Succession Season 4, Episode 5 Recap: Blood Not Funny

Negotiations and gondola rides took up the majority of the show’s confounding, bloody fifth episode.

succession episode 5
Photograph by Graeme Hunter/HBO

After four fast-paced episodes of Succession left us breathless with birthdays, a marriage, karaoke, and death, “Kill List” feels a bit like a seventh-inning stretch, a chance for the show—and the audience—to take a break, grab a fresh drink, and re-center before the remainder of the season. Episode five slows down the action considerably, walking us through the first (and in some ways last) 24-ish hours of Roman and Kendall’s reign over Waystar Royco. At times, it feels like an earlier season episode, bogged down by business talk and negotiations (much of which, I’m not afraid to admit, went over my head). Paced by the back-and-forth of offers and counteroffers, it was also a reminder that much of what goes on in corporate America is painstakingly boring.

That’s not to say “Kill List” is painstakingly boring. There are, without a doubt, great moments within the 60 minutes, and I will continue to cherish every second I have left with these characters until the final credits roll on the last episode. It’s just that—they can’t all be winners, right? Episode five left me more disoriented than anything else, and I have to believe I’m not the only one. So, I’m laying out all the questions rolling around my brain following “Kill List.” Like, when did Greg become the DeuxMoi of Waystar? Hopefully, we’ll get some answers when next Sunday rolls around.

Did Shiv just prove she should be the CEO?

It’s clear the “equal as fuck” deal made between the three siblings to split everything was very much lip service on Roman and Kendall’s part. In fact, that was clear the second the Wonder Trio make their agreement at the wake. What’s unclear, though, is whether Shiv knew her brothers were just trying to appease her and push her out of the way. Shiv spends the beginning of episode five a step behind the new CEOs, seemingly falling prey to every one of their traps. But either she was feigning ignorance or she quickly catches on, because by the end of the hour, Shiv manages to take advantage of an HR nightmare, out smart them all, and end up in a more favorable position than either Kendall or Roman. Maybe, Logan underestimated his only daughter, and it should have been her name unceremoniously underlined on the paper.

Photograph by Graeme Hunter/HBO

And that’s not even mentioning her actions with Tom. Shiv has always jerked Wambsgans around, but at this point, it’s getting ridiculous. She laughs off her brothers’ consolation proposal to “cut his throat,” but when she encounters her ex later in the episode, she acts especially childish, dirtying his pearly white shoes (a crime that, honestly, might be punishable by death among the sneakerhead community). It’s a continuation of the “she loves him, she loves him not” we’ve gotten for three and a half seasons now, ending with a classic quid pro quo exchange that seemingly translates to “she might not love him, but she’s horny.” Maybe, she’s riding high on her victory, or perhaps, after playing the role of token girl for the duration of the trip, she wanted to flip the power switch and send someone a half-liter of her own blood (hypothetically speaking). Or, she’s feeling sentimental, and wants to do something nice for the (assumed) father of her child, keeping him off the “Kill List” so her child can grow up in a dual income household.

Why would anyone give Connor carte blanche for anything, ever?

As the Waystar Royco crew ascends a mountain before the first of many negotiations with Matsson, Roman gets a call from Connor, who is back in New York and ironing out the details for Logan’s funeral. It seems they didn’t go with the “off the rack” option like Kendall suggested, and now Marcia is pushing her agenda, which involves placing the recently deceased in a kilt. The Waystar team may be dealing with a multibillion-dollar negotiation, but Connor wants some high stakes of his own. To be fair, this will likely be a pretty salient funeral, but that also leads me back to my question of: why would you put Connor in charge? The forgotten son has proven he has no love lost for his father. I wouldn’t be surprised if he used his influence over what will likely be a major political event to further his own campaign’s agenda. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the end, sending Roman a graphic photo of Logan at an inopportune time becomes the least of Connor’s infractions.

How many insults can the writers come up with for Gerri, Karl, and Frank?

Actually, we kind of get the answer to this one, and it’s a lot. The jabs begin with the uninspired, “the march of the emperor penguins” from Roman at the beginning of the episode—and hardly subside from there. Matsson gets a few good ones in, labeling the trio “the village elders” and my personal favorite, “boiled eggs.” In fact, in a matter of an episode, Karl and Frank become the old fogies there for a gag and a good time. From their coordinating compression socks on the flight to their matching robes outside the sauna—they have the makings of a spot-on curmudgeon uniform.

Photograph by Graeme Hunter/HBO

The worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) insult wasn’t directed at the older threesome, but a trio I’m now calling the Triangle of Sadness—Roman, Kendall, and Shiv. When the negotiations reach a head and Matsson calls the whole second-gen Waystar operation a “tribute band”? Yeah, that was a slight above all others, one that’s going to get brought up in therapy for years to come.

Is Matsson for real?

Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot get a read on Matsson. At first, when he and Shiv split off from the rest of the group for some one-on-one hygge time, I was sure he was playing her. But as the conversation continues, his motives become even more blurry. Compared to Kendall and Roman, he’s a cool, conventionally handsome, absurdly wealthy and powerful guy who always knows what to say, but it seems like, just maybe, he has his own socially inept side too. Scotch and coke turn into a truth serum as Matsson and Shiv open up to each other—a tale of one broken relationship for another. But while Shiv’s story is the classic “I broke his heart and he broke mine,” Matsson tells the less-often heard, “I can’t stop sending my comms director half liters of my blood” like a one-sided Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton. I watched this moment over and over again and I genuinely cannot read it. The whole thing is surreal and feels especially strange in a straight-shooting show like Succession. Yes, characters have done weird, sick, awful things, but this vampiric tale is on another level.

Photograph by Graeme Hunter/HBO

Am I the socially unaware one? Is Matsson joking? Is that obvious to Shiv? She jumps into crisis response options as if the scenario were real, but that could just be her playing along. A man who lost that much blood would likely be in the hospital awaiting a transfusion, not frolicking around a Norwegian mountain. Set in this beautiful, yet creepy wooded setting, the whole thing left me shaken, like I’d accidentally changed the channel to an Ari Aster-directed horror film. For the fifteen remaining minutes of this episode, I probably had a similar look on my face to Kendall and Roman’s when they received Matsson’s final offer: confused, defeated, and a little queasy.