I've been watching Succession wrong — this one trick makes it better

(l to r) Jeremy Strong as Kendall, Sarah Snook as Shiv and Kieran Culkin as Roman in Succession season 4 episode 5
(Image credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO)

A funny thing happened last night — and I'm not talking about Succession season 4 episode 5's twists in GoJo's acquisition of Waystar Royco. At a late-afternoon gathering of fellow TV lovers, I found myself surprised. It turns out, I learned, I'd been watching my favorite show the wrong way.

No, it's not like how you were holding the iPhone 4 wrong. It turns out that there's a very obvious way to actually understand the twisting and turning nature of Succession a little better. And, then, I actually tried it out last night for "The Kill List," an episode whose details I will discuss below.

The funniest part of this "trick" is that it's something you may already be doing. Both of my friends casually referenced it as the normal way they watch Succession, though it practically blind-sided me. 

You should watch Succession twice in a row

(L to R) Kieran Culkin as Roman, Jeremy Strong as Kendall and Alexander Skarsgård as Lukas Matsson in Succession season 4 episode 5

(Image credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO)

As we shared guacamole and drinks, my friends explained that they immediately replay the latest Succession after watching it. I was a bit surprised to hear it myself, though, mostly because Barry's back, and airs immediately after Succession. I thought there's no way people could postpone watching its latest episodes. But once I heard it, it made total sense.

It's a pro tip for all who have had that moment where you hear or read something about a Succession episode that you didn't remember. This show is intensely dense with quips and references, and the deals bandied about by the Roy family aren't even explained that well. The latter part may be on purpose, but it's not exactly clear.

Unless you pause and play mid-episode, to take a moment to tweet your favorite quip, you're going to miss something.

This need to rewatch becomes especially true for anyone on social media, who jumps into the fray of posting about the episode live as it happens. I'm one of those folks, and the sheer practice of posting while watching means you're splitting your attention further. 

Unless you pause and play mid-episode, to take a moment to tweet your favorite quip (I'm partial to Matsson's "Bloomberg grey" remark), you're going to miss something. So, now that I'm already mentioning quotes from last night's episode, it's time to sound the spoiler warning horn.

An image indicating spoilers are ahead.

The below article contains details from Succession season 4 episode 5, "The Kill List."

The little details mean a lot for Succession

(l to r) Sarah Snook as Shiv, Nicholas Braun as Greg, Jeremy Strong as Kendall in Succession season 4 episode 5

(Image credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO)

The biggest small moment of "The Kill List" saw Greg (Nicholas Braun) subtly notice that Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) was floundering in conversation with Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) and the other GoJo employees. Braun spoke to this a little in the post-credits post-mortem we get every week, but if you didn't watch that part (oh, watch that part) you might not have seen the tension between The Disgusting Brothers forming. 

Instead, you'd only have (possibly) seen Tom's furtive look at Greg, a signal for him to come be his verbal punching bag. Watching it again, I noticed all of the looks, and realized that Greg may finally be done with Tom.

Ken's decision may have felt out of the blue, but I understood it more on my second viewing.

But, just as importantly, rewatching Succession this week was beneficial because of being able to track Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Matsson as they fought over the acquisition deal. In the end, Ken and Roman were hailed as conquerors, though simply watching the episode once will give you enough reason to know that's not true. 

Matsson wanted to add the family's ATN cable network back into the deal, while Roman wanted to keep it because their late father wanted to keep it. Kendall? Well, He somehow decided that he wanted to tank the whole deal. Ken's decision may have felt out of the blue, but I understood it more on my second viewing. 

It's birthday party time for Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy in Succession season 3 episode 7

(Image credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO)

The first scene of the episode mirrors the series premiere, with Kendall rocking out to rap in the limo on his way to work. That first time, he believed that he was about to be coronated as the new head of the company, with Logan stepping down. That kind of scene playing out again (except with The Beastie Boys' "An Open Letter to NYC" swapped out for Jay-Z's "Takeover"), shows that Kendall is getting his second chance at it all, and he wants to run the whole company. Not sell it to Matsson.

So, now it all makes Kendall's actions clear. There's no way he was playing fourth-dimensional chess to try and trick Matsson into a better deal. 

Alexander Skarsgård as Lukas Matsson in Succession season 4 episode 5

(Image credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO)

Lastly, there's that one shot of Shiv (Sarah Snook) on the private jet home from the big deal — sneaking a photo of her brothers for Matsson. It's, just like Greg observing Tom, a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, but one you'll want to see.

Outlook: Treasuring every second of Succession

"The Kill List" marked the half-way point of this final season of Succession, and so I'm more than happy to make every episode last a little longer. Even if you don't watch while you post online, or text others watching, you probably could use these rewatchings. 

It's not like you're watching with the A Clockwork Orange-method of keeping your eyes on the screen.

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • mrmessma
    I'm glad I'm not on my phone while also watching a show, especially one as good as this one. That said, a second rewatch would be nice to see other details missed because you were still digesting big new information the first time.