Before you start, yes, Roman Roy dramatically stole the show on a Norwegian mountain top in Succession Season 4, episode 5 with Kieran Culkin dropping an award-worthy monologue and a tonne of truth bricks on Alexander Skarsgard’s Lukas Matsson mid-stream.
But the real MVP of the episode and the GoJo corporate retreat? Sarah Snook’s Shiv Roy, folks. Having been benched by the “B-roll brothers” Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Culkin), taking on the roles of interim co-CEOs of Waystar Royco during the “coronation demolition derby” that was episode 4, Shiv is biding her time.
Arguably the much better choice for CEO, Shiv upped her already top-tier insult game in episode 5 and is seemingly giving less fucks than ever, especially in the immediate wake of her father Logan’s (Brian Cox) death. But she’s also keeping this whole Waystar Royco/GoJo deal from sinking (or being deliberately tanked), despite being relegated to the lower decks.
‘Succession’ Season 4, episode 5: Why did some people escape the ‘kill list’?
Shiv Roy was the Machiavellian maestro and MVP of Succession Season 4, episode 5 and here’s why.
1. Shiv shows open disdain for Matsson’s remote venue.
Arriving at Matsson’s lush company retreat in Norway, Shiv pretty much declares she will not be pandering this weekend by openly scorching the billionaire’s dramatically isolated venue. “Which way to Chairman Matsson’s re-education camp?” she quips to Matsson’s bestie Oskar Gudjohnsen (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) — an inappropriate joke made straight at the GoJo CEO’s inner circle. Whether she knows who Oskar is or not, Shiv cares not.
2. Shiv actually draws a line with ATN and Mencken.
In somewhat unsurprising but highly problematic news, far-right, white supremacist, populist Congressman Jeryd Mencken (you know, the one who bonded with Roman over…gulag jokes) is found to have a “direct line” to ATN. As Shiv tells Kendall and Roman, “They’re dialed in on editorial morning conference,” which would completely blow ATN’s credibility, as sensationalist and problematic as it already is. “Even Dad had a line,” Shiv says incredulously when Roman refers to this set-up as a “mutual back scratch.”
Shiv has opposed the Roys’ backing of presidential hopeful Mencken since Season 3, warning Logan, “Mencken is an integralist, nativist fuckhead. He’s toxic. He’s ‘Medicare for all, abortions for none.'” Later in the episode, it seems Shiv wants to exercise control at ATN after the huge offer from Matsson to acquire it with Waystar Royco. Talking to Tom in the private jet, Shiv seems to suggest ATN’s senior news division head Cyd Peach (Jeannie Berlin) will be soon without a job, and Mencken without a direct line.
3. Shiv gets Matsson on side despite Kendall and Roman’s moves.
“Might be hard for you but…stop sending people your blood.”
Credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO
Shiv had already established a no-bullshit rapport with Matsson and sees through his tactics — “Fuck him and his dude-bluff,” Shiv says after Matsson’s bravado demonstration during the meeting brunch, then promptly ditches the event — which means Matsson sees a potential ally within the Roys.
Shiv also intervenes when tensions turn nasty during negotiations between the Roys and Matsson at the lawn lunch, when the billionaire calls Kendall and Roman “a tribute band.” Chatting at the mixer later in the evening, Shiv gives Matsson an honest opinion on the deal and what she calls “the majestic stags sparring with their memory-foam hard-ons,” while scorning the billionaire on making her “the messenger girl.” However, the pair continue their conversation into Matsson’s private quarters, where he confides in her about harassing his former girlfriend and GoJo’s head of comms Ebba (Eili Harboe).
“Three-point PR plan just off the top of my head?…Stop sending people your blood.”
How Shiv is able to keep a straight face and deliver some actual advice to Matsson, a billionaire who has been sending frozen bricks of his own blood to Ebba, is beyond me.
“Three-point PR plan just off the top of my head? Point one: might be hard for you but…stop sending people your blood,” suggests Shiv.
Shiv also casually suggests the surreptitious “catch and kill” technique used by media to stop people revealing damaging information about someone usually powerful — yes, the strategy Ronan Farrow alleged was used by NBC against him to squash his reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s abuse.
Essentially, more than Kendall and Roman, Shiv is most proficiently “navigating by Dad maps,” and doing everything possible to get the deal Logan labored over — ethically or not.
4. Shiv saves Gerri and Karolina from the ‘kill list’.
Ahhh, Mattson’s “kill list,” the rumored rundown of redundancies the billionaire is planning with the acquisition of Waystar Royco. A mere whisper throughout the episode, Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) announces the speculative version of the list to the team in the private jet post-GoJo offer. Hugo (Fisher Stevens), Karle (David Rasche), and Frank (Peter Friedman) all have their heads on the chopping block.
But as Mashable’s Sam Haysom points out, there’s one person that those not on the list — Karolina (Dagmara Dominiczyk), Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) — have to thank. It’s Shiv, subtly shaking up the Waystar Royco boys’ club from the wings and keeping her separated husband and ATN head safe too. Here’s a full explainer of how Shiv managed to get the two women in senior positions at WR from being laid off, and yes, it has everything to do with Shiv’s conversations with Matsson.
5. “The fuck?”
In what might be one of the more perfect shutdowns of Cousin Greg’s (Nicholas Braun) incessant attempt to make “The Core Four” or “The Quad” happen, Shiv utters two words at her relative during an exchange at the retreat’s lawn lunch. Greg tries his hand at “slinging some ideas around” with Shiv, Kendall, and Roman, whom he insists on dubbing, “The Quad Squad. The Roy Patrol. The old team. The fucking…the…the family.”
“The fuck?” Shiv replies, and moves to send Greg on an undignified coffee run. It’s the only thing you could say, really.
6. Shiv has a memorable “spelunker” exchange with Tom.
“You’re like a fucking spelunker.”
Credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO
In some of the most unpredictable dialogue of the season so far, Shiv’s conversation with Tom the night after the retreat party will give you whiplash. After Shiv throws a loaded statement at Tom about people coming down from MDMA while kicking dirt on his perfectly white trainers — “Your shoes are like looking at the sun…This is why people don’t take you seriously, because your shoes are so white.” — Tom flicks Shiv in the ear like an actual child, then offers this banger:
“Your earlobes are thick and chewy. Yeah, like barnacle meat.” Uh, Tom?
From whatever this is, Tom pointedly asks Shiv about her private conversation with Matsson, and Shiv sends that judgment right back with some low blows. “He’s boring but he’s very conventionally attractive. He’s broad. I used to think you were broad but compared to him you’re wiry,” Shiv tells Tom.
“You’re like a fucking spelunker.”
Stone cold and completely confusing, and especially rattling given her conversation with Tom later on the private jet in which she both patronises him, suggests he’ll be promoted with the destruction of his ATN nemesis, Cyd, and invites him to dinner?
7. Shiv has a dangerous liaison with Matsson post-offer.
In the last moments of the episode, Shiv takes a call mid-conversation with Tom from none other than Matsson, which instantly takes a somewhat hushed and clandestine tone. Fully aware of how hard Kendall and Roman tried to tank the deal, Matsson wants a photo of their faces immediately following his sky-high offer. And folks, Shiv obliges.
Essentially, Kendall and Roman decided to tank the deal without Shiv, even though they’d told her she’d be across every decision made. So Shiv’s allegiances will become the main focus for the rest of the season — and judging by the trailer for episode 6, Shiv’s relationships with Matsson and Tom are going to get messy as hell.
But in this episode? Shiv is the undisputed, stealthy MVP.
Season 4 of Succession is now streaming on HBO Max.(opens in a new tab)