‘Succession’ Team Debated Splitting Final Season Into Two Parts With Up to 16 Episodes, but That Wasn’t the ‘Muscular Way to Go Out’

In the introduction for the upcoming book “Succession: Season Four: The Complete Scripts” (via Vulture), series creator Jesse Armstrong reveals a debate occurred on how to end the Emmy-winning HBO drama. The team could write one final season consisting of 10 episodes (the show’s first two seasons had that episode count, while Season 3 consisted of nine episodes), or follow in the footsteps of “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” by having an increased episode count and splitting up the final season into two parts. The latter plan would’ve included six to eight episodes in each part, bringing the final seasons up to 12 to 16 episodes.

“My sense was that we should do one last full-fat season rather than stretch it out,” Armstrong writes. “But I was wary of saying good-bye too fast to all the relationships and opportunities, of leaving creative money on the table, regretting all the subplots that would go unwritten, the jokes left untold.”

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Armstrong called together a “little committee on whether to whack the show” in order to pick what plan the show should do. Some staffers said the series should just have two entirely new seasons, ending after a fifth.

Executive producer and writer Lucy Prebble made the most convincing argument: “We could, if we wanted, keep going with a show that became increasingly rangy and fun — a climbing plant grown leggy but still throwing off beautiful blooms now and then. But the 10-episode season was the muscular way to go out.”

From then on, a 10-episode final season was the plan. As Armstrong writes, “No other way of going forward felt persuasive.” The show aired its series finale to critical acclaim on May 28.

Cast member Kieran Culkin told Variety that many of the show’s cast members did not know Season 4 would be its last when production started.

“Jesse told me before the season started that he thinks this is the end, but he doesn’t know. I’d actually stopped asking what was coming later,” he said. “I liked not knowing! And then this year, he mentioned that it might be the end before we started shooting, so I started asking him questions. He told me what happens with Logan, and I asked him to break down everything. And he explained the entire season to me. And then when he got to the end, I said, ‘Well, that seems like that’s the end of the show.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? Although…’ And then he just started talking about all these different ideas off the top of his head.”

“Succession Season Four: The Complete Scripts” will be released on Sept. 26. Script books for the show’s first three seasons are now available for purchase.

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