Let's Break Down The State Of Tom And Shiv's Marriage In Succession Season 4

The season 4 premiere of "Succession" finally started to officially sever the marital ties between Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) and Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), ending their weird, emotionally prickly relationship with a big old sigh. Any well-adjusted person could have seen that it's been a long time coming, but these are the Roys we're talking about. Like everyone else in that family's orbit, Tom's worth as a human being is dependent on his role as a strategic asset at best, and a toy to play with at worst. On the other hand, Shiv has inadvertently trained him into adopting the same viciously icy philosophy she and the rest of her kin has. It's an ugly, manipulative power dynamic that was leading nowhere healthy. So why did their breakup still kind of hurt, when it shouldn't have even taken this long?

Poor, stupid, lovable Tom Wambsgans has always tried to use his position as Shiv's husband to try and maneuver himself into the good graces of his father-in-law. He may love Shiv, but he arguably loves the advantages her last name gives him even more. And yet Tom seems like a romantic who's searching for true love at heart, or at least he was. He was never comfortable with the idea of the open relationship Shiv talked him into (on their wedding night!), and in the season 2 finale, he confessed that he was personally unhappy with the state of their relationship. "I wonder if the sad I'd be without you would be less than the sad I get from being with you," he tells her in a moment that seems to unpleasantly surprise the calculating Shiv. Of course, Mr. Wambsgans isn't entirely a victim here.

A broken Tom

It's always been a mystery as to whether or not Shiv truly loved her husband, or in a broader sense whether any of the Roys are even capable of actual love. Shiv has repeatedly gone for the jugular when the occasion calls for playful barbs, like that painful moment last season when she tells him that "he's not good enough" for her during what was supposed to be a dirty talk foreplay session. "That's why you love me. Even though I don't love you," she cruelly taunts him. Still, she seems like she appreciates the level of morale Tom can provide that her blood relatives cannot, and it's not like her family has taught her emotional intimacy.

Tom's betrayal in the season 3 finale was a bombshell, but there was plenty of fuel that led up to the explosion. Shiv was completely willing to send her husband off to jail in order to save Waystar Royco and herself from the cruise scandal fallout, reprimanding him about "obsessing over it" when he was clearly having a crisis about "imminent imprisonment." Tom has always been obsessed with climbing the Waystar ranks, but Shiv's cold-bloodedness proved to him that he could no longer depend on her to reach his goals or provide romance. Shiv was, however, the perfect mentor to teach Tom the art of back-stabbing.

No profit

In the season 4 premiere, the Roy siblings finally seem kind of happy, but Tom and Shiv have ended up on opposite ends of a bidding war that has crippling ramifications for their personal relationship. No longer able to confide in each other, the two officially agree to a divorce. For his loyalty, Tom is now in the good graces of Logan, who assures him that "if we're good, we're good" despite the split. It also looks like he's dating the once-girlfriend of Kendall Roy, Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), a part of the family that's ultimately the prize in the episode's central conflict. The Roy kids end up outbidding and beating their father and Tom, but Shiv is still bitter when she returns home to her soon-to-be ex-husband. In true Shiv fashion, she immediately derides him when he asks if she wants to talk.

Despite his conniving, Tom recognizes and admits that the end of his relationship fills him with grief. "That makes me sad," he simply states when Shiv brings up the divorce. Shiv, however, wants to avoid any sort of emotional blowback. "I don't want to rake up a whole lot of bullsh*t for no profit," she calculates. It's a telling sign of their characters that despite their deep wounds ("Do you really want to get into a full accounting of all the pain in our marriage?" he questions her), Tom is still willing to at least open up and dissect their relationship, whereas Shiv sees no benefits from laboring in distress.

Attack dog

You can't entirely blame Shiv for wanting to skip over the hard part and rip the bandage off quickly. She's so used to her personal and professional lives being the same amorphous blob that it's unlikely she (or anyone) can sustain a marriage with someone who is currently trying to sabotage her career. Tom and Shiv's relationship has never been black and white, and Tom's game plan may be more complicated than just getting back at his wife, but he still has permanently broken her trust. It's also become evident that Tom has more of a backbone than Shiv thought, his independence keeping him from fulfilling the role of a lap dog. As if to signal this transformation, the couple's own dog, Mondale, barks at Shiv as if she's an intruder who she can't play with anymore.

The tragedy of all this is that Shiv's own selfishness and borderline psychologically abusive behavior rubbed off on Tom (though it must be stated that Tom was by no means innocent at the beginning of the series). The two are both clearly competent, intelligent people placed in strategic positions within the Waystar Royco hierarchy. Shiv's father taught her that everyone is an enemy, but that outlook ironically flipped the loyalty of the one person in her life that had her back. It didn't have to be this way, but Shiv created her own monster.