Succession Final Season First Reviews: 'Shakespearean,' 'A Masterwork,' Critics Say

Reviews for the fourth and final season of HBO's hit drama are filtering in, and they suggest another award-winning season.

by and | March 22, 2023 | Comments

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It’s time to revisit the “odious” Roy clan for the fourth and final season of hit HBO drama Succession, which finds Logan Roy (Brian Cox) at full-blown war with three of his children: Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin).

Viewers’ jaws hit the floor at the end of season 3, which found Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) committing a Shakespearean-level betrayal of his wife Shiv, as Logan’s three wayward children forced through the sale of Waystar Royco to Lukas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård).

Where will things go from here? And what does this turn of events mean for Greg (Nicholas Braun), Connor Roy (Alan Ruck), Stewy (Arian Moayed), Sandi (Hope Davis), Frank (Peter Friedman), Gerri (J. Smith Cameron), and the rest? Considering that season 4 is also the final outing for the bunch, we expect more backstabbing, family drama, and revenge.

The buzz is high for the return of HBO’s drama, which has so far won 13 Emmys on 48 nominations. Critics were given the first four episodes for review, but did they deliver the goods? Here’s what critics are saying about the last season of Succession:

How Does It Compare to Previous Seasons?

There’s nothing particularly novel about Succession as it approaches the finish line, yet its stride is strong. –Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

The show’s fourth and final season finds it in full Shakespearean tragedy mode. –Ross McIndoe, Slant Magazine

Just as Shakespeare and the Greeks tended to have something heavy to say about their ruinous and ruined royals, so too might Armstrong. –Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

As time dwindles for the show, the characters seem to feel the urgency, creating a locked-in feeling among the ensemble that reveals itself in fascinating ways. –Allison Picurro, TV Guide

The expletive-stuffed satire that has long plundered the ostentatious psychology and lifestyles of profoundly faltering people packs a tremendous emotional wallop in this final run. –Dominic Patten, Deadline Hollywood Daily

Season 4 may take some time to really find its rhythm, but these episodes bring with them an air of finality that makes every bitter quip and acerbic insult land that much harder as the deck constantly reshuffles. –Graeme Guttmann, Screen Rant

Succession Season 4 is telling a more cohesive story than ever before, with all the threads weaving together quite nicely. The result is a season that is even more engaging than its predecessors, leaving you hanging on every word of snappy dialogue. –Samantha Coley, Collider

How Is the Cast?

(Photo by Claudette Barius/HBO)

Though the whole cast has undoubtedly shown up to work, this episode belongs to Sarah Snook and recent Emmy winner Matthew Macfayden. Season 3 ended with Macfayden’s perpetual punching bag Tom Wombsgans selling out his wife, Shiv, to secure his place at Waystar. This relationship is Succession at its most fascinating, not only for its complicated power dynamic but for the surprising amount of sympathy it inspires for both parties. –Dylan Roth, Observer

There are hints that Logan is feeling his age — in strange late night tableaus, he grumpily complains about what’s on his TV, in true old-man-yells-at-cloud fashion — but in Cox’s hands, he has never been more powerful, a tempest of lonely, monarchical fury. In a show rightly lauded for its writing, it’s notable how much a single withering look of his can summon; every interaction with his estranged children feels supercharged with tension. –John Nugent, Empire Magazine

Jeremy Strong is a powerhouse, lips trembling and nose dripping with no amount of shame, proving once again why he’s one of the best actors on television. –Kaiya Shunyata,

Culkin is incandescent as Succession’s most misunderstood character; Roman is still the Roy with the softest heart, and Culkin mines new depths while making the show’s signature caustic one-liners sound natural. –Allison Picurro, TV Guide

It’s not just Strong, Kieran Culkin, and Sarah Snook that are serving up fine performances, though. The entire cast feeds off of each other, creating the carefully choreographed chaos that has come to define some of Succession’s greatest moments. –Graeme Guttmann, Screen Rant

That being said, you know who’s great this season? All the people who are always great. –Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

Does the Writing and Directing Deliver?

(Photo by David Russell/HBO)

The minutiae barely matters—we’re here for the backstabbing, the internal conflict, and the long strings of obscenity that remind us that if Shakespeare were writing today, he’d probably be writing Succession. –Dylan Roth, Observer

The entire team is in top form, including Mark Mylod and his fellow directors, whose stewardship (all anxious handheld camerawork and charged snap zooms) is as sharp, rhythmic and volatile as the barb-laden writing. –Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

If pressure was felt by showrunner Jesse Armstrong and his mostly British writers’ room to stick the landing, it isn’t felt in these opening four episodes, which confidently confront the question baked into the very title of the show. Who, in fact, will succeed Logan? –John Nugent, Empire Magazine

Everything Succession’s fans love is here: the acid dialogue, the private jets, the horror its characters feel whenever they are forced to brush up against the real world. –Ed Cumming, Daily Telegraph (UK)

Are There Any Overarching Themes This Season?

(Photo by Macall B. Polay/HBO)

“Succession” is famously about bad people doing bad things, but season four seems adamant about making its audience sympathize with them. –Kaiya Shunyata,

What makes Succession Season 4 such a masterwork is the way the HBO show stays true to its core cynicism while honestly exploring the heartache and insecurities driving its ruthless power players. –Meghan O’Keefe, Decider

It’s been obvious since the start that becoming the new Logan wouldn’t make them any happier than it made the old one. Because there was never going to be a “winner” in the battle for the throne, the series has thrilled us with depictions of the extent to which the players lose in their quest. And as we approach the end, the Roy family’s journey toward self-destruction remains a darkly captivating spectacle. –Ross McIndoe, Slant Magazine

Like the promised prosecution of Donald Trump, Succession is a roller coaster that raises our hopes that the sinister super-rich might receive their comeuppance only to remind us that they cannot experience failure in any way that matters. Their version of “losing everything” is still far more comfortable than the average person’s vision of success. The most we can hope for is that they should be miserable, and that we should get to watch. –Dylan Roth, Observer

Any Final Thoughts?

(Photo by HBO)

Even when the [bleep] truly hits the fan, it’s greedy, ruthless, backstabbing business as usual for these me-first upper-crusters. –Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

Should a harmonious sharing of power actually triumph over the personification of cutthroat capitalism, or would that only undercut the show’s depiction of a game in which the most ruthless player always wins? Apart from the sick spectacle of watching giants slap-fight without regard for the innocents trampled below, what will be our final takeaway from Succession? We’ll know in 10 weeks’ time. –Dylan Roth, Observer

The Roys may be an odious clan, but they will be sorely missed. –Dan Einav, Financial Times

Composer Nicholas Britell’s reprise and reworkings of themes we’ve already heard prove that while the world that “Succession” takes place in may stay the same, its characters and audience will be changed by the end of it. –Kaiya Shunyata,

For us, the biggest tragedy will be when the Roys are no longer on our screens, to gasp and gawk at, in horror and awe. –John Nugent, Empire Magazine

97% Succession: Season 4 (2023) premieres Sunday, March 26 on HBO and HBO Max.

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