‘Succession’ Season 4 Episode 6 Review: ‘Living+’ — Spoilers
“Living+” is enough to make you lose faith in capitalism, but confidence in “Succession” remains as high as Kendall’s imaginary clouds.
(Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Succession” Season 4, Episode 6, “Living+.”)
Shiv is sitting in the chair. It’s not where she wanted to sit, nor is she at the head of the conference table opposite Roman (Kieran Culkin) — the only person perched in the typical seat of power — but that only makes Shiv’s framing all the more telling. Episode 6 director Lorene Scafaria (who, if life was fair, would already be an Oscar nominee for “Hustlers”) positions her camera directly behind Sarah Snook’s shrewd sister. She’s not hunched over, like Logan (Brain Cox) in the opening credits, but the images share an intimation: Here sits the person in charge. And Shiv is very much in charge of that meeting, that day, and, with the exception of one bomb-dropping, bomber-jacketed bro, she’s in charge of Waystar Royco’s future.
Not formally, of course. She’s not in the captain’s chair — just backseat driving. For now, at least.
Like its suggestive early shot, Episode 6, “Living+,” creates and sustains tension in ways both familiar and disruptive. As always, there are top priorities that have to be dealt with immediately: Investor Day looms over the 63-minute entry, as does the daunting launch of Living+ (Waystar Royco’s parasitic attempt to bring their esteemed cruise business ashore by “warehousing the elderly”). “Succession” has long served as a masterclass in how to implement an episodic structure within a serialized drama, and the Hollywood studio setting paired with a public-facing presentation and a risky product launch clearly distinguish “Living+” from other episodes, while still matching the winning formula on which HBO’s drama thrives. (Bickering, betrayals, and more beautiful melodrama.)
But where Episode 6 pivots is in usurping expectations. Not only are there plenty of gasp-inducing flourishes (let’s play Bitey!) and juicy twists of fate (Tom OfSiobhan!), but each of the siblings makes a surprising pivot from past patterns. Roman’s off-the-rails firing spree isn’t what sends him into a tailspin or what upsets his brother; Kendall supports him, even when he terminates their sister’s godmother, Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) — for the second time in the same week! (Remember when Logan made Roman cut her loose at Connor’s wedding? I’m sure Gerri does!) Roman also, eventually, bows to his sister’s advice and general good judgement by telling Kendall to “maybe not” bet their business on people buying “play houses and living forever.” Yet as sound as that decision seems on a practical level, it bites him in the ass (or the ego) when Kendall improbably pulls off his one-man acoustic set.
How many times have we seen Kendall embarrass himself on the big stage? Enough to expect he’s headed to the same fate this time. It sure looks that way when he walks out to greet investors and can’t stop reciting “big shoes,” as if he’s hocking Shaquille O’Neal’s sneakers instead of retirement homes with a side of immortality. Epic catastrophe seems right around the corner when Kendall has an impromptu video conference with his dead dad, which prompts Greg (Nicholas Braun) to tell Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) not to worry about his speech anymore: “You just have to go on and mop up all the blood.”
But somehow, some way, Kendall recovers. He pulls out of his early Roman-induced tailspin and finds that “L to the OG” level of blind confidence. Spouting corporate jargon like “character IP life enhancement” while promising everything from brunching with movie stars to exclusive, life-extending medicines, Kendall sells the world on Living+ homes — and he does it even after Matsson (by way of Shiv) drops one of his Elon-esque tweets comparing Waystar housing to concentration camps. (His post combines the German phrase “arbeit macht frei,” which hung above the gates to Auschwitz and translates to “work sets you free,” and Doderick, a Royco mascot.) Kendall is visibly pissed, but that anger works to his advantage as he forms a measured response that hits all the key beats — an apology, an acknowledgement of Matsson’s possible takeover, and a pivot back to the product’s positive attributes. From there, Kendall walks off a hero, and “Living+” ends with the water-drawn Roy boy soaking up his shocking success.
Did he commit investment fraud by asking Greg to put words in his late father’s mouth, thus leading for inflated stock valuations? Could that lie, if caught, eventually turn his big win into a harrowing loss? And will Kendall’s triumph in spite of his insane ideas and risk-taking inclinations only fuel him to go further, burn brighter, and perhaps bring the company he’s supposed to protect crashing to the ground? At least one of these outcomes seems likely. “Living+” breaks familiar patterns, with Kendall’s jaw-dropping feat being the biggest shocker, but Episode 6 spends as much time reminding us of the siblings’ fatal flaws as it does bearing witness to their unlikely victories.
Courtesy of David M. Russell / HBO
Roman’s impetuous nature is only being spurred on by his complicated grieving process and sudden ascension to co-CEO. Firing Gerri (or trying to) may not be his primary oopsie; it seems much more dangerous that he lets slip his plan to maintain control of the company. “You cannot win against the money,” Gerri shouts. “The money is gonna wash you away.” Here, Gerri doesn’t sound vindictive when advising her bitter “boss.” She really believes he can’t maintain control of the company with Matsson throwing this much money at them — and with investors so enthusiastic about the sale — which should be all the indication anyone needs to believe Roman and Kendall’s plan is going to blow up in their face.
Kendall’s contribution to that pending crash is his unchecked gusto. (“Here’s the new rule: No one can say no.”) His head is in the imaginary clouds floating above his half-constructed toy house. When Roman tells him he’s on a firing spree, Kendall just… makes up headlines as reassurance that these “two young Turks” are going to prosper. But even if he controls the news on ATN, he can’t control how the rest of the world reacts to the wild decisions of these co-CEOs. And, as Gerri points out, he can’t control the money. Kendall has a taste of power, a taste for winning, and now he’s off to the races — mainly, inside his own head. “He has these hair-brained schemes, and then he cracks under the pressure,” Shiv says, by way of cautioning one brother about the other. She may have been wrong about him cracking on Investor Day, but she likely won’t be wrong in the long run.
Which brings us to Shiv. While better positioned than her misbehavin’ brothers to survive the season’s two most-hyped events — the presidential election and GoJo sale — Shiv shows flashes of former missteps, as well. In Season 2, when Logan tells Shiv she’s been chosen as his successor, she can’t keep it to herself, and her eagerness to be acknowledged in front of the world ultimately undermines her coronation. (Whether Logan ever actually intended to formally name her as successor, well, that’s another story.) Similar ambitions may be at play as she works behind the scenes to curry favor with Matsson. Bringing Tom under the tent is a risk. He already betrayed her once, and with the pregnancy card left to be played — which could bond the couple together or tear them apart — anything can happen.
But I’m more concerned about the other men in her life. Yes, Shiv knows her brothers. She makes that quite clear in the conference room, one chair removed from the pole position yet still very much running point. But they know her, too. When she ducked away twice during Kendall’s presentation — first right before Matsson’s tweet, and then again prior to its deletion — Roman sees her. His expression appears tortured, as if he’s only thinking about his misconstrued role in the proceedings, and that may be the case. But one way or another, Kendall and Roman are going to find out she’s been chummy with their opposition. Lukas may tell them himself. He’s got nothing to lose by exposing his “girl on the inside” once she stops being useful, whether that’s by her choice or when the deal closes. Shiv is trusting her assistance now will be rewarded later, and there’s simply no reason to trust Matsson at all.
Episode 6 opens with a jarring shot of Logan speaking direct to camera. He’s reading from a teleprompter (and, like the pro he is, not acknowledging it), but his words still matter. “What this new product offers is community,” he says, before getting derailed into his default mode of irritated shouting. In his rise to power and lengthy reign in media, Logan may have acted on his own impulses, his own gut instinct, but when he was sitting at that table, he wasn’t just in charge — he was in charge of the people sitting around him. He didn’t have a community in the sense that most people think of it, but he still controlled employees, colleagues, and family in a way Kendall, Roman, and Shiv cannot. Not yet. Whether it’s Gerri telling off Roman, Karl cutting down Kendall, or Shiv’s seat at the table, each Roy kiddo was reminded this week that they’re not their father — they don’t have the respect he did, and they don’t have the people positioned to help them out.
Shiv is sitting in the chair — not the chair, but certainly a well-positioned one. If she’s going to make a move to the seat she covets, she’ll need some sort of community backing her.
Courtesy of David M. Russell / HBO
Oh, you want me to say more things?
Well then, remember when Greg tried to put on his big boy pants and act like a proper (read: horrible) Roy by telling off the video editor? “Just fucking make it happen,” he says, bucking up with his best impression of Kendall or Logan or Roman. “Make it happen. Or I get in trouble, and I don’t want to get in trouble. I want to get in the good books, so help me get in the good books. Understand, Mr. Snippy Snip?”
Mr. Snippy Snip! Greg! Honestly, a real robot would’ve done a better impression. Get it together, kid.
“I’d follow you anywhere for love, Tom.”
How can such an ostensibly romantic, seemingly pure expression of one’s feelings elicit complete devastation? When Sarah Snook, as Shiv Roy, says them to her husband, of course.
Tom and Shiv’s escapades in Episode 6 deserve their own extensive analysis, if not dedicated therapy session. From their tender kiss during Shiv’s scheduled grieving time to the flirtatious game of Bitey — which I fully expect to see all my couple friends playing at future Hollywood events — the heavily ‘shipped pairing took a big step toward reconciliation, and still left us wondering which outcome would be more tragic: staying together or splitting for good?
Speaking for the former outcome, it’s clear these two cannot fully give themselves over to each other in the way unconditional love requires. Tom’s conditions are quite clear, actually. He tells Shiv, in truth, he loves his money and wants to keep his things. The part of him that led to his career is the same part that won’t allow him to give up everything for his wife, and, even if he did, such obedience would likely turn off a partner who likes to be bitten back.
“I like nice things,” he says. “I do. And if you think that’s shallow, why don’t you throw out all your stuff for love? Throw out your necklaces and your jewels for a date at a three-star Italian. Yeah? Come and live with me in a trailer park. Yeah? Are you coming”
“I’d follow you anywhere for love, Tom,” Shiv says, before their game of chicken commences, and their shared laughter both bonds them and drives the wedge even deeper. But in between the chuckles, earnest concern flashes across their faces. It’s the same overwhelming emotion Shiv feels when Tom first apologizes at the party, the same overwhelming emotion they each refuse to let overwhelm them. Part of Tom wants to know if she would come and live with him in a trailer park, just as part of Shiv wants to tell him she would. There is love there, no matter how twisted it’s become or has always been, and therein lies the tragedy in seeing them split for good. Bravo to Snook and Macfadyen for capturing such delicate contradictions with piercing clarity. They shatter our hearts, just as the not-so-happy couple’s have been shattered, too.
“I think I got my chisel in,” Tom tells Shiv. He has. She has, too. But they’ll never admit it.
Do You Have Any Jokes?
“It’s enough to make you lose your faith in capitalism. You can say anything.” – Kendall, marveling at the inflated numbers he’s allowed to project during Investor Day. (Some jokes can be sad!)
The Best Line That Could Still Air on ATN
“It’s an incredibly evolved, ruthlessly segregated city you’ve built on this geological fault here.” – Roman to Joy (Annabeth Gish), about the city of Los Angeles.
“Succession” releases new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.
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