'Succession,' Season 4, Episode 8: No Brass On The Battle Field

Photograph by Macall Polay/HBO

I hope the "Succession" writers aren’t prescient. Not only does Sunday’s terrifying episode, “America Decides” give us the heebie-jeebies by resurrecting the ghosts of the 2016 and 2020 elections, but it also portends some future trauma.

It’s almost too timely, coming right after the terror-inducing CNN Town Hall, aka Trump rally, and the former President’s loss in E. Jean Carroll’s rape suit, plus Fox’s loss to Dominion over election fraud.

But in its comic moments, this (fictional) episode also suggests that an election outcome could be swayed by some sloppy sushi-eating.



Yes, Greg the Egg somehow lets the wasabi fly. It lands in the eyes of Darwin, the very decent head of the decision desk. Trying to resolve the burning, Greg pours lemon-flavored La Croix into the poor man’s retinas. Thus scalded, Darwin’s objection to the premature election call also gets watered down.

Or better yet, can the presidency be determined by rich boy Roman Roy’s macho quest for power and business self-interest? All signs point to yes.

I just loved the look of the ATN election night hanger, and the female anchors, all nails and blonde hair extensions in sleeveless, jewel-toned dresses.

There was so much great writing, acting, and direction in this pen-pen ultimate episode (only two more, folks!) that I’ll break it down into major characters and themes.

Shiv and Tom:

Shiv is in total denial—about her marriage, pregnancy, Mattson, who her father was and how much she loved him.

For starters, she’s been killing herself, spoon-feeding and “handling” Mattson, the pajama-ed man-baby who lied about his India numbers. She’s gambled her entire future on her secret business alliance with him, along the way betraying her brothers and sometime husband.

Yet the handsome Swede has never hired her, nor given her any proof that he intends to do so.

After she asked him directly what was in it for her, he responded, “I don’t want to lose you,”  like some cheating boyfriend.

Meanwhile, her disastrous Tailgate Party was only the night before. In that episode, she and Tom went at it on their balcony -- clobbering each other with hurtful truths.

And Tom, an empty-but-servile suit in over-his-head as new head of ATV’s news division, is exhausted and concerned about his intestines.

 But having partaken of some white stuff behind his white board with Greg, he’s running around like a tall, headless, chicken.

Enter Shiv on the election floor, asking to have a word with him just as some important polls are closing.

Shiv: “I just wanted to apologize for some of the things I said last night, OK? And to give you an opportunity to resp…(Looks at his face.)

Tom: How should I frame my face? You scared I’m gonna blab about you and Mattson?

Shiv: Jesus fucking Christ, Tom. My father’s just died. Maybe I can get a little consideration. For a number of reasons, I’ve been feeling off-kilter.

Tom: But you hated him.

Shiv: I didn’t hate him. I loved him.

Tom: It was complicated, and you also sort of killed him.

Shiv: You know what… also, I’m pregnant by you. Never a good time to say it, but you need to know.

Tom: Is that even true? Or a new position or tactic?

And thus, a beautiful new life will be born.

And Shiv, in the family vernacular, is fucked.

Honoring the father and the Fatherland:  While it’s hard to say who is the most hurt by Logan’s death, my vote would be Roman.

Once vulnerable, Romulus, now in tin macho form, has wormed his way to the top, promising Jeryd Mencken, uber-right candidate (and perhaps his new Fascist daddy) that he’ll crown him President and give him favorable ATN coverage in exchange for blocking the GoJo takeover.

Though he has been known for his sexist, racist, anti-Semitic “jokes” before, on this night Roman’s especially attuned to patriarchal gender roles, making fun of “wishy-washy “Dems as “dickless eunuchs in cucktown.”  These are “little girls” who deserve to be “run over. “

Apparently, his newfound power as presidential election-maker has given him a permanent erection.

He assures his brother that “Dad’s dead and the country’s just a big pussy waiting to be fucked.”

While there have been flickers of dirty tricks all night, a suspicious fire in a Milwaukee voting center has destroyed 100,000 ballots, turning a previously blue state red.

It will be contested, yet Roman insists on prematurely calling Wisconsin for Mencken, giving him the election.

Calling ATN “an authority of known integrity,” Mencken makes an acceptance speech that drifts dangerously into Mein Kampf territory.

He mentions not wanting “a marketplace where cunning men haggle,” conjuring up the trope of Soros and Jewish-bankers-gone-wild.

“Don’t we long for something clean in this polluted land?” Mencken asks.  (As opposed to the “wave of filth” that Hitler spoke about?)

“Not something grubby with compromise.  Something clean,” he says, chillingly. He later uses the phrase “proud and pure” -- a dog whistle to white supremacy.

Meanwhile, after riding high with the Living+ bump, co-CEO Kendall now feels edged out by Edgelord Roman.

In a raw and surprisingly honest scene with Shiv, Kendall admits “I don’t think I’m a very good father. Maybe the poison drips through.”

Pregnant Shiv, so conflicted about her own state, responds that he’s a “good guy.”

But Kendall’s paternal judgment stinks. He knows his adopted daughter Sophie and ex-wife Rava are feeling scared after Sophie was pushed on the street by a Ravenhead guy (a Tucker Carlson equivalent.)

So he decides to have a black SUV follow them for “added protection,” but doesn’t tell them.

 “Covert surveillance to show you care?” Rava asks.

“Soph,” he tells his freaked-out child over the phone, “I love you, sweetie. Nothing’s gonna happen. Don’t let the world push you, OK, sweetie?”

He does try to get a similar commitment to killing the Mattson deal from the Democratic camp.

But after he finds out about Shiv’s betrayal with Mattson, and that she lied about the phone call, he’s all in with Rome to declare for Mencken.

Though they have just installed a fascist into the Oval Office, Roman concludes, “We just made a night of good TV.”

It’s a funeral for democracy. Next episode is a funeral for Logan.

4 comments about "'Succession,' Season 4, Episode 8: No Brass On The Battle Field".
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  1. Craig Lesly from Lesly Consulting, May 16, 2023 at 2:45 p.m.

    " Roman insists on prematurely calling Wisconsin for Mencken, giving him the election."

    That is totally absurd.  The Chicago TRIBUNE "called" the 1948 election for Dewey.  It didn't seem to make much of a difference in the end.

  2. Lex Singer from Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners, May 17, 2023 at 8:59 a.m.

    spot on!

  3. Denise Kohnke from House United, May 19, 2023 at 9:51 a.m.

    A Succession superfan, I read all the episode reviews. By far and away, this is the best, most cohesive and insightful review of this episode. It was just too muddled for most. And it wasn't muddled at all. Thank you, Barbara. 

  4. Craig Lesly from Lesly Consulting replied, May 19, 2023 at 2:44 p.m.

    The media are just cheering from the pressbox.  They're not refereeing the game.

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