystar suits, and instead of Logan, chief financial officer Karl Muller (David Rasche) is sitting at the head. Roman (Kieran Culkin), as he looks at the tableau, remarks that Logan had been planning on firing half of them.

But Logan isn’t around anymore, and the Waystar execs whisper avariciously about which possible CEO to rally behind. The Roy children, unsurprisingly, are nowhere on their list; Karl suggests telling the board that Logan’s spawn aren’t “constitutionally well-equipped at this point to take on the role” — or, as Tom puts it, they’re “screw-ups and dipshits.” The masks have come off. Everyone is scrambling to throw their names into the hat, and they quickly get snide with one another. Karl refers to Gerri Kellman’s (J. Smith-Cameron) brief tenure as interim CEO as her “tilt at the windmill,” while Gerri implies that it’s long past time for Karl to retire.

It’s a fact of life that everyone orbiting Waystar and the Roy family tries to use their proximity to power to their advantage, but this episode is a reminder that whatever power they manage to grab, they forever remain standing on quicksand. We see both Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) trying to get in anyone’s good graces, like a pair of barnacles in search of a whale to attach themselves to. Kerry (Zoe Winters), Logan’s assistant-turned-lover, has also plummeted in the power rankings. She makes an ill-advised appearance at the apartment, babbling almost incoherently about going upstairs to collect her things. But Marcia coldly tells her that her things are already in a bag. Kerry blathers something about Logan making arrangements to marry her, but it’s clear that’s about as useful as fairy dust now. Kerry is taken out the back entrance; Roman protests that this is all a little harsh, but Marcia, in a brutally calm voice, tells him that a taxi will deposit Kerry at the subway station so she can return to her “little apartment.”

Kendall is back on a destructive path

Throughout this season, Kendall has kept up an affectionate, collaborative relationship with his younger siblings. They’re still planning on buying and revamping Pierce Global Media as soon as Waystar is sold to streaming company GoJo — which might not happen after all. (GoJo founder Lukas Matsson ((Alexander Skarsgård)) is being cagey, and now wants the Roy children to visit him in Sweden.) Kendall even brags about how therapy has been helping him with his grief; despite Logan’s death, he’s mentally probably in the best place we’ve ever seen him.

But Kendall is forever an addict, most of all an addict to the idea of being a man his father would be proud of. He can’t stop obsessing over the idea that Logan had written down which of his offspring was most worthy of taking up his mantle. This is something tangible. It has far more weight than whatever momentary bit of flattery Logan threw at his kids when it was advantageous to do so.

Kendall thinks he should be interim CEO, and confides in Frank — who, despite plotting to wrest power from the children moments ago, is frequently Kendall’s confidant in his most vulnerable moments. “You really want back in?” Frank asks, knowing that trying to be Logan 2.0 has sent Ken to the brink of death before. Maybe Frank’s just angling to remove some of the competition, but you also sense that he really does worry about Kendall getting back into the ring just when he seemed to be doing better.

Shiv is pregnant and alone

Kendall gets to work on rallying troops behind him: He gets Waystar board members Sandi Furness and Stewy Hosseini on his side, and then nervously approaches his siblings. Roman’s and Shiv’s hackles are up as soon as Kendall tries to rationalize why he should be CEO. To calm them down, he assures them he’ll just be the figurehead for what’s really a three-way reign. Shiv and Roman don’t like that their egalitarian partnership is being dissolved, and so Kendall magnanimously agrees to share the top role with Roman.

Shiv bristles at this exclusion. If both of them are going to be CEO, why not just make it three? Kendall tells her she has no experience, and Roman backs him up. “Three is a bit wonky,” Roman says. Her brothers make murmurs about Shiv still being on the inside of everything, that they would only be CEO until the GoJo deal goes through. We’ve heard this one before; the past three seasons have shown how the Roy siblings thrive on trying to bury each other. What’s more, if the GoJo sale falls through — which seems eminently possible — the interim CEO would actually become a permanent CEO.

We find out early in this episode that Shiv is pregnant, and that aggravates the frustration and powerlessness she feels. She hates that her brothers are leaving her out again, but if she falls out with them, she would have no one left on her side. Throughout “Honeymoon States,” Shiv is increasingly angered and flustered by how lonely she feels. In some ways, she was unquestionably Logan’s favorite. They used to have weekly one-on-one dinners; he called her Pinky. She blames herself and her brothers for their father’s death — they forced Logan into getting on a plane to Sweden. Tom, who doesn’t seem to know that she’s pregnant, does sense how unloved and hurt she feels. He tries to remind her of what could be if she just opened herself up to being cared for, bringing up a sweet old memory of their early courtship. “That was a while ago, wasn’t it?” Shiv says dully. He pushes back. “Not that long.”

Like father like son

In this episode, we see how, in the blink of an eye, Kendall can slip between the version of himself that just wants a healthy relationship with his loved ones and the version of himself that will kill if necessary.

The last time Logan and his children spoke, Shiv accused her father of thinking he could make something true just by claiming it was true. But Kendall understands the power of a narrative too. Just days ago, he would have told anyone who asked that his dad was an awful tyrant whose opinion wasn’t worth dirt. Now, suddenly, it matters that the next Waystar CEO should have the late founder’s blessing. The board seems to agree, even if the Waystar executives look worried; they vote him and Roman through as co-CEOs. The simmering war between the old guard and the Roy siblings is surprisingly averted, at least for now.

When influential Republican megadonor Ron Petkus (Stephen Root) takes a moment to eulogize Logan, Connor complains that his description of Logan as a neo-conservative is inaccurate: He was obviously a “paleo-libertarian.” “They’re trying to body-snatch him,” he says.

But no one is body-snatching Logan the way Kendall is. When Shiv and Roman keep joking around without seeming to understand the urgency of having a plan before the board vote, Kendall loses his temper in a very Logan-esque way. You can practically see him thinking that they are not serious people.

After the vote is done, Karolina and Hugo corral the new CEOs to discuss a strategy for selling their new roles to the public. There are two potential tacks, they explain, one of which would portray them as closely following in Logan’s footsteps. The other would rewrite who Logan was in the public eye, painting him as a bad father who was losing his touch by the end, which would make Kendall and Roman look like much-needed fresh blood. Roman nixes the latter idea, clearly finding it vile.

But Kendall, after mulling it over — and looking at the document again — privately tells Hugo to begin the posthumous Logan smear campaign, without revealing to anyone that he ordered it. “It’s what he would do,” Kendall tells Hugo. “He’d want this for the firm.” Which might be true — Logan did far worse things in his life — but it’s unclear that he would have wanted to sacrifice his reputation. Kendall coolly threatens Hugo into following orders in a way Logan would definitely admire. The Roy family is mourning the death of their patriarch, and suddenly Logan’s heir seems determined to keep his legacy alive.

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