‘Succession’ Review: Final Season Of HBO’s Media Mogul Satire Has No Intention Of Going Quietly

“I love you, but you are not serious people,” says Logan Roy (Brian Cox) to his estranged and ambitious offspring in Succession‘s fourth and final season. For a series stuffed to gills with verbal uppercuts that would leave Malcolm Tucker bruised and blushing, the profanity-free candor from the Emmy-winning series’ media baron fulfillingly sticks the shiv in deep.

Now, beyond that quote from the Season 4 trailer, there isn’t much more that can be said. Coming off last season’s betrayal by their father, squabbling siblings Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Siobhan (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) band together, at least for a bit. Otherwise, with more implied NDAs than a Waystar RoyCo corporate retreat, series creator Jesse Armstrong and HBO have requested piquant critics keep almost everything that happens in Season 4 locked down.

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So, let’s just cut to the non-specific chase: This final season, which debuts March 26, is where Succession truly succeeds.

For one thing, the expletive-stuffed satire that has long plundered the ostentatious psychology and lifestyles of profoundly faltering people packs a tremendous emotional wallop in this final run.

Or put another way, if the 92-year-old Rupert Murdoch and his clan really don’t watch Succession, as they have repeatedly professed, then the Fox News proprietors should probably stay as far away as possible from this excellent 10-episode season. That goes for Shari Redstone too, and maybe even soon-to-be married again Old Man Murdoch’s Super Bowl buddy Elon Musk.

Billionaire viewers aside, the victory jig here all adds up to a case of letting Succession be Succession, to paraphrase the now deceased Republican Sen. Paul Laxalt.

(L-R) Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin
(L-R) Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin

Also, in a just world, in fact in any world, this upcoming season should vault Strong to the front-runner Best Actor position for this year’s Emmy race for his portrayal of one-time heir apparent Kendall Roy. In fact (and I say this as someone who took a while to warm to the show as anything more than a Rupert Murdoch biopic under different names), past winner Strong should be joined again at the top of the top small-screen awards categories by the rest of Succession’s core cast; Snook, Culkin, and Alan Ruck are magnetic as Kendell’s scheming siblings. Down the Roy family and corporate garburator, Nicholas Braun, Matthew Macfadyen and J. Smith-Cameron are better than ever in Season 4.

(L-R) Nicholas Braun and Matthew Macfadyen
(L-R) Nicholas Braun and Matthew Macfadyen

As he did on the red carpet for the show’s New York City season premiere this week, Cox roars as that sharp-fanged lion in winter that is Logan. Dodging corkscrew punches of his own making as well as those of his often-hapless children and underlings, the brawler billionaire picks up the sword of last season’s big pending sale to tech kingpin Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) with no intention to fade away like other old warriors. Yet, fighting to tip a Presidential election via his right-wing cable news channel and fighting off the best and worst efforts of his children, Cox’s Logan is standing at an abyss of Shakespearean proportions.

Satisfying authenticity with precision, like certain brutal Manhattan penthouse locations and karaoke joints, and the pleasure and carnage that comes with wealth and real power, Succession’s swan song satisfies in no small part because it pulls together many of the disparate elements that garnished past seasons.

In that context, the well-paced final season is uplifted by those great performances from the cast, for sure. Yet, the real star of this last run of Succession has to be the writing.

Whereas before Into the Loop vet Armstrong and primary scribes Georgia Pritchett, Tony Roche, Susan Soon He Stanton, Jon Brown and Will Tracy had a tendency to shoe shine in Succession, there is nearly nothing but muscle here for Season 4. From the four episodes I’ve seen, the beginning of the end is a crystallization in progress, not a tidy conclusion.

Because, let’s be honest, none of the Roys or their inner circle are tidy people, and Succession has never been a tidy show. It is a testament to craft as much as inspiration that Armstrong and team refuse to tailor their long tale and instead lean towards the gentle art of weaving, as jazz musicians sometimes say and prizefighters aspire to in the ring.

Armstrong, and the cast and crew of Succession, are the definition of serious people, and the fourth and final season is a haymaker.

Title: Succession
Network: HBO/HBO Max
Premiere date: March 26, 9 p.m. ET/PT
Cast: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck, Nicholas Braun, Matthew Macfadyen, J. Smith-Cameron, Alexander Skarsgård

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