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‘Succession’ Season 4 Power Rankings: The Great Toxification

It’s a pre-election party and everyone can cry if they want to

HBO/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Succession is all about power—who has the most, who can wield it the best, and who is disastrously blinded by it. So, as we did last season, every week during Succession’s fourth and final installment, The Ringer will check in on how the hierarchy at Waystar Royco shifts with each passing episode. Even after Logan made a deal with GoJo (and screwed over his kids), it’s still safe to say everything is in disarray—and to steal a line from another HBO series, chaos can be a ladder.

1. Kendall Roy

Our no. 1 boy is back on top, baby! A week after his Living+ presentation became a surprise hit (or at least a surprise not-a-flop), Kendall built on his plan to keep Waystar Royco in the family with a new tack: appealing to Nate Sofrelli and the Jimenez camp to try to sic the SEC, DOJ, and other government entities on the GoJo deal. This admittedly doesn’t go well—Nate leaves the Roys’ “tailgate” party early after his presence there gets back to his bosses, and responds to Kendall’s offer to have ATN take it easy on Jimenez during his first 100 days with a cutting rejection.

Another tough moment for Kendall comes in the form of a showdown before the party with Rava. (Holy shit, remember her?! And the fact that Kendall has a family outside of his siblings? If you’d forgotten, I forgive you.) Rava tracks Kendall down to tell him their daughter, Sophie, was bullied on the street by a fan of the racist news network owned by the company of which Kendall is the CEO. Ken in turn asks Rava where she was during the incident and tries to make any and every excuse not to call his daughter to console her. Ultimately, Rava leaves with a handwave when Kendall insists all the work he’s doing is for his family and to protect his children.

It seems we’re heading in the direction of Kendall losing both his family and his company. But then comes Ebba.

Roman gets some mid-party intel that Lukas is creeping on Ebba—with some allusions to parcels of blood, bits of hair, and other “weird shit.” The brothers then track Ebba down and try to weasel out the specifics of Matsson’s behavior, and wind up getting way more than they bargained for. After some cigarette-aided goading from Kendall, Ebba reveals that Matsson’s subscriber numbers from India are ludicrously false; like, double what they should be. That fact alone gives Kendall plenty of ammunition. But instead of just nuking the deal then and there, he links up with Frank and asks, “What if we run it all the way back?”

“We go reverse-Viking,” Kendall explains. “We pillage their village. Waystar acquires GoJo. … We eat Matsson’s lunch. Bigger than Dad ever was.”

It’s the move Kendall’s been waiting for: not only one that will preserve his father’s company, but one that will trump Logan once and for all. Sure, it doesn’t come without its share of strings. He tells Frank this would leave Roman and Shiv in the dust: “one head, one crown.” But it’s unquestionably the kind of cutthroat act his father would have reveled in in his prime.

“We watch history, we make history, and then one day we become it,” Kendall says during a speech remembering his father. With this move, he’s one step closer to finally making his own mark.

2. Frank Vernon

Just a couple of weeks after being named on Matsson’s kill list, Frank is back in the inner circle—well, Kendall’s inner circle, at least. And right now that seems like the place to be.

Frank is at first extremely reluctant to hear Kendall out, which, can you blame him? The guy’s been a disaster, and if the GoJo deal goes through, Frank can waltz into the sunset with a pocket full of cash and zero responsibilities. But the more Kendall talks in the coat closet that’s bigger than my entire apartment, the more Frank seems to hear what he’s saying. Look at this man, both bracing for impact and realizing the possibility before him:

Screenshots via HBO

As is always the case with Succession, this plan could go south before it even gets off the ground. And Frank could be back to square one sooner than he’s able to put on two compression socks. But right now he seems to be on the right team, back in the saddle with his godson.

3. Ebba

Ebba gets very little screen time in these episodes but boy howdy, does she make the most of it! We first see Ebba lurking behind Matsson when he (loudly) shows up to the party during a moment of silence for Logan. Next, we see her pounding a drink and responding “Who cares?” when Shiv asks how she is.

She’s clearly going through it—her boss is, after all, mailing her frozen bricks of his own blood and verbally harassing her in public on a daily basis. Later, we watch her steely face transform as Matsson says, in front of Greg and plenty of other people, that he’d love to fire her, but that she has “created and fostered this situation in which I find it very difficult to do what I want.” Kinda seems like you did that when you started mailing your blood to her, Lukas, but I digress!

The final straw is when Greg leaps in and offers to fire Ebba for Matsson, sending her shooting out to the balcony and into the waiting arms of Kendall and Roman. There, she quickly divulges years and years of secrets in one fell swoop, all because Kendall asked to bum a smoke. “We built his whole rep,” she says of Matsson. “He’s not even a real coder. Someone gave him, like, a box of tech and he took it to market. Bravo.”

She gives Kendall the India ammunition he needs to bury Matsson, gains herself two powerful allies (if she even wants or needs them), and while she seemingly has less leverage if the GoJo deal doesn’t go through, who among us wouldn’t like a chance for some extremely public revenge on an awful ex? Ebba was on a heater in this episode—and she alone has flipped the script on this deal, and the rest of the season.

4. Nate Sofrelli

Many parts of this episode felt like a high school reunion, especially Nate’s reappearance. First, it was amazing to see him after all this time: His last cameo came in Season 2 when he and Gil Eavis were trying to nail Waystar on its cruises malfeasance, and I’ve desperately missed the type of chaos only he seems capable of stirring up. And second, every interaction he had at the tailgate party was laced with the type of history and awkwardness you have with someone you knew when you were 18.

The very first person Nate encounters at the party is Tom—not a recipe for success. Tom is clearly insecure about his and Shiv’s as-yet-undefined recoupling, and he takes it out on Nate. After Nate promises not to drink all of Tom’s wine—the last time these two were in the same room was at Tom’s wedding, when Tom was making him pour his glass back into a bottle—Tom passive-aggressively tells him to “gobble my gravadlax” and explains that the wine he chose for the party “separates the connoisseurs from the weekend Malbec morons.” Nice.

It doesn’t get much better from there. Kendall is desperate to win Nate over to their side, meanwhile Nate becomes a pawn in the siblings’ rivalry when Shiv reverts to her Matsson subterfuge and tries to convince Nate the deal is a fine idea. Unlike the last time he was caught up in the Roy family mess, Nate sniffs all this out pretty quickly and abandons ship once his liberal bosses make it clear he needs to disassociate from the ATN hive. But before he leaves, he has some exquisite parting shots for Ken:

If only Kendall saw it that way.

5. Connor Roy

A truly perfect Connor Roy episode. Like, from the first time he opens his mouth. The siblings all convene for a Funeral Management Committee brunch, where Connor, fresh off a visit to see his dad in the morgue (again), says Logan must have “woke up on the right side of the coffin today.”

He’s still clearly in Funeral Czar mode, taking charge of the only thing the family will let him handle. But he’s also enthused about his election prospects. “In Alaska, I’m exploding,” Connor exclaims. “Four, 5, 6 percent.”

Now, 5 or 6 percent may not sound like a lot, but most elections are settled by even less. At the party, Roman gets a call that Jeryd Mencken will have no chance to win if Connor’s meager percentages detract from the right-wing base in a few crucial states. So Roman acts as a go-between, trying to ascertain Connor’s price to drop out—and the eldest Roy certainly knows how to milk a deal when given the opportunity. The first pitch is for Connor to bail “for the good of the republic.” This is his response:

Next comes an offer that will live rent-free in my head for the rest of eternity: “How familiar are you with Mogadishu?”

Mencken and Co. are keen to offer Connor an ambassadorial position, just not one of any major importance. But again, Connor understands his leverage. He dismisses Mogadishu as “a little car-bomby,” then asks for the U.N., knowing they’ll counter somewhere in the middle. After that comes Slovenia or Slovakia (he and his mustachioed advisor, Maxim Pierce, aren’t interested in the Slos). Pierce pitches South Korea; I think you can guess the mockery that was met with. Then comes the hammer:

Only if Mencken is trying to start World War III!

Oman is the first suggestion to get some actual consideration, as Connor checks with his w-Oman, Willa, to see what she thinks, but ultimately his pride—and Willa’s desire to live above ground—is too immense. “There’s one person here who doesn’t think I’m a joke,” Con says to a fuming Roman. “So that’s who I’m gonna listen to, OK?”

Con’s still in the race, and against all odds, his stubbornness might just swing the entire thing.

6. Gerri Kellman

From fired, to unfired, to on a warpath, Gerri has no more time for games. She’s done, and her requirements—both officially communicated and thrown in Roman’s face in-person—are immense: eye-watering sums of money, hundreds of millions; her personal reputation management to be on the line when Karolina goes through background briefings; and for her exact narrative to be followed for at least the next five years. Otherwise she sues and goes public with the dirty pictures Roman has sent her over the years.

“Have I made myself clear?” she finishes. Yes, Gerri, 100 percent.

7. Roman Roy

After his mountaintop confrontation with Matsson, Roman has been in scramble mode. He was constantly on the move this week, shown in cars, sprinting through the party, even animatedly diving into and out of conversations. His primary role in “Tailgate Party” was to act as intel gatherer—about Matsson’s sordid relationship with Ebba, about the demands of Mencken’s camp, about what possible positions Connor could get if he dropped out of the election. One of the few times he stood still was to talk to Gerri, and even there the two were tangoing around each other as they lobbed conversational grenades back and forth.

In the end, Roman offers to deliver Logan’s eulogy at the funeral, something both Shiv and Kendall agree to. But Roman is swimming between multiple currents right now: Team Kendall, which looks ready to move on without him; Team ATN, which could fail quickly depending on election results; and Team Loyalty to Shiv, which appears to be a sinking ship. If he doesn’t pick the right one fast, he could get swept out to sea all on his own.

8. Lukas Matsson

First off, let’s acknowledge this hall-of-fame bit of costuming:

Just a couple of thought leaders doing their own research and promising things will be different by the next quarter.

Matsson RSVPs to the party four minutes before showing up, realizing he’s going to have to head off yet another attempt from Kendall and Roman to kill the deal. He storms the gates during a moment of silence for Logan, then spends most of his time either negging Ebba or wandering around with Shiv trying to get in the good graces of a bunch of U.S. bigwigs. At one point, he seems to have figured out those people’s Whole Thing: “I thought these people would be very complicated, but it’s … they’re not,” he says. “It’s basically just, like, money and gossip.” Isn’t it!

But this self-teaching AI doesn’t have a great rest of the night. First Shiv corners him, asking what place she’ll have in the company once Waystar is no more. He tells her she can have whatever she wants, but when she asks for a commitment, he can only offer to “circle back in a bit.” Then, his faulty India numbers get exposed. “Maybe we discovered a metrics error that has overstated our subs in India. Like, by quite a … like, if there were two Indias it would make sense,” Matsson tells Shiv. “But there isn’t two Indias, there’s only one India.” Thanks for clarifying.

His solution is to forge ahead with the deal, close quickly, and hope this tidbit of information gets lost in the shuffle. “By next quarter the numbers will be real, probably,” he says, either not fully realizing the reality of the situation or choosing to bury his head in the sand. But either way, a shitstorm is coming for Matsson in the form of Kendall Roy, and Shiv alone isn’t going to be enough to protect him.

9. Shiv Roy and Tom Wambsgans

This episode offers a pretty perfect distillation of Shiv and Tom’s entire relationship. They start off in a sweet, happy bubble—Tom thrilled to be getting laid again in the “orgasm Olympics,” Shiv tolerating Tom’s enthusiasm, Tom ruining the vibe by giving Shiv a glass-enclosed scorpion and saying, “It’s like, you know, I love you but you kill me and I kill you.”

The two largely go their separate ways at the party: Tom spends time harassing Nate, trying to get people to drink his biodynamic wine, and generally being “pre-tired” about all the election work to come; Shiv follows Matsson around like a puppy, corralling his antics and introducing him to some major players. She also consistently jokes that Tom is going to get fired after the deal goes through, maybe not the best play if you’re trying to keep peace with your sort-of husband.

Late in the night, after Shiv hears about India and realizes her game of playing both sides may be about to bite her in the ass—and after Tom threatens to go to bed early (he’s just so tired!) and leave all the hosting duties to her—she follows Tom outside to their balcony. What happens next is one of the best scenes in Succession history, and perhaps the most honest conversation Shiv and Tom—or anyone on this show—have ever had. “I am just worried about, you know, maybe I’ve nailed myself to the Matsson cross, and he might turn out to be bullshit,” Shiv begins.

Tom reassures her that she’ll always be fine (she is Shiv Roy, after all); meanwhile, she’s been telling the primary power brokers in America that he’s a lame duck who’s about to get canned. This leads us to a break in the conversation when Tom asks if they can have a real conversation and “clear the air.” I could just list the full transcript of what happens next, but here are a few highlights:

Tom: “I think that you can be a very selfish person … and I think you shouldn’t have even married me, actually.”

Shiv: “You were only with me to get to power. Well you got it now, Tom. You’ve got it. … You’re fucking me for my DNA. You were fucking me for a fucking ladder, because your whole family is striving and parochial.”

Tom: “You were going to see me get sent to fucking prison, Shiv! And then you fobbed me off with that fucking undrinkable wine, and you won’t have my baby, because you never even thought, honestly, that you’d be with me more than like four fucking years I don’t think.”

Tom: “I think you are incapable of love. And I think you are maybe not a good person to have children. … I have given you endless approval and it doesn’t fill you up because you are broken.”

Shiv: “You don’t deserve me. And you never did. And everything came out of that.”

Finally, everything between these two is out in the open. Finally, things have been said that can’t be taken back. This conversation showed everything Succession is capable of building and sustaining—relationships with real stakes and history; characters who seem surface level but actually have incredible depths and emotion; and explosive moments that take your breath away. I have no idea where Tom and Shiv go from here, but their scene will go down in Succession and television history.

10. Cousin Greg

“Gary” had a tough week, but I’m not even sure he realizes it. The rounds of ATN International layoffs seem to have gone well, for him at least‚ giving him purpose and the ability to say he scalped 100 people across three days. But he still doesn’t understand when he’s being made fun of, especially when it comes to the wry humor of Matsson and his executives. Howling after offering to fire Ebba too doesn’t make him a big dog, even if Matsson did invite Greg to sit as part of the Swede’s newfound charm offensive.

At least he’ll always have Tom, and a knack for causing “confusion in the chat.”