Note: This story contains spoilers from “Succession” Season 4 Episode 1
The premiere episode for the fourth and final season of the HBO hit drama series “Succession” is titled “The Munsters.” And while it’s not as jolly as that freak family sitcom, this hour packs more laughs — and monsters — than a dozen chapters of the 1960s show combined.
And maybe a bit of its actual, familial affection. Maybe. Just a bit.
Roy siblings Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) all seem willing to work with, rather than against, each other for a change. Not that they have much choice after their dad Logan squeezed them out of the family business, Waystar Royco, when they tried to do the same to him in last season’s climax. They don’t share total trust and still enjoy demeaning one another, but their solidarity seems, well, solid. Especially compared to how Shiv feels about her Waystar executive husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), who squealed on the kids’ plan to his boss.
As he’s about to lose the bulk of his empire to Lukas Matsson’s (Alexander Skarsgård) Swedish tech gargantua GoJo, Logan (Brian Cox) is thinking mortal thoughts. Why didn’t New York’s Catholic Cardinal come to his birthday party? Why didn’t his younger kids, rats though he thinks they are, call? Why doesn’t anything taste, or feel, like it used to?
Anyway, in its smart, wickedly written and entertaining way, “Munsters’” is pretty businesslike in setting up plots and themes to play out through the last season’s back nine episodes. Until the penultimate scene, one of the most emotionally devastating in the show’s history.
Happy F—n’ Birthday
The show opens at Logan’s birthday party. His assistant-with-benefits Kerry (Zoe Winters), in a classy but “notice-me” powder blue pantsuit, follows him around his penthouse like a possessive Scottish Terrier.
At Roman’s pad in the L.A. Hills, he and Kendall look at branding materials for their proposed new media venture, The Hundred.
“They’re s—y,” Roman complains to the video conferencing designers. “We can just be honest here, right? I feel like we said ‘iconic’ and you guys are leaning ‘ironic.’”
Shiv arrives late, blames L.A. traffic. Ken and Rome accuse her of talking to the transition team working on Waystar’s sale, which she denies then admits, “I returned a call, they want to talk about talking.” The three have each drafted their resignation statements and Dad’s two days out from selling. Shiv and Rome unconvincingly reassure Ken that they’re all-in on The Hundred.
After everyone sings “Happy Birthday,” Logan stares pensively out a window, mutters to Kerry. “Munsters. Meet the fuckin’ Munsters.” Cousin Greg comes out of the elevator with his date, Bridget.
“Bridget, this is Kerry, Logan’s …”
“Friend, assistant and advisor,” Kerry quickly lists.
Kerry pulls Greg away and, doing unpleasant things with her eyes and jaw, interrogates him about his date, who’s wearing a flower print dress that looks like it came from TJ Maxx.
“I’m a cousin,” Greg sputters, rightly feeling attacked. “I get a plus-one. I’m like an honorary kid. I mean, Marcia once said that I was always welcome …”
“Marcia’s not here,” Kerry says of Logan’s third wife. “She’s in Milan. Shopping. Forever.”
‘I’m Fine. Fine!’
In L.A., the kids (as Kendall, Shiv and Roman are now collectively called, unless Logan’s calling them the rats) rehearse their Hundred pitches while investors from Dubai wait in the driveway. Shiv leaves to take a phone call from Tom. He wants her to know he had a drink with Naomi Pierce the night before.
“It’s not a thing,” he tells her from New York.
“It’s fine,” sneers Shiv, the first of about 100 times she’ll use that phrase in the episode. “You’re dating my brother’s ex. It’s fine!”
He mentions he saw a calendar update that his wife will be back in the city that night. When she asks why he really met Kendall’s former girlfriend Pierce — the scion of a LEGACY media conglomerate that competed with Waystar — Tom says “Take care, Shiv” and hangs up.
Shiv and her brothers soon figure out that Logan, who’s keeping the ATN news network as a carve-out from the GoJo deal, is about to make a play for the creaky Pierce Global News too — whose longtime, liberal owner Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones), he’s always hated. Ganging up on a suddenly Hundred-protective Roman, Shiv and Kendall figure it’s better to grab PGN themselves than try to float his new, made-up company.
“Rome, it makes sense,” Shiv explains with sisterly insistence. “We know news, entertainment. And this is off the shelf.
“I like the other s—t,” she adds, meaning Hundred. “I do. I just, I LIKE this, I really do. Besides, everything else might fall apart. [Kendall] might go on a killing spree in 7-Eleven and you might get your dick stuck in an AI jerk machine.”
“Let’s hope,” Roman interjects, before acquiescing.
“I have to look after myself because nobody else will,” Shiv adds, then addresses Roman’s suspicions about her and Kendall’s real motivation. “This is not about getting back at Dad. But if it hurts him, it doesn’t bother me.”
Hello God. Am I Talking to Myself?
Logan abruptly bolts from his party with security man Colin (Scott Nicholson). In a coffee shop near Central Park, he repeatedly tells the bewildered but grateful bodyguard that he’s his best pal, then launches into existential musings about the nature of man and markets, and whether there is an afterlife.
“We don’t know, we can’t know,” Logan concludes, then puts his stamp on the cosmos. “But I’ve got my suspicions, I’ve got my f—g suspicions.”
Back at the birthday party, Logan’s too-weird-to-work eldest child Connor (Alan Ruck) feels out his callgirl/playwright fiancée Willa (Justine Lupe) about turning their imminent nuptials into a bunting-bedecked, New York harbor media event for his pathetic presidential campaign (“If I was to fall under one percent I fear I’d be considered a laughingstock,” Connor says, in all seriousness, about his polling stats).
“It’s dumb, but I wanted a nice wedding.” Willa responds, already resigned that she’s lost this argument.
This Means War. Bidding War
The kids take a private jet up to wine country to pitch Nan.
Back at the party, Greg tells Tom he “did it” with Bridget in a guest bedroom.
“Oh Greg, you are f—d,” Tom delights, explaining about the CCTV cameras in every room as Logan re-enters the penthouse. The boss shouts that the party is over and orders his executives into a private meeting. He’s gotten word of a rival bid for PGN.
The kids’ SUV pulls up in front of Nan’s wine estate. Naomi (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), wearing sunglasses like all three Roys, comes down the steps to inform them Nan’s wobbling, has a headache and to give her five. Like Shiv’s insistence on being fine, asking for five minute delays looks like a major trope this season.
In the locked home office, the Waystar execs whisper among themselves that the kids are the rival PGN bidders. Some want to know how they got wind of Logan’s pending deal.
“A million ways,” Tom blurts, knowing that he was the culprit. “I mean, everyone knows they’re looking for suitors.”
When the question arises of how the kids can pay for the acquisition, Waystar CFO Karl Mueller (David Rasche) notes, “If Waystar is sold, they have the right to liquidate their five percent.”
Informed of his children’s scheme, Logan orders Tom to get his “f—g wife” on the phone and tell them to get their own idea. Not reading the room at all, Greg asks Logan for a private moment to apologize for sullying the Roy home with Bridget sex. Upshot? A relieved Greg tells Tom, “He says he finds me disgusting and despicable. But he kind of smiled!” Then Colin informs Greg that Bridget has to leave for posting on social media, after he goes through her phone. Greg declines to accompany Colin on that mission.
Nan deigns to see the younger Roys, feigns disinterest in their proposal and coyly sets a high, 10-figure wish price for PGN, though “it’s not a money question.” Yeah, right. She also thinks it would be messy for her network to be owned by the wife of the guy running rival ATN.
“I’m getting a divorce,” Shiv announces to everyone’s surprise.
“Yes, it’s a sad, sad day when love dies,” Roman states with flavorful insincerity.
As the kids confer with their financial advisor on Nan’s terrace and competing bids are sent from New York, Logan asks his execs for jokes to break the tension. They are not funny people.
“Who wants to smell Greg’s finger?” he finally lobs in frustration. “I’m not being horrible, I’m being fun! F—g Munsters.”
The kids finally win PGN with a $10 billion bid. As they leave Nan’s home, Tom calls and asks to be put on speaker phone.
“Congratulations on saying the biggest number, ya f—g morons,” Logan growls at his children.
They all laugh. “I think we got him,” Ken says with more satisfaction than he’s experienced in ages.
At Wrong Angles
That night Shiv, back in New York, goes to her tri-level penthouse to grab some clothes. Tom emerges in a t-shirt from another room, asks if she wants to talk. After hurling some accusations about his supposed new dating life (“Well, we agreed that we could look around while we had a think, right?” Tom quietly says in his defense), Shiv declines the offer.
“I don’t think it’s good for me to hear all that. I think it might be time for you and I to move on.” Snook delivers these lines with a halting, hurting cadence, opposite to her usual sure-sounding, rapid-response patter. It’s devastating, as is Shiv’s rejection of Tom’s apparently heartfelt offer to try to make love to her.
They fall back on the bed at 90 degree angles to one another, clutching hands. It’s as intimate as they’re ever likely to be again.
Alone on the night of his birthday, Logan watches ATN. He calls Cyd Peach (Jeannie Berlin), the real brains that runs the network, to complain about the anchorman.
“Who is this f—g lunk anyway?” he barks. “He looks like a ball sack in a toupee. Are you losing it, Cyd?”
So many to choose from in spite of so few expletives in the English language. But both Roman and Kendall’s practice pitch lines for The Hundred nicely encapsulate each characters’ cluelessness about the media business they’d like to inherit from their father.
- Roman: “It’s like a private members club, but for everyone. It is like clickbait in a way, but for smart people.”
- Ken: “We have the ethos of a nonprofit but a path to crazy margins.”
- Tom is more self-abasing than ever, especially as he dithers through asking Logan if he’ll still be OK with him should he divorce the boss’ daughter. On the other hand, Tom’s brutal psychic bullying of Greg seems like the only, desperate stab at esteem he has left. Greg, meanwhile, looks like he’s finally getting off on being Tom’s gimp. He’s super-pumped about their supposed carousing escapades as “the Disgusting Brothers,” a term that makes Tom wince and that his wife uses against him.
- Could Connor be running out of money? The main reason he wants to turn his wedding into a media circus is to avoid paying another $100 million for his losing presidential campaign’s ads.
- Kerry may have a rare, sincere motive in her efforts to get Logan’s kids to talk to him on his birthday. She takes the latters’ repeated oral sex insults with uncharacteristic forbearance.