Succession season 4 episode 8 review: the writhing snake pit spills over

Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) in the ATN offices on the day of the American presidential election (©2023 HBO. All Rights Reserved)
Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) in the ATN offices on the day of the American presidential election (©2023 HBO. All Rights Reserved)

Succession spoilers seasons 1-4 below

Say what you will about convicted sexual predator Donald J Trump, but he sure as hell has made life easier for those writing televisual election specials. Post the MAGA in the White House era, post the actual storming of the actual Capitol, no fictional candidate for the presidency or campaign scenario seems too outlandish or farfetched: if anything, the reverse is true.

So in season four’s episode America Decides, the supporters of Succession’s far right candidate – Jeryd Mencken, who appeared briefly in season three – can set fire to a few hundred thousand ballots and swing the vote at a crucial time. Connor Roy can make state of the nation addresses when bowing out of the race. And the future leader of the free world can be anointed by a trio of squabbling nepo babies, on the basis of whether or not he does/doesn’t torpedo the GoJo deal.

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Frank (Peter Friedman) discuss the election in America Decides (©2023 HBO. All Rights Reserved)
Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Frank (Peter Friedman) discuss the election in America Decides (©2023 HBO. All Rights Reserved)

It all seems very plausible, if a little incomprehensible – perhaps particularly for UK viewers less au fait with the T&Cs of US elections. But not quite knowing what’s going on doesn’t really matter: because this sort of setting – in and around a buzzing newsroom as an election unfolds – is where Succession is at its finest.

Everyone talking in million-miles-an-hour one liners, ludicrously risky decisions being made on the fly, the backstabbing turned up to 11. This is a show in which everyone is so unbelievably, deliciously duplicitous that a wife can at last reveal to her husband that she is, as he has long dreamed of, pregnant with his child, and he can respond: “Is this a move?”

One minute it’s Shiv snaking Tom, the next Greg snaking Shiv, the next Shiv snaking Kendall, the next Kendall snaking Roman, the next Roman snaking Matsson. Somewhere up in heaven, you assume, Logan Roy is looking down smiling at how well his kids have (finally) turned out. Over the hour here it was like they knew this, and were all frantically still trying to impress upon dad that they and only they were ‘The Killer’ worthy of the family name.

Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) bicker over ATN’s campaign coverage in America Decides (©2023 HBO. All Rights Reserved)
Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) bicker over ATN’s campaign coverage in America Decides (©2023 HBO. All Rights Reserved)

And it really was the one-to-one showdowns that stole the show here. Cousin Greg, criminally underused in the past few episodes, was back to his “Machiavellian f**k” best and had two of them: one, obviously, with Tom and some cocaine (any scene involving Greg plus cocaine is always going to be a winner). And then one, much less obviously, with Shiv, where she all but pinned him up against the wall in a broom cupboard.

Particularly in the latter, Nicholas Braun’s face was an absolute delight, slipping seamlessly from terrified to treacherous with the mere twitch of an eyebrow. Roman and Kendall are now beautifully out of their depth, with no idea who is trustworthy and who is not. Which is exactly how we want it.

There are now just two episodes of Succession left, the second of which is feature length. Next up is the funeral of Logan and then after that… who knows? There remains potential for the most truly unlikely of alliances – my money is on new BFFs Greg and Matsson – to emerge and crush everyone else to death.

The GoJo deal, around which much of this season has centred, now looks certain to blow up: it’s just a question of what the collateral damage is. At this rate, it could be everyone and everything. Which, again, is exactly how we want it.

Succession is currently streaming on Sky and NOW