This Is Why 'Succession' Season 4's Election Night Episode Is So Unsettling (2023)

By Thomas Butt

The latest episode set on election night mirrors the relationship between politics and the media in recent history.

This Is Why 'Succession' Season 4's Election Night Episode Is So Unsettling (1)

As Succession reaches the home stretch of its final season, the stakes and dramatic tension of the characters and the future of their careers and personal lives have shown no signs of easing. Between a milieu of combative business showdowns and the unexpected death of Logan Roy (Brian Cox) that still lingers around the entire series, no one should be surprised by any outcome. For all anyone knows, Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) will end up on top after the dust settles between the Roy siblings and their counterparts. Taking a step back from the corporate intrigue of it all, the episode "America Decides" serves as a sobering reminder of the kind of deplorable figures that audiences have grown to sympathize with and the monumental decisions that they make on the well-being of America through their greed of power. If you thought this ironically titled episode hits too close to home, that's because it does.



RELATED: The 10 Best Quotes From Succession, Ranked

The Biting Satire of 'Succession' and Real-Life Connections

This Is Why 'Succession' Season 4's Election Night Episode Is So Unsettling (2)

Season 4 Episode 8 of Succession tracks the hectic behind-the-scenes operations of election night. Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg coordinate ATN's broadcast of the election while the Roy kids attempt to undermine the impartial coverage to influence their respective desired outcomes. Working from above, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) spar with Roman (Kieran Culkin) over his allegiance toward the problematic Republican candidate, Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). The three each have a personal gain resulting in the victory of their favored candidate—the backbone of their endorsements relating to the blocking or approval of the GoJo deal that would cause the siblings to lose control of Waystar Royco.

Roman is most actively following in Logan's footsteps, as his thirst for control of Waystar makes him staunchly endorse Mencken, who will also advance the corporation's agenda. On the other hand, Kendall and Shiv are hesitant. Kendall is worried about Mencken's extreme politics affecting his daughter, and Shiv vows to maintain her relationship with Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). Beneath the surface of the standoff between the three is bubbling tension among them that is rooted in their tumultuous childhood and relationship with their late father Logan, whose funeral is right around the corner.

Series showrunner Jesse Armstrong initially conceived of the Roy family as representative of familial media empires, notably the Murdochs. With executive producer contributions from Adam McKay, Succession was destined to be a scathing satire of the upper class and the quest for political power. As time went on, it wavered from this sentiment, as it struck gold as an enticing character drama that flourished in black comedy.

"America Decides" Is Art Imitating Life

This Is Why 'Succession' Season 4's Election Night Episode Is So Unsettling (3)

Season 4 is solidifying Succession as a show that is meant to comment on the real world. "America Decides" recalls the complicated political chicanery of the last handful of years in the United States. ATN controlled the narrative of the election by calling the electoral winner of states under their predilection. Without proper evidence, the station, under Roman's command, called Wisconsin and Arizona in favor of Mencken, who is presumed to be the Donald Trump avatar in this fictional world. In the real 2020 Presidential election, Fox News, which shares similarities to ATN, prematurely called Arizona in favor of Trump.

In another allusion to previous events, characters discussed Mencken's lacking exit poll numbers. In 2016, Trump's exit polls were inaccurate compared to the final voting results that awarded him the election. One of the more harrowing mirrors to real life in the episode is seen with the firebombing of a voting station in Milwaukee that destroyed thousands of votes presumed to have been cast for Mencken's Democratic opponent, Daniel Jimenez.

Roman deflects the implications that Mencken supporters were responsible, and instead refers to the incident as a "false flag," and even points the blame to Antifa. He passes this rhetoric down to the ATN telecast to further Mencken's vote. This brings to mind the influential relationship that Trump possessed with Fox News. In a flash, viewers witness the consequences of Roman's transformation into a power-abusive fascist determined to have his way.

Suddenly, a show that appeared to be solely concerned with its own universe of corporate intrigue forced its viewers to confront the dystopian intersection of politics and the media. Up until this most recent episode, it seemed as if the series was running on autopilot regarding its critical eye on the Roy family. Succession was lacking that pivotal moment in preceding prestige dramas where the characters and settings that viewers grew to love are inverted to expose their ugly side. Armstrong and his writing team executed this by showing a mirror to real life. "America Decides" forever changes the DNA of the series, for both the remaining two episodes and the entire show retroactively. While it may have been subconsciously existent, Succession's connection to recent topical political and media issues is now inseparable.

The True Deplorable Nature at the Heart of 'Succession'

This Is Why 'Succession' Season 4's Election Night Episode Is So Unsettling (4)

No viewer could ever interpret Logan, Kendall, Roman, Shiv, or any of the major characters of Succession as morally upright. However, this does not alter the vulnerability that these figures have put on display for the last 5 years since the premiere of the show. Because of their relatable and complex relationship with their father and constant desire for his approval, the Roy kids developed something of rooting interest among the audience as they became more humane.

On a less sentimental level, for as austere as the show became due to its prominence with awards and critical acclaim, Succession always had an inherent entertainment value. Its sense of humor is one of a kind, and it speaks to an awkward, bumbling style of comedy through its characters' broken speech and constant indecisiveness. The everyday viewer gets a kick out of rich people dealing with first-world problems and putting themselves through an internal crisis, as the series is at the heart of the recent boom of media ridiculing the upper class.

The harsh reality that came crashing down in the wake of the election night episode is that, while the in-fighting and power intrigue between Waystar board members and siblings is fun and engaging on the surface, they are all toying with the credibility of democracy and American liberty as a means to cementing their corporate status. Succession tends to get bogged down in the intricate details of business negotiations. The world of the Roys seemingly belongs to a different universe than ours. In actuality, the characters on screen are either too oblivious to the real world or tempted by greed to recognize the magnitude of their actions.

As a result of the slow unraveling of the true corrupt soul of the cast of characters, Succession thrives in upending the expectations of the series heading into its finale. Not only is the fate of the Roy family and Waystar Royco up for grabs, but so is American democracy. In a contemporary society that is holding its breath in fear of the crumbling of the political system, Succession's latest episode plays like a nightmare — one that feels eerily too familiar.

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