We’re splitting heirs as Succession finds new life after death

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This story contains spoilers for the season four episode of Succession, Honeymoon States. Every week The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald will be recapping the latest episode of Succession. You can listen to our recap podcast here.

From the very start of Succession, the number one boy and heir apparent, Kendall Roy, has been haunted by the suspicion that he is not enough.

Not smart enough. Not ruthless enough. Not enough like the old man.

It’s a feeling that stems from a lifetime of being overlooked and reminded of his shortcomings. Let’s not forget the show opened with Kendall being passed over as CEO of WayStar, with Logan opting to stay on rather than risking his son with the family business.

The sun also rises. In the aftermath of Logan’s death, could we finally see Kendall ascend to the throne?

We see the same thing in the season two finale: Kendall asks his father if he could ever genuinely consider him for CEO, and Logan says no — “You’re not a killer. You have to be a killer.”

But are killers born, or are they made? If the events of Honeymoon State are anything to go by, the latter is true.

With a single act of betrayal straight out of his father’s playbook, Kendall The Killer closed out the episode by emerging from the ashes of Logan Roy. Finally, he is prepared to do anything and double-cross anyone if it means coming out on top – finally, he is his father’s son.

But before we witness Kendall’s rebrand, we must first reset. The death of Logan Roy has loomed large over Succession this past week, and it was inevitable that this episode would feel appropriately funereal.

Gone is the planet around which these characters orbit, and we find everyone in a state of flux. Roman is faking being fine, Kendall seems unmoored despite having “the best grief guy,” while Shiv is dealing with another seismic life change: she’s pregnant. When one door closes…

First come grief, then comes the coronation demolition derby.Credit: HBO / Binge

A crowd is gathered at Logan’s house under the guise of grief, and plenty of unfamiliar faces are in attendance – Sorry, who is Penny? And who the hell is Mark?

Thankfully, there is someone we do recognise! Marcia is back from Milan looking every inch a Grieving Widow.

“We had intimate calls every evening,” she informs Kendall. Naturally, the siblings are suspicious of her intentions: Marcia isn’t here to mourn what she lost but to protect what she stands to gain.

However, it soon becomes clear that Marcia is not alone in her performative mourning, battle lines are being drawn, and much like last week, the scramble for power overshadows any sombre reflection of what a world without Logan Roy looks like.

“For some of us, it’s a sad day,” says Shiv. “For others, it’s a coronation demolition derby.”

This rush for control is fuelled by a board meeting scheduled that same day to decide the interim CEO of the company, and so we find ourselves split into two camps.

In one room, among the fine china, are the Greybeards: Frank, Gerri and Karl, and next door, we have the kids, determined not to cede control to these “Keystone f—ks.”

Tom is pin balling between the two groups, noticeably aware that his position, after Logan’s death, is now oh-so-precarious. His attempts to woo the siblings are promptly shut down by Roman, who calls him “Tightrope Tommy” for “riding his subtle cycle across Niagara Falls.”

It’s even worse when he pitches himself to Karl, who delivers a dressing down that would make Logan proud. “You’re a clumsy interloper, and no one trusts you. The only guy pulling for you is dead. And now you’re just married to the ex-bosses daughter, and she doesn’t even like you. And you are fair and squarely f—ed.”

Karl may be a corporate legend. Remember what he did in the ’90s, with cable? But is he fit to run WayStar?Credit: HBO / Binge

Between all the back and forth, this episode reminds us just how big a loss the death of Logan Roy is. When people die, it is natural to mythologise them to a certain extent; something Succession pokes fun at with one of the episodes’ few laugh-out-loud moments

Locked away in their war room, the kids scan various obits of their father, and they can’t help but read between the lines. “A complicated man” (Kendall: “Threw phones at staff.“); “a sharp reader of the national mood” (Roman: “He’s a bit racist.); “He was very much a man of his era.” (Kendall: “Again, racist. Also, relaxed about sexual assault.”

But it’s no exaggeration to say that despite this being the first episode not to feature Logan Roy, his presence was more palpable than ever. Even in death, he can’t help but control the lives of everyone around him, and ultimately, it is once on Logan to deliver the episode’s most dramatic moment.

Frank calls a truce between the two groups, so he can share some new information: a document has been found in a private safe detailing Logan’s wishes for WayStar in the event of his death, and it names Kendall Roy as his successor.

And with that, we finally have Succession’s successor! Thanks for playing, guys!

Alas, this is not a world where things get wrapped up neatly, and it’s pointed out there is a pencil mark under Kendall’s name.

Is it underlined? Is it crossed out? When did Logan mark this document? Does it even matter now that he’s dead?

The crossed-out-or-underlined hand grenade instantly begins to splinter the recently reunited Roy siblings. Shiv believes it’s moot given the ambiguity of the pencil line, and Roman is unconvinced, arguing Kendall has “tried to put him in jail, like, 12 times since then.”

But for Kendall, the document confirms a destiny he has dreamed about since day one. It was always meant to be him, wasn’t it?

Time and time again, Succession has reminded us that in this world, the truth and what you can make people believe are two different things. For Kendall, the intention behind the pencil mark is irrelevant; perception trumps reality.

As his father once famously said, “You make your own reality. And once you’ve done it, apparently, everyone’s of the opinion it was all so f—ing obvious.”

With that in mind, Kendall sets about stacking the deck in his favour. Using Logan’s “dying wish” as leverage, he convinces Stewie and Sandi that they should back him at the meeting before going to work on Shiv and Roman.

They’re a harder sell, but Kendall is on a roll, and he knows how to hit the right beats and make them bend. “All I am suggesting is that I swing it for us,” he says in full salesmen mode.

The conversation quickly develops into a two-man show, Kendall and Roman doubling up to pitch themselves as a leadership duo. Kendall cites the piece of paper as his ticket, while Roman believes that as COO, he helps sweeten the deal.

Despite their one-in-all-in approach, there is no room for Shiv because it will make them look flaky. “Two is cool, but three is wonky,” explains Kendall.

Shiv reluctantly agrees on the condition she is “on the inside” before tapping into their grief as a kind of pinky promise that they’re on the same team: “This is a Dad promise, on yesterday.”

Even by Succession standards, this is a rollover of dizzying speed, and in the moments after Roman and Kendall are approved, there is a realisation from Shiv that a mistake has been made. You don’t have to be an expert in symbolism to clock what it means when she takes a tumble down the stairs following the board meeting.

For someone who thrives on being in control, Shiv’s world is crumbling: her father is gone, her marriage is over, there’s a baby on the way, and she’s on the outer.

As it turns out, she was right to worry about Kendall because it takes him two minutes to backflip on the sibling’s “Dad promise” and go rogue.

The episode ends with Roman and Kendall receiving a backroom pitch from Hugo and Karolina: to help boost confidence in the new-look leadership team, they can trash Logan’s reputation, air his dirtiest laundry and paint him as an incompetent figurehead.

It’s time to bury Bad Dad once and for all. Kendall tells Hugo to go ahead and trash Logan’s reputation in the press.Credit: HBO/Binge

“We could go as far as you like,” offers Hugo. “We could go to Connor’s mum, the physical and verbal abuse, the Kerry situation.”

Considering Logan’s body isn’t even cold yet, both brothers shut down “Operation S–t on Dad”, but there’s a sparkle in Kendall’s eye. Moments later, he pulls out his phone and examines the photo of his underlined (or is it crossed out?) name on the document.

Privately he instructs Hugo to action the Bad Dad plan, but “softly, no prints.” It is calculating and cold, but ultimately, it is, as Kendall reminds us: “What Logan would do.”

Killers aren’t born. They’re made and raised.

Succession is dropping new episodes every Monday on Foxtel and Binge.

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