‘Succession’ Season 4’s Best Duo Actually Isn’t Tom and Greg


The Big Picture

  • After the death of Logan Roy, the foundation of the Tom-Greg relationship was shaken, leaving room for Karl and Frank to become the new dynamic duo.
  • Karl and Frank assertively insert themselves into the Succession dynamic, ensuring they get what they want.
  • Frank’s discovery of a revised will and his scheming with Karl show that they are still significant players in the company.

Throughout the four-year run of HBO’s hit family drama Succession, we’ve met several characters we love to hate, and admittedly, hate to love. Early in Season 1, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) emerged as the oddball duo that makes us uncomfortable in the best (and worst) of ways. We just can’t get enough of their toxic bromance. The two given us some of the best and most memorable bits of dialogue in a show chock-full of excellent verbal sparring. But once Tom puts his hat in the ring to become the American CEO of Waystar when the GoJo deal goes through, they both have to recalibrate their positions with Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) and the Roy family.

Their alliance was already a bit unsteady after Logan Roy (Brian Cox) died, leaving a power vacuum that quickly turned into a free for all for the power players of the series. When Greg seeks to carve out a spot for himself alongside the Roy children to form the “Quad Squad,” there is a noticeable void where the best duo used to reside that is filled by two unlikely Waystar employees. After the Waystar Royco group went to Norway in Season 4 Episode 5’s “Kill List,” Karl (David Rasche) and Frank (Peter Friedman) quickly became the new dynamic duo of Succession.

Succession

The Roy family is known for controlling the biggest media and entertainment company in the world. However, their world changes when their father steps down from the company.

Creator
Jesse Armstrong
Main Genre
Drama
Seasons
4

Frank and Karl Were Always More Than Just “Respected Greybeards”

Tom hilariously refers to the trio of Karl, Frank, and Gerri (J. Cameron Smith) as a “senior group of very respected greybeards” when discussing all the options that have opened up with the death of Logan. They may have been relegated to the role of a couple of empty suits by the curmudgeonly former CEO at Waystar, but now everything and everyone can be a contender. As Season 4 progresses, Karl and Frank slowly assert themselves more and more into the debate on who will eventually take over the company. These two really started feeling strong right after the surprise death of Logan in Episode 3. Karl and Frank are quick to make sure that they get theirs (golden parachutes notwithstanding), and they’re taking no prisoners.

Karl doesn’t pull any punches when he insults Tom, calling him the odd man out to take over for Logan as CEO? He said, “You are a clumsy interloper and no one trusts you. The only guy pulling for you is dead, and now you’re just married to the ex-boss’ daughter, and she doesn’t even like you. And you are fair and squarely fucked!” Tom gets dunked on by a newly confident corporate legend — who, according to Gerri, did amazing things with cable in the 90s. It’s burns like these that has us refocused on Karl and Frank as the new senior version of Disgusting Brothers, but in a more avuncular way, right?

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Karl and Frank Showed How Savvy They Were With the Revised Will

Peter Friedman and David Rasche as Frank and Karl in Succession
Image via HBO

When Frank uncovers a never-before-seen document among Logan’s papers that has some redacted and revised notes regarding Logan’s wishes upon his death, the “seeing, but not really seeing” anything exchange is some of the best dialogue in the fourth season. Frank is the executor of Logan’s business affairs and everything has to be done above board to avoid both possible legal situations and bad optics for them moving forward. So the conversation about a “rather worrying piece of paper” goes a little something like, “Who else knows?” Frank asks, ensuring that the problem is contained within the room. Frank confirms that no one else knows about the new document and admits to Karl, “I didn’t even want to start thinking until you were here.”

The distancing and plausible deniability is strong with Frank. Frank’s been playing the game for a long time and knows how to move his chess pieces. Karl asks, “Could it, might it… just go away?” He suggests that Frank might “accidentally” lose or flush the will down the toilet, but then quickly caveats it by saying he’s joking. Frank is quick to play along, saying, “Sure, you’re speculating in a comic mode.” And Karl adds, “Yeah. In a humorous vein.” And just like that, Frank and Karl are scheming better than Tom and Greg ever did.

Karl and Frank Made Themselves Essential During the Matsson Deal

They may have been on the chopping block before Logan boarded that plane to meet with Matsson in Episode 3, but after Logan dies, they have a brand-new lease on life. When the Roy children, Tom, Greg, and Gerri head to Norway to close the deal with Matsson in Episode 5, Frank and Karl are front and center ready to trek to Scandinavia and have their voices heard.

The Roys know that Frank and Karl (and Gerri) are the lifeline between themselves and the powerful board of directors that still hold a 50% interest in the global multimedia conglomerate and must approve any deal that the Roy kids strike with Matsson, so they have to show some respect to the “village elders” (another delicious one-liner by showrunner Jesse Armstrong). They generously offer to go over their game plan one last time on the gondola as they head to the top of a mountain to meet with Matsson. Frank and Karl have been in the industry longer and have become accustomed to the high-stakes game that the Roy kids have just started playing. Their alliance is not only amusing, but it’s a lot more stable than the Greg and Tom relationship that had its low points in Season 4.

As we see in the finale, Frank and Karl do end up being two of the pivotal votes to oust Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and the Roy kids from Waystar moving forward. That leaves Greg to come cowering back to the new head honcho, Tom Wambsgams, in the brilliant twist at the end. So, by voting to push the sale through, Frank and Karl maintained the upper hand. While Tom takes over American operations of the company, his relationships with Greg (and Shiv) are tenuous at best. Meanwhile, the duo of greybeards are getting exactly what they wanted from the beginning. Advantage: Karl and Frank.

All episodes of Succession are streaming on Max in the U.S.

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