As we approach the fourth and final season of Succession, The Ringer hereby dubs today “F-Word Friday,” a celebration and breakdown of the show’s astonishingly crass and creative cursing. Enjoy, and fuck off.
Fuck you. Yeah, I said it. It’s about time we stop avoiding “fuck” like it’s a redheaded stepchild. (By the way, if you aren’t already reading this intro in the voice of Kendall Roy, you should be.) It’s gorgeous. It’s imperial. It’s the hottest thing in the room that everyone wants but no one thinks they can have. It’s forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, but Succession chopped down the whole fucking tree.
Two thousand and seventy-one. That’s how many fucks Jesse Armstrong and his writing team gave us in the first three seasons of Succession. No episode had fewer than 40 uses, and the Season 3 finale, “All the Bells Say,” had a series record at 119. Since it premiered in 2018, Succession has been many things: a pitch-perfect black comedy-drama about the worst (or best?) family in America; a rare look at the absolute misery that is being ungodly wealthy; an underdog tale about a man who went from swallowing his own load to being a stone’s throw away from running a media empire—but line to line, the show has always been profane poetry strapped into a minigun. It’s HBO’s standard turned up to 11. The Wire and its famed five-minutes-of-fuck scene walked so Succession could run—and now it’s fucking Usain Bolt.
The fourth and final season of Succession, which premieres Sunday, will be Armstrong’s last ode to Shakespearean obscenity and ostentation with this cast of maniacal children. Since there’s no doubt he’s going to make it fucking count, we did some counting of our own. Because there’s no better way to honor the verbose vulgarity of Succession, here is the show’s usage of “fuck,” broken down in explicit fucking detail.
Fucks Per Episode
Succession comes out fucks blazing and never lets off the trigger. The pilot episode, “Celebration,” fires off 64 variations of “fuck” in less than 60 minutes, setting the tone for a first season that averages 64.9 fucks per episode. The fucks-per-episode average (FPEA) takes a small jump to 67 in Season 2, and by Season 3, the show is really letting the fucks fly. In just nine episodes of backstabbing and twisting allegiances, Succession’s Season 3 totals 752 fucks, good for a staggering 83.6 FPEA.
The Season 3 finale, “All the Bells Say,” is an exclamation point to an all-time fucking run. For example, Willa accepts Connor’s wedding proposal with six spirited shouts of “fuck it” like a high-schooler drumming up the courage to try weed for the first time, and Connor repeats the expression back to her another four times in a sort of shocked stupor as if he never expected to be offered weed at all.
Willa: You know what? Fuck it.
Connor: Fuck it?
Willa: Fuck it.
Connor: As … As in?
Willa: Fuck it! Come on. How bad could it be? Right?
Willa: Yeah, why not? You know, we’ll have fun. Fuck it, right?
Connor: Hell yeah. Fuck it!
Connor: Fuck it, huh?
Willa: Fuck it. Fuck it forever!
Connor: Fuck it!
That’s 10 more fucks than Shiv gives Tom when she accepts his wedding proposal early in Season 1 by saying, “But so you know, uh, yeah, whatever.” But that was Shiv’s rookie year—by her third campaign, she was putting up MVP of Cursing numbers. In the Season 3 finale alone, she drops 30 f-bombs, her personal best in a single episode, with some iconic lines, like, “What? Uh, I thought that would’ve kinda been your dream, Rome, me fucking Gerri with your dick,” and, “Well, we just walked in on Mom and Dad fucking us.”
Elsewhere, Cousin Greg never beats Shiv’s 30-piece in any episode, but he does take the cake for most consecutive fucks in a single line of the script. After Tom works in six “fuck” variations of his own in Season 2’s “DC”—including, “I’m the meat in the fucking sandwich”—following his B+ (bad plus terrible) performance at a congressional hearing, Greg barrels into the room and pulls off the same feat in one fell swoop: “Oh, fuck. Fuck. Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck.” Roman, too, has a line in the same episode with four rapid-fire fucks (“Oh, fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.”) as he’s ushered into a hostage situation in Turkey … where he enjoys a game of Fuck, Marry, Kill with Jamie and Karl.
Kendall, Karolina, Gerri, and billionaire investor Josh Aaronson also spit out strings of fucks at points throughout the series. There are, in fact, more than 60 lines in the show where characters fire off two fucks in rapid succession, like Shiv’s “I’m in a fucking fuck pie, Lisa” in the Season 3 premiere. All of that racks up the fuckometer to 2,071. That’s a 71.4 FPEA for the show’s 29 episodes, which amounts to roughly 1.2 fucks per minute.
But who gives two fucks about how many were said? It’s all about who said them and who said them best.
Fucks by Character
There are no surprises atop this list. The Roys are volume shooters, and Roman is the fucking king of ’em all. He averages a whopping 18 fucks per episode, and his single-episode low is still a hefty eight in Season 2’s “Dundee.” At the peak of his powers, Roman drops 42 fucks in Season 3’s “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” which includes his calling Tom “the fucking Hercule Poirot of fucking piss.”
Rome is Mike Tyson if Tyson never missed. He’s as aggressive as he is quick, and every jab hits just as hard as the uppercuts. There’s something beautiful about the bludgeoning of every character who dares to touch gloves with our guy Romulus. It’s only right to give a salute to some of his best lines (in chronological order so that you can see his evolution as a curser):
- “I will give you $1 million, cash, for a home fucking run.” (Season 1, Episode 1)
- “Uh, no, I’m honest. I’m just like, ‘Hey, I like your face. I wanna fuck your face. Can I come on your face?’ Which is why my face is drowning in pussy and you’re not even fucking your wife.” (Season 1, Episode 4)
- “What the fuck is his obsession with milk? You know who drinks milk? Kittens and perverts.” (Season 2, Episode 3)
- “Scottish kicky-ball? It looks like two eunuchs trying to fuck a letter box.” (Season 2, Episode 8)
- “On the big calls, you dip everyone’s hands in blood. But you and me? We run it to fuck.” (Season 3, Episode 2)
- “I will be nice to Kurt Cobain of the fucking floaties.” (Season 3, Episode 9)
- “One waiter down, that makes sense. It took me forever to get a fucking drink at her wedding.” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Logan, who ranks second behind Rome with 402 fucks, is the only character who can hold his own against Tumbledown Dick. It’s his commitment to the fundamentals, along with a few splash plays like “Hans Christian Anderfuck” and “Fucklechester Rangers,” that separates him from the rest of his cursing family and followers. Every Logan “fuck off” is better than the last, and he always fucking wins.
Kendall, however, always fucking loses. It’s a chore for him to get through any sentence without an awkwardly placed “uh,” and no amount of adult language can age him up and out of his pathetic, childish lexicon. He shits the bed with nearly every one of his 367 uses of fuck in the series, starting with literally the first time we ever hear him say it, to Vaulter founder and CEO Lawrence Yee in the show’s pilot, “Celebration”: “So, are we ready to fuck or what?”
Lawrence wasn’t impressed, nor were Angela and her team at Dust, with Kendall’s spew of misplaced fucks in his pitch to finance her app later in Season 1. When talking from a place of leverage, he’s laughed at. In swearing spars with his peers, he’s bested. And in any spat with his dad, he can barely complete a sentence before he’s told to fuck off. His best and most representative use of the expletive is when he’s speaking to his siblings amid an intervention in the Season 3 finale: “I fell off my fucking floatie.”
Shiv is just 35 fucks behind Kendall heading into Season 4, and her hit rate is comfortably in Tier 2, behind Roman and Logan. She is one of very few characters to land a clean hit on Tyson (Roman) when, in Season 2, she says, “Oh, you love showing your pee-pee to everyone, but someday, you know, you’re actually gonna have to fuck something.” I’m also a sucker for the “I’m Shiv Fucking Roy” she hits her dropped boy toy, Nate Sofrelli, with in the Season 1 finale.
It’s a no contest for best f-bomber after the big dogs up top: Stewy Hosseini. Even with just 57 swings of the fuck bat, Stewy makes sweet, sweet contact every single time. He’s a cunning, creative bastard with his wordplay, and he fills gaps in the Roy family fuckcabulary I didn’t know needed filling.
- “Don’t rely on Sir Talky of Fuckchester.”
- “It’s a cele-fuckin’-bration.”
- “Bro, he is a fucking brontosaurus.”
- “Fuck you too, you pusillanimous piece of fucking fool’s gold, fucking silver-spoon fucking … asshole.”
- “I think the issue here, sir, is that everyone fucking hates you.”
After Stewy, Connor, Greg, and a handful of other recurring characters, there are 43 that say “fuck” fewer than 10 times in the show. The best of those, with limited minutes and limited shot selection—and I don’t think it’s close—is Tanner, the meth-head Kendall hangs out with in New Mexico in “Austerlitz.” My guy calls out to Kendall in what is likely his last line and scene of this series: “Hey, Kendall! Tell Bill Gates my computer’s fucked up from all the fuckin’ updates, man!”
That’s an all-time buzzer-beater.
Most Used and Best Variations of “Fuck”
Surprising no one, “fucking” and “fuck” are the most-used variations of the f-word in Succession. “Fucking” accounts for more than 50 percent of all the fucks in the show, despite Logan’s unwavering commitment to “fuck off.” Which: Logan said “fuck off” 41 times in the first three seasons, but there were technically only 30 instances where the intended party was present for the fucking off to land. No other character in the show said “fuck off” more than nine times. Fittingly, the last jab we hear from Logan in the Season 3 finale after he says his iconic “I fucking win” line is “Oh, go on. Go on. Fuck off, you nosy fucking pedestrians.”
Kendall, in a fucking landslide, earns the honor of the character who’s been told to fuck off the most in Seasons 1 through 3: 17 times in 29 episodes. No other character has been on the receiving end of more than seven of ’em.
Of the off-the-beaten-path uses, there are obvious blue-chippers. Hans Christan Anderfuck, Sir Talky of Fuckchester, cele-fuckin’-bration, and Fucklechester Rangers have all been highlighted, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight a few more:
- Rat-Fucker Sam
- Professor Can’t-Fuck
- The Fuck-Fuck Donkey Gang
- Mr. Fucking Magoo
- Mr. Fuck
- Mr. Fucking Ability
- Mr. Fuckface
- Peacock Fuck-Show
I mean, I could go on all day. I didn’t even list Little Lord Fuckleroy. The ultimate point here, obviously, is that Succession uses the f-word a lot. And while there is an infantile joy to that, there’s also something commendable about the show’s sheer commitment to not only using the word, but finding new ways to do it. Kendall once called himself and his single-episode girlfriend Jennifer the “Lewis and Clark of fucking,” and, well, Succession is the Lewis and Clark of using the word “fucking,” constantly breaking new ground and pushing further than what we ever imagined was possible. And we know that Armstrong and the gang will go even further in Season 4. So buckle up, fuckleheads, and enjoy the ride.