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If Jesse Armstrong, the creator of “Succession,” was ever a doubt about his standing among television’s top-tier storytellers, he erased it by announcing that the fourth season would be the last. In conversations with Armstrong after he made known his desire to go out on top, he spoke of how the show’s title is a promise to viewers. For “Succession” to have any stakes at all, Logan (Brian Cox) must decide — conclusively and forever — which of his silver-tongued, sharp-elbowed children is best equipped to sit on his throne.

It’s a good sign for these final 10 episodes that Armstrong recognizes the futility of repeatedly shuffling this same deck. Because in a series where every character wants the same thing, then that thing becomes just another MacGuffin — even if it is a multibillion-dollar media and entertainment conglomerate. But with Logan’s cognitive state rapidly deteriorating, sooner would be better than later for such a decision — though Logan would prefer using the promotion as an existential cudgel against his children for as long as possible.

Formalizing a succession plan has never been more important or felt less possible than it does in the wake of last season’s shocking realignments. To review: Insecure maverick Kendall (Jeremy Strong) tells his siblings Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) that Logan brought him to heel after covering up their car crash — one that killed a young waiter while Ketamine-addled Kendall was behind the wheel. Once they realize that Logan’s pending sale of the company to tech mogul Lukas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård) will leave them with the murkiest path toward CEOship, Kendall clears his head.

Three seasons into their nonstop scheming and transactional truces, there is finally an esprit de corps when all three siblings team up and point their weapons at their father. And yet, despite this unprecedented shared defection, the twistiest knife of Season 3’s finale was who snuffed out the Roy childrens’ mutiny before it could catch fire. Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), whose name demands to be said in full, finally decided he was tired of playing long-suffering husband to Shiv (and professional crash test dummy to Logan) and revealed Shiv’s plan as part of shoring up his position within the firm.

This season feels very different from its opening moments, when all three scions were on the outs with their dad at once and Logan was acting extra petulant at his birthday party because of all the estrangement — even though he also knows no apology will ever be enough because he’ll never stop putting the company outside his childrens’ grasp. His funk is only partially lifted by the arrival of Connor (Alan Ruck), his oldest and dumbest son, who is always on good terms with Daddy because he doesn’t care about following in Logan’s footsteps one way or the other.

After their loss, the rebel faction of Kendall, Shiv, and Roman teamed up to create a media brand. The new venture is less fulfilling than they thought it would be — a supercharged Axios. But no one wants to say how much they miss warring with each other in the family business. And there’s still no trust between them, even though they are working toward the same goal. Which makes sense, because their shared love of back-channeling isn’t any less just because they now openly hate each other.

There’s also no trust left between Shiv and Tom, whose relationship was never very romantic but might be broken forever after Tom executed the exact play Shiv would have in his position. There is some tenderness beneath all of Mr. and Mrs. Wambsgans’s bitterness at each other’s existence, though; these first four episodes find them at what has to be the most complicated moment in their already fraught marriage. The “Succession” fandom’s other favorite “couple,” Roman and Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), are also on the outs after Roman told Logan about their psychosexual gamesmanship for some reason. And Logan himself is not far from souring on Gerri either, following her arguably too effective stint as interim CEO.

But lest you think corporate romance is dead at Waystar Royco: No such luck! There remains the worst-kept-secret wrongest-thing-about-it relationship between Logan and his quietly menacing executive assistant Kerry (Zoë Winters), whose character gets an expanded role this season that — like I said — has me more excited than words can express thus far? She has more power now and that means she gets to screw around with people more than ever before; her rise leads to so many gigglefits it feels like Christmas morning every time she appears on screen. Anyway! The point is: They’re also in love or whatever.

And speaking of love: Corporate cousin romance! No discussion of “Succession’s” hottest couples is complete without Tom and Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), who promised to be each other’s bestest boyfriends once Tom secured his path into Logan’s inner circle. But now that they’re both effectively single, they’re two wild and crazy guys on the make, and they’ve given their duo a squad name that I refuse to spoil outside of airing my unabashed delight in it.

The first few episodes don’t have quite the same sense of urgency as past season premieres — both of which started in the minutes after the closing bombshell. This season’s minor time jump is a smart choice all the same, giving everyone a little bit more time to process the biggest Roy family crack-up ever before getting into what happens next. But with its main characters estranged from one another, “Succession” still gets to deliver some of its finest scenes by way of what it does better than any other show: harried cell phone calls. It was those calls, after all, that gave both Season 2 and Season 3 their big electric jolt. Often with “Succession,” talk really is action; no stagey insult-comedy dialogue gets a better showcase than when Kendall Roy is screaming into an iPhone.

One episode this season essentially plays as a long conference call between nearly all the main characters — something like 60 minutes long — that gives every member of the ensemble at least three different opportunities to act his or her face off. And while this season takes just slightly longer than usual to catch fire — there’s usually some shady dealing right up top — once it does kick in, “Succession” has never been more intense. With the finish line finally in sight for sure this time around, it feels like this show has a full tank of gas and an 800-pound gorilla standing on the accelerator. Better than ever doing business with you, “Succession.”

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