Note: The following contains spoilers for “Succession” Season 4, Episode 1.
“Succession” finally returned this past weekend with the Season 4 premiere, and while the episode was full of corporate maneuvering as Shiv (Sarah Snook), Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) moved to acquire Pierce Media before Logan (Brian Cox) could, the episode ended on a quieter but no less explosive emotional note.
We see Shiv return to her New York City apartment only for her dog not to recognize her, signaling she hasn’t been home much since Tom’s (Matthew Macfadyen) betrayal at the end of Season 3. Tom and Shiv talk about the state of their marriage, and Tom tries to push Shiv to have a conversation about why he betrayed her and sided with Logan, but she doesn’t want to talk. Instead, holding back tears, she says she thinks it’s time to end their marriage.
“I think a few months has elapsed since Italy and where we pick up, and they haven’t talked about it,” Macfadyen said in an HBO behind-the-scenes look at the episode, explaining that the two still have not confronted the truth of the matter.
“I think in the intervening weeks and months he will have realized she knows,” creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong said, further drilling down the notion that in between the events of Season 3 and Season 4, Tom and Shiv merely danced around this shocking event instead of confronting it.
“I think it’s too sensitive for her to admit that someone played her,” Snook said of Shiv’s reaction. “She’s always trying to escape any situation that means that she has to be vulnerable.”
In Tom’s case, Macfadyen feels like he needs to discuss it in order to explain himself.
“I guess there is a feeling from Tom that they need to discuss it at some point, if for no other reason than for him to sort of stick up for himself and explain why he did what he did,” he said. And yet, Shiv repeatedly shuts the conversation down.
Armstrong explained that for Shiv to have that conversation would be to re-open one of the deepest betrayals of her life.
“People have their own versions of her psychology, but for me, I guess she can’t quite stand to be so powerless in that moment when she was betrayed, and doesn’t wanna go back to it even if it would involve hearing an apology or an explanation,” the showrunner said.
Shiv being a power player and all, Snook thinks she was attracted to Tom’s big move, but in order for their marriage to work for her, she needs to be on top.
“In some ways she finds it attractive, standing up for yourself and fighting back, but I think she needs Tom to be subordinate to her because it’s safer that way.”
This power imbalance in their marriage directly influences Shiv’s actions with her siblings, as they aggressively go after acquiring Pierce in a bidding war with their father.
“She has to feel just as powerful with something external from her father, from the family business,” Snook said.
Watch the full behind-the-scenes video in the player above. “Succession” Season 4, Episode 1 is now streaming on HBO Max. New episodes air Sundays.