‘Succession’ Season 4 Episode 5 Recap: “Kill List”

Where to Stream:


Powered by Reelgood

If you’re like me, you were not in on the ground floor with Succession, and had one more more trusted friends assure you that it wasn’t really that much about business. It’s true, of course, but occasionally an episode will come along where half the scenes consist of characters saying numbers to each other, and then this is me.


“Kill List” (Season 4, Episode 5) is such an episode; fortunately, juicy stuff happens AROUND the number-saying, too.

Kendall closed the previous episode by more like his late father than we’ve ever seen from him, so he may be assuring himself that his true essence is undisturbed by blasting hip hop on his chauffeured drive to his first day as Waystar Royco co-CEO — CEBro, as Hugo suggests, and Kendall quickly shuts down. After being greeted by a completely organic and spontaneous round of applause from everyone in the bullpen on the executive floor, there’s a check-in with Roman and his team about Hibernation, a troubled production at the Waystar movie studio that’s too expensive for them to give up on. That’ll have to wait, because then Matsson is emailing about the trip to GoJo’s corporate retreat that Matsson just summoned Kendall, Roman, and co. to take: he’s sent a list of personnel he wants to come, and when I say he’s gone deep into the company directory to assemble it, know that it includes Ray (Patch Darragh), a character whose ninth episode this is and yet someone you definitely can’t picture right now, right? It’s a “cultural compatibility check,” and it’s probably a positive sign…unless Matsson is demanding a bigger contingent so that he can seize on one or more of them as a reason not to do the deal. “What does it look like if we say no?” Kendall wonders, and is basically told by everyone else in the room that he can’t, so he backs off: “Let’s go get the deal. Let’s bleed the Swede.”

On the flight, Shiv — already annoyed to have been left off the million emails that have been flying around since Roman and Kendall officially become co-CEOs, officially without her but promising not to “fuck” her — is just curious that stories keep coming out implying that Logan’s two younger sons had been covering for him for a while before his passing. Kendall theatrically calls Hugo in to pretend they’re going to “crucify” anyone who’s leaking stories like this, and when Shiv tries to say she doesn’t really care if they’re trying to “burn Dad’s legacy” as long as she knows that’s the plan, Kendall shuts her down: “Shiv, we’re death-wrestling with ogres.” “You’re reading documents, is what you’re doing, Ken.” And probably not very attentively, either; Kendall has about five tweets’ worth of focus in him at any given time, and I wouldn’t be that surprised if there were a late-series reveal that Roman is actually illiterate. Anyway: her brothers may not be including Shiv as much as she had expected, but they haven’t entirely forgotten about her: Kendall offers to “cut Tom’s throat”: “In case that might be a nice thing for you,” Roman adds. This is probably a more considerate gift than either of them has ever come up with for any of her birthdays.

When the Waystar Royco team arrives at the Norwegian resort where GoJo’s holding its retreat, the kids plus Frank, Karl, and Gerri ride a gondola to the top of a mountain for brunch, and have one last (spoiler: they wish) discussion about the deal. For morons like me, Kendall doesn’t just say the share number WR wants to hear from Matsson…

SUCCESSION 405 Kendall holding up the clipboard with "144" written on it 

…he creates a visual aid on the fly! Thank you, Kendall, I’ll be able to remember that 144 is your floor because it is also a gross, just like nearly everyone’s behavior in this episode!

After “joking” (but not really) about Kendall and Roman bringing so many people — including “the village elders” — to this morning’s meeting, Matsson brings just the two boys into a lounge for some light mutual negging before getting down to the number-saying. The WR stock dropped at Logan’s death. Then it regained half that loss. Matsson offers “one single dollar” for the entire operation, but that is also a joke. What he actually wants is to buy ATN along with everything else. Roman immediately says no, since Logan had carved it out, but Kendall would like to hear what Matsson would be prepared to pay, and the actual number is “Like 187 for sure.” Kendall can’t help considering it, as Roman silently notes.

SUCCESSION 405 Roman looking toward Kendall; Kendall looking to his left, then right

I’m no accountant, but that’s quite a bit above 144, right??? Frank and Gerri are low-key gobsmacked that the CEBros have gotten them all to this point (while Karl has to be told to “tuck [his] boner away”). But one-on-one, Roman and Kendall agree that they’re still only in this to do Logan’s deal, then PGN. That’s when they run into Shiv, who’s just heard that Jaryd Mencken‘s campaign has been coordinating with ATN on a daily basis; Kendall and Roman badly pretend they didn’t know, then blame Cyd, but it’s bad timing for Roman, who is clearly more emotionally attached to ATN than Kendall is; when they tell Shiv about Matsson’s pursuit of it, Shiv immediately agrees to let him have it, calling it a “toxic asset” and reminding them that they need to get the deal done.

Once everyone has reunited with their colleagues and repeated the numbers that were said, there’s time for posturing. Matsson, learning that the ridiculous Greg is a Roy cousin, mocks him in Swedish to his executives until Kendall gets pissy about their rudeness and Matsson airily replies, “We’re just passing time until you come up with a counter.” Roman states that they only want to pursue Logan’s deal. Matsson sees “a way back” for ATN, and dismisses Kendall calling it successful and lucrative; he doesn’t see a future in making news for angry old people. Kendall doesn’t think Matsson understands what he’s buying, then, so Matsson goes for the jugular: “Sure! Lecture me, Vaulter guy.” Kendall’s attempt to enumerate all the mighty businesses of their “trusted brand,” Matsson cracks up, calling it “a parts shop.” It doesn’t matter if Kendall thinks he’s wrong: “You’re a tribute band.” Before things can get any uglier, GoJo executive Oskar (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) announces that it’s time for the sauna and starts a chant to that effect. Not sure Kendall needs help sweating right now!

By the time night has fallen, Kendall has turned on Matsson and the deal, telling Roman he wants to tank it entirely. He likes “running the ship” and thinks they’re good at it (uh, your first time going to the office was literally yesterday, my dude), and doesn’t want Matsson to destroy everything Logan built. Roman hates everything about this plan, from the fact that they’re failing Logan by bailing to the degree of difficulty involved in making Matsson walk and think it’s his idea to how happy Kendall seems about taking “a tightrope walk on a straight razor,” because Roman’s brand of impulsivity doesn’t take quite the same form as his drug addict brother’s. But he agrees to do it. They even hug on it! They hugged at the office earlier, too; I think they’ve hugged more this season than they probably have in their entire lives.

Remember how they promised Shiv that she’d be “across” everything even if she didn’t have a title at the company on her brothers’ level? Well, since she isn’t part of this plan, she has to make some moves of her own — specifically, on her own with Matsson in his suite. After he gets a read on Shiv’s “husband situation” (in brief: “Well, we’re fucked”), he tells her about the “pickle” he’s gotten himself in. He was seeing a woman, and when it ended, he sent her half a liter of his blood in a frozen brick, “as a joke.” Also, the woman in question was Ebba (Lili Harboe), his head of comms, whom he’d introduced to Shiv earlier as an “estrogen air freshener” GoJo keeps around to keep things smelling clean; Ebba had cheerfully replied that she’s kept notes on everything, so whenever she walks, it either goes in her book or Matsson will have to pay her off. “First of all: good one,” says Shiv drily. But then she calmly shares her advice on the situation, and Matsson says he likes her, and appreciates that she’s not judgy: “You can take a joke….Like your dad.” Matsson may seem erratic, but he sure has figured out how to get what he wants out of these kids!

And then it’s time for Operation Deal Tank. The next day, on Kendall’s orders, Greg “leaks” that the retreat is going badly and no one gets along. Kendall has Jess arrange a screening of the terrible movie. He and Roman ask Shiv what she and Matsson discussed in private the previous night, and she does what they have not: she tells the truth, that Matsson really does want ATN and is going to pay a lot for it. But, disregarding Shiv’s assessment (and rattled on the gondola ride up by a photo of Logan’s embalmed corpse Connor texts, about which more below), the boys blunder into a mountaintop meeting with Matsson, completely unprepared for him to ask them straight out whether they’re tanking the deal. Noooo, they’re just trying to be open! But with the election imminent and then the transition afterward, they might have to slow the pace. Matsson needs to do this fast, so he attacks their softest spot, telling Kendall and Roman how embarrassed Logan would be right now, what with their “playing Scooby-Doos” and trying to scare him away from their haunted theme park of a company. (If only he knew exactly how cursed their ACTUAL theme parks are!)

Thus triggered, Roman chokes out a monologue — to Matsson, who is carelessly peeing — reminding Matsson of the time he asked Roman when Logan was going to die, accusing him of having killed Logan, and winding up with “It’s not happening, okay?…I fucking hate you.” If Matsson repeats any of this to the board, Roman will just say it was a negotiating tactic, “you fucking c—t, you piece of shit.” No one seems to know what’s going to happen now, though Matsson definitely looks happiest…

…and then we’re on the plane, as Matsson calls to give Frank GoJo’s revised offer and hang up without speaking with either of the Roy boys present: “192.” Well, that’s even higher than 187!!!

While Roman and Kendall absorb this unexpected turn of events, Matsson calls Shiv and asks her to send him a photo of their faces.

SUCCESSION 405 Shiv taking a shot of her brothers; Roman and Kendall moping

Logan would be embarrassed by Kendall and Roman if he were alive to see this: these fuckups even fucked up fucking up.

Margin Calls

  • Roman’s movie posters: In addition to learning that this eventual gigantic bomb of a movie is called Hibernation, we get peeks at two framed posters of, presumably, past Roman productions: Eric Is A Sinner and Dirty River.

    Why do these all sound like AppleTV+ originals that are definitely going to get cancelled after one season?
  • Compress yourself: On the plane to Norway, Tom silently judges Frank and Karl for putting on compression socks before takeoff. Hey man, they’re in their seventies and they just watched their boss die on a flight, let them do whatever may help them spend one extra day with the payouts they’re about to get!
  • The Ass Menagerie: Later, Karolina starts the worrying about all the very impressive and serious members of GoJo’s executive team — Hugo’s counterpart was even an Olympian! But Gerri assures them that Europeans are nothing to fear. Socialized medicine and generous vacation day allotments have made them soft; everyone who ever worked for Logan was “raised by wolves.” “We’re snakes on a plane,” Hugo agrees.

    Once they land, Hugo and Karolina both set to work undermining the confidence of (respectively) Andreas (Christian Rubeck) and Ebba; Hugo needles Andreas about barely missing out on a bronze medal, and Karolina purrs that Ebba looks “well — very refreshed.” Okay, mean girls.

    In the end, none of their tactics seem to make a difference: immediately after the 192 offer comes through, Gerri gets GoJo’s kill list. Ray, some dude named Mark, Hugo, Frank, and Karl are all on it; Gerri, Tom, and Karolina are safe, apparently thanks to Shiv’s personal endorsement to Matsson. Ultimately, they were less snakes on a plane than dried-out dead lizards.
  • Last rights: While his siblings are engaged in international financial intrigue, Connor is back in New York, running interference at the funeral home to keep Marcia from putting Logan in a kilt for the viewing. Irritated, the rest of the Roys give him carte blanche to make whatever decisions he wants, but specifically tell him not to send photos — which he does anyway, upsetting both Roman (who actually sees it) and Kendall (who doesn’t really even want to hear about it). I guess this is supposed to be comic relief, but they were just at Connor’s awful, tacky wedding; if Connor books a brass band for the wake, they can’t be surprised or mad.
  • Greg Corner: Speaking of “supposed to be comic relief,” Greg decides this is the trip to try to get his three WR cousins to agree they plus him constitute a “Quad Squad,” without explaining what he thinks that means or how it would benefit them. He also repeats a story he heard about Matsson: that when he “fucks randos,” he puts on noise-cancelling headphones, listens to podcasts, and just lies back and watches his…well, “partner” seems like a strong word for what is being described, but “trick” seems too flippant. Gossip fans may find this tale familiar.
  • Dad sads: At the start of the 187 meeting, Roman makes a passive-aggressive joke about Matsson forcing them to come see him mere days after their dad died. Matsson shoots back that at least they didn’t find Logan themselves, and describes a scene that suggests his own father died by suicide, asphyxiating on carbon monoxide — then has to prompt Roman and Kendall to react: “No sorries for Lukas?” They perfunctorily offer condolences, and since the rest of the scene establishes that they all have “dossiers” on each other, presumably they would know if it was some kind of tactic. Anyway: leaving it here in case it somehow comes up again. 
  • Shiv Corner: For someone who’s pregnant, she seems to be using a lot of illicit substances. However, she’s also a pregnant person who’s keeping it quiet, and we really don’t see her do much more than take tiny sips of a whiskey and a glass of champagne; when Matsson invites her to do coke with him, she takes the vial in a friendly way but doesn’t actually do anything with it. I personally think this is just her keeping up appearances as opposed to telegraphing that she had a pregnancy loss after that tiny trip into the conversation pit in the last episode, but I guess we’ll see!

    Other than her outmaneuvering her idiot brothers, the headline on Shiv in “Kill List” is that she seems to have rekindled her spark with Tom. Correctly sensing that Tom fears for his future at the company even before ATN gets folded back on the deal, she twits him about the whiteness of his sneakers…

    …and gets a flick to the “thick,” “chewy,” “barnacle meat”-like earlobe for it. By the time they’re flying back, she’s telling him she plans to fire Cyd over the Mencken campaign coziness and is asking him to dinner when they’re back in New York.
  • Resorting to violence: Congratulations to the location scout who found one of the most stunning places on earth — the resort where the retreat is taking place — and parked the Roys there, reminding us that of course these anhedonic freaks could never appreciate it. Instead, they bitch about the size of their rooms, ignoring the view on the other side of their full walls of windows. Someone should have kicked them into a fjord. 

Television Without Pity, Fametracker, and Previously.TV co-founder Tara Ariano has had bylines in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Vulture, Slate, Salon, Mel Magazine, Collider, and The Awl, among others. She co-hosts the podcasts Extra Hot Great, Again With This (a compulsively detailed episode-by-episode breakdown of Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place), Listen To Sassy, and The Sweet Smell Of Succession. She’s also the co-author, with Sarah D. Bunting, of A Very Special 90210 Book: 93 Absolutely Essential Episodes From TV’s Most Notorious Zip Code (Abrams 2020). She lives in Austin.