By Andrew R. Chow
September 2, 2019

Welcome back, to fans and sad sack wasp traps alike, to the craven death pit of greed and egomania that is Succession. Join us as we keep track of the swift rise and fall of each character in these power rankings, which will be updated every week. These rankings are painfully subjective and based on a mix of corporate leverage, deftness of negotiation, personal turmoil and insults thrown and received. Here’s where everyone stands after episode 4, “Safe Room”

9. Tom Wamsgams (Matthew Macfayden): ⬇️ (last week: 7)

Matthew Macfadyen and Jeannie Berlin in Season 2, Episode 4 of 'Succession.'
Peter Kramer/HBO

In season 2, Succession creator Jesse Armstrong has delighted in trapping combustible characters in a room and then shaking them up; the circumstances to get them there matter much less than than their reactions under intense pressure. And in the case of Tom, the results couldn’t be more damning. He literally shoves someone out of the way en route to the panic room, yelling, “Excuse me, executives coming through!”

He narcissistically believes that he was the target of this episode’s attack — falling right into ATN’s own habit of believing and spreading false hysteria — and then takes out all of his pent-up frustration and anger about his marriage and career onto Greg, once again. The cycle of power is a vicious one, and Tom hoped to have his own puppet, much in the same way that Shiv controls him (she literally directs him in a board meeting via a finger across her throat). But it seems that the protégé will lap the master unless Tom makes some serious changes.

8. Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun): ⬇️ (last week: 5)

Nicholas Braun as Greg Hirsch in 'Succession'
Peter Kramer/HBO

Greg’s cruel, selfish streak also rears its head in the panic room. While other people might respond to such a scare with gratitude and compassion, Greg’s first instinct is to immediately throw his mentor under the bus.

It’s easy to love Greg for his puppy-dog eyes, awkwardly lanky carriage and relative moral judgement (this week, it’s his bold declaration that Nazis “are the worst”). But he’s also the epitome of white male privilege, corporate decay and failing upward; he’s yet again leveraged his knowledge of widespread company abuse into self-betterment. In the words of Tom: “You’re a f-cking slimeball. Attaboy.”

7. Connor Roy (Alan Ruck): ⬇️ (last week: 6)

Justine Lupe, Alan Ruck in Season 2, Episode 4 of 'Succession.'
Peter Kramer/HBO

One of the best television episodes released within the last year was “Free Churro,” the Emmy-nominated installment of BoJack Horseman in which the title character eulogizes his mother for 25 minutes straight, plunging into childhood trauma, gallows humor, false hope and existential dread.

Connor’s eulogy at the late Mo’s funeral was the exact opposite of that: “When a man dies, it is sad. All of us will die one day. In this case, it is Lester who has done so.” Willa deserves a huge hat tip for penning a speech so wooden and generic it would be impossible for the slimy biographer Michelle Pantsil (Jessica Hecht) to pull-quote.

6. Brian (Zach Cherry): (last week: N/A)

Kieran Culkin, left with Zach Cherry in "Succession."
Peter Kramer/HBO

Let’s give a warm welcome to Brian, whose locker-room introduction to Roman was one for the ages: “I’m lurking, like a dormant virus,” he says with a harmless scowl. His shrewd befriending of Roman — and successful execution of their VR horror pitch — have landed him on the fast-track to the top; hopefully he’s not a one-off character.

5. Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin): ⬆️ (last week: 8)

Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy
Ursula Coyote/HBO

Roman just starred, alongside Gerri, in one of the most deranged and brilliant scenes in recent TV history — but perhaps the less said about it in this space, the better. Anyway, congrats on winning your pitch competition, you revolting little worm.

4. Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter): (last week: N/A)

Brian Cox, left, with Holly Hunter in "Succession"
Peter Kramer/HBO

Despite the ridiculous wealth of acting talent on this show, no Oscar winners have played a major role so far — until, that is, the arrival of Holly Hunter (The Piano). Hunter doesn’t get a chance to fully show off her chops yet: the CEO of PGM is steely and diplomatic, although she delivers the week’s best F-ck Off (™) when she wishes the Roys a “typically balanced, nuanced, and objective f-ck off.” A showdown between the Roys and the Pierces looms, and while Rhea calls herself a “mere tool,” it’s clear she’s far more dangerous than she lets on.

3. Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook): ⬇️ (last week: 2)

Sarah Snook in Season 2, Episode 4 of 'Succession.'
Peter Kramer/HBO

Shiv’s movement this week must be understood in relation to her brother Kendall and their father Logan. See below for more.

2. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong): ⬆️ (last week: 4)

Jeremy Strong and Sarah Snook in Season 2, Episode 4 of 'Succession.'
Peter Kramer/HBO

Kendall’s latest maneuvers must also be understood in context; see below.

1. Logan Roy (Brian Cox): ↔️ (last week: 1)

Brian Cox as Logan Roy in Season 2 of 'Succession'
Peter Kramer/HBO

Logan Roy is a firm believer in negative reinforcement; throughout his children’s lives, he’s constantly negged them and pitted them against each other, assuming that they will come to love the pressure cooker just as he does. Logan’s elevation of Kendall to coincide with Shiv’s arrival is just a continuation of these old games — and so far, the ploy seems to be working. Kendall, protecting his territory, and Shiv, sleuthing into overdrive, pinball off each other until they eventually form a Cerberus with their father, cornering Rhea into considering an offer.

In the negotiation Shiv is slick, Kendall is blunt, and Logan authoritative; despite the constant in-fighting, they actually make a persuasive and dangerous team. While Logan bristles at some of Shiv’s suggestions, it’s clear he’s delighted that she’s working as hard as she can to win his respect. Meanwhile, Logan’s first words during the active shooter scare are to ask for Kendall; there’s still genuine love there despite his transgressions.

This season we’ve seen a lot of Logan and Shiv and a lot of Logan and Kendall. But in the closing moments of the episode, we see the third permutation, and a raft of possibilities emerges. What if Shiv and Kendall — each the only one who can understand what the other has been through — team up against their father? Is there a way they can can break this cycle of abuse and forge their own path forward?

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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