‘Succession’ Season 4 Episode 4 Review: ‘Honeymoon States’ – Spoilers
The coronation demolition derby ousted an interim king (“and the other king!”), but that wasn’t the only sudden change in the “Honeymoon States.”
(Editor’s note: Included in the following review spoilers for “Succession” Season 4, Episode 4, “Honeymoon States”.)
Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are sitting on the steps, about halfway up (or down) their late father’s winding white staircase. Having just seen a piece of paper stating in some vague terms that Logan (Brian Cox) wanted to succeed his namesake Kendall Logan Roy (Jeremy Strong) as CEO, the two unnamed kids were a bit confused. “It feels good—huh—right?” Shiv says referring to 10 minutes before when the three brothers were still equal. “And does that feel good now? Do that it feels good?”
Even in death, Logan has the power to come between his sons and his daughter. As the day begins—an informal gathering at Logan’s apartment, where the family “grieves” and “friends” pay their “respect”—Kendall, Roman, and Shiv happily translate their father’s obituaries. “He’s a complicated man,” Shiv reads aloud, which Roman interprets as “throwing phones at the staff.” “A keen reader of the national mood” becomes “a bit of a racist” and “very much a man of his time” becomes “racist as well – and lax about sexual harassment”. Mindful of the tears and hugs the day before, the Roy children’s cathartic banter about their late father reflects the meaningful bond they’ve built over the past few months. It feels good to see them like this—knowing that they too have been victims of Logan’s physical and emotional abuse—and it doesn’t feel good to see the trio methodically, even if we recognize the benefits of protecting him and his toxic empire. tore it apart.
Episode 4, “Honeymoon States,” speeds up the brothers’ work by dropping a bombshell in the middle of their funeral breakfast. Logan named Kendall as his successor about four years earlier. And then in the last 18 months, he’s either underlined that choice or crossed it out. (More on that later, but it will almost certainly be underlined.) While the unverified document has no legal value—as Shiv is so quick and painful to point out—it is the chosen name that resonates throughout the group. Logan chose Kendall. Depending on the show is fuzzy timeline and even after a lot of backstabbing, she chose Kendall, according to her interpretation of “pencil accessories.” Any hopes that Roman and Shiv could earn their father’s trust enough to usurp his namesake as heir to the empire are dashed or seriously damaged. She was Kendall first, and she still looks like Kendall at the end.
This isn’t necessarily good news for our favorite Buddhist, and the closing moments of episode 4 reveal why. By playing Operation Shit on dad, Kendall isn’t just going behind her brother’s back or betraying her promise to share everything with her siblings; he follows his father’s advice. “He would do that,” Kendall says, trying to explain his order to tarnish Logan’s legacy in order to boost the company’s image. “That’s what you want for the company.” You could see that Kendall recognized this the first time they met. Even when Hugo (Fisher Stevens) vents about Logan’s “physical and verbal abuse, the Kerry situation and stuff with Connor’s mom,” Kendall doesn’t flare up like Roman. (Perhaps because Roman was the one repeatedly hit by his father?) He considers the tactic and soon decides that this is exactly the kind of merciless behavior his father adopted.
Nicholas Britell’s ominous closing score only accentuates Kendall’s gut-wrenching turn after blackmailing Hugo into applying without papers. (Also: Kendall’s “strap” comment not-so-subtly alludes to the lobby conversation with Hugo and his estranged, cheating daughter, perfectly capturing Logan’s terrifying, “always watching” energy.) Is this his future? With near-absolute power and without her father’s watchful eye, will Kendall become the heartless monster that raised her? “Ken, you’re cooking something,” Frank says when asked to support Kendall. “You look so good. Do you really want to come back?” Often the (only) voice of reason, Frank knows what wearing the crown can do to Kendall.It’s unclear if Kendall realizes it, but either way, tragedy awaits.
What does all this mean for Roman and Shiv? In the immediate present, this means that Roman will be co-CEO and Shiv will be unlucky. “It’s the COOs, it’s in the blueprint, I’m on the paper,” Kendall explains to her doting sister. “It should look clean, dry and tough.” With Stewy (Arian Moayed) at their heels, along with an admiring Graybeard in good China, Kendall and Roman sell that vision to the board and rise. Meanwhile, Shiv stumbles into the living room and falls—a minor fall that prompts a gasp at the opening bombshell of episode 4: Shiv is pregnant.
Courtesy of David M. Russell/HBO
Before anyone can gather at Logan’s palace (does Willa still want to expand?), Shiv gets a call from his doctor. His test results are in and “everything looks healthy”. Next is a 20-week scan (which means there is Tom’s baby, conceived during their disastrous dirty talk in Tuscany), but the doctor assures Shiv that there’s nothing to worry about – it’s true. Sure. Nothing. His father just died, he’s about to get a divorce, and now he’s running the family business. and his own brothers.
Shiv’s impending child puts a lot of things into perspective, and not just what happens in episode 4. Sure, it makes more sense for her to mention to Logan that she missed “putting her grandkids to sleep,” but it immediately reminded me of the premiere and her argument with Tom (Matthew Macfadyen). When Tommy tiptoes to beg for a tough talk about the state of their marriage, Shiv quickly cuts him off. “I don’t want to collect a bunch of crap for no good,” she says, but when he pushes again, she adds, “Stop it. I don’t think it’s good for me to hear all this.” At the time, her comment sounded like a simple denial: Shiv would rather not commit at all, let alone blame Tom for “backing a bad, dead horse,” and if that silence ended his marriage, so be it. But now she was talking about her health and the health of the baby? Isn’t it good for her to have worked so hard only a few months since her first pregnancy?
Both motivations were probably involved, but now there is a time bomb waiting for Tom. He is the one who really wants children in this marriage. The last time it was brought up (again, in Tuscany), Tom even said that he wanted Shiv to deliver his babies when he died. So… maybe he? There’s no reason to believe that Tom is dying, but if he loses his job at ATN, if his marriage falls apart—if he becomes as “fair and rough” as Karl (David Rasche) claims—then he may be dead to the Roys. And Shiv can actually have the baby without her.
Tom is at the bottom of the stairs, barely in the same building as the rest of the family. Kendall is on top, holding out her right hand to Roman and hiding a “strap” in her left. Shiv sits half-down or half-up, depending on your outlook. But there are still plenty of bombs left to detonate, plenty of stairs to climb or fall down.
Courtesy of David M. Russell/HBO
Greg is basically a mini-Tom in Episode 4 – a Tomlet, if you will (as in the pig version of the baby Tom, not to be confused with Tomlette from Season 2 – obviously a reference to Tom as an omelette from Greggs). While Tom goes around telling everyone who will listen (and some who won’t) that he just wants to serve, Greg jumps from room to room and does the same thing, only worse. After the letter was revealed, even Kendall implied “No. 2”, which even Greg’s long body can’t handle. He later sees Marcia (Hiam Abbass) brutalize Logan’s lover Kerry (Zoe Winters) and naturally sides with the ruthless but powerful widow. Finally, Greg gets the inside scoop on Logan’s less-than-flattering final moments when Tom tells him the business titan died “fishing his iPhone out of a clogged toilet.” (It’s hard to say how seriously Tom’s statement should be taken, since a) it doesn’t match the original story, where Logan only went to the bathroom because he was short of breath, and b) Tom really likes messing with Greg. )
Okay, so let’s talk about the letter. At the end of episode 4, Kendall pulls out a photo she took and zooms in on her name. First of all, this is not a pencil mark. The color is too dark to create with ordinary graphite (unless the uber-rich use some advanced form of carbon that looks like a Sharpie). More importantly, it’s not a stretch. The line starts directly below “Kendall,” drifts up through the L’s, and stays in the bottom third of the font until the end, where it rises just above the punctuation mark. In other words, it’s under Kendall’s name most of the way, then barely reaches the middle, where there’s a strikeout at the end. When it comes to intention, it matters where the line starts, and it starts straight under Kendall’s name (so: Kendall), not in the middle. If Logan had tried to cross out Kendall’s name, the line would have started at the higher point of the “K” (like this:
So Logan made a choice and stuck with it. Case closed. … except for one caveat. If Logan was left-handed, there’s a chance this theory would collapse. Americans are taught to write from left to right, so it’s pretty safe to assume that Logan Kendall starts on the left side of his name, whether he’s underlining it or crossing it out. But if Logan is left-handed, he could have started on the right (with “Roy”) and tried to draw the pen back through the name. If this is the case then a strike through is possible as it would have started in the middle and then the pen dropped as it moved away from ‘Roy’ and towards ‘Kendall’.
I’m sure better sleps than me will soon track down a Logan’s writing, closing the case, but in the meantime I found evidence that the old man was right-handed: there’s a little game in Season 2, Episode 3, “The Hunt,” that you may remember, called “Boar on the Floor,” in which Logan picks up a sausage and throws it to the “little piggies” for dinner. Logan do he uses his right hand as his pitching arm… but the pitch is more of a flick – just a quick lift and release close enough to the drop that a non-dominant hand could have done the job.
Still, if forced to choose, I bet Kendall’s name was underlined. (Although clearly better dramaturgically if the line is not clear.)
Do you have a joke?
“In Marsha’s trunk, an anaconda, a sarcophagus.”
– Roman, who clearly read from Marsha’s dream journal
The best line still airing on ATN
“He has three Gauguins that no one has seen yet for tax reasons.”
“Why don’t they burn them for the insurance money?”
– From a financial point of view, this would be the dream.
“Succession” airs new episodes Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on HBO.
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