‘Succession’ Season 4 Power Rankings: Snakes on a Plane
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. Lukas Matsson
In less than a week, the Roy siblings went from under the thumb of one business mogul—their father—to under that of another. Kendall, Roman, Shiv and Co. traveled to Norway feeling like they were ready to face Lukas Matsson and close the deal Logan was in the process of negotiating when he died. There was a price point in mind, the ATN carve-out was locked in, and the brothers were both confident in their respective under-the-table relationships with the mercurial Swedish tech genius. But all it took was one meeting in a supervillain-esque mountain chalet for Matsson to flip the script.
Of course Matsson wasn’t just going to sit down and shell out more money because Roman and Kendall asked for it. Of course he’d want ATN, the only piece of Waystar Royco that Logan actually loved. And of course the family took that personally.
But it’s not just that one meeting that puts Matsson at the top of the heap this week. No, from there, he shit talks the siblings in front of them in Swedish, prompting Kendall to ask whether the joke was funnier with subtitles; he stuns Tom into silence with one question (not that that’s hard to do); he calls ATN’s aggro approach unsustainable and underlines his plan to “Ikea [it] to fuck”; and then he really begins his tour de force.
The magic starts when Lukas pulls Shiv aside for an extended chat over whiskey and coke (not the soda kind). Shiv doesn’t partake in the latter (more on that later), but she does engage Lukas on a number of topics, namely, the fact that he’s in a troubling “pickle” with his company’s head of comms. See, they’ve been dating on and off, and after their first breakup, he got it into his head that it’d be funny to mail her a half liter of his blood in the form of a frozen brick.
She weirdly didn’t love the gift, but that didn’t stop Matsson from repeating the action over and over and over again. (Side note: How often is he getting this blood taken out? Has he read the Red Cross’s FAQ?) Now this woman has oodles of his blood, and reminder, she works for his company. So Shiv advises him on best steps to avoid, ya know, getting sued, his strange little habit coming out, and his company falling apart in the aftermath.
This starts a funny little alliance between Matsson and Shiv. She keeps the blood bricks story close to her chest—as a piece of leverage, sure, but also to keep the deal on track—while he seemingly takes her thoughts into consideration when crafting the list of Waystar employees to ax post-acquisition. And after Matsson responds to Kendall and Roman’s “fuck off forever” declaration by going around them and calling Frank to make an offer the board would never refuse, he and Shiv share a dysfunctionally flirtatious secret moment. “Can you send me a photo of their faces?” Matsson asks after calling Shiv, a request she fulfills with a smirk.
The “creepy stalker guy who sits in the dark writing code, dripping into an IV bag, and harassing his direct reports” has now conquered the Roy clan. What’s next?
2. Shiv Roy
The queen is back.
Shiv started this episode getting left out of meetings and emails and feeling like a certifiable third wheel at the top of her father’s company. She’s still hiding her pregnancy—and is seen holding and lightly sipping on alcohol at multiple points in this episode—and the most Kendall and Roman are willing to offer her is a shot at petty vengeance. “We can cut Tom’s throat,” Kendall offers, and Roman continues, “We just thought, maybe, in case that might be a nice thing for you.” But Shiv seems less than interested in letting her brothers do the cutting—if it’s not real power, she doesn’t want it.
Things start to turn around once they make it to Matsson’s corporate retreat. Despite being cut out of the actual negotiations, Shiv gains Matsson’s ear, leading him to ultimately conclude, “I like you. You’re cool. You’re not judgy, and you … you can take a joke. I like that. Like your dad.” And even though he makes fun of her advice to bump up the number in order to seal the GoJo-Waystar deal, that’s exactly what he ends up doing.
Who knows how far this relationship will go, especially once Matsson assumes control of the company and starts making changes to the empire her father built. That Shiv complies with Matsson’s request for a picture of her forlorn brothers shows that she knows the value of this bond. But there’s also a sense that she’s a little high on it. And who knows how long that will last—Succession is a show all about ebbs and flows, and while she’s near the top of the food chain at the moment, that definitely doesn’t mean she’ll be there five episodes from now.
That said, Shiv does also gain the ultimate trump card over Tom: Informing him that ATN will be a part of the deal, she dangles the fact that she could end his career in front of him before revealing that she’s going to save him. She even gives him the gift of getting to fire his nemesis Cyd Peach, who had given fascist presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken a direct line into ATN, and then she invites him to dinner. She’s regained the power in their relationship—which is all she’s ever wanted.
3. Gerri Kellman
Gerri wins the award for Best Speech of the Episode, hands down. As Hugo, Karolina, and the rest of the crew run through the accomplishments of the GoJo staff, freaking themselves out with words like “Fulbright” and “ski jumper” and “ex–Winter Olympian,” Gerri steps in. “Sure, they’re young and they’re fit,” she starts. “But they’re European. They’re soft. Hammocked in their social security safety nets, sick on vacation mania and free health care. They may think they’re Vikings, but we’ve been raised by wolves. Exposed to a pathogen that goes by the name Logan Roy. And they have no idea what’s coming to them.”
Has Gerri ever thought of a career as a coach? Because she could give Herb Brooks a run for his money.
The biggest win for Gerri, though, is not finding herself on the kill list, just days after she was supposed to be fired. (And not jumping for joy when she discovers that fact.)
4. Karolina Novotney
Also not on the kill list! And she’ll apparently have lots of work ahead of her managing Matsson’s reputation once the deal is finalized.
5. Roman Roy
First off: I will be using this image to creep people out until the end of time.
Second, Roman is clearly the sibling who’s struggling the most with Logan’s passing. Not in a way that he’d actually admit—that would show weakness, or require him to be able to acknowledge and analyze his feelings—but in the way he does business in this episode. He makes a crack when Matsson apologizes for making them fly all the way to Norway, that “it’s not like our dad died yesterday. It was a couple of days ago, so.” He’s the only sibling who’s set on trying to keep ATN out of the GoJo deal, as that was what Logan wanted. “It’s also Dad’s pride and joy he died trying to keep,” he says when Shiv calls ATN a toxic asset. When Kendall initially threatens to tank the deal, Roman says they should follow through because it’s what Logan wanted. But after Matsson catches on to Kendall’s scheme and says that Logan would be ashamed of his sons, Rome loses it.
“You really couldn’t push this a week, could you?” Roman barks, finally saying everything that was supposed to be left unsaid. “There was no part of you that could just be like, ‘Hey, let’s reschedule and move this ’cause, you know, their dad just died, and you know.’ … You just drag us out here, you inhuman fucking dog man, you.
“We’re not selling to you, OK? We’re not doing that. We are gonna grind you down, man. We are sand in the gears. Every email is gonna take, like, six months. We’re all gonna spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and in the end you’re gonna get fucking bored and move on. It’s not happening, OK?”
It’s a cathartic moment, but the motivations behind it become confusing once Matsson ups his offer. Is Roman upset that Matsson’s getting the company? Was Roman playing Kendall all along, knowing that if he told Matsson he couldn’t have the company, he’d want it even more? Either Rome is playing both sides of this incredibly well, or he now has to live with the fact that his father’s legacy is about to be controlled by someone who has no intention of keeping it intact. The possibility of it being the latter is what’s keeping Roman from being higher on this list.
Serious question: How many liters of Matsson’s blood do you think Ebba is sitting on?
The “estrogen air freshener,” as Lukas calls her in the middle of the episode, may not have had much screen time, but she sure has a lot of power. She has evidence that her CEO boss is an absolute creep—to the level that Shiv warned Matsson he absolutely cannot fire her—and at one point she even says, “When I walk, [the information] either goes in my book or they pay me off.”
That’s called leverage, ladies and gentlemen—a bargaining chip literally made out of blood, big enough to take down a man who’s about to spend billions of dollars. How, or if, Ebba uses it is the real question now.
7. Kendall Roy
Rap listener Kendall is back, baby! Did anyone else get chills during the opening scene, which mirrors the headphone-clad, seat-back-punching Kenny we saw in Season 1? This time around, he’s no longer trying to be the no. 1 boy: He actually is. He’s gone from the Beastie Boys’ “An Open Letter to NYC” to Jay-Z’s “Takeover.” But that doesn’t mean he’s any better at the job.
“I think I’d like to tank the deal,” Kendall says to Roman after their second showdown with Matsson. It’s part power play, part naive musing, part desire to keep acting as CEO for the company his dad at one point wanted him to run. There’s no real rhyme or reason for why he wants to do it: The best explanation he offers is that he thinks he and Roman are good at running the ship and he doesn’t want to stop, which isn’t exactly how multibillion-dollar deals should probably be made or killed.
But Kendall’s eventually successful in getting Roman over to his side. And—after some “Scooby Doo” maneuvers that Matsson immediately sniffs out—Kendall hops on the plane back to the U.S. with his headphones on, waiting for the call that he’ll get his wish. Then Matsson goes over Kendall’s head, leaving him even more powerless than he was when Logan was in charge. “Wow, 192?” he says with zero emotion when hearing the new offer. “Amazing. Excellent.” Guess he won’t be in charge for much longer.
8. Connor Roy
Poor Connor. While the rest of the family is off in Norway, he has the unenviable task of planning Logan’s funeral. In an early call he makes to his family, Connor explains that Marcia is trying to put Logan in a kilt, “like a fucking Bay City Roller.” “I am genuinely concerned that he will look odd,” Con continues, “and I’ll be blamed.”
Connor eventually convinces his siblings to give him “carte blanche” when he goes into the embalming room (seriously) and makes them promise not to blame him if things go wrong. But he messes up big time when, later in the episode, he texts a picture of Logan’s dead body to Roman. That’s not how anyone wants to remember a parent, and certainly not what Roman wants to see right before he’s about to face Matsson on the side of a cliff.
9. Frank and Karl
Just two old, rich dudes, being old and getting richer. We start off the episode seeing Frank and Karl putting on compression socks before the long flight to Norway (better safe than sorry!) and lording their collective experience over Kendall and Roman as they get ready to face Matsson. They have a great chat outside the sauna while the rest of their cohort hangs “in the window like Peking duck.” And things get even better on the plane ride home when Frank gets the call that Matsson has upped his offer to $192 per share; they pop champagne to celebrate their victory over the Vikings.
Sure, both Karl’s and Frank’s names are on the list of people who are likely to get fired once the GoJo deal is complete. But they both take the revelation in stride: Frank remains optimistically resigned with a “naturally, it’s just speculation,” while Karl literally raises his glass and says, “Let the good times roll.”
The reaction is understandable: Both stand to make buckets of money from this deal, regardless of whether they’re retained post-merger. They’re about to come into enough money to buy their own private Greek islands, but their time rubbing shoulders with the kings of the free market is close to over.
10. Tom Wambsgans
When someone at the party asks you, “Is France gonna make it?”
11. Greg the Egg
When you’re not even important enough to warrant a France-related question:
Greg is wobbling horribly this episode. Even before he gets on the plane, he’s talking about meeting up with some “arctic foxes” (seriously, where did this horndog come from?!), and things only get worse from there. The primary fact-finding information he’s able to glean on Matsson is that “when he’s fucking randos, he does noise-canceling headphones. Podcasts.” (Just gotta hope Greg’s source isn’t confusing Lukas Matsson with someone else.) Shortly after that, he asks Kendall, Roman, and Shiv whether there are any deal-related ideas they want to sling around “within the safety of the quad.” They quickly and ruthlessly inform him there is no such thing.
The good news is that Greg’s been reading The Economist in his spare time and is almost able to come up with a quote from the articles he’s consumed. Plus, he gets to party, which was his real goal all along. His nepo-tastic career may soon be coming to an end if Matsson’s mockery of the Roy family dynamics is any indication of what’s to come. But at least he got a free trip to Norway out of the deal.
Much like Frank and Karl, Hugo starts out the episode strong. As Kendall’s go-to comms man, he’s tasked with both leaking negative stories about Logan and finding and crucifying the people who are leaking negative stories about Logan. But despite some bravado when dealing with GoJo management—“They tell me that you nearly got a bronze in at Sochi. … That’s almost huge, man. You know? Those darn 10ths of a second, huh?”—Hugo takes too many pastries at the breakfast buffet, and his name also ends up on the kill list. And unlike Karl and Frank, he’s not in line for much of a payout.
“That slalom motherfucker!” is how Hugo reacts upon hearing the news. Here’s hoping he gets enough of a severance to hire a good lawyer for him and his insider-trading daughter.
13. Ray and Mark
Shout-out to these guys, whose names I did not know before this week. I learned them because they’re the first ones read off the kill list.
Fare thee well, bros. We hardly (a.k.a. not at all) knew thee.