Succession Season 4 Episode 5 Review: A non-zero sum game in the battle of the egos

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulApr 25, 2023 | 15:27

Succession Season 4 Episode 5 Review: A non-zero sum game in the battle of the egos

The fifth episode of the final season of Succession takes the Roy siblings and the Waystar bigwigs to Scandinavian lands “descended from all the same rapists” to face the ‘Swede’.

It seems hard to put it past Kendall to be blasting Jay-Z’s “Takeover” in his car on his way to the company building. Nothing seems too on the nose for Kendall any longer, as the CE-BRO of Waystar Royco makes his prodigal return to the office set to Nicholas Britell's familiar 808's. Despite not being under his ideal circumstances as Logan's chosen successor, he relishes his newfound power and administers his first Logan Roy-style “Fuck off” to the his NPC lackeys.


The GoJo deal that was left hanging in the Season 3 finale is all set to finally see its closure in this episode, but perhaps not in the way that Kendall and Roman had hoped.

While the previous episode put to display how each processed their grief, “Kill List” explores how the Roy siblings (excluding Connor, who remains preoccupied with the kilt-adorned corpse of their freshly deceased father) distinct personalities are reflected in their business strategies in the wake of Logan’s death.

Kendall sees himself as a confident and ruthless business shark, but is plagued by insecurities. Roman wants to honour their father's dying wish of selling Waystar Royco but keeping ATN. Shiv, who is coping with her father's death and her pregnancy, seems to want to distance herself from the business and pursue ulterior ventures.

Meanwhile, the senior employees of Waystar are positively ripe with tension enough to be pulling up their compression socks aboard the very same jet that Logan bit the dust. As rumors of the young, fit, and capable Scandinavian staff at GoJo unsettle the atmosphere, Gerri takes it upon herself to break through their insecurities, describing the Europeans as sick with vacation-mania and free healthcare. 


Whether consciously or otherwise, Gerri assumed the role of the very “pathogen” the Waystar staff had built up an immunity against to boost team morale. It seems that this week has had a persistent theme of the best (read: worst) of Logan Roy shining through characters at the most opportune moments. And Lukas Matsson, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård, embodies the very same to his fullest.

The power dynamics shift as the Waystar delegation arrives on Matsson’s turf, or as Shiv describes it, “Chairman Matsson’s re-education camp”. And while the uber wealthy retreat, tucked into the Norwegian woods do have an uncanny Midsommar sort of vibe to them, the Roys have more menacing matters to focus on.

In the face-to-face meeting, Matsson immediately homes in on Ken’s fatal flaw: his pride. Kendall's tough façade is exposed as flimsy and ridiculous as Matsson fires at the brothers’ negotiating skills and mocks Ken’s Vaulter escapades. 

(For reasons none other than the name drop, here is a quick throwback to Nicholas Britell’s fantastic track from Season 3)

The Swede, who exudes a playfully unhinged energy, sneeringly describes the Roy kids as "a tribute band" as they offer up a cover of their “prick” father's greatest hits on a remastered album. In doing so, he successfully manipulates the newly anointed co-CEOs and their sister Shiv brilliantly. Or at least he’s convinced that he is.


Shiv is dissatisfied with her position on the Waystar org chart following Logan’s death, and understandably so. While on a plane to Norway, she shares some concerning media narratives regarding her father with her brothers, only to be stonewalled with a dismissive “we’re death wrestling with ogres”. 

In Norway, Matsson appears to gain Shiv's trust by inviting her to his private lodging, where they drink and do drugs. He tells her a story that should repulse her, but she responds with 'informal advice,' impressing him. All that took to stroke her ego was a throwaway comparison to her father to gain information about her marriage and business dealings. 

Matsson's attempt to impress Shiv with his bravado during a brunch meeting fails to sway Shiv, who has already established a no-nonsense rapport with him. Shiv's response to Matsson's tactics is to abandon the event and proclaim "Fuck him and his dude-bluff". Despite Matsson's behavior, he sees potential in the Roys, and Shiv's ability to remain composed and offer him sincere guidance in light of the frozen bricks of blood fiasco remains just as great a mystery as her pregnancy. 

Matsson purposely sours the Roy boys on the deal, knowing they are inexperienced and emotional, which makes them unpredictable. Roman’s explosive reaction to Matsson’s constant undermining of Logan’s legacy, while an Emmy-sealing performance from Kieran Culkin, gives the Swede an excuse to sidestep the brothers. Matsson doesn’t need Ken and Roman to get the deal done as he has already reached out to Shiv, who feels resentful and out of the loop at Waystar. She gives him precisely the information he needs to make his counteroffer.

During the flight back home, Roman and Kendall are left speechless on learning that Matsson weaponised Roman’s outburst as a bargaining strat, only to counter with an increased offer knowing fully well that he has made them an offer that they could not possibly refuse and quashing their ambitious solo ventures for Waystar.

At the end of it all, everybody wins, but nobody wins. Each power-hungry one of the lot got what they wanted, but not really. Kendall and Roman envisioned a future with them at the helm at Waystar but walked away as the Viking-slaying heroes of Waystar with an improved offer. Frank, Karl and Hugo received the massive payout they were hoping for, but ended up on the GoJo Kill List. Matsson inevitably scored the whole shebang including Logan’s prized ATN, but was driven to an extortionate price. 

And though Shiv may believe she walked away pulling the strings of the whole operation, sending Matsson photos of her brother’s downtrodden faces, if there’s been one takeaway from Succession’s “Kill List”, it’s be careful what you wish for.

Last updated: April 25, 2023 | 15:29
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