So did the right Roys take over? Judging by Succession Season 4, episode 5, which sees a tense renegotiation of the deal Logan Roy (Brian Cox) initially struck with Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) to sell Waystar Royco, the answer appears to be a firm no.
While interim CEOs Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are busy trying to do everything they can to sabotage their own deal in an attempt to cling onto power, Shiv (Sarah Snook) casually outmanoeuvres everybody to get exactly what she wants — and in doing so, she also seals the fate of a number of other characters who escape Matsson’s “kill list”.
But what exactly is the “kill list”, and why do some people avoid it while others don’t? Let’s recap.
‘Succession’ fans are arguing over whether Kendall’s name was underlined or crossed out
What was the “kill list” in episode 5?
Whenever someone new takes over a business, there’s always the potential for restructuring and redundancies. The looming Matsson deal in Succession is no exception, and it’s clearly on the minds of the main characters in episode 5.
“I have it on good authority there’s a kill list,” says Greg (Nicholas Braun) to Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) at one point. “Like eight, nine names. It’s evolving.”
Later in the episode, after Matsson’s made his final offer to acquire Waystar Royco including ATN, the list comes through — and almost everyone flying on the plane, including the likes of Hugo (Fisher Stevens), Karle (David Rasche) and Frank (Peter Friedman), is at risk. The only notable exceptions? Karolina (Dagmara Dominiczyk), Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), and Tom. So why did those three survive, while the others didn’t?
Matsson has plans for Waystar.
Why did some people survive Matsson’s “kill list”?
In a nutshell, they’ve all got one person to thank: Shiv.
It all goes back to the private conversation Shiv has with Matsson, where he asks for her advice on the deal and the very strange, very creepy situation he’s got himself into with his former girlfriend and current Head of Comms (basically he’s been sending her bricks of his own frozen blood as “a joke”).
At one point Matsson asks what Waystar’s Head of PR, Karolina, is like. Shiv’s response? “Oh, she’s good. Yeah, she’s solid.”
Later, after offering her advice on the whole blood situation, Shiv also tells Matsson, “Gerri would be good on this.”
Given that Matsson clearly likes Shiv and takes her advice onboard (he ends up offering Kendall and Roman the “meaningful bump” in money she suggests to him, despite Roman’s pretty understandable outburst at Matsson on the mountain), is it any coincidence that Karolina and Gerri, the two names Shiv speaks favourably of in their meeting, are ultimately excluded from the kill list?
And then finally, there’s Tom. You’d think he’d have been first on the chopping block, but it’s clear from Shiv asking him to go to dinner with her at the end of the episode that she still wants him in her life. Matsson most likely keeps him because of something Shiv says to him that we don’t see.
The whole episode, ultimately, is a lesson in how much power Shiv can wield — and why she’d clearly be a better fit for the CEO job than either of her brothers.
Succession is now streaming on HBO Max(opens in a new tab), with new episodes airing at 9 p.m. ET Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.