The Succession Timeline Is Much Tighter Than You Think

7 minute read

Life is moving pretty fast for the Roy kids on Succession. In just the first four episodes of the fourth and final season of the series, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) have bought up their dad’s biggest competitor, been rocked by their father’s death, and begun to stab each other in the back as they compete for the position of Waystar Royco CEO. And in the timeline of Succession, the flurry of events have all taken place over the course of only four days.

Several cast members have confirmed in interviews that this season on Succession, each episode takes place on a single day. So, essentially, viewers are watching the 10 most chaotic days in the lives of the Roy family members in season 4. Here is everything you need to know about the timeline, and what it means for the GoJo deal, the election, and the potential fates of the Roys on the show.

The show has offered hints about its condensed timeline

Kieran Culkin in SuccessionMacall B. Polay—HBO

Several cast members have now confirmed that Season 4 of Succession takes place in a rather short timeline. After episode 3, Brian Cox told Kara Swisher on HBO’s official Succession podcast, “We were locked into the fact that each episode is one day, which we haven’t done in the series before. So [Logan] dies on Day 3.” On Sunday, Arian Moayed confirmed in an interview with Joanna Robinson on the Ringer’s Prestige TV Podcast that “every episode is going to be a day.”

Viewers paying close attention may have already picked up on the fast pace. In episode 4, at Logan’s wake, the kids note that their father died “yesterday.” And in episode 3, they discuss how their confrontation with Logan happened at Connor’s rehearsal dinner the night before his wedding.

Still, when you think about everything that’s happened, it’s been a doozy of a week for the Roy kids. On Day 1, they bought Pierce, a giant media conglomerate. On Day 2, they tried to sabotage their father’s deal with GoJo. On Day 3, they found out their father had died while attending their brother’s wedding. And on Day 4, they attended their father’s wake and decided who would acts as interim CEO of the company. Oof.

And there’s still a lot to jam into the back half of the season. The Roys need to close the GoJo deal, which apparently will require them to attend the annual GoJo retreat in Europe. They will attend their father’s funeral sometime in the next several days. And, of course, a presidential election is looming.

Succession isn’t 24, and showrunner Jesse Armstrong doesn’t seem overly concerned with the actual minute-by-minute breakdown of the Roys’ itineraries. So the actual logistics of this timeline are a little wonky. The Roy kids had to fly from California to New York between episode 1 and episode 2, and it looks like they’ll be flying from New York to Sweden and back in episode 5 or episode 6. That’s a lot of travel during a highly volatile time for the family. Maybe we can attribute some of the Roy kids’ most ill-advised decision to sleep deprivation?

The finale of Succession may take place on election day

Alan Ruck and Justine Lupe in Succession Season 4, Episode 3: "Connor's Wedding"Macall B. Polay—HBO

So what does this mean for the election? Succession keeps dropping hints that America will be heading to the polls imminently. In episode 1, Connor says that the election is “10 days out.” In episode 4, Roman notes that Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) may be president in less than a week. If my math is correct—there are 10 episodes in the final season—that means the election will take place in the final episode.

How this all fits into the larger Succession timeline

Jeremy Strong and Arian Moayed in 'Succession.'Colin Hutton/HBO

Again, the Succession writers have never seemed concerned with timestamps, which has left some viewers confused about how much time has passed since Logan had a stroke on his 80th birthday in the series premiere. While Internet sleuths have spent plenty of time trying to figure out whether the celebration that kicked off season 4 was Logan’s 81st, 82nd, 83rd, or 84th birthday, it has thus far proven to be an impossible mystery to solve.

Shiv helped elect a senator in season 1 before transitioning to aiding Gil in his bid for a possible presidential run. So if we assume she worked on a senatorial race that took place two years before the current election on the show, we can surmise that at least two years have passed since season 1.

Showrunner Jesse Armstrong said as much in an interview with The New Yorker. He also cautioned viewers from digging too deep into the timeline (oops). “I like everything having real-life models and examples, but the time frame is where I have to hold my hands up and say, Look, TV is just really hard,” he said. “We’ve been doing the show for six or seven years, and people have aged, but the story moves at a pace that the story demands. I think that there’s probably been a couple of years elapsed in story time, but, to an audience, and indeed to ourselves as writers, it feels rather longer. The show has to live in a weird TV reality.”

How does Shiv’s pregnancy factor into the timeline?

Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook in SuccessionGraeme Hunter—HBO

We know Shiv is about four or five months pregnant. Her doctor gives her the results of her amniocentesis, an optional test typically performed sometime between 16 and 20 weeks and then mentions scheduling her 20-week scan.

In the first episode of season 4, Roman says the kids have spent three months seeking backers for their media venture The Hundred. So we can surmise that at least three months have passed since their mother’s wedding in Italy where Logan betrayed his children—probably more since they needed time to come up with the idea, however harebrained, in the first place.

Remember, Shiv spent a lot of time talking about pregnancy at her mother’s wedding. During Caroline’s bachelorette party, Shiv and Caroline talk about Caroline’s failings as a mother. In a particularly cruel dig, Caroline tells her daughter, “I probably shouldn’t have had children. You’ve made the right decision. Some people just aren’t made to be mothers.”

After this conversation, Shiv goes home and tells Tom, “Let’s have a baby,” as if to prove she is mother material after all. That interaction leads to the infamous “dirty talk” scene in which Shiv tells Tom she doesn’t love him. Shiv and Tom confirm the next morning that they did do the deed after that exchange. It’s not exactly the most romantic way to make a baby, but it seems to have worked.

Here are the salient pieces of information from Shiv’s big news. Tom is probably the father. Yes, the two have an open relationship, but the timing works out. Plus it makes sense dramaturgically for this pregnancy to either bring Shiv and Tom together or tear them apart—or both!

Shiv is also reaching the point in her pregnancy when it’s going to be hard to hide that she’s expecting. She has probably kept the secret because she feels ambivalent: her mother’s cruel words, Tom’s betrayal, and her father passing before he met his grandchild are probably all on her mind. Shiv also knows her brothers and the other men at Waystar Royco will take her less seriously as soon as she announces that she is expecting. We already saw her shoved to the side in episode 4. Shiv’s greatest fear is being shoved aside like her mother was: She told her brothers that she got “mommed” when Logan shared his dirty divorce tricks with Tom.

Shiv will likely want to delay announcing the news as long as possible. But this is the world of Succession, and no secret that could stir up family drama stays hidden for long.

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