On “Succession,” why bother simply surviving when you can fake what it means to be living … plus?

Mothers love their sons and raise their daughters, the saying goes. Some argue instead that they love their children equally but differently. Precious few, I’d suspect, wonder why there aren’t equivalent aphorisms for fathers.

Succession,” through the Roys, leads one to ponder another parenting style: What if a father despised all of his children equally, but hated each son differently while dismissing his daughter entirely? What type of adults would that approach create?

Every hour expands upon that answer a bit more, but the fourth season episodes following the demise of Logan Roy (Brian Cox) get a bit more psychologically surgical each week. With Logan gone, Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) have nobody to blame for their mistakes but themselves.

That’s the excruciating part of this four-season joke. Ken, Rome, and Shiv suspect that if they put their three half-wits together, they’d figure out how to keep Daddy’s multibillion-dollar conglomerate afloat.

Then Logan died, and the boys fell back on old habits ganging up on dumb Pinky. They’re convinced she wouldn’t know what to do with power if she had it. That may be true, but as “Living+” shows us, they are not exactly experts on the subject either.

Sarah Snook in “Succession” (Photograph by David Russell/HBO)

Living+ is a new Waystar Royco real estate “product”: master-planned communities with company content integrated into every experience. It’s the “Succession” version of Celebration, Florida.

“Too Much Birthday” co-writer Georgia Pritchett and fellow scribe Will Arbery open the hour with Kendall and the communications team in Los Angeles, watching raw footage of Logan’s video pitch in preparation for Investor Day.

“I’m convinced that the Living+ real estate brand can bring the cruise ship experience to dry land and provide a significant boost to the earnings of our parks division. I couldn’t be more excited,” Logan says in the video, not sounding excited at all.

A woman’s voice gently stops him and asks for a fresh take, one where he sounds excited as he says the word “excited.” But Logan, who hates being told what to do, especially not by a woman, will not comply. When she asks for the makeup tech to blot the shine from his face, Logan explodes. “Oh, could you please stop buzzing around me? . . . You’re as bad my f**king idiot kids!”

Hugo (Fisher Stevens) apologizes to Kendall, who smiles weakly and says, “That’s fine. That’s a Valentine’s card. Can we watch it again, actually?” Then he acknowledges the image of his scowling father with, “Good to see you, Dad.”

Shiv’s also L.A.-bound, but first she and Lukas Matsson ( Alexander Skarsgård) flirt on the tarmac, making eyes at each other from the windows of their private jets. Matsson closes the distance and walks over to hers in his bare feet, the bad boy secure in the power he wields over a girl with daddy issues.

He flirtatiously tells Shiv he hates the whole concept of Living+, disparaging the concept as “land cruises.” He doesn’t do real estate and wants her to kill it, calling her someone on the inside “who really gets me,” he coos.  

She’s not having it.  

Then he mentions Roman and Kendall’s madness on the mountain, a move to tank the GoJo sale.

Shiv was not aware of this but rolls her eyes and yells to the pilot to start the engines. Matsson throws her a kiss on his way out and tells her to keep him in the loop. “My girl on the inside!”

Jeremy Strong in “Succession” (Photograph by David Russell/HBO)

On the Waystar Studios lot, the boys tell their version of Lukas’ story to senior management, painting him as the erratic one. The Village Elders are not shaken by this but resolve to keep an eye on the situation.  

Shiv quietly witnesses the exchange with a mixture of skepticism and disdain. When Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), Frank (Peter Friedman), Karl (David Rasche), and Karolina (Dagmara Domińczyk) leave, Shiv lays into them. “You’re not good at this. ‘Hey, Dad? Shiv spilled chocolate milk in the Range Rover.’ Go on, lie to me. Lie to my face.”

What if a father despised all of his children equally, but hated each son differently while dismissing his daughter entirely?

So they do after admitting they’re not sure about Matsson. “Honestly, we were protecting you,” Kendall fibs. An apologetic Roman proposes they “do the huggy thing.” Over Roman’s shoulder, Shiv wears a look that says the huggy thing is meaningless.

Her assistant comes in to break up the huggy thing and leads her to an empty room for a 20-minute cry break. What’s the worst thing that can happen when a girl just wants to grieve alone? Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) that’s what. The Disgusting Brothers stumble in, assuming the room is empty.

Greg leaves, and Tom stays to take advantage of Shiv’s vulnerability. They make out.

When a father pits his children against each other in a game he’s set up for himself to win, there’s no path to victory for anyone but him. But when a father shows his sons that his daughter is worth less than they are, he risks creating a monster easily defeated by the slightest promise of love and affection.  

Shiv is one such delicate terror. She would be truly formidable if she’d made her own conquest plans instead of hitching her hopes to whichever man or men are pulling ahead on a given day.

On this day, as far as she can tell, Matsson is the titan to ally with. Who can tell how tomorrow will go? She’s shut out of Roman and Kendall’s plans.

The guys aren’t sold on the Living+ brand either. Then, after a whole lot of Wall Street babble Kendall sees a pitch for “personalized longevity programs” and gets a glint in his eye. Oh, dear.

While that sugar rush kicks in, Roman zips over to meet with Joy Palmer (Annabeth Gish), the head of Waystar Studios, and cuts straight to the point – the big dumb sleeping robot movie is a disaster. But he’s ready to throw a ton of money her way to make a hit.

Joy listens, then voices her concern on behalf of Hollywood’s creative community about the rightward lean of ATN and its attacks on “our democratic institutions,” citing the network’s backing of neo-Hitler Congressman and presidential frontrunner Jeryd Mencken. Roman brushes off Mencken as “IP, just like anything else.”

Then Roman says he doesn’t feel like she’s listening to him and, after more monetary braggadocio, suddenly blurts that he knows what Joy is thinking: What does he know about anything? He’s not his dad. He can’t do it.

“I’m sure you are where you are for a good reason,” she says in a serious tone. For that offense, Roman offers to fire her. She laughs, which he doesn’t think is funny. “I’m not saying I am. I’m just saying I could. Although maybe I should? Oh no . . . Oh no, I said it, and now I feel like I gotta commit.” He gets up from the table.

“This is a mistake,” Joy warns.

On another stage, Kendall has gone full nut-nut. He decides he wants to enter through a Living+ house, which is to be built overnight, with clouds overhead. This is impossible, but Kendall announces that his new rule is “no one can say no.”  

Ken and Rome, once they’re together again, toss around Ken’s wild idea to make analysts look at Living+ as a tech valuation instead of a real estate package. The “personalized longevity programs” will be the “killer app,” and the fact that Kendall uses that dusty term tells you he has no idea what he’s doing.

And the consumer pitch? “Live forever . . . Not forever . . . well, sure . . . if not forever, then more forever!” If they get it right, the price will blow beyond $192 per share and send Matsson fleeing. Roman, still silent and agonizing over Logan’s death, is in. “I think people will be very intrigued if there was another way through the whole situation,” he says.

“You mean. . . life?” asks Kendall. “Yeah,” says Roman, adding, “Death feels just very . . . one size fits all.”

Kieran Culkin in “Succession” (Photograph by David Russell/HBO)

Then Gerri pulls Roman aside and asks why she can’t reach Joy. Hearing that he fired Joy without engaging legal, HR and, you know, using his brain, sends her through the roof.

“I didn’t fire her,” Roman babbles. “I said that she was fired to her. That’s all.”

Gerri warns Roman that Joy is well-connected, while Roman is “a weak monarch in a dangerous interregnum.”

“Well, maybe I’ll fire you too,” he says.

Gerri reminds Roman that firing her will make Matsson very angry. “Roman, you cannot win against the money. The money is going to wash you away. Your dad knew. Tech is coming.”

When a father pits his children against each other in a game he’s set up for himself to win, there’s no path to victory for anyone but him.

But again, Roman said it, and now he feels like he’s gotta commit. Kendall is shocked at this turn, but gets on board, gaming out the press’ reaction.  “Some are saying these two young Turks might just have what it takes to turn things around!”

Elsewhere, Shiv and Tom flirt at reception, by recalling how they’ve hurt each other. Then they play a biting game, which leads them to bang out their differences. In the afterglow, Shiv confirms Tom is Team Matsson, admitting she has a connection with the Swede. This upsets Tom, who says, “I think I want you. I think I would like this back,” he says.

“Well then,” says Shiv, “you shouldn’t have betrayed me . . . phony.”

So Tom tries honesty for once, admitting he spent his life thinking a little bit about money, and knowing once he married Shiv that he would be caught between her and Logan. “And I really, really, really love my career and my money.” Shiv scoffs, and Tom continues. “Sure. I know. I like nice things. I do. And if you think that’s shallow, why don’t you throw out all your stuff for love? Throw out your necklaces and your jewels for a date at a three-star Italian. Come and live with me in a trailer park. Are you coming?”

“Well,” Shiv says sitting beside him, “I’d follow you anywhere for love, Tom Wambsgans.” They both laugh. Phony.

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It’s show time.

Kendall gets an accountant to cook the numbers, Cousin Greg corners a film editor he derisively calls “Mr. Snippy-Snip” as he forces him to manipulate Logan’s video. Matsson video chats with Shiv and begs her to stop this madness.

Turns out that doesn’t take much to upend things. Roman sees the accountant’s fraudulent numbers and knows that the prop house on stage isn’t the only one about to fall over. Shiv only has to whisper in Roman’s ear that Kendall’s failure will be his if he gets onstage to make Roman back out.

That leaves Kendall to go it alone. Before walking onstage in a custom flight jacket – because it’s a launch, get it? – Karl gently reminds Ken that if whiffs it on purpose, he’ll be embarking on a tear of mutual destruction: “I’ll f**king squeal.”

So Kendall walks onstage to Public Enemy’s “Harder Than You Think.” Irony? Prophecy? We’ll see. As the music dies down, all he can say at first is, “Big shoes. Big, big shoes! Big, big shoes . . . Big, big shoes!”

Off-script, he tells the audience that he’s grateful for all the support. “It means a lot. Isn’t that right, Dad?” he says, turning to the screen behind him.

Then L to the O.G. walks into frame, playing the Tupac hologram to Kendall’s emcee. “Let’s get on with it, shall we?” Logan appears to tell his son. Everyone in the green room is mortified.

Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, Fisher Stevens, Nicholas Braun, Sarah Snook, Dagmara Dominczyk in “Succession” (Photograph by David Russell/HBO)

Then Kendall introduces Living+ with a flavor Logan lacked: humanity. He sells it as a crime and hassle-free utopia where residents will enjoy exclusive access to Waystar news and entertainment. What could be better? How about preferred access to health and longevity care, leveraging the company’s tech and pharmaceutical holdings?

He’s a veritable Elizabeth Holmes, this guy. Sealing the deal is the doctored clip of Logan announcing: “I’m convinced that the Living+ real estate brand can bring the cruise ship experience to dry land and double the earnings of our parks division.” The investors applaud in approval.

The world eats it up . . . except for Matsson, who tweets “Doderick macht frei,” a tasteless Holocaust reference. This sends management into a tizzy. But Kendall smooths it over when an investor reads the tweet to him. He apologizes for any offense Matsson might have given, saying, “He’s very European . . . He’s smart, but we don’t always come across as we intend on social media,” adding that a benefit of Living+ is that it goes beyond social media by creating in-person community.

With that, he exits, ceding the stage to Tom, who whiffs it as usual.

Ken is hailed as the hero. Matsson, at Shiv’s urging, deletes the tweet. An envious Rome quietly excuses himself to his car, where he plays another faked version of Logan’s video.

“I want to make what I think is a fairly historic announcement,” Logan says. “I’m convinced that Roman Roy has a micro-dick and always gets it wrong.” Roman smiles, then plays it on a loop, hooked by the soothing sound of his father’s emasculation.

In another limo, Shiv tells Tom that she wants to keep what they’re doing to “party and strategy.” “Strictly. Entirely. Uh-huh,” he says. “I can’t help it if I find strategy sexy, though. I do. I do!” She’s smitten.

Kendall walks along on the beach, then takes off his shirt and throws himself into the ocean. This time he floats face up, staring at the crowds, knowing this time he did not drown.  

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