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[This story contains spoilers for the fourth-season premiere of Succession on HBO.]
Most of Sunday’s Succession premiere was taken up by a bidding war between media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his three younger children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin). After their dad (with an assist from their mom) effectively cut them out of the family business at the end of season three, the siblings celebrate seemingly getting one over on Logan after outbidding him for the rival Pierce media empire.
And then Shiv heads home to New York to pick up some clothes from the apartment she no longer really shares with her estranged husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen). He’s there, too, and what follows is a gut-wrenching scene — despite the fact that neither participant so much as raises their voice.
Tom unwittingly set Shiv and her brothers’ play for Pierce in motion with a phone call to Shiv telling her he met (or had a drink with, or something) with Naomi Pierce, a scion of the family and Kendall’s ex-girlfriend. But they don’t talk about that, and in keeping with the dynamics of their relationship, they also haven’t really addressed Tom’s siding with Logan in the play that froze her, Roman and Kendall out.
“I think what Tom really wants is to talk about what happened,” Macfadyen told The Hollywood Reporter. “There’s been no postmortem at all.”
Shiv takes a different tack, telling him, “I hear you date models now. Did you get buff for the models, Tom? Do you bring them back here and do the positions? Do you do all the positions with your models, Tom?”
It’s her way of trying to get a rise out of Tom, Snook tells THR: “She’s hoping that Tom will fight back. She’s throwing out barbs and saying, ‘We should break up. We shouldn’t be together, we should just call it quits now.’ [She hopes] that he might argue back and say no, no, there’s space, convincingly, and try and convince her to stay so that she has the power.”
Tom, however, doesn’t do that. He challenges Shiv — “Do you really want to get into a full accounting of all the pain in our marriage? ‘Cause if you do, I can do that” — but when he does, she immediately moves on to saying they should formalize their separation.
“He didn’t have the chance to discuss it or explain his reasonings, or to have the chance to tell her that there wasn’t anything he did that she wouldn’t have done or wouldn’t do,” Macfadyen said. “She shuts it down, and it’s quite sad.” (Tom himself replies, “That makes me sad,” when Shiv suggests they end their marriage.)
Shiv seems on the verge of tears when she repeats that talking won’t help anything, but she can’t bring herself to say why.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking,” Snook said. “She can’t really say what she needs or wants, and instead stitches herself up.” It’s a trait that Snook thinks is probably ingrained in Shiv by now: “She’s a lot like Logan, and I don’t think Logan’s ever really been happy in romantic love. I think probably Shiv would be just as lonely.”
The soon-to-be former couple ends the scene lying on a bed, agreeing in their exhaustion to sleep next to (but not with) each other for one more night. “We gave it a go,” Shiv tells Tom. Taking her hand, he concurs: “Yeah, we gave it a go.”
Additional reporting by Seija Rankin.
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