Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for Season 4 of Succession.
The latest episode of HBO’s Succession saw a continuation of last week’s seemingly marriage-ending argument. “America Decides” sees Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) once again face off against Sarah Snook’s Shiv in an argument even more heartbreaking than in last week’s “Tailgate Party.”
This time, the tables are turned, with Tom denying Shiv any sympathy, despite her opening up about some of the traumatic events that have recently taken place in her life. As the battle to be president rages on in front of the ATN cameras, a more intimate debate takes place behind them, one that there is no turning back from.
Shiv Desperately Needs Sympathy
Pulling Tom aside, Shiv apologizes for their argument the night prior, taking ownership over some of the things she’d said, a rare moment of genuineness from her usually hard-as-nails character. Tom, perhaps due to a certain illicit substance, responds in his most honest and childish way, hardly listening to what his estranged wife has to say. It’s a response that immediately frustrates Shiv, who seems surprisingly heartbroken with the situation as her lack of care for Tom throughout their marriage finally catches up with her.
It’s hard to feel sympathy for Shiv in this situation, as one can easily contrast this with her lack of consideration for Tom’s imminent prison sentencing in early Season 3, however in a show filled with characters who play their cards so close to their chest, it’s impossible not to feel sympathy for her in this rare moment of intimacy.
As a remorseless Tom begins to hold Shiv accountable for her actions, she immediately turns to guilt, and perhaps in this situation rightly so, reminding Tom of the death of her late father. It’s a point that can be used to explain her careless actions in recent times but does not excuse her manipulative and irresponsible behavior of seasons past.
Tom and Shiv Continue to Hurt Each Other
As the argument continues to spiral, Tom’s immature jabs grow ever harsher, explaining his refusal to provide Shiv with comfort by suggesting that she hated her father, Logan(Brian Cox). It’s unclear whether it’s the cocaine he did earlier with Greg (Nicholas Braun) talking, or if this is a deeper insight into Tom’s stance on the situation — however, making matters worse, he suggests that Shiv killed her father, adding a shrugging “sort of” to soften the blow.
There’s no turning back from this, highlighting how any respect that Tom had previously had for his wife is completely gone. No longer will he hold himself accountable for any of his actions with Shiv; instead, he’s prepared to tear her apart, a sentiment that she retaliates with.
Now on a war path, Shiv comes clean about her pregnancy, a point that she knows would deeply hurt Tom. After the early talks of divorce began in the Season 2 finale, Tom spent Season 3 attempting to convince his wife to have a baby with him. Whilst there’s a strong argument that Tom genuinely wanted to be a dad, there’s an even stronger argument that he wanted a child purely to keep himself connected to the Roy family should their marriage fall through. It’s a dark side to his character, hidden under a layer of genuine desire for fatherhood.
Despite this troubled reasoning that Shiv is well aware of, she knows that it’s a devastating blow that would hurt Tom, a clear retaliation to his previous sentiment. After a marriage full of backstabbing and pain, the two are hellbent on hurting each other. If Tom’s view on Logan’s death was the first nail in the coffin of their marriage, Shiv’s baby reveal is definitely the second, with one final nail still to come.
Tom Has Completely Lost Trust in Shiv
After Shiv’s emotional baby reveal, Tom looks her over, asking “Is that even true?” Succession is a show that’s filled with brutal one-liners, but this one is probably its most heartbreaking. As Shiv stands in front of him on the verge of tears, the cold-blooded Wambsgans still refuses to believe anything that she is saying. After years of emotional manipulation, Shiv’s actions are finally catching up with her, and their marriage is now completely void of trust.
Not only that, but Tom ponders whether it could be a tactic for her; after all, that’s all their relationship ever was for the both of them. Hidden under a plastic layer of love, their marriage has been filled with tactics from both characters as they attempted to climb their way up the Waystar ladder.
As Shiv storms off, clearly distraught by Tom’s cocaine-induced bluntness, Tom’s face is filled with remorse. Unclear whether he’s hurt by Shiv’s reveal or if he regrets his actions in the argument, one can only assume that the gravity of the situation has sunk in for him, his dream of fatherhood coming to fruition but not in the way he’d hoped.
Could Shiv’s Pregnancy Save This Marriage?
In a world of happily ever afters, Shiv’s pregnancy would bring the couple back together — but Succession is anything but that, providing a more realistic depiction of how bad parenting can impact the kids involved, the Roy kids reflecting that. With Shiv and Tom’s marriage completely lacking any sympathy and trust, it would be unrealistic to believe that their baby would bring them together.
Given that Shi has never demonstrated any significant interest in motherhood and even seemed to use the reveal as a way to hurt her husband, it’s clear that their marriage is beyond repair, and not even a pregnancy could save that.
Despite this, the public image has always been a strong factor in any Roy relationship, so perhaps there is a world where the two remain married to present the image of a happy family, but it’s fair to say that on an intimate and romantic level, their marriage is irredeemable.
Ultimately, after years of manipulation, “America Decides” showcases a careless Tom, no longer interested in hearing Shiv’s apologies. Perhaps there was a version of this scenario in which a pregnancy reveal would have changed things for him, but after his brutal response, it’s doubtful that Shiv will ever forgive him. The Roy-Wambsgans marriage is beyond the point of repair.
New episodes of Succession Season 4 premiere every Sunday on HBO and HBO Max.