Succession Season 4: Logan Roy Has a New Son and His Name Is Tom Wambsgans
But will he get a kiss from daddy?Photo Courtesy of HBO TV Features Succession
“You’re my boy… You’re my number one boy…”
This line, one of the last spoken in Succession’s first season, has a debilitating effect on both the audience and its target, a traumatised, weeping Kendall Roy. Logan Roy has just blackmailed his son into dropping a hostile takeover attempt after they discovered Kendall’s part in a vehicular manslaughter the previous night. Logan promises to cover it up in exchange for Kendall’s unwavering loyalty. As he hugs him, he reminds Kendall of his paternal love. You are under my thumb, but it might be the best place for you. You have no free will of your own, but I’ll look after you. In case we hadn’t gathered, this is the Logan Roy school of parenting.
In Succession’s fourth and final premiere, no other season’s mission has been clearer than this one. With GoJo and Pierce acquisitions hovering around the Roy dynasty, Logan wants to consolidate his power while locking out his three rebellious kids—Kendall, Shiv and Roman—unless, of course, they’re willing to bend to his will once again. The kids become disillusioned with making it on their own, and become fixated on undermining every business move WaystarRoyco makes without them. In the first episode, you get the sense that logic and foresight aren’t necessarily their priority; rather, they are content to make this final battle a Pyrrhic victory. It’s exhilarating seeing the siblings as a united front against the fortress that is House Roy. But of course, we’re equally interested in seeing how Logan’s team is now he’s effectively excised his flesh and blood. Has anyone taken their place?
If you haven’t started your week by seeing at least four fancams with dynamic text animating his emphatic verbiage, you haven’t yet been initiated into the internet’s Sovereign Nation of Tom Wambsgans. Head of Waystar’s conservative-branded news channel ATN and very confused husband to Shiv Roy, Tom’s brand of snarky, corporate patheticism has shot him to the top of many “best Succession character” lists, made especially visible whenever he tries to articulate the complex pain that his wife has caused throughout their, um, rocky marriage. When we last saw him, he found a weirdly romantic way for him and Cousin Greg (his protege and surrogate brother/husband) to push their immorality to the hilt and side fully with Logan, betraying his wife’s interests in the process.
When we catch up with him in “The Munsters,” first having a clipped phone conversation with Shiv (why does he sound like a divorce lawyer for his own separation?) and then roaming around Logan’s birthday party, he appears a changed man. It’s not that he’s dead behind the eyes, it’s sadder than that: He’s just returned from stabbing himself in the heart, watching himself bleed to death in a rainy gutter. He has the presence and gait of the Terminator, assessing those around him with a newfound blend of pity and longing. What happened to the good-humoured muppet whose every second of screen time we’d meme into oblivion? Even his usual mocking banter with Greg seems crueller, harsher—he plays mean-spirited pranks on him for no-one’s entertainment but his own, like a taunting older brother. He has become totally subsumed by the Logan Roy war machine.
This Black Lodge version of Tom Wambsgans feels most like a doppelganger who ingested Tom’s memories in his final scene with Shiv, where their marriage finally dissolves into mulch when they very simply and directly confront their lack of next steps. They lie on a bed together, tears on their faces, allowing a single touch, but it feels like Tom’s preventing himself from feeling the full brunt of this grief—like he’s been processing it already for months. They have utterly obliterated and defeated each other, holding guns to each other’s head like something from a Hong Kong action film. Maybe this is what happens when you treat someone like Tom Wambsgans for three seasons.
The moment where we most see Tom in all his former oafishness is with Logan Roy, the beacon he has now sworn allegiance to. After he reports intel from Noami Pierce on the state of Logan’s acquisition, he stammers through asking the Roy patriarch if their working relationship would be affected if he were to divorce Shiv. Logan replies in a non-committal and dismissive manner. Is Tom Logan’s new golden child, someone whose humanity has been secreted out of him like we saw Kendall in Season 2? The way Tom “comes alive” in Logan’s presence makes it clear he’s the only person to make Tom feel nervous, which is Succession code for the only person whose opinion he cares about.
How does Logan feel about Tom? Is there affection, or does he see his son-in-law as a finely whetted tool? To Logan Roy, is there a difference between a tool and a son? As we recall from “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” in an hour of distress, Logan wanted Tom’s company and care, even calling him “son” while delirious from a UTI. But it seems like that wasn’t just pure delusion, there’s something about Tom’s presence Logan warms to. What’s clear from “The Munsters” is that Logan is happy to contribute further to Tom’s confusion about the levels of trust and intimacy in their working relationship, and won’t bring him wholly into the fold of his emotional life.
But there may be no one left who Logan would consider welcoming in. Compare this birthday party to the one from Season 1’s premiere; there were more catty asides and simmering tensions then, but there was also undoubtedly more good cheer. Logan walks around his apartment with nothing but disdain for the corporate sycophants and nobodies he’s surrounded with. Maybe, he reflects, the real Succession were the friends we eviscerated along the way.
Colin, his bodyguard, becomes Logan’s latest confidante at a boring diner, where he’s subjected to a volley of vaguely existential but piercingly revealing questions about morality and life after death. Logan’s greatest gift may be turning the most intense gaze over the most inconsequential people, and making those closest to him feel entirely inconsequential. Who does he see as worth getting close, how does he even judge that? Is Colin now, for these short minutes, also his son?
Now that we’re approaching the end, it’s clear Logan’s turning an introspective lens on himself, not just in his conversation with Colin but by demanding his inner circle jokingly roast him. He wants to feel vulnerable, and that he has a genuine camaraderie with others, referring to Tom as “Tommy.” The psychologically sharp and unbearable banter that follows reveals what he wants out of both friends and family; people who aren’t confronting to his power, but also who aren’t just purely anaesthetising.
Whether you believe in #WambsgansEndgame or not, it’s clear Tom’s uncomfortable shift in allegiance will remain in focus until the bitter end. He’s alienated more people than ever, even if it’s not clear that there’s something concrete to gain. Tom will have to figure out whose approval he actually needs, or if he needs anyone’s at all, in order to survive intact. But at the end of the day, few of these characters deserve a happy ending, and it’s possible that all these unredeemable business hacks will all fade into the void of Corporate Personhood, lost to a life that Succession has spent four years making fun of, even if we’re only a bit closer to understanding it. But if Succession is about figuring who will get the kiss from daddy, Tom has miraculously found a way to the top of the list—for now.
Rory Doherty is a screenwriter, playwright and culture writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. You can follow his thoughts about all things stories @roryhasopinions.
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