If you’re looking for the perfect episode of any TV series, look no further, because Succession achieved that feat in its very first episode. The world of the Roy family and chaos of the Waystar Royco kingdom has been a thrilling ride from start to finish, and to be honest, pretty much every episode of the drama series is perfect. But the pilot simply got everything right.
Ahead of the Succession season 4 release date, I have been doing what any normal fan would do and rewatching the entirety of the show from the beginning. I don’t need much of an excuse to dive into the lives of the Succession characters, but upon doing so this time around, I was struck by just how flawless the first episode actually is.
The episode, titled Celebration, sees the patriarch of the Roy family, Logan, celebrating his 80th birthday with his nearest and dearest. However, things take a dramatic turn when Logan announces he is shelving his retirement plans indefinitely, meaning his son Kendall won’t be taking over the family business any time soon.
Worldbuilding without the bullshit
Full disclosure: I know absolutely nothing about the stock market or mass media conglomerates. But, guess what? That doesn’t matter, because Succession does a fantastic job right from the off at easing its viewers into the cut-throat world of business, without bombarding us with confusing corporate jargon or needing Margot Robbie to explain it all to us in a bathtub.
We see business meetings, high-stakes negotiations for new Waystar assets, and various very important documents being signed but all of these situations are clearly explained without ever feeling like we’re being spoon-fed. By the end of the episode, we recognise just how much of a corporate behemoth Waystar Royco is and we know how they like to do business, but we, as viewers, are never burdened with having to read the smallprint
The Waystar Royco food chain
One of the main successes of this show is just how brilliant the Succession cast are as their respective characters, and from the get go we know exactly where each of them sit in the Waystar Royco food chain.
Kendall is introduced as a man who likes to call the shots and as being the heir to the throne, but we quickly see him stripped down when it’s revealed how heavy his father’s shadow looms . Make no mistake, Logan Roy is the king, and he isn’t giving up that crown any time soon. He is cruel and manipulative, but he’s also incredibly shrewd and knows exactly how to play everyone against each other.
Then we have Roman, the joker of the pack who claims he wants nothing to do with the rat race, but who gets sucked in without much persuasion. He’s framed as an incredibly insecure and obnoxious person, but one who clearly feels he deserves as much power as Kendall, if not more. Their sister Shiv on the other hand, is super confident and keeps her distance from the company to focus on politics.
The two best characters, Greg Hirsch and Tom Wambsgans, bring the laughs to the pilot of this semi-serious comedy series. Greg is a Roy by blood, but when we first meet him he is vomiting in a theme park mascot costume, so it’s clear he lacks any of the attributes his cousins possess. That said, the way he subtly worms his way into the fold hints at just how quickly Greg could rise the ranks unnoticed.
Tom, on the other hand, is trying so desperately to be noticed that he comes off as a sycophant, and is shunned as a result. Though he holds a high position in the company, it’s very apparent that if it weren’t for his relationship with Shiv, he would be stuck in the bullpen. Tom is presented as the kind of guy who resents being under someone’s boot, so when he meets Greg, he relishes being able to inflict that same treatment onto his new subordinate.
An emotional rollercoaster
As any great episode of television should be, the Succession pilot is extremely entertaining. It blends comedy and drama perfectly, with plenty of thrills and plot twists along the way. While the journey through the episode, and indeed the whole show, is a chaotic one, everything is paced meticulously. You certainly get the feeling there is method behind the madness.
From the intense activity within the boardrooms of Waystar Royco as Kendall attempts to strike a deal for Vaulter, to the more lighthearted moments as Tom searches for the perfect gift for Logan, this episode is an indication of writers who know exactly when to ramp up the stakes and when to give the audience a breather.
The baseball game at the end of the episode wonderfully embodies the range of emotions we are put through by Succession. What starts as a bit of fun soon becomes the backdrop for more serious issues; Frank is relieved of his duties by Logan, Kendall decides to tell the press his father is losing it, and Tom stops a kid from winning his family $1 million by ruining his home run.
Just like everyone in the show, we learn the hard way that no one can be trusted here, and that no one is going to stay happy for very long.
The ultimate cliffhanger
The number one rule of any pilot is that you have to leave them wanting more, and Succession does that. Throughout the first episode, we are told and shown just how powerful Logan Roy is, and he makes it very clear he doesn’t intend to go anywhere anytime soon. So, when he falls ill on the helicopter ride home and appears to be on death’s door, the rug is pulled on everything we thought to be true.
Building up this seemingly impervious character, only to reveal their vulnerability right at the end of the episode, is genius. If the rest of the episode wasn’t enough to get you hooked, you sure as hell would be by the time the credits roll.
For more shows like this, check out our guides to the Euphoria season 3 release date or the House of the Dragon season 2 release date. Alternatively, look ahead at all the new movies coming your way this year.