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Assessing the Fallout of Succession’s Secret Pregnancy

Even one new baby would be a bombshell, and there might be two.
  • Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong, and Kieran Culkin in Succession (Photo: HBO)
    Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong, and Kieran Culkin in Succession (Photo: HBO)

    [Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for Succession Season 4, Episode 4, “Honeymoon States.”]

    We just got hit with a monumental death, and now Succession is coming at us with a new life. While “Honeymoon States,” the fourth episode of Season 4, opens with shots of Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) silently processing their father’s passing, the first true scene features Siobhan (Sarah Snook) taking a phone call from her doctor. She’s informed her amniocentesis has come back normal, and her baby looks healthy.

    Shiv has an inscrutable reaction to the news, somewhere between relief and despair. Viewers, however, may be unequivocally shocked. Even though Snook announced her own pregnancy several weeks ago, this is the first we’ve heard about a new Roy baby. And since amnios are typically administered after 15 weeks, that means she’s been pregnant for the entire season. Suddenly, it’s clear why she’s been wearing stretchy bodysuits. What’s not clear, however, is why she hasn’t told anyone else about the kid. It’s easy to guess — a pregnancy might sideline her in Waystar deals; telling Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) would further complicate their breakup — but the episode keeps her exact motivations opaque. In fact, after that phone call from the doctor, the pregnancy isn’t mentioned again.

    But just because Siobhan ignores the news doesn’t mean we can. Her silence stands out in an episode filled with “gotcha” revelations. As they mill around Chez Roy for a memorial service that coincides with the board vote on who’s going to replace Logan (Brian Cox), characters keep springing things on each other. Hugo (Fisher Stevens) confides to Kendall that his daughter may have used the knowledge of Logan’s death to make an insider stock trade. Connor (Alan Ruck) does a handshake deal with the reemergent Marcia (Hiam Abbass) to buy his father's apartment, then low-key mentions it to his siblings while they’re debating who should run the company. Most significantly, Frank starts an earthquake when he reveals an unsigned document that includes a handwritten addendum from Logan, suggesting he wanted Kendall to take over.

    One reason the episode is so funny is that nobody tries to disguise the agenda behind these private talks and whispered confidences. After he learns about Logan’s letter, Karl (David Rasche) freely admits he wants to install a leader who will help him get a big payout. Tom sucks up so hard to everyone who might get the job that he makes Greg’s (Nicholas Braun) attempts to flatter Marcia seem subtle. With the board vote coming, no one has time to pretend they care about anything but themselves.

    Yet there’s Siobhan, saying nothing when Kendall makes a crack about how Logan never wanted to visit his grandchildren. Later, when she tells Tom that she feels like she killed her dad by pushing him to get on a plane, she tearfully adds that if he’d had access to medical care, he might have lived 20 more years and rocked his grandchildren to sleep. Tom just jokes that he never showed the slightest interest in doing that, without considering that none of Logan’s current grandchildren are babies who need rocking. Again, Siobhan says nothing.

    Viewers are the only ones who understand the full implication of these moments. We share a secret with Siobhan, which is an old trick for getting audiences to sympathize with a particular character. Jesse Armstrong and Lucy Prebble, who wrote the episode, play on this privileged knowledge near the final scene, after Kendall and Roman ascend to the top of the company. Furious that she’s been denied an official role in the transition and wounded that her brothers didn’t fight for the three-way bond they’d been cultivating since the end of Season 3, Shiv tries to storm out of the house. Then she trips on her way down the stairs and falls to the ground. That’s an obvious symbol for her wobbly position in the family and the business. Her pregnancy heightens our sense that she’s on precarious ground.

    It’s an open question what will happen once she starts to show. It’s possible the child will become a bargaining chip in all kinds of deals, both marital and professional. It’s possible the prospect of motherhood will push Shiv back to her Season 1 mindset, when she wanted to distance herself from her family as much as possible.

    It’s also possible her pregnancy will become a counterpoint to Kerry’s (Zoë Winters) potential one. The series has been hinting for ages that Kerry was trying to have Logan’s baby. That theory gets more juice in “Honeymoon States,” when she drops a bag of personal items that Marcia allowed her to take before throwing her out of the Roy palace for good. Several pill bottles spill out, as well as what looks like a bottle of vitamins. These could certainly be pregnancy related. And when Kerry begs Roman to see if Logan left any statements about her, she pitifully insists he “was going to make it known.” She might simply mean he was acknowledging their romantic relationship, but she could also mean he was declaring paternity of her child. A new heir for Logan would complicate the succession plan and give Kerry power that everyone wants to deny her. It would almost certainly impact the family’s response to Siobhan’s pregnancy. It’s easy to imagine maternal battle lines being drawn, with family members and flunkies alike choosing sides. Sooner or later, all these secrets will come out, and our sympathies may shift again.

    Succession airs Sundays at 9:00 PM on HBO. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Mark Blankenship has been writing about arts and culture for twenty years, with bylines in The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, Fortune, and many others. You can hear him on the pop music podcast Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs.

    TOPICS: Succession, HBO, David Rasche, Hiam Abbass, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun, Sarah Snook, Zoë Winters