We know. Your favorite episode isn’t in the top 10. Neither are some of ours.
The thing about Succession, more so than any of the other great series of this century, is that the floor for each episode is impossibly high. Conventional wisdom goes that the series doesn’t get good until Kendall gets stuck in traffic during his first shot at Logan. And sure, on your first watch through, that may seem like the case. But the more you live with the series, the more you realize that Jesse Armstrong and Co. had it from the beginning. You don’t need to be the Cunt of Monte Cristo to watch the second episode of the first season—“Shit Show at the Fuck Factory”—and realize they were in complete control of this narrative all along.
So acknowledging that, we’ve basically set ourselves up for an impossible task: trying to fit countless indelible moments into a list that makes us all feel good. Do we want to live in a world where “We here for you” sits outside of the top 10? “Boar on the Floor”? “Congratulations, Tom, I heard you swallowed your load”? These are the kinds of choices we were faced with, because as anyone who just watched the saga of the Roys play out can attest to, it’s really crowded at the top.
With all 39 installments of Succession in the books, we held our own version of a board vote and determined which episode should sit on the throne. And like Roman in that Kendall traffic scene, we wavered just a little, but ultimately, we think we avoided breaking too many Gregs to make this Tomlette. Buckle up, fuckleheads, because if it is to be said, so it be, so it is. —Justin Sayles
39. “Lifeboats” (Season 1, Episode 3)
If “Lifeboats” should be remembered for anything, it’s the glint of unrealized potential it teased for the rest of the series. The third episode of Succession’s first season is still within the show’s incubation period. There’s a sense that Jeremy Strong and the creators know what show they’re trying to make, even if they aren’t always sure how to reach those heights.
Strong, much like the character he inhabits, remains a few years removed from realizing his full potential. His smarmy depiction of Kendall has yet to blossom into its emotionally nuanced final form. Logan, still recuperating off-screen, feels like a plot accessory instead of a character who would come to define the entire enterprise. These are the days when an entire business transaction can be scuttled because of an ill-timed “fuck off” from Kendall.
Even with these rough edges, “Lifeboats” contains so many moments that have been seared into the collective comedy consciousness. Kendall leading his first meeting with the all-time quotable “So I just wanted to get the gang together early in my tenure to say, uh, … yo” was as funny then as it is now. The dread on Roman’s face as he looks at his email inbox on his first day as COO is the boomer GIF that keeps on giving. We even get to witness the birth of the Disgusting Brothers as Tom rags on Greg’s boat shoes while the latter stuffs office cookies into a dog poop bag. Despite landing low on this list, “Lifeboats” shows that Succession can maneuver away from the type of icebergs that’d kill lesser shows and chart a course for something transformational. —Charles Holmes
38. “Return” (Season 2, Episode 7)
Sandy and Stewy are spewing anti-Roy propaganda with some third-rate commercials and beating their drums with the bones of a dead kid in the tabloids, which forces Logan and his boys to do damage control across the pond. Logan makes sure Kendall gets some face time with the parents of the dead waiter, only for Ken to secretly drop an envelope full of guilt cash in their mailbox later. Meanwhile, Logan orders Roman to shake down his mom for her support (and 3 percent voter share) in exchange for $20 million and more time with the kids at Christmas. Shiv is so far out in the cold after some chaotic swings for CEO-in-waiting confirmation that she follows Logan all the way to England just to take a knife in the back from Rhea Jarrell, who stole the successor spot away from her in just one sleepover. (“She’d have to go cowgirl, right?”) Home in the States, Tom and Greg are dancing around a raging fire built by secret—not top-secret—documents Greg originally stashed away as leverage in the previous season. What Tom doesn’t realize is that his confidant saved a handful of papers before the party started and recorded the entire thing on his iPhone. Just some classic Disgusting Brothers malfeasance alongside Logan playing each of his children flawlessly on the chessboard. —Austin Gayle
37. “Secession” (Season 3, Episode 1)
Kendall cosplaying as his ruthless father always ends badly. So it’s painfully funny watching his jittery attempts to set up a case, both in the court of law and in the court of public opinion, against Logan, who’s just made him Waystar’s patsy. One of the ways Kendall hopes to hit back at his ruthless dad is through some fire tweets. “I’d like my Twitter to be off the hook,” he says without a clue of how downright out of touch he sounds. “This could all get super earnest, so I was thinking about hitting up some BoJack guys, some Lampoon kids, just to smash that shit.” It’s one of many moments in the show when the Roys try to buy their way out of a problem. But you can’t buy good taste. And you definitely can’t buy a sense of humor. That Kendall thinks he can is pretty hilarious. —Alan Siegel
36. “The Summer Palace” (Season 2, Episode 1)
I think “Summer Palace” is my favorite opener of any season of Succession, in part because it manages to show Logan’s crushing gravity on his children—but also because it’s the one where he says, “Open the doors. It smells like the cheesemonger died and left his dick in the Brie.” The Roys are not a family. They are a collection of interests and wounds, and Logan contorts them to fit his needs. We see this for most of the episode, with Kendall milling around like a corpse after a failed coup and a manslaughter cover-up. We also see it at the conclusion of the premiere, with Shiv fully buying her father’s offer to succeed him, despite the fact that a backtrack is virtually guaranteed. There’s a bag of dead raccoons up the chimney of their home in the Hamptons, and there’s something pitiful and rotten about the folks playing family underneath. —Lex Pryor
35. “Lion in the Meadow” (Season 3, Episode 4)
You gotta love when a good title makes you examine a great episode of television in multiple ways. Simply put, who is the lion in Succession’s meadow during this episode? There are a few candidates, which makes this exercise even more fun.
Take Cousin Greg. Logan lets him know that he could use his leverage to excel at Waystar; it was dope to know that and then see Tom try to force Greg to side with Waystar, not knowing that Greg was already making inroads into the parks department. And depending on how you looked at the situation, Kendall, Logan, and Josh Aaronson—a shareholder who is open about his concerns regarding the Roy family infighting—could be the proverbial lion in the meadow. Young lions, wounded old lions, conniving veteran lions; this episode is a proverbial zoo of ferocious corporate maneuvering. —khal
34. “The Disruption” (Season 3, Episode 3)
“The Disruption” is a chaotic, conspiratorial episode that brings viewers the concept of “Oedipussy.” It bounces from place to place, from the floor of a standard-issue, ho-hum gala to a backstage closet at an acerbic, hip talk show. Still, everywhere its characters go, the walls close in around them.
Logan is reduced to begging White House aides for mercy. Shiv is bombarded with the strains of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” as she tries to give a corporate make-nice speech at a town hall. (This comes courtesy of her swaggering and jittering big bro Kendall, against whom she retaliates by publishing an open letter about his many flaws in the press.) The company gets raided by the FBI. And Tom volunteers himself as actual jailbait, the first of many gestures he’ll make throughout the series that impress upon others his admirable, from their perspective, willingness to be stepped on or captured. “I won’t wriggle,” he promises Logan. “Just clunk the trout on the head, and put it in your pouch.” To paraphrase Hugo, much later on: Gulp. Gulp. —Katie Baker
33. “I Went to Market” (Season 1, Episode 5)
In retrospect, I don’t know what’s weirder about Season 1: that Roman has a girlfriend, or that he has a personal trainer. By the end of this episode, the girlfriend, at least, is history; Grace and Roman’s relationship is a casualty of a tense Thanksgiving at Logan’s, as is any chance of reconciliation between Logan and Ewan. Speaking of whom: Ewan makes his Succession debut in “I Went to Market,” and his atypical attendance—coupled with the presence of non-blood relations like Grace, Tom, Willa, and Marcia’s son, Amir—allows us to see the Roys through outsiders’ eyes. The family portrait ain’t pretty. There are plenty of plot developments in this episode: Logan setting his sights on local TV; Kendall, Frank, and Gerri plotting a corporate coup; Greg shredding documents (and keeping some as insurance). But the main event is the Roys’ casual cruelty to one another, whether they express it via passive-aggressive put-downs or cranberry-sauce assaults. “Would you rather be trapped in a swimming pool with a shark or a cage with a tiger?” Greg asks Willa. Either predicament might be better than being trapped in the “nest of vipers” that the Roys represent. Grace got out; the others got bitten. —Ben Lindbergh
32. “Shit Show at the Fuck Factory” (Season 1, Episode 2)
While it’s not a mockumentary, one of the joys of watching Succession is to get a look at how the children of these media moguls would act in dire situations. It’s hard to both worry about your father’s health and try to figure out who’s running the company. The Roy children run through the motions, from reading over obituary copy to arguing over who will be COO. The episode finds Kendall doing what Kendall does best—failing upward. Somehow no one wants to see Kendall become CEO, but he ended up with the offer by the end of the episode. It mirrors Tom’s proposal ordeal; Shiv eventually accepts, but it feels like her heart wasn’t in it. All of this to get close enough to run the empire of a man who’s $3 billion in debt?! Maybe Connor’s ranch life is the right idea. —khal
31. “The Munsters” (Season 4, Episode 1)
The moment Kendall, Shiv, and Roman are seen in a planning meeting for a new media company called The Hundred early in the final season premiere, you know that it’s bound to be tossed into their gilded garbage can. Because as stupidly wonderful as a venture that the oldest of the cast-out siblings dubs “Substack meets Masterclass meets The Economist meets The New Yorker” sounds, the children of Logan Roy are far too obsessed with him and the family’s empire to ever really leave his orbit. Naturally, it takes less than an episode for the group to dump The Hundred and refocus on beating their dad. Which is the whole point of the series. Also, credit to Jesse Armstrong for dropping one of the best nicknames in TV history: “The Disgusting Brothers.” It’s the perfect way to describe whatever it is that newly single Tom and Greg are up to when they’re not at work. (Or maybe at work, too.) —Siegel
30. “Celebration” (Season 1, Episode 1)
“It gets really good around the sixth episode.” So goes a Royhead trying to convince their friends to watch Succession, but the characterizations of the Roy family and those around them were already so rich in the pilot (no pun intended). Take Tom’s painfully desperate interaction with Logan, in which the Midwestern fish out of water tries to impress his multibillionaire future father-in-law with a Patek Philippe watch. So much is established about Tom’s obsequious relationship with Logan, and the Roy family at large, in just a simple interaction: “Every time you look at it, it tells you exactly how rich you are,” Tom cringingly says of the watch. “That’s very funny,” Logan replies coldly. “Did you rehearse that?”
While some plotlines established in “Celebration” didn’t amount to much, like Logan attempting to give Marcia two seats on Waystar’s board and Roman maybe sorta having a wife and kid, others loomed long after the first hour. Kendall’s pursuit of Vaulter memorably pays off in Season 2, when he shutters the company and takes a loogie to the face, and, of course, Logan’s stroke incites all of the backstabs and power plays we’ve come to love about the merciless capitalists. “Celebration” is littered with plenty of other indelible images, like Greg vomiting through the eyeholes of a mascot suit, Connor’s sourdough starter, and the Roys casually choppering to a family softball game. But it was the seeds planted for the high-stakes drama to come that kept us watching, even before the sixth episode. —Julianna Ress
29. “Rehearsal” (Season 4, Episode 2)
It is tremendously eerie to revisit this episode now with the knowledge that it’s the last one Logan will survive: his last unhinged pep talk (“YOU’RE FUCKING PIRATES”), his last heartless backroom machination (advising Tom on the finer points of picking a divorce attorney), his last devastating face-to-face putdown of his children (“I love you, but you are not serious people”). As chaotic and combative an environment as “Rehearsal” might depict—Logan roaming the ATN floor “like Jaws if everyone worked for Jaws” in Greg’s immortal phrase, the GoJo acquisition a fraught moving target, Connor’s wedding in grave peril—this is the relative peace and normalcy that Logan’s death will shatter forever. But in real time (and even now), Connor is your MVP. “I don’t need love,” he tells his half-siblings with a crushingly sad sense of true pride. “It’s like a superpower.” But in timeless Connor fashion, the sadness of that moment will be crushed in turn by the sadness to come. —Rob Harvilla
28. “Mass in Time of War” (Season 3, Episode 2)
After Logan declares that he’ll go “beast” on Kendall in the Season 3 premiere, “Mass in Time of War” slows down the proceedings. With the Roy siblings slowly trickling into Kendall’s post–press conference lair—which is also the home of his ex-wife—it’s an episode that mostly consists of talking and subtle maneuvering. Succession does not contain many scenes in which the Roy siblings truly level with each other, but “Mass in Time of War” is full of them; the conclave in Sophie’s bedroom is the precursor to Season 4’s karaoke room. But even as they approach honesty, multiple things are happening behind every word Kendall, Roman, and Shiv say: Ken’s “plastic Jesus” routine is nothing more than another grab at the throne; Roman is interfacing with Logan and Gerri, doing recon on his brother and his sister; and Shiv is, as always, keeping her options open.
There’s a blissful sliver of time when you think that Kendall’s overture is going to be successful—that he’s actually going to convince his brothers and sister to join him in taking down their dad. And then the donuts arrive. With a box of pastries, Logan successfully divides his children once again, like he’s done so many times before. History goes on. —Andrew Gruttadaro
27. “Pre-Nuptial” (Season 1, Episode 9)
With the Emmy-winning Season 1 Succession finale being the episode that solidified the series’ excellence, Season 1’s penultimate episode gave it a lot of fat to chew on. First off, we’re getting ready for Shiv and Tom’s wedding! Everything is fine; it’d be even better if their previous conquests (Nate Sofrelli and Tabitha, respectively) weren’t around. It’d also help if Kendall weren’t railing lines of coke ever, but he really shouldn’t be out of his mind at a function where he’s around family while trying to conduct business. He’s not even that good; you’d think he’d want to keep a level head while conducting business!
This episode really has it all: Greg seeing shit he shouldn’t be seeing, Caroline Collingwood seeking out toes to stomp on, and even a plan to take over the company on the same day as Shiv’s wedding! It’s like the Roy family waits for the holidays to screw everything up. —khal
26. “Sad Sack Wasp Trap” (Season 1, Episode 4)
What The Ringer’s Justin Sayles calls “The Connor butter episode.” There’s plenty of Succession-y intrigue—Tom is talked out of holding a press conference to disclose the details of the ugly Waystar cruise ship scandal; Kendall tries and fails to force Logan’s hand by planning to publicly announce his father’s retirement—but the evening is about the forgotten Roy sibling. Put in charge of the company’s annual charity event (see: the episode’s title), Connor tries to prove his worth by running the show like it’s a state dinner with world-changing stakes. At one point, he even has a completely unnecessary Bobby Knight–level freakout over the butter on the tables being too cold. (The kitchen staff rightfully ignores his unhinged rant.) Alan Ruck, as usual, does an amazing job playing someone with endless money and no purpose. There’s nothing more pathetic than a man who acts like a king but has no kingdom of his own. —Siegel
25. “Kill List” (Season 4, Episode 5)
The gang goes to Norway, and the writers room puts on a legitimate master class.
Hugo drops “CE-bros” in the first 10 minutes of the episode, calls GoJo deputy of comms Andreas Bloc a “choker” for blowing a seven-point lead at Sochi, and explains to the Swedes why his plate is brimming with food from the Scandinavian spread—he metabolizes fast because he’s dynamic.
Gerri’s “They may think they’re Vikings, but we were raised by wolves” pump-up speech on the plane is fit for the pregame locker room at the Super Bowl. Frank and Karl’s iconic scene outside the sauna, when they laugh at their Waystar Royco team members hanging in the window like Peking duck, is just a bit later. And Connor calls all the way from the States for a heat check of his own, saying his dad would look like a “Bay City Roller” if he dons a kilt in his coffin and clamoring that he just had to cancel on a “room of working-class whites” to handle the latest funeral drama.
And those lines are just the appetizers. Greg tells Tom that Lukas listens to podcasts with headphones on when he fucks randos, and he tries to make “Quad Squad” a thing with the Roy kids. Shiv calls Tom a “spelunker” and Lukas “broad” and “conventionally attractive” after sharing blood brick stories and faking cocaine bumps with the Swede the night prior.
Walking “a tightrope walk on a straight razor,” Kendall is on the receiving end of some all-time insults from Matsson. Lukas calls Kendall “a tribute band” and tells him and Roman that their dead father would be embarrassed by the Scooby-Doo “Hanna-Barbera fucking Business School” act they try to play atop the mountain. Shortly after, Roman bubbles over and screams obscenities at Lukas while Lukas is peeing.
We close with Shiv at the peak of her powers, beating her chest at Tom. She tells him to hide his erection and asks whether he wants to have dinner in the same breath. She cuts the conversation short for an “important call” with Lukas, just to take a snapshot of Kendall and Roman with their tails between their legs. The writers room simply didn’t miss for 60-plus minutes—not once. —Gayle
24. “Dundee” (Season 2, Episode 8)
I’m gonna be real: If I hear the lyrics, the letters, the siren “L to the OG” again in my life, I can’t say I won’t pull my knees to my forehead and clam up like a nauseated armadillo for an eon or three. Matter of fact, I’ll pass—out of respect—on most of “Dundee.” We got Marcia asking Rhea if she is “regularly tested” for sexually transmitted diseases. We got toasts to dead sisters and mistaken acquisitions of Scottish soccer teams. There is groveling—too much groveling. No sir, not me. If Logan’s essential truth is that he never saw anything he loved that he didn’t want to kick to test if it’d still come back, then this is an episode about the returning—the things people do to get a closer seat. It’s Succession at its best, which means its worst, and it’s also muchly not for me. —Pryor
23. “Living+” (Season 4, Episode 6)
There’s a lot on the line for Kendall and Roman in “Living+,” which is centered on Waystar’s first investor day since their father’s death. (As for Shiv, she’s secretly colluding with Lukas Matsson to get the company in the GoJo founder’s hands.) While Roman impulsively fires both the head of Waystar Studios and Gerri—so much for Rock Star and the Mole Woman—Kendall decides to go all in on Living+, a new product that is essentially branded retirement communities. With Kendall embellishing the number of housing units that Waystar could build, as well as exaggerating the potential upsides of the life-enhancement and life-extension therapies offered to Living+ members, his presentation has the makings of a disaster. But against all odds, Kendall delivers a soaring product launch, underlining that capitalism’s greatest (and dumbest) cheat code is saying anything to boost a stock price—even if it means promising eternal life. —Miles Surrey
22. “Too Much Birthday” (Season 3, Episode 7)
“Big fucking nervous breakdown of a party for my 40th. You gotta come,” Kendall tells Adrien Brody’s Waystar investor, Josh Aaronson, earlier in Succession’s third season. And so it is: “Too Much Birthday” more than lives up to its title, as Kendall’s party features a giant vagina entrance meant to symbolize his birth, a VIP tree house section, an “all bangers, all the time” playlist, and an installation of fake newspaper headlines insulting his siblings, which Malcolm Gladwell apparently consulted on. The real heartbreak for Kendall is that, with the exception of Connor, none of the family members want anything to do with him on his birthday: Logan skips the party, while Roman and Shiv only show up because Lukas Matsson is in attendance. (Logan also has Roman give Ken a birthday card with a simple, loving message: “Cash out and fuck off.”) Kendall has been leaning on his misplaced savior complex throughout Season 3, but by the end of “Too Much Birthday,” he comes crashing back down to earth like a kid after a sugar high. As devastating as the episode is for Kendall, it’s another tremendous showcase for Jeremy Strong—his Method acting may be derided by his own castmates, but no one can deny that the results are consistently breathtaking. —Surrey
21. “Tailgate Party” (Season 4, Episode 7)
Almost a bottle episode of sorts, “Tailgate Party” mostly takes place within Shiv and Tom’s chic Manhattan apartment as they host dozens of luminaries on the eve of the presidential election. The episode plays to Succession’s finest strengths: dialogue-heavy exchanges in which characters scheme and connive for control of the country’s political and financial futures. Matsson is a highlight here, as his eccentricity (and incredible gold jacket) is on full display when he crashes the party in the middle of Kendall’s requested moment of silence. It’s also nice to see Nate Sofrelli, Shiv’s former colleague turned flame, who actually comes off like a decent guy for once. (His final poignant line to Kendall: “I’m not Gil, and you’re not Logan, and that’s a good thing.”) But the real highlight is Shiv and Tom’s showstopping fight at the end of an episode, an exchange so intense and vulnerable it’s sure to go down as one of Succession’s best scenes. —Aric Jenkins
20. “DC” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Roman, Karl, and Laird—“a dipshit, sex pest, and a Grand Old Duke of Dork”—go to central Asia to strike a deal with some foreign billionaires that will take Waystar private, but instead they pass the time playing fuck, marry, kill while being held hostage in Turkey. And that’s not even the primary track of the episode.
Tom, of course, would trade his seat for Roman’s in a heartbeat. Wambsgans has his B+ (“bad plus terrible”) performance in front of Senator Gil Eavis at the hearing. He can’t get a single answer right in what is one of his lowest points of the series. It’s his “meat in the fucking sandwich” moment.
Somehow, Kendall and Shiv both earn gold stars from Daddy in the mess of it all. Kendall drops some bars at the hearing that are practically Shakespearean compared to Tom’s disaster class, and Shiv silences a potential coffin-nailing witness with a mixed good cop, bad cop routine at a kids park. The positive is that the Roys pull their feet away from the flame just a tad; the consequence is that Logan’s fling Rhea Jarrell can’t stand the heat at all and steps down as CEO-in-waiting. —Gayle
19. “Retired Janitors of Idaho” (Season 3, Episode 5)
The most reliable way to rise up the corporate ladder at Waystar is an obvious one: unquestionable loyalty to Logan. But while kissing up to Logan may serve a character’s interests, it becomes a glaring weakness when the big boss has lost his mind—and nobody has the courage to question him. “Retired Janitors of Idaho” is one of Succession’s funniest episodes, as Waystar’s annual shareholder meeting descends into chaos when Logan forgets to take his UTI medication, grows increasingly delusional, and nearly loses control of the company in the process. (The Roy siblings and the C-suite sycophants finally realize that Logan is a tad loopy when he claims there’s a dead cat under his chair and demands his security guard Colin remove it in a paper bag.) While the worst-case scenario is averted thanks to Shiv brokering a last-minute deal with Sandi Furness, “Retired Janitors of Idaho” was a hilarious glimpse into how ill-prepared the characters would be when Logan is permanently out of the picture in Season 4. —Surrey
18. “Argestes” (Season 2, Episode 6)
Yes, we’ve arrived at the single-best sustained Greg and Tom comedy routine, brainstorming the ideal not-creepy ATN slogan at Argestes, the Succession universe’s very own Davos-type conference for the preening superrich. Greg: “So the question is, is it a smart thing for you to be saying, ‘We’re listening,’ when we are, indeed, listening?” Wonderful. The hikes are breathtaking, the salads cost $70, and the Waystar cruise-line scandal is about to break, which means that Logan’s attempt to acquire Pierce is shot, which indirectly compels Logan to slap Roman, which spurs Kendall to his biggest Big Brother moment in the whole series: “Hey! Hey! No! Don’t fuckin’ touch him!” (Kendall won’t rise to the occasion again until he’s defending Shiv from Tom on election night.) Like Succession at its best—like Succession always—“Argestes” revels in the poisoned decadence of the .000001 percent while stopping frequently to admire the view. High society is collapsing, slowly; the Roys are collapsing, much faster. And we, as always, are here for it. —Harvilla
17. “Honeymoon States” (Season 4, Episode 4)
“Honeymoon States” had a tough mandate—following up the show’s axis-rattling death of Logan Roy—but it snatched the assignment right up, as if it were some disputed will, and skipped away scheming. This episode, set almost entirely in Logan’s apartment the day after his death, showcases so much about so many characters, from the resplendent-in-grief Marcia to the unwelcome Kerry; from the unseen “spooky embryo” Mencken to the scuttling underlings like Karl, Frank, Gerri, and Hugo; from the real estate negotiator Connor to the toilet-clogging Karl.
“Honeymoon States” is comedic and grave, generous (Frank consoling Kendall) and dangerous (Kendall extorting Hugo), the kind of Succession episode that tells you everything you need to know and then suggests it might be worth your while to keep that information close to the vest. Kendall wheels and deals and threatens; Shiv’s pregnancy is revealed.
And one of the all-time great TV questions is asked, never to be answered: crossed out or underlined?! Watching Kendall torture himself by zooming in, now and forever, on an inscrutable scrawl rendered by his dead dad in declarative, uneven hand felt like the earth’s core of the entire series, a did-he-or-didn’t-he moment that we can never know the answer to. —Baker
16. “Hunting” (Season 2, Episode 3)
Logan seems something less than well. He’s chasing himself in circles over his rash decision to try to acquire Pierce, and he knows that many—most?—of his supposed underlings, both related and not, oppose the deal. Worse, they view it as evidence that he’s losing both his grip and his business savvy, the latter of which is just about as grave of an insult as Logan could imagine. The paranoia really sets in when he’s informed that someone in his inner circle has been cooperating with Michelle Pantsil, the author of the biography that Logan views as a personal attack. (It was Greg, of course, who could really use a primer on how off-the-record conversations work.) And so: a boys trip to Hungary to, as Tom puts it, shoot “piggies in a barrel.”
What follows might be the most famous set piece in all of Succession: the performance of Boar on the Floor. After they gun down some thoughtfully corralled wild boars, the group—all of Logan’s closest male family members and staff except for Connor, who is busy getting his presidential bid off the ground in New York—settles in for dinner. Fixated on sussing out which treacherous lackey sold him out to the biographer, Logan commands Tom, Greg, and Karl to oink, crawl on the floor, and chase a pair of sausages, with the odd piggie out being dubbed the mole. Never mind that the actually important mole is Roman—it comes out, via a choice betrayal by Kendall, that in yet another failed attempt to impress dear old Dad, Roman reached out to matriarch Nan Pierce’s cousin Naomi about the prospective takeover, putting the whole deal in jeopardy. But it’s Boar on the Floor that really matters, less as Logan’s would-be lie detector and more as what might be the bleakest show of force he ever displayed. It doesn’t matter that the ordeal is ridiculous and cruel—such is Logan’s power that he can point at any person in his orbit and turn them into his own personal jester. “We’re getting down to brass fucking tacks,” he growls. Crawl, piggies, crawl. —Claire McNear
15. “Vaulter” (Season 2, Episode 2)
Some mogul’s son walking into a bullpen and telling everyone to pack their stuff and GTFO? Yes, “Vaulter” highlighted a harsh reality of the content-generation landscape, but it also put the Roy kids’ (in)abilities on full display.
For starters, Shiv and Tom opened their relationship, but Shiv’s frequent partner Nate Sofrelli takes Gil Eavis’s side in an argument that leads to Shiv quitting/being fired from his campaign. This is all while Shiv is trying to accelerate the path to the CEO position that her father has apparently laid for her. Roman, unable to deal with work within the audit, gathers valuable information from Vaulter staff during a gossip-soaked night at the bar. Somehow, that’s the most tame Roman is this episode; a chunk of the runtime is devoted to Shiv and Roman taking Tom and Tabitha (respectively) on a double date at Roman’s. The fact that Tabitha has recent history with Roman and Tom devolves into the Roy siblings cutting into Tom during dinner, although it’s Roman not receiving the love over Vaulter’s dissolution that Kendall received from his father by the episode’s end that cuts deeper.
Kudos to Kendall for his defiant “that all you got?” after catching a good bit of spit from an ex-Vaulter employee, though. —khal
14. “America Decides” (Season 4, Episode 8)
The post-2016-election wave of content made it clear that reality was too absurd, too bleak, too depressingly funny to be satirized or parodied—which is to say that the bar for the election night episode of Succession was incredibly high. And yet … Armstrong and his team nailed it? “America Decides” is 62 minutes of pure anxiety that drives into the soul of every top-line character on the show. As the race between a basically faceless Democrat—his name’s Jimenez, but come on, it’s not too important—and a basically fascist Republican, Jeryd Mencken, turns into a sickening soup of the 2000 and 2016 elections thanks to the firebombing of a Milwaukee voting center, Roman bulldozes ATN into declaring the presidency for Mencken. Shiv desperately tries to stop him and thus preserve her alliance with Matsson. Tom, the head of ATN, stands by, insisting that it’s ultimately his call, until it becomes obvious that making a call could be a disastrous career move, at which point it becomes the sibs’ call. And then there’s Kendall, beaten into submission by it all—fulfilling Rhea Jarrell’s Season 2 line “He has all the shots but doesn’t know when to play them”—until personal matters compel him to choose a side. It’s not until Kendall finds out that Shiv’s been playing both sides in the Waystar-GoJo fight—a tip he gets from the always-there Cousin Greg, whom Shiv chose to threaten rather than barter with—that he makes a move, resulting in a scene that is both electric and devastating. You’re watching democracy crumble, all because of three ill-raised children.
And maybe all of the above would be enough to constitute a top-15 episode of Succession. (I think it probably is.) But “America Decides” has even more. Because smack-dab in the middle of this chaos—right as Roman is broaching the notion of circumventing the electoral process—ATN’s chief voting analyst rubs Greg’s bodega wasabi in his eyes. And then Greg, in an attempt to help, pours a can of LaCroix directly onto his face. “It’s not that lemony!” Greg yells. “It’s just a hint of lemon!”
It might be the single funniest sequence in Succession history. And it’s just right there, buried in the darkest episode in Succession history. —Gruttadaro
13. “What It Takes” (Season 3, Episode 6)
The episode that planted the seeds for “America Decides.”
The Future Freedom Summit is a pet store for the Roys—one goldfish has died, so it’s time to buy a new one. And boy, is this one shiny. After ATN all but forces the Raisin to bow out of his reelection campaign, Logan and fam head to this CPAC knockoff to scope out potential candidates. One tickles Roman’s fancy: a not-so-crypto-fascist named Jeryd Mencken who has a lot of thoughts on “purity” and is well read on the scripture of “H.” (This T. rex also knows how to play the game: Publicly, he’s ready to bury the legend Logan Roy, but privately, he knows he’s gotta fetch the old man a Coke.)
“What It Takes” is a quietly excellent episode loaded with now-classic Succession bits (the seat sniffer, Greg riding the shoulders of Proud Boys chanting “Fuck Greenpeace”), but what makes this episode sing is the diner sit-down between Kendall and Tom. The former is planning yet another takedown of his dad; the latter is planning for jail time. But that only makes Tom more free. “I’ve seen you get fucked a lot,” he tells Ken, “and I’ve never seen Logan get fucked once.” It’s perfect foreshadowing for where the season—and ultimately, series—went, but even divorced from the plot, it’s a stunning snapshot of two men headed in opposite directions, but both trying to escape their own personal prisons. —Sayles
12. “Prague” (Season 1, Episode 8)
Two episodes after Succession became SUCCESSION with one of the most excruciating hours of television—and one episode after it knocked out a therapist’s front teeth in the worst family therapy session known to man—the show throws a party. Somehow, Roman is put in charge of organizing Tom’s bachelor party, and after the former hears from Stewy about a business opportunity at a highly exclusive underground party known as Rhomboid—run by Stewy’s girlfriend and “her fucking freak dogs”—said plans go from European in a nice way to European in a scary, sexual way. The results:
- Tom being forced to leave his best friends, a.k.a. the Fly Guys, on a set of abandoned train tracks in Brooklyn.
- Kendall uttering the sentence “Business is my fucking.”
- Greg doing an absurd amount of cocaine so that Kendall can’t.
- Tom urging Greg on in this endeavor, imploring him to “suck on those big white dicks, you fuckin’ pervert.”
- Tom hooking up with a girl (who goes on to become Roman’s girlfriend) who makes him swallow his own load.
- Tom immediately regretting swallowing his own load, despite his repeated insistence that doing so was “so hot.”
There are about 50 other hilarious, spit-out-your-water things that happen over the course of this episode (this is an all-time Stewy performance), and there’s still time for Logan and Shiv to have a traumatizing dinner together. These sorts of party episodes would become one of Succession’s fortes, but in being the first, “Prague” proved that the show had a whole other level it could go to. —Gruttadaro
11. “Austerlitz” (Season 1, Episode 7)
“The family is fucked, and it’s hurting the stock,” Stewy tells Logan, referring to the fallout from the Waystar CEO’s feud with his failson. (I should be more specific: his middle failson.) Logan likes hurting his family—which is why it’s so fucked in the first place—but he hates hurting his stock, so he summons the siblings to a therapy session and face-saving photo shoot at Connor’s compound in New Mexico. The therapist, Alon Parfit—not a family therapist, but a corporate therapist, because the company is the patient—has impeccable credentials: He’s a Harvard Business School grad and a former Fortune 500 CFO who just provided his services to the Sultan of Brunei. Naturally, he makes it through only a single session with the Roys before he ends up in the hospital, missing many of his teeth. Egged on by Roman, he led with his head into the shallow end of Connor’s pool, but his bigger mistake was diving into the deep end of the therapy pool when he tried to broker peace among the Roys—a mission with a worse chance of succeeding than the Camp David Summit. Logan calls Shiv a “fucking coward” and Kendall a “fucking nobody”; the family, still fucked, fucks off. —Lindbergh
9B. “Chiantishire” (Season 3, Episode 8)
“Are you a sicko?”
Delivered with operatic vitriol by Brian Cox, those words are the final salvo of the greatest comedic moment in Succession. Roman, on the cusp of getting everything he’s ever wanted, still hungers for more.
His other siblings have been kneecapped, the CEO job is his for the taking, and the youngest son can finally bask in the warmth of his father’s fickle attention. Like a masochistic bodybuilder, Roman decides that it’s his cheat day, and sending an ill-timed dick pic is what he needs to satiate his self-destructive impulses. But when a photo of Little Rome arrives on Logan’s phone instead of Gerri’s, the audience is introduced to one of the finest unforced errors committed to HBO’s Sunday lineup. As Roman clocks what has happened, he slinks into his chair like a Muppet baby destined for the Hague. Devoid of its characteristic blunder and charm, Culkin’s face reverts to that of a child well-versed in withstanding Logan-sized beatings.
The beautiful locale of “Chiantishire,” which was filmed in Tuscany, masks some of the series’ darkest revelations. Faced with natural and metaphoric bounty, the characters still operate as if they’re surviving in a wasteland. Shiv ponders children to spite the mother she’d rather forget even as she’s incapable of loving the man in front of her. Rather than accept Kendall’s surrender and save whatever remains of their relationship, Logan decides to keep him under his thumb. Even Greg, who’s spent the entire series belittled as an interloper in this wealthy world, worries that his current paramour, Comfrey, doesn’t have as much “depth” as the duchess he just realized exists.
Then, Tom throws a one-off barb at Greg that sums up the entire plight of this family—and, by extension, the American condition: “The man dying of thirst is suddenly a mineral water critic?” —Holmes
9. “With Open Eyes” (Season 4, Episode 10)
The first truly great Succession episode hinges on a board vote and betrayal by a sibling. It’s only fitting that the series finale—another all-timer that is among the best capstones to any show, full stop—does the same. After an episode of push and pull, Shiv makes the only choice that she felt she could, voting against Kendall—and, effectively, her blood family—controlling the company her dad built from the ground up. But it dooms her to a life not unlike her mother’s, married to a man who’s both a cutthroat CEO and a seat-sniffer. (Her Graduate-in-a-chauffeured-car parting shot really drives the point home.) It also dooms Kendall to a life spent wondering—wandering—as the physical manifestation of his greatest sin and his father’s influence lurks behind him. The only one of the three who makes out relatively OK is Roman, who half smirks at his memories of Gerri and the fact that he’s free from the horse race as he sips a martini at the episode’s close.
What’s most notable about where the kids end up is that, from the outside, they aren’t in much different positions than they would’ve been had they just left things alone and followed through with the Pierce deal or The Hundred or whatever. Waystar Royco has been sold, they’ve added billions to their personal piles, and they’re free to pursue all the weird sex and unthinkably drab displays of luxury they can handle. But in between their decision to change course and Kendall’s final look out toward the ocean, worlds have been destroyed. Dad is dead, Tom is CEO, and a Swedish sicko has just ripped the blood bricks out of their chests. Hindsight is just that, but it’s worth noting the only kid who left their soul relatively intact was the true eldest boy: Connor, who got the house, the girl, and real memories with Logan at the end of Pop’s life, all because he chose to sit out the fight and accept the reality that being born rich is enough, so long as you don’t fuck it. —Sayles
8. “Safe Room” (Season 2, Episode 4)
So much happens in this episode: the introduction of Rhea Jarrell of Pierce Global Media, Shiv’s first day shadowing Logan as heir apparent of Waystar, a Nazism scandal at ATN, the beginning of Roman and Gerri’s pseudo-sexual courtship, and an active shooter inside the Waystar headquarters. But the real through line of “Safe Room” is the state of Kendall’s mental health. Logan’s no. 1 boy has been acting quite erratically as of late, engaging in petty shoplifting crimes and appearing strangely subservient to Logan despite the tension between them earlier in the series. At the start of the episode, Kendall takes a trip to the rooftop of the company office, where, under the surveillance of security cameras, he lingers concerningly close to the edge. He returns to the roof later in the episode and then again at the end, just after a tearful heart-to-heart with Shiv in which he stops short of admitting to his role in the death of the caterer at her wedding—but confesses that he feels he has no value to Logan outside of giving him undying loyalty. Kendall clearly isn’t in a good place, and when he steps onto the roof in the closing scene, he’s taken aback to see that glass barriers have been installed around the perimeter. It’s a heartbreaking scene, amplified by Nicholas Britell’s dramatic score, that reinforces just how trapped Kendall feels at this point in his life. —Jenkins
7. “Which Side Are You On?” (Season 1, Episode 6)
This episode, in which a consortium of Waystar family and friends tries to oust Logan via a vote of no confidence, wound up being crucial to both the first and last seasons of Succession. On the front end, it’s broadly considered to be a kind of requisite checkpoint to the rest of the series. (I’m one of many people who have urged Succession skeptics to make it through this one before rendering final judgment because That’s When It Gets Really Good, and Yes I Know Six Is a Lot.) And more recently, this episode’s setting and stakes turned out to have a lot in common with the show’s final notes, which also involved a careful building of consensus, a charged vote of no confidence, a sibling’s changed mind, and a harrowing sense of plans crumbling.
“Which Side Are You On” is noteworthy for its use of outside tunes and for its use of Logan Roy, in full lion’s roar, shouting: “I’m in the middle … of turning … a fucking … tanker!” It is also an episode with very specific toe-curling caught-in-traffic tension (that I now think about whenever I’m late for something). “We actually had a moment where [Kendall] got off of the wrong floor and then runs back into the elevator,” editor Anne McCabe told IndieWire. “But that started to feel almost too comic.” —Baker
6. “Nobody Is Ever Missing” (Season 1, Episode 10)
The Season 1 finale that made it clear that Succession would not just be a show about shallow people firing off crude insults to each other. “Nobody Is Ever Missing” elevated the series to high drama, even if the people it covered were unserious, at least in Logan’s eyes. Sure, Connor does announce his presidential bid in this episode, and Tom makes an unnecessary fuss about the wine at his wedding. But Kendall literally kills someone (or at least watches him drown). The Chappaquiddick-inspired event added a real gravity to the proceedings, and Succession would never be the same. Even if the show seemed to alternate to different protagonists in following seasons, it was through Kendall’s grief, addiction, and childhood trauma that Succession dug into larger issues around the family. (The car crash is also the first of Kendall’s recurring epiphany-like scenes in the water.) The episode was also a window into perhaps Succession’s real main characters: Tom and Shiv. Their wedding establishes the twisted power imbalance between the pair and sets the arc for both of their positions to reverse by the series’ end. —Jenkins
5. “Tern Haven” (Season 2, Episode 5)
Succession would eventually become famous for its destination episodes and sprawling cast of memorable side characters, but early on, when the show was more narrowly focused on the Roys and their home base of New York, the Season 2 trip to the Pierce family’s Long Island compound, featuring an eccentric Pierce for every bumbling Roy, was a shot in the arm. With moments ranging from the highest brow, in the shape of Shakespearean recitations, to the lowest, with Kendall Roy literally shitting the bed, “Tern Haven” is peppered throughout with high-caliber appearances from the likes of Holly Hunter, Cherry Jones, and—in what would become a sneaky series-long MVP guest role—Mark Linn-Baker as Maxim Pierce. Connor soft launches his bid for president, Shiv gets her first shocking taste of betrayal from Logan, and, separated by a bathroom door, Roman and Gerri have what has to pass as the closest Succession ever gets to a real sex scene. Equally adept at skewering the soft liberal hypocrisy of the Pierces and the ugly, win-at-any-price tactics of the Roys, writer Will Tracy and director Mark Mylod (who would go on to collaborate on 2022’s The Menu) bring the entire culture clash to a head over a lengthy dinner scene that would make Robert Altman proud. —Joanna Robinson
4. “All the Bells Say” (Season 3, Episode 9)
So many lines throughout Succession’s run could double as a thesis for the series: “The poison drips through.” “That dark flame in men.” Or, most simply, “Nothing fսcking matters.” But I’d like to focus on one from the conclusion of the show’s stellar Season 3 finale: “Make your own fucking pile.” After a brutal bonding exercise, the treacherous three Roy kids have teamed up outside Mom’s wedding like the Clinically Depressed Avengers. Now, they want to thwart the GoJo deal to stake their claim to their supposed birthright. But Dad gets wind of their plans and works out an arrangement with Lady Caroline that effectively blocks the kids’ plan. As they realize what’s happened—with their schemes and fuckin’ love suddenly turned to sausages—they’re reduced to begging. Please give us this, we’re owed this, they protest. (Led by Kendall, naturally.) For them, the billions they’ll receive as a windfall from the sale aren’t enough—they need to control something powerful. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t build it themselves. A shortcut up the ladder still gets you up the ladder. It’s just that Logan couldn’t care less. They’re not serious people, and this company was never actually up for grabs. There’s a reason Logan liked the perpetually load-swallowing Tom—and it went just beyond the Romeo Machiavelli routine that helped Tom tip Logan off. It’s that he was making his own pile all along, even if the kids were too focused on Dad’s pile to notice. —Sayles
3. “Church and State” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Whose eulogy would Logan have enjoyed the most? I’m tempted to say Ewan’s because it cut to Logan’s essence, though he would’ve truly hated the revelations about his childhood. Kendall’s was too blowhard—it was about Kendall as much as it was about Logan, and, historically, when Kendall tried to put himself on equal footing with his father, it didn’t go well. Shiv’s had a beautiful line about soaking in her dad’s sun rays, but as for the rest of it, Logan may have classified that as an NRPI situation. And as for Roman’s, well, Logan would have likely ignored the emotion and fixated on the piss running down his son’s leg. The short answer is Logan probably wouldn’t have enjoyed any of his eulogies, even Connor’s formally inventive lost speech.
Which is a shame, because “Church and State” is one of the finest hours that Succession ever aired. The funeral scene is nearly as stunning as the boat scene in “Connor’s Wedding,” while the Roy family palace intrigue (or maybe more accurately mausoleum intrigue?) as Kendall and Shiv set up their endgames is downright thrilling. But beyond the big plot beats, the small moments make this episode sing like few others do: Caroline brokering a Marcia-Kerry truce; a sweaty Greg working his way up to casket wheelman and a conversation with Mencken; and Connor confirming what we all already knew, with him saying that’s he’s just a little cryo-curious. It’s often said that a great series’ penultimate episode is better than its finale—give me “The Blue Comet” and “Granite State” over their successors any day of the week—and Succession is no different. Even Logan Roy would approve of that. —Sayles
2. “Connor’s Wedding” (Season 4, Episode 3)
I wouldn’t say this about that many episodes of Succession, but you probably remember where you were when you watched “Connor’s Wedding.” And if you always watched Succession in the same place, you certainly remember how you felt when you watched “Connor’s Wedding.” A near-perfect piece of TV—its 9.9 IMDb user rating is surpassed only by Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias”—this Armstrong-Mylod masterpiece succeeds as a centerpiece of a multi-season story and as a piece of self-contained tragedy. The boldness to take Logan off the board with seven episodes left. The audacity to have him die off-screen. The choice to keep the kids as cut off from the body as we are. All of these factors combined to make the foreordained death of a monstrous man both shocking and distressing. Almost no one who watches Succession lives like the Roys, but billionaires don’t die so differently from everyone else, even if they have massive mausoleums set aside for their remains. The way the kids learn of Logan’s death, the vacuum his sudden demise creates, and the cocktail of grief his family feels are familiar to anyone who’s unexpectedly lost a pillar of their life. As Connor’s boat departs from its dock, the siblings lose their moorings, and they draw toward one another in search of support. Their unscripted hug at the end of the episode says so much: Even people who seem heartless can have their hearts wrenched. —Lindbergh
1. “This Is Not for Tears” (Season 2, Episode 10)
In a series built on examining every frayed and singed thread of familial trauma, “This Is Not for Tears” forever ranks among the most devastating. Captive on a cursed yacht, every Roy child and hanger-on is thrust into a game of Logan’s psychological warfare. Under the guise of looking for a cruise scandal patsy, Logan searches for something more primal. He needs someone to share in his cosmic burden. Faced with the threat of drowning, is there a person on this ship whose sense of self-preservation is acute enough that they’d help Logan condemn the rest to the abyss if it meant staying their own execution?
“This Is Not for Tears” unfurls like a disaster movie—Titanic, if every guest on the ship were a Murdoch or a Redstone.
The story’s key players all get their moment to disembark from the doomed vessel. Existentially sober from a run-in with terrorists, Roman makes a plea to his siblings. “If we come through this, is there a thing where we, like, talk to each other about stuff, normally,” he asks. The question and olive branch is met with derision and laughs.
On an island, Tom finally admits to himself and Shiv that their marriage is closer to Stockholm syndrome. Faced with being stuck with himself or lonely within the Roy vortex, Tom chooses to board the ship again and steal a piece of his master’s chicken as if to momentarily protest his imminent future subsisting on scraps. Even Kendall, the most broken of his father’s toys, rebuffs the last rescue ship offered by his lover, Naomi Pierce. So when Shiv arrives to inform Kendall that his father wants him, the brutality of the moment is stark.
All the dialogue drops out as a constellation of dread creeps across Jeremy Strong’s face. The piercing score matches his withering prospects of ever succeeding his father. As a reprieve before condemning his son, Logan offers him a morbid story of how the Incas would sacrifice a child to the sun in “times of terrible crisis.”
“What could you possibly kill that you love so much it would make the sun rise again?” Logan asks Kendall.
As the camera sets on Kendall, we see the moisture of his glassy eyes. Backed into a corner, his only remaining wish is that his father would tell him the truth.
“Did you ever think I could do it?” he asks.
“You’re not a killer,” Logan responds. “You have to be a killer.”
And like Judas, Kendall kisses Logan on the cheek before embarking on his road of betrayal. In front of a room full of reporters, Kendall becomes the rare Roy child willing to knife their own father to realize their ambitions. “I think this is the day his reign ends,” Kendall declares. Seated at home, Logan finally sees a glimpse of the killer he always needed his son to be. The patriarch appears to smirk, knowing that the deities looked upon his sacrifice favorably. —Holmes