“The Poison Drips Through”: Succession Season 4, Episode 8

Jeremy Fassler
9 min readMay 15, 2023
Photograph courtesy of HBO

One of the most extraordinary sleight-of-hands a dramatist can pull is when they remind us that the antihero we’ve been following is in fact, the villain. Shakespeare was a master of this: in Macbeth, we are willing to go along with Macbeth for the first two-thirds of the play because of his inner conflict between his ambition and his morality. It’s only when he orders the murder of Macduff’s wife and children that we realize this man is a monster, turning us against him. The same thing happens to Breaking Bad’s Walter White, who crosses a similar Rubicon at the end of season 4, when we realize that he put a child’s life in danger to kill Gus Fring. And in “America Decides,” Jesse Armstrong pulls the same trick on us. We’ve loved to hate the Roys, and hated that we love them, but they are now officially the villains of this story.

It’s Election Night, Succession-style, and if you’re worried that this episode will give you a panic attack given the last couple of elections, then your fears will be confirmed. Armstrong worked closely with election pros like Ben Ginsberg and Eric Schultz to get all the details down pat so that it looks and feels as realistic as possible, and there are moments where I forgot I wasn’t watching a real election — except of course, when the touch screen stopped working and brought the newscast to a halt, because that would never stop Steve Kornacki (but I digress.) Like the real America, Succession’s election is between a center-left liberal, Daniel Jiménez, and a paleoconservative, Jeryrd Mencken. Similarly, the Democrat is leading the exit polls, and the Republican is underperforming, leading people to believe that the liberal will win an easy victory. Right? Right?

There’s no talking about this episode without discussing CNN’s town hall with Donald Trump last week, a disgusting spectacle that had no reason for being other than to “own the libs.” CEO Chris Licht boasted that the town hall “made a lot of news,” as if it’s his network’s job to create the news rather than report on it. The animosity that Licht has aimed at his critics both outside and inside CNN (most notably Oliver Darcy) has turned many liberals away from the network, not to mention Anderson Cooper’s victim-blaming speech accusing the left of wanting to stay in their own “silos” rather than listen to people…

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Jeremy Fassler

Correspondent, The Capitol Forum. Bylines: The New York Times, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, etc. Co-author of The Deadwood Bible with Matt Zoller Seitz.