THIS POST CONTAINS spoilers for this week’s episode of Succession, “The Munsters.”
Succession begins its final season exactly where it began its first: on Logan Roy’s birthday. He is as miserable, angry, and manipulative as ever. And he is once again chasing his white whale by attempting to acquire PGM. With the GoJo deal almost closed — relieving him of control of nearly his entire empire other than the cable news operation — Logan needs something to do. So why not finally take over his biggest revival in the media space, as well as his ideological opposite, and turn it into something more reflective of his own foul personality?
But “The Munsters” does not play like Jesse Armstrong, Mark Mylod, and company simply playing the series’ greatest hits. Logan’s goal is the same, as is his temperament, but everything else is different. Waystar Royco is about to fall under new control, seemingly for real this time. And even more importantly, Logan has finally proven Tom Wambsgans wrong by getting fucked — even if he did most of the fucking to himself.
Season Three ended with Logan seemingly more triumphant than ever. He was on the verge of closing the lucrative GoJo deal, and had utterly destroyed and humiliated his three disloyal children. He was master of all he surveyed, while Kendall, Shiv, and Roman were left shocked and powerless.
But it appears that the old man overplayed his hand. Among the reasons he has been able to dominate and manipulate his offspring for so long is that he plays favorites, always making one or two of them feel like they have ascended to be his Number One Boy (or Girl, in Shiv’s case), and forcing them into positions where they will feel like they have to betray one another, thus leaving Logan free to, as usual, get what he wants. But in destroying them all simultaneously, he has inadvertently forged them into a unit that wants to work together — or, at least, one that has no other choice. They’re a team now, because that is the last option left to them. And it is their teamwork, along with a call from Tom to Shiv that reveals more than he intends, that allows them to well and truly foil Logan’s plans and snatch Pierce for themselves.
Obviously, everything is fluid in the world of Succession. None of these deals are final, and the sibs have such an ingrained pattern of mistrust that it’s not hard to envision one or more of them fleeing back to Logan at the first opportunity. But for the moment, this feels different. The trio are not entirely on the same page — Roman very much wants to stick with their new media venture, The Hundred, which is described as “Substack meets MasterClass meets The Economist meets The New Yorker,” and looks at Pierce as a dying legacy brand — but they also ultimately recognize that this is the move, both for their own fortunes and to stick it to their old man. They work together to (with the help of their new money man, “T”) figure out an escalating series of bids that will cut Logan off at the knees, especially since they know Nan Pierce despises him and would only sell to him if she had no other choice. And there is nothing Logan can do about it, save to yell a lame insult at them about their ability to say the highest number(*), which only increases their glee at getting one over on him.
It’s a new dynamic the likes of which the show hasn’t really employed before, and it’s a smart place to begin this final run of episodes. The kids have repeatedly tried to get to the front of the line by operating independently from one another, and they have all failed. The only way to beat Logan, it seems, is to do it together.
As intriguing as it is to see the siblings triumphant, most of the episode’s highlights come in and around the party, as a reminder that this is one of the most quotable television shows ever made. Every line is a gem, particularly whenever Tom and Cousin Greg are together, from Tom making fun of the “ludicrously capacious bag” of Greg’s date, to the discussion of whether or not Greg and this inappropriate woman were able to “rummage to completion” in one of the guest bedrooms. And their attempt to nickname themselves “The Disgusting Brothers” speaks to how fundamentally dumb and immature they both are.
Then there is the premiere’s equivalent of Boar on the Floor, where a frustrated Logan orders his inner circle to roast him while they wait for Nan’s latest update. As with all things Logan Roy, it is a no-win scenario. Play things timid, and he will mock you as a coward. Actually attempt to mock him, and you will not only piss him off, but inspire him to turn the tables on you. And even if Logan fails to acquire Pierce this time around, no one on the entire series is scarier or more cutting when he chooses to insult someone. Brian Cox’s delivery is perfection when Logan asks if anyone wants to smell Greg’s finger — a juvenile joke from a man unhappy to be reminded of how much older he’s getting.
Earlier, he has skipped out on his own party and taken bodyguard Colin to a local diner for a quiet meal with a minimum of sycophancy. He refers to Colin as “my best pal,” a sad but true commentary on how Logan’s win-at-all-costs approach to life has rendered him incapable of having non-transactional relationships with anyone. (And even Colin is surely well-compensated for his role as Logan’s head goon.) He speculates about the afterlife, admitting that he doesn’t believe in it. The older he gets, the closer he gets to oblivion, and he understands that this is not a fate that he can avoid through psychological-dominance tactics. The end is coming for Succession, and also for him. To have this other loss happen on the day he has to face his mortality makes it sting all the more. The episode concludes with him watching ATN, which is soon to be the only major asset he has left, and the only offspring he still cares about. He is a cranky, bitter old man alone in front of his television, not all that different in the moment from his target demographic. Well, the difference is that he can call up Cyd and order her to get rid of the host he’s watching — “He looks like a ballsack in a toupee,” he complains — but he’s mostly marinating in his disappointments in the same way he wants his audience to. It would feel tragic if he wasn’t such an abusive monster.
Before that, we come to a more emotionally fraught scene back in Tom and Shiv’s apartment. She is not living there at the moment — the whole Disgusting Brothers thing has come about while Tom and Shiv are separated in the wake of him betraying her to Logan — and she doesn’t really want him back, it seems. But she is, like her father and her siblings, incredibly lonely. She has scored a big victory over her dad, but the joy she took from that has dissipated by the time she returns to New York. And while she declines Tom’s invitation for sex, she still lies on the bed with him, their bodies at right angles to each other, as they insist they both gave it a go. He genuinely seemed to love her, while her feelings for him were usually much fainter. (The inverse, in a way, of Connor and Willa, who are still moving toward the wedding she has resigned herself to.) But neither is happy to see their marriage ending, and neither can find true comfort from anybody else knowing Logan has scarred both of them. And the worst part is that neither is likely to find someone who will understand that more than their soon-to-be-ex-partner.
It’s a melancholy pair of notes on which to close an otherwise brisk and hilarious premiere. But that feels right. Succession is primarily a comedy, but the humor works because there are real stakes — emotional and societal — undergirding all petty taunts and misunderstandings. And it’s great to have it all back.