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Succession Season 4 Episode 6 Review: Kendall And Roman Shake Things Up

  • The most cringe-comedy heavy episode of the season so far, a welcome detour from the unrelenting emotional trauma
  • Jeremy Strong's standout episode of season four to date; as heralded as his performance is, his comedic abilities are still undervalued when talking about it
  • Only a show this well-written could get me invested in a relationship as toxic as Shiv and Tom's all over again
  • Far from the standout episode this season — but we definitely needed something a bit lighter after the last few weeks

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) are the exceptions to the Karl Marx quote that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and second as farce. Their sheer corporate incompetence, front and center in this week's cringe-comedy heavy episode of "Succession," is farcical whenever they find themselves in a position of power by default. Their buyers' remorse at selling WayStar to Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), having suddenly regained the urge to revitalize the company themselves, promises a relentless comedy of errors as the series races towards its end point. With business acumen straight out of a "Nathan For You" episode, their plan is to try and make Matsson look crazy in order to make shareholders and the WayStar board feel uncomfortable — a mission that finds unintentional, minor success after the Swedish billionaire tweets out a Holocaust joke mocking Kendall's presentation.

Every bit of success the siblings have happens by accident, which is the story of their lives; the natural heirs to the crown by blood, even though nobody would argue that they deserve to be in their position. In the wake of several episodes that have dealt with the family's complicated grief, "Living+" offers a slight reprieve from the brothers' emotional traumas, even if it does directly position one of them under the loveless, deep-faked gaze of their departed father for a crucial portion of the running time.

The Boss Babies

This week's episode plays out like a return to the cringe comedy that helped creator Jesse Armstrong make a name for himself back in Britain with cult successes such as the sitcom "Peep Show." This is the first time this season that this has been a driving force within the narrative, rather than just a factor in a supporting character's subplot. After their humiliation at the hands of Matsson last week, once again reminded that they're stuck in the shadow of their father, Kendall and Roman attempt to course correct and project the image of two disruptors shaking up a company with new ideas, even as everybody knows that they are just keeping the seat warm before the next CEO takes over.

For Roman, this results in what can best be described as a response to his tirade with Matsson to regain some of the agency he lost. This leads to ego-driven ruling, firing anybody who disagrees with him with no contingency plan for what to do next — largely because he doesn't know what to do when he walks into each meeting. But it's Kendall's embrace of the CEO role ahead of the company's big presentation that proves far more intriguing, leaning heavy on the high-concept theatrics he's known for in his public appearances (who can forget L to the O G?), but without any concrete ideas to show along with them. The presentation is nominally to launch Living+, a new real-estate development that promises a "WayStar cruise on land," though Kendall's fixations lie elsewhere. 

As heralded as Jeremy Strong's performance so rightly has been across the past four seasons, his ability to transform into an eager-to-please teenager, obsessed with presentation and wanting to impress people — even if it's through lies such as the new development getting people one step closer towards achieving immortality via its healthcare schemes — remains underrated. It's another symptom of the character spending his entire life not getting the love and praise he wanted from his father, but as it manifests itself as comedic outbursts, it doesn't get as much recognition as the more outwardly traumatic places Strong is willing to venture in this role. 

Kendall's other tendency, which Strong excels at mining for laughs, is his pathetic need to think exclusively in terms of how he'll be perceived by shareholders and the media at large. Some of this week's most quietly funny moments come from his attempts to offer PR crisis management to each bad decision Roman reveals he's done without his blessing — he desperately wants to be seen as an outsider shaking things up, rather than somebody who wouldn't be anywhere near this job if it wasn't for the family connections. If it weren't for the family's remorse over losing a father who they had a lifelong toxic relationship with, this would probably continue to be the character's great tragic arc of the season.

Elsewhere in the family ...

This isn't to say it's an entirely comedic episode this week, so much as something of a breather after a destabilizing few installments. Even the opening shot of Logan Roy (Brian Cox) in a pre-recorded video, hurling abuse at some poor camera assistant, feels momentarily like a return to normal. This week, the family's grief comes almost entirely from Shiv (Sarah Snook), and it's a testament to how well-written this season is — with each episode taking place on a consecutive day — that we're only now reckoning with the various plot points from her life that were previously introduced. Her father's death, her divorce, and the news of her pregnancy have all been carefully put to the side for the sake of business; perhaps the most devastating moment in this week's episode is the reveal that she has an assistant book out a slot in her schedule so she has time to cry. 

Shiv is the most qualified of the children when it comes to taking over the reigns, even though she will never be seen as a successor by her brothers. Perhaps that's why this week's episode begins shifting focus back to her personal life, and her semi-reconciliation with Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) – a partnership that shouldn't be trusted, let alone cheered-on, due to how much backstabbing has taken place between them both in the past. And yet, Shiv and Tom's flirting in this week's episode, the closest to an evenly matched power play ever seen between the highly agenda-driven pair, feels like escapism in the midst of emotional devastation; grief really does make it harder to see things clearly. It's a dynamic I confess to having missed between the two actors, and helps to make this episode the semi-detour the show needed to take after an emotionally taxing few weeks. It's perhaps the season's least essential episode, but its more comedic tone makes it the most necessary one at this point in the story as we head closer towards the likely devastating endgame.

"Succession" airs every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO and HBO Max.