By Mia Ogle
The first time we see Kendall in Succession’s pilot, he is rapping along to “An Open Letter to NYC” in the backseat of a car, ready to take Waystar Royco by storm. Season 4, episode 5 begins similarly, with a testosterone-filled rap song and a car, en route to Waystar. Only this time, Kendall has his serious face and sunglasses on. Mr. L to the OG has transformed into Waystar’s interim CEO, and he couldn’t be more of a “serious person.”
We haven’t seen Waystar all season, and as Kendall walks into the office, it almost feels like everything is back to pre-death-normal. That is, before Frank gets the call that Matsson wants everyone in Norway, and the whole team (siblings, old guard, and a scattering of underlings) scurries off, sporting what must be either very old or brand new blue jeans (seriously, the last time we saw blue jeans on Succession was season 1 family therapy).
Frank describes the trip as a cultural compatibility check. Much like Nan Pierce in season 2’s “Tern Haven,” Matsson is trying to get a feel for Waystar’s “vibe” before GoJo buys it. This spawns some truly hilarious moments featuring Waystar’s old, stiff staff trying to fit in with GoJo’s gaggle of hipsters — they’ve been told there’s a “kill list,” and only a few veterans will be retained.
What Would Daddy Do?
In season 4 episode 5, Logan’s absence is almost as poignant as his presence would have been — “What would daddy do?” haunts every decision the siblings make. En route to Mattson, Frank mentions that Logan used to start negotiations with a joke. Kendall ignores him, and as the team greets Mattson, it’s Shiv who charms Matsson with humor (Matsson asks “Am I gonna get a lawsuit if I hug you?” to which Shiv responds “Maybe. Wanna find out?”). As Kendall and Roman stutter through their initial conversation with Matsson, it becomes clear that Matsson does not appreciate their anxious energy. Only after Matsson tells him to “relax” does Kendall throw in some (clearly intentional) banter.
About halfway into this initial conversation, Matsson reveals that he wants ATN (Waystar’s global news broadcast service, previously carved out of the deal space). Kendall and Shiv are all for it, especially after learning that Menken’s campaign has editorial input at ATN, but Roman is unsure — he describes ATN as “dad’s pride and joy that he died trying to keep.” But, per usual, Roman’s sentimentality is completely dismissed (“Let’s just keep one of his old sweaters — less racist,” Shiv riffs), so he folds.
However, it doesn’t take long for Kendall to change his tune. Predictably, he decides that he wants to tank the deal — he likes running the company with Roman (“We’re good at it,” he declares after 24 hours of “reading documents,” as Shiv puts it.) and doesn’t want to hand it over to Matsson (especially after Matsson’s describes it as a “parts shop” run by a “tribute band”). Roman is once again worried about abandoning what was essentially their father’s dying wish, but once again ends up folding. The two decide not to tell Shiv, because Pinky “can’t dance.”
Meanwhile, Pinky is “dancing” over at Matsson’s. Though there’s definitely some attraction between them, Shiv and Matsson primarily talk business. He tells her about the liters of blood that he has been sending to his ex-girlfriend/director of comms Ebba. She gives him some PR advice (“stop sending people your blood” is first on the list), putting that snarky, playful attitude that first drew Matsson to her on full display. “You’re not judgy, and you can take a joke,” he tells her before delivering the ultimate compliment: “Like your dad.” This is the best scene of the episode — it’s one of those classic Succession scenes that are just so incredibly weird, equal parts hilarious, and integral to the integrity of the plot’s future (a la Tom making Greg go shred documents during Thanksgiving dinner).
In season 2, Rhea offers the following assessment of Kendall: “He’s got all the right moves, but he doesn’t know when to play them.” Kendall’s attempt to tank the deal proves Rhea right. Kendall knows what to do — he plants a story questioning the compatibility of Waystar and Gojo, and he screens a horrible movie currently in production at Waystar. But it’s too much all at once. Matsson knows exactly what he’s doing, and calls it out immediately.
It’s Roman, however, who is deeply affected. Roman spends the entire episode absorbed by his father’s death (especially after Connor calls to discuss his corpse), wavering on basically every business decision in an effort to honor what Logan would have wanted. So when Matsson calls Kendall and Roman out, announcing that he preferred doing business with Logan, Roman reaches his limit. “Remember when you asked when my dad is gonna die?” he asks Matsson, referencing season 3’s “Too Much Birthday,” before calling Matsson an “inhuman fucking dog-man.” “We’re not selling to you,” Roman declares boldly.
This doesn’t turn out to be true. The episode concludes as Matsson makes an offer they can’t refuse — 192 per share, ATN included. The team, minus Kendall and Roman, briefly celebrates before receiving a “kill list.” Notably, the only members of senior staff not “killed” are Gerri, Karolina, and Tom — in other words, everyone that Shiv recommended to Matsson. Indeed, as Kendall and Roman process their defeat, Matsson calls Shiv and asks her to send “a picture of her brothers’ faces.” She complies, pleased that the deal went through, ATN with it, and with the newfound leverage that this momentarily concealed relationship affords her. For now, at least, Shiv is on top.
Testing the Waters
It’s also worth commenting on whatever the hell is happening between Shiv and Tom. In true Shiv form, she is nothing but cold to Tom. She literally steps on his shoes after declaring them “too white” and compares his “spelunker” shoulders to Mattson’s broad frame. But Tom fights back in his own Tom way. He delivers a half-hearted slap and a weird, non-biting insult — “your earlobes are thick and chewy, like barnacle meat.” Perhaps Shiv appreciates this. Towards the end of the episode, she tells him that she’s planning to knife Cyd and invites him to dinner (she makes it sound like a threat, but only to mask any of that oh-so-dreaded vulnerability). In season 3, Shiv’s mother comments that Logan “never saw anything he loved that he didn’t wanna kick it just to see if it would still come back.” So, if Shiv really is the most like her father, perhaps she is testing the waters, seeing if he’s a traitor at heart or will fight to get her back.
Succession (2023) Episode 5 Preview HBO