Succession Season 4's Best Scene Gives Shiv And Tom A Fighting Chance

This post contains major spoilers for season 4, episode 4 of "Succession."

In this week's "Succession," love may fade and dissipate, but the bonds forged by marriage prove to be an enduring force. After charging into the fourth and final season with three majorly eventful episodes, showrunner Jesse Armstrong opts for a more reflective pace. Here, we're completely centered in the aftermath of Logan Roy's (Brian Cox) untimely death (an episode that has reached "Ozymandias" from "Breaking Bad"-level praise), and while the Roy children are struggling to properly grieve, obligations towards Waystar Royco and the family brand await. The big question is finally here, who will take over as heir to the company throne?

Though Logan is physically gone, his spirit still watches over every minute of the show. Grief has majorly transformed every character dynamic. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) surely wants to step up, but his inner child is still wounded — breaking down in Stewy's (Arian Moyaed) arms. In mourning, Roman (Kieran Culkin) continues to try to grasp onto whatever familial stability he can. And though she has been absent since season 1 of the show, Logan's third ex-wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass) re-enters the scene and is setting up to be a major player this season.

Then there's "Shivy, honey" (Sarah Snook). Oftentimes, under the pressure of her father, we've seen her walls fully broken down, Snook subtly capturing the nuances of a burdened child. As members of the obscenely wealthy elite, these characters have everything, and yet, in the wake of their father's death, they all seem to be struggling to hold onto themselves. In the case of Shiv, there's an interesting moment of rare vulnerability that she can only share with Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) on the staircase this episode.

Love, business, and politics

Season 4 picks up just a few months after Tom's ultimate betrayal of Shiv's trust, selling her and her siblings out to Logan — though their marriage was already built on a shaky foundation, this was Tom's choice of power and status over their love that he couldn't easily walk away from. In the season premiere, there was a stunning sequence shared between Shiv and Tom after she definitively decides that she wants a divorce. The two lay on their bed, wondering if there's anything left between them. "We gave it go," Shiv says as they intertwine their fingers. When you're a Roy, and business and politics are intrinsically connected to your interpersonal relationships, can you even pursue love?

In this episode, we learn that Tom's role as a member of the "Disgusting Brothers," and one of Logan's right-hand men this season will only have diminishing returns in the aftermath of the patriarch's death. Without the support of Logan, Tom is in a precarious position. Unlike the Roys, he doesn't have Daddy's money to fall back on — which makes it all the more suspicious when Tom suddenly starts to suck up to Kendall and Roman.

But one Tom Wambsgans moment from this episode stands apart from the rest. Alone with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Shiv starts to unpack her feelings about the situation, showing a level of intimacy and trust with Tom that she still doesn't even exhibit in her freshly reformed bonds with her siblings. She questions whether or not the Roy "rebellion" was what killed her father, leading him to be alone in his most desperate time of need. In the cycle of mourning, Shiv has reached a point of survivor's guilt.

Tom and Shiv are family, whatever that looks like

"I'm angry," Shiv admits. After a day of PR statements, discussions of corporate leadership and possessiveness over the Roy fortune, Shiv is beginning to feel as though she's the only one who comprehends what they've lost: an imperfect family, yes — but a future of togetherness they'll never get back.

As a way to comfort Shiv, Tom reminds her of the time they first met in France during a difficult time in her life. Handwritten notes, fine silks, and a warm embrace. The details are vague, but they're for Shiv to reminisce on, not for us as the voyeurs of this moment. Once again, in a powerhouse of pitch-perfect actors, Snook's and Macfadyen's performances stand out as some of the most romantic and authentic work that the show has to offer.

But as sweet as it is, is this moment an honest one? We know Tom has an ulterior motive here, and when it comes to having a piece of the Waystar Royco pie, Shiv is ultimately all he has left. However, the same is true on the other end. Outside of her siblings, Shiv doesn't have anyone else to really confide in. There might not be any love left here for them to continue their marriage from here, but the bond they have had as partners is something that doesn't disappear as easily. It's going to connect them for the rest of their lives — they've become each other's family, and for a Roy child, family is always going to be more complicated than pure love.

Marcia versus Kerry

We can also use Shiv and Tom's marriage dynamic as a lens to view other marriages on the show. As mentioned, Marcia makes a big return in this episode. In another interesting scene from this episode, a weeping Kerry (Zoe Winters) makes a dramatic entrance into the Roy estate to collect her belongings, demanding to enter Logan's room. It's a stark change from her strange laughter after Logan passed away in episode 3 — sometimes grief manifests itself in different ways, and it's really starting to hit Kerry.

We learn that Marcia told her not to arrive on the scene beforehand and collected her belongings for her, refusing to let Kerry enter Logan's room. Kerry breaks down, and Roman scorns Marcia for her cruelty. "We're calling her a taxi so that she can take a subway back to her little apartment," Marcia said, alluding to Kerry's social status. It's cruel of Marcia to reinforce her class power over Kerry, and as Logan's ex-wife, it's surprising to see how little empathy she has for the ex-assistant.

Again, marriage colored Marcia's actions and her role in the situation. There might no longer be any romantic love for Logan in her heart, but in his passing, she's going to protect who she was to him and his fortune for his family — in the end, the upper class serves their own interests.

Marriage endures even if love fades

While still an eventful episode, this week's "Succession" has deliberately slowed down the pace to capture a snapshot of the Roy family and the various ways they are coping with their complex forms of grief. With Shiv and Tom, as well as the reintroduction of Marcia, the show also realistically shows how that grief can intersect with marriage.

Is there enough in this moment that can save Shiv and Tom from splitting apart for good? Probably not — but I think one thing the show has always shown with their characters is that love can evolve into different forms. Shiv and Tom's relationship is not black and white; and even when it seemed there was nothing left there to salvage, Tom still called Shiv first when Logan was passing in episode 3. Shiv still shared that one moment of intimacy on their bed, searching for a spark. And in this episode, we're shown that what Shiv has with Tom will always be special, even if there's a history of betrayal and resentment that festers underneath.

"Succession" airs on HBO and streams on HBO Max every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.