Succession S4E5: Kill List

After one week of Logan Roy slowly dying on a plane and another week of grieving, it’s back to business for the Roy family and the extended members of the old guard. They have to pull it together as there’s just six episodes left for someone (or some ones) to win the Succession games. The GoJo deal is out there, Kendall and Roman are running — interim running, anyway — the company, Shiv is feeling elbowed out, and the rest are fearing for their future. Cousin Greg is still Cousin Gregging. And the biggest question of the episode: who the fuck is Mark?!?!

The episode opens with Jay-Z setting the cool tone on a cool Kendall Roy in a cool limo. We know Kendall is ten percent more cool because he’s wearing sunglasses. As he struts into the Waystar Royco, he’s clearly trying to emit his father’s swagger as he tells his new, inorganically constructed entourage to “fuck off.” He might not be able to ultimately hold on to the aura, but he can at least keep up appearances through one cold open.

As Kendall and Roman call Shiv to their office to plan strategy, only to be disrupted by an agitated Frank, Karl & Gerri busting in. They have been summoned by Lukas Matsson who is as anxious to finish the deal as he is to exert petty power plays. Despite the whole world knowing the Roys are sad, he summons them to their company’s annual retreat to strike while the iron’s hot and the Waystar price point is low. In any case, the Roys are going to Norway! Mark is there.

The old guard pick up pretty quickly that this is not just about trying to finish the deal or simply get a bargain on a billion dollar deal. No, this is a chance for the GoJo clan to size up the power structure and decide who they will be keeping on after the merger. He’s sent a “list of names” of people he wants to cross the Atlantic. It’s a foreshadowing to the other, more sinister list that all the characters fear and gives the episode its name. If you’ve ever worked at a company that’s in peril, you know exactly what the “kill list” is and why this crew would be fearful. They are all directly underneath the sword of Damacles. I mean, they’ll all be multi-millionaires who could probably get a cushy job wherever they want after the purge. But still, getting fired sucks. Mark surely knows.

So. the team goes to Norway where they meet their Swedish counterparts, including the familiar face of Lukas Matsson (aka Hipster Logan Roy). If you ever thought Lukas might not be the worst, this episode will disabuse you of that notion. Former sexy vampire Alexander Skarsgaard imbues the wisecracking, Musk-esque Matsson with a certain sad, but superior glint. He’s Dr. Manhattan on his own planet, knowing the universe is doomed, but as one of the chosen ones, he still has to go on and do what he do. His interaction with Ebba reminds us that he’s not just a dick, but a toxic one. And when he uses the Ebba story to try to seduce (maybe?) Shiv, the game becomes even more deranged. And it doesn’t excuse you from crossing lines just by admitting you’re the sort who is “bad with boundaries.”

Beyond that, I’m not even 100% sure that his story about harassing his employee Ebba by sending pints of his blood was true. Lukas Matsson is one of those dudes who try to gain the upper hand by constantly belittling and needling those he feels are inferior to make sure everyone knows they are superior. Therefore, when he shows he might have a sensitive side — that his games and insults are merely a defense mechanism — it’s near impossible to buy it. Not even Mark would buy it.

Perhaps, the craziest thing about this episode is that Kendall actually comes across quite competent, yet is out-Logan Roy’d by both his relevant siblings (sorry Connor). Roman directs his neuroses into an exasperated tantrum that somehow works. Roman is ultimately the most human of the Roys and he deploys his real emotion to break the impasse of organ measuring and force Matsson to act. It validates all those rare times that Logan hinted Roman could be his heir. Meanwhile, Shiv, as a partner in spirit but not name, goes off on her own mission. Who knows where her flirty alliance of sorts with Matsson will go, but it’s a smart survival tactic.

As all this is happening, in the background, there is a new dynamic forming between the Disgusting Bros. Cousin Greg is truly feeling his oats in this episode. He’s fearless in his attampts to curry favor with the siblings (or the “Quad” which he cringingly coins). That even extends to his brutal sandbagging of Tom as the latter attempts to pretend to be knowledgeable about France. Of course, Cousin Greg’s analysis of an Economist essay doesn’t get past the surface, but it doesn’t matter. The Swedes do seem to see something in the pair, even if it is just as jesters for their amusement.

By the end of the episode, the unofficial kill list does get leaked online. Don’t want to spoil it, but it turns out engaging respectfully with the Swedes, even super sycophantically, seems to help. Being Gerri also helps. Being Mark does not. And we’re about to go into a post-merger GoJo Waystar world where no one is safe. But neither are any of our characters likely to become destitute, and that’s partially the point.

Stray Acquisitions:

  • You know that Gerri is going to be left standing when this show is done. Heck, when the main character of the show hinted at firing her, within a half an hour he died. In the post-apocalyptic world, three things will remain: cockroaches, Keith Richards, and Gerri Kellman. And she will still be looking out for the shareholders.
  • Did you know, however, that J. Smith-Cameron (Gerri) was not elevated to the main cast until the second season?
  • “Norway, Sweden, what’s the difference? They’re all descended from the same rapists.” Who knew Tom Wambsgans was such a Scandinaviphobe?
  • “It’s not a trip to the Guggenheim, Greg” is Hugo’s response to Cousin Greg’s many euphemisms for tall boy’s thirst for sex with Scandinavian women. What does Hugo think goes on in the Guggenheim?!
  • “IKEA’d to fuck” has got to catch on beyond the Succession world.
  • “Quad Squad” is, however, never going to catch on within the Succession world no matter how much Cousin Greg tries to make it happen. It’s no “Disgusting Brothers,” that’s for sure!
  • Hugo is smart when he observes that the Waystar Royco team are “snakes on a plane.” Does the metaphor work if you think any more about it? Probably not. But it’s a good line.
  • On that note, all the pop cultural reference insults seem a bit off this week. What was Matsson’s whole riff about “Scooby-Doo” all about? Were Shag & Scoob driving around in their Mystery Machine tanking corporations?
  • The Roys are as terrible at tanking as the New York Jets. Trevor Lawrence was right there for the taking, but the 0-14 Jets had to win their last two games. As a Bills fan, it was schadenfraudily delightful. The Roys try to spoil the deal and keep ATN and wind up getting a bump.
  • In the previews for the sixth episode, Shiv notes that Kendall has that “gleam in his eyes.” Uh-oh. Kendall’s about to do something stupid.
  • Could Mark really have thought he wasn’t on the “kill list”? Dude might as well have been wearing a red shirt as he rode the private plane to his doom.
  • Mark is dead. Long live Mark!