Advertisement
UK markets open in 5 hours 16 minutes
  • NIKKEI 225

    39,210.45
    +140.77 (+0.36%)
     
  • HANG SENG

    19,473.67
    -162.55 (-0.83%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    79.65
    -0.15 (-0.19%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    2,430.20
    -8.30 (-0.34%)
     
  • DOW

    39,806.77
    -196.82 (-0.49%)
     
  • Bitcoin GBP

    55,912.01
    +3,686.73 (+7.06%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,508.63
    +154.21 (+11.39%)
     
  • NASDAQ Composite

    16,794.88
    +108.91 (+0.65%)
     
  • UK FTSE All Share

    4,590.38
    +6.15 (+0.13%)
     

The 15 Best Episodes of ‘Succession’

We probably sound like a broken record at this point, but it is always worth pointing out when a TV show truly capitalizes on the fact that it’s a TV show. The concept of an episode has been diluted over the years, with so many shows seeing a runtime as a means to an end or just another hour to fill on the way to an ending. “Succession” has become one of the all-time TV greats by understanding that each individual piece of the puzzle can be a hand-crafted, standalone work of its own.

So picking out the best episodes of “Succession” is both a challenging and rewarding idea. They’re defined by moments in a “Friends”-esque way — The One Where Tom Throws Water Bottles; The One Where Tom Flips a Desk Over; The One Where Tom Steals Logan’s Chicken — or an “Always Sunny”-esque way — The Gang Testifies Before Congress; The Gang Meets in a Kid’s Bedroom to Discuss the Future of the Company; The Gang Gets Rid of a Fake Dead Cat. Whether you like your “Succession” more on the “absurdist comedy” end of the spectrum or the “lives hanging in the balance” likely dictates which episodes shoot to the top of your own personal list.

More from IndieWire

ADVERTISEMENT

Over time, some of these episodes have started to rhyme with each other in their own ways. Later episodes might be more profound because they’re a fulfillment of casual prophecies laid out in the early going. Earlier episodes might benefit from hindsight, zeroing on the strengths of a character or throughline before most viewers could even fully clock it.

So with the series finale just over the horizon, we thought it was an appropriate time to take a tour through some of the most important hours of the show so far. Some carry vital plot points that push the Roy family in wildly different directions. Some seem like frivolous displays of extreme wealth and callousness, only to reveal the hidden lessons underneath all the extravagance. (Again, all of these list-making endeavors are subjective exercises, but we’ve tried our best to overcome recency bias and give a full picture of what this show’s been able to offer up over the course of a stellar half-decade.) The greatness of “Succession” comes from the idea that each chapter comes with two guarantees: You’re gonna get a killer Nicholas Britell score and your time won’t be wasted. With a few of the undeniable heavy hitters and a handful of other Stewies and Sandies thrown into the mix, here’s our arguments for what stand out as the show’s best episodes so far.

15. “Too Much Birthday” (Season 3, Episode 7)

Succession Season 3 Episode 7 Annabelle Dexter-Jones Jeremy Strong
Annabelle Dexter-Jones and Jeremy Strong in “Succession”Macall Polay / HBO

written by: Georgia Pritchett & Tony Roche
directed by: Lorene Scafaria

On first glance, a lot of the garish, gaudy display of Kendall’s 40th is variations on a theme. Watching the various museum exhibits to his own family, you pick up what his loved ones do pretty quickly after entering one of the most “going through it” pop-up shows ever put on screen. Yet, however much “Succession” is blurring the lines here between its own indulgence and that of its #1 Boy, you have to admit that both do so in spectacular fashion. (It’s also a preview of what’s to come when Kendall decides to put on a different kind of show at Investor Day in “Living+,” another episode that sees Scafaria and Pritchett returning to their same roles.) For all the divorced dad energy emanating from this public celebration/breakdown, this is also a pretty big turning point for a few other characters who aren’t yet or once were not named Roy. Tom celebrating his not having to go to prison? The overturned table speaks for itself. Willa starting to actually fight for Connor is a key turning point in planting the seed that they one day might end up resembling a happy couple. And Rava’s showing up is another key table-setter for her being one of the show’s rare voices of reason. Ultimately, Kendall telling his own brother “You’re not a real person” is one of the clearest shortcuts to unpacking “Succession”-speak: knife-sharp jabs that somehow make perfect in-the-moment sense to the people saying them but that manage to convey a lot more in hindsight.

There are a few production design nuggets from Ken’s birthday bash inside this look at the Roys’ Season 3.

14. “DC” (Season 2, Episode 9)

HBO Succession Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong
“Succession”Zach Dilgard/HBO

written by: Jesse Armstrong
directed by: Mark Mylod

A lot of the episodes on this list are ones that shove all the main players in one location and leave them to sort out their own disasters. But “Succession” can also spread out that tension across continents when it needs to. On one hand, there’s a fraught Congressional hearing with a hearty helping of Greg Tomlettes. On the other, Roman’s sovereign wealth fund excursion turns into a…light kidnapping. Tom’s vocal flailing behind the mic lets the show have a few laughs and this has two of Frank’s best lines in the whole series, but this is also an episode that shows the Roy kids for the ruthless, would-be heirs that they are. There’s some actual business sense behind Roman’s avalanche of snark and Shiv is capable of coating some witness tampering in a blanket of faux sincerity. It all comes from the top: Just watch how they all take in the “60 Minutes”-esque whistleblower interview. For this family, everything is a game and there are lives to be won.

In honor of the episode’s enduring cultural legacy, let’s run down some of the best “Succession” quotes.

13. “Hunting” (Season 2, Episode 3)

Succession Season 2 HBO cast
“Succession”Peter Kramer/HBO

written by: Tony Roche
directed by: Andrij Parekh

Yes, this is “Boar on the Floor.” But even before the Waystar sycophants are on their knees for sausages, this episode is a testament to the how the whim of one character can move mountains. Logan’s obsession with snagging PGM sets the whole apparatus in motion, as a legion of execs and dealmakers turn a Hungarian corporate retreat into elaborate, metaphor-drenched battle prep. The extra intrigue of sniffing out the “mole” who spoke with Logan’s biographer is a perfect added incentive for everyone to bring out the worst in each other. Vindictiveness, paranoia, and deceit are all varietals in the red wine of financial conquest (one that Connor would presumably want to hyper-decant in a blender, too). Tom says it to Greg in the middle of their veiled, pre-hunting heart-to-heart, but it goes for pretty much everyone in this universe: “Of course you can trust me. To a point, yes.”

Read our episode review from 2019 for more “Boar on the Floor” parsing. 

12. “Nobody is Ever Missing” (Season 1, Episode 10)

"Succession" Season 1 Episode 10 Finale Jeremy Strong
Jeremy Strong in “Succession”Colin Hutton/HBO

written by: Jesse Armstrong
directed by: Mark Mylod

“Succession” Season 1 barrels toward that wedding with such force and inevitability. One of the season’s great tricks is sidelining the ceremony almost entirely when it finally shows up. As with all things Roy, the emphasis is more on appearances: placement in photos, who gets to stay at the reception, Tom morphing into a Wife Guy in real time. Of course that wedding might as well be a wake for a few things that are over before they begin. Kendall’s bear hug gambit ends when that car careens off the bridge. Any illusion of a normal Roy-Wambsgans union goes poof while the couple is still in their wedding clothes. And there’s Roman in the bathroom, literally washing his hands of a disastrous rocket launch (still a strong contender for Culkin’s crowning achievement so far). But this finale is all about the versatility of its bookends. The ability to start the hour with a sitcom-style wifi printer mishap and end it with a ruthless Logan Roy “Number 1 Boy” embrace is what puts this show in its own tier. Thankfully, the show didn’t end here, but that slow dissolve to black would have been one of the all-time great series endings if there was somehow nothing else to come.

Our conversation with Jeremy Strong about how that crash scene and its aftermath came together.

11. “Retired Janitors of Idaho” (Season 3, Episode 5)

Succession Season 3 Episode 5 Connor Roman Gerri Karl
“Succession”Macall Polay / HBO

written by: Tony Roche & Susan Soon He Stanton
directed by: Kevin Bray

An unspoken promise of “Succession” is that in any episode you can swing between Greek tragedy and “Veep.” “Retired Janitors of Idaho” finds the most efficient way to combine the two, taking an already-tense shareholders meeting and adding on the mysterious instructions from a UTI-hazed Logan. The sly edge of the writing and Cox’s performance here is that it’s not a transformed Logan, but a Logan that’s scrambled. The same pieces are being used, but in a decidedly different order. The rest of the Waystar inner circle then becomes a grand improv team, trying to put the pieces of a longform bit together, one that just happens to have the entire future of the company attached to it. The shuffling of people trying to stall at the podium while the backstage farce plays out — capped off by Shiv’s prerecorded video line of “We’ve always cared about women” being cut off to make an announcement — is as funny as any comedy on TV right now. True to “Succession” form in not letting anyone get too comfortable, there’s Ewan to tell audience surrogate Greg that’s he becoming just as rotten as everyone else. You may be laughing at Logan’s nonexistent dead cat, but the joke’s on everyone.

Our review of “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” complete with an ode to that sublime Greenpeace subplot.

10. “Honeymoon States” (Season 4, Episode 4)

Succession Season 4 Episode 4 Shiv Kendall Roman
“Succession”Courtesy of David M. Russell / HBO

written by: Jesse Armstrong & Lucy Prebble
directed by: Lorene Scafaria

“Succession” episodes come in every flavor of viciousness. Just a week after watching a patriarch die, the show turned its gaze to the circling vultures. A housebound “The Death of Stalin” in miniature, this window into the immediate aftermath of a post-Logan Waystar is filled with the compartmentalizing that the Roy kids have become famous for. It also shows how removing the threat of Logan lets some of the supporting “Succession” figures embrace their truer selves. Karl unleashes a psychological bazooka on Tom at point blank range, Gerri takes immediate steps to paper over her firing that both happened and didn’t happen, and Frank offers an surprisingly sweet pep talk that perfectly treads the line between sincere and strategic. Through all the sound and fury about the leadership of this massive corporation, to have a good chunk of the episode seem like that process would all come down to a marked-up, easily flushable piece of paper seemed only too fitting. And all of that doesn’t even take into account the casual Shiv pregnancy reveal, a circle of life thematic changeover so very “Succession” in its casualness (and the fact that it get quickly gets subsumed into these characters’ overall chase to ensure profits elsewhere).

Some brief words of tribute to the members of the “Succession” old guard, who took center stage in “Honeymoon States.”

9. “Chiantishire” (Season 3, Episode 8)

HBO Succession S3 06.16.21 Italy S3 Ep 8 - - 26 - Ext Kendall Villa Logan & Kendall talk over dinner Kriti Fitts - Publicist kristi.fitts@warnermedia.com Succession S2 | Sourdough Productions, LLC Silvercup Studios East - Annex 53-16 35th St., 4th FloorLong Island City, NY 11101 Office: 718-906-3332
Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong in “Succession”Graeme Hunter

written by: Jesse Armstrong
directed by: Mark Mylod

Desperation does terrible things to people on “Succession.” When the gang gets invited to dear mother Caroline’s wedding, that particular family combination sends that desperation into overdrive. It makes the family start looking to sell their financial souls. It makes Connor impulsively propose at the welcome reception. It sets Greg up to trip on the first rung of the “dating ladder.” It sets off a cross-generational nuclear bomb of motherhood, with Caroline’s vicious bachelorette party conversation sending Shiv into a tailspin. All of that would be enough to land it among the show’s best, but add on a titanic Kendall/Logan dinner and The Greatest Cell Phone Mistake in the History of Cell Phone Mistakes and this one gets elevated even higher. It shouldn’t make sense that a character could use his grandson as a poison shield and still twist himself into thinking he can claim the moral high ground. But that’s the square that “Succession” circles again and again and again (and makes it look easy).

With “Chiantishire” as the entry point, here’s an essay on attachment and isolation as some of the strongest running themes of “Succession.”

8. “Tern Haven” (Season 2, Episode 5)

Succession Season 2 cast Episode 5 HBO
“Succession”Peter Kramer/HBO

written by: Will Tracy
directed by: Mark Mylod

“Succession” loves few things more than diving into the echo chamber that comes with ludicrous wealth. In “Tern Haven,” the show tries a different family’s on for size in an episode that shows just how much uncomfortable solidarity there is among people looking to maximize their profits. The Pierce family dynamic is instantly different (a lot more quoting “King Lear” than living it out in real time), but there’s false piety on both sides of the Merger That Wasn’t. Once again, it’s another example of “Succession” squishing the exquisite highs (“King of edible leaves, his majesty the spinach!”) and stomach-turning mistakes (“Just tell them it’s gonna be me”) as close together as possible. Between Roman’s ongoing dominate-me parade (you can write 1000 words just about the reaction on Gerri’s face when she shuts the bathroom door) and Kendall’s white sheet misadventures, this is a sharp slice of the humiliation that the Roy family finds themselves courting, whether they like it or not.

Here’s a deeper dive into “Tern Haven” and how it manages to balance pity and judgment of its central figures. 

7. “Prague” (Season 1, Episode 8)

"Succession" Season 1 Alan Ruck, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun
“Succession”Peter Kramer/HBO

written by: Jon Brown
directed by: S. J. Clarkson

One of the worst-kept secrets of “Succession” is that everyone is miserable pretty much all the time. (Exhibit A: Kendall having to listen to that same DJ Shadow/Run the Jewels song to psyche himself up for a business meeting and then a night out to celebrate Tom’s upcoming wedding.) “Prague” is a special case, in that’s an hour of everyone convincing themselves they’re actually happy. Roman lording his older brother’s past over him, Tom getting a bachelor party hall pass, Connor spreading the word about his underground bunker, Kendall believing he can parlay his temporary sobriety into a big boardroom win — all glistening ideas that turn to rust in a matter of mere hours in a trendy warehouse. It’s all part of a brilliant bit of reframing, spooled out over an entire episode, to show that everything the Roy family touches goes the way of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. And the blanket that Stewy is offering is to smother, not nurture the Waystar trunk back to health. “Succession” can do the thing that its characters always seem to fail at: make the comedown work just as well as the highs.

Some have argued that “Succession” might be The Only Good Show on TV

6. “All the Bells Say” (Season 3, Episode 9)

Succession Season 3 Episode 9 Finale Brian Cox
Brian Cox in “Succession”Graeme Hunter / HBO

written by: Jesse Armstrong
directed by: Mark Mylod

Back in December 2021, buckets of digital ink were spilled over the idea that Kendall might actually be dead. When this Season 3 finale came around, it showed he just needed some time to confess and get a newfound sense of purpose. That renewed energy only lasts a few hours when the Roy children coup attempt fails before it even really starts, capping off a wild season of swerving allegiances and heavy hearts. “All the Bells Say” is a prime example of the show’s ability to have emotional clarity at every step, even amidst a sea of money jargon. That Kendall unburdening, all the way through Logan’s “toy soldiers” rant, lays out the stakes for the entire family in ways that don’t require a single bit of knowledge about mergers or acquisitions. Greg doesn’t know what he’d do with a soul and Logan doesn’t know what he’d do with an extra $5 billion. Like properties on a Monopoly board, “Succession” means everything and nothing, all at the same time. And down to the Renaissance painting-worthy final frame of Tom and Shiv finally getting even, this episode is art.

Our crafts team unpacked the Season 3 finale with Mylod, cinematographers Christopher Norr and Patrick Capone, and production designer Stephen H. Carter.

5. “Which Side Are You On?” (Season 1, Episode 6)

Succession HBO Episode 6 Kendall
“Succession”Peter Kramer/HBO

written by: Susan Soon He Stanton
directed by: Andrij Parekh

There are a handful of “Succession” episodes that end with a sequence that makes you want to take out your stomach or crawl into a hole or go run through a brick wall. (People respond differently to stress. We’re not here to judge.) What separates these episodes is what the lead-ups to those final centerpieces do with all that lead-up time. “Which Side are You On?” is one of the series’ clearest thesis statements on being rich: It’s great and horrible at the same time. Money can buy you a lot, but it won’t help you ease the nerves of wedding planning or absolve you from guilt about lying to your fiancé(e) or hide the shame of eating illegal deep-fried songbirds. And it definitely won’t get you out of a disastrous decision to go to Long Island and back in an hour when your entire livelihood is on the line. That last boardroom setpiece — cutting between a panicked Kendall, a gradually-realizing-something-is-very-wrong Logan, and everyone caught in between — is the show’s first major masterclass in ratcheting up tension just through cuts and stares and nervous arguing. Kendall’s nervous diligence being the thing that torpedoes his entire coup attempt is sweet icing on the uber-wealthy hubris cake, a Tasty Morsel from a Groovy Hub.

Here’s more on that boardroom sequence, unpacked by episode editor Anne McCabe.

4. “Secession” (Season 3, Episode 1)

"Succession" Brian Cox and Sarah Snook
“Succession”Graeme Hunter / HBO

written by: Jesse Armstrong
directed by: Mark Mylod

For a lot of viewers when this first aired, Kendall emerging from some solo meditation time in an empty tub, only to come out of the bathroom shouting “Action stations!” was a post-vaccine battle cry. The tactical strikes that follow in this season opener is almost entirely restricted to verbal standoffs, on tarmacs and over cell phone signals. It all swirls around Logan picking an official CEO stand-in while he weathers the legal storm brought on at the end of Season 2. This episode has the pace and ferocity of an action thriller, going almost wire to wire with the kind of loaded conversations that might as well be fight footage. Whether those words are coming in sentences like sharp daggers (“Roman is out.” “It’s me.”) or spilling out from the one guy who nervously fills empty spaces with buzzword salad, “Secession” turns the act of resetting the board into a crisp, elegant symphony. Just make sure you ask someone before you start opening up dusty wine bottles, Greg.

Our first impressions on the episode from 2021, including zeroing in on that Roman/Logan phone call. 

3. “Church and State” (Season 4, Episode 9)

written by: Jesse Armstrong
directed by: Mark Mylod

Money helps you avoid things. That’s been a long-simmering idea underneath the surface of “Succession.” It’s only fitting that the road to finally putting Papa Roy in his discounted mausoleum would start to undo that for the people involved. They try to triple down their efforts — Shiv only telling her mom about the pregnancy indirectly, Jess doing her best to talk around asking for a new job, Mattson playing regulatory-avoidance footsie with the likely incoming President — but the current climate the Roys helped usher in is proving harder and harder to stave off. The speeches (ones delivered and ones only rehearsed) will spawn even more essays and appreciations by the hundreds, both as standalone pieces of writing and illuminating bits of character text. The visual shorthand of having the women in Logan’s life all occupying the same pew might just do the same. The funeral-as-microcosm gambit that should have been so obvious from the moment Kendall tossed out the idea of “Reagan’s with tweaks” still makes room for its own surprises, from pallbearers to “corpuscles.” It’s what makes Roman’s last stand after it’s all over feel more than just a thinly veiled metaphor. As the show takes one last deep breath before its end, its characters have face the idea that they might be on the brink of their own.

In an instance of great writing begetting great writing, this “Church and State” review makes for an ideal episode companion piece.

2. “Connor’s Wedding” (Season 4, Episode 3)

The Roy siblings embracing each other in Episode 3 of Season 4 of "Succession"
“Succession” Macall B. Polay / HBO

written by: Jesse Armstrong
directed by: Mark Mylod

Past a certain point, the process of picking the “best” episodes of any show becomes a litmus test for your own emotions. You can make more objective arguments about craft and composition, but the ones that end up standing out are the ones that speak to something more primal. Watching the Roy siblings process their father’s death in real time is visceral enough, even outside the context of 32 hours’ worth of time spent with these characters before that happens. Maybe the sharpest, cruelest bit of reality that comes from “Connor’s Wedding” is that the same wealth and control that allows this family to move through the world the way they do is what robs them of both a final in-person chance to say goodbye to Logan and the space to process all those feelings in private. This episode isn’t just that long stretch of being confronted with an abrupt ending, it’s the logistical burden of what comes after if your deceased relative fancied himself a king among men. It’s the perfect “Succession” one-two punch of capturing an avalanche of pain and loss, only to have that same life summed up in a dip on a stock price chart. “That’s Dad,” indeed.

A solid case from the time that, even in death, Logan could still end “Succession” at the top of the heap.

1. “This is Not for Tears” (Season 2, Episode 10)

HBO Succession Jeremy Strong
Jeremy Strong in “Succession”Graeme Hunter/HBO

written by: Jesse Armstrong
directed by: Mark Mylod

There’s something vaguely Agatha Christie-ish about this Season 2 finale, where a whole family piles onto a boat and decides who they’re going to kill. Only here, the murder weapons are words around a dinner table. The long road to picking Kendall as the “blood sacrifice” (and maybe the most pointed “…but…” in TV history that comes shortly thereafter) has some insight along the way. The Roy siblings tiptoe up to the line of sincerity before running away from it, laughing. Danny Huston’s ultra-slippery Jamie gets tossed overboard like Willa’s iPad after another example of Roman showing some actual keen business sense. And as the Kendall-Logan relationship gets fractured for good, Tom and Shiv’s beachside assessment of their marriage is still the purest summary of every single codependent relationship on this show. (Give “I don’t know. I love you, I love this rock. Bye rock! You’re dead! What does it mean?” its own wing at the Paley Center.) Between it all, it’s some casual, abstract mealtime conversation about whose life should be destroyed next. Kendall is the eventual target, but this whole thing is a reminder that everyone in “Succession” is on a permanent chopping block.

Another “Succession” crafts smorgasbord awaits in video essays and podcast discussions on this finale, including contributions from cast, crew, and creator Jesse Armstrong. 

“Succession” Seasons 1-4 are currently available to stream on Max. 

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.