Trailer "Descendants" Season 4 Episode 10 - Final Episode (HBO)
Column Chapter 4.01 | Episode 4.02 | Episode 4.03 | Episode 4.04 | Episode 4.05 | Episode 4.06 | Episode 4.07 | Episode 4.08 | Episode 4.09
Note, spoilers for the latest episode of
the early days of Descendants, comparisons have been drawn to King Lear, the classic tragedy of William Shakespeare. Many viewers tried to figure out from the play who would inherit the throne, which of the Roy children was Cordelia, the beloved but dispossessed youngest daughter, in an attempt to guess what her final chord would be. But with the final episode, it turns out that Descendants never intended to create the naïve and kind-hearted Cordelia. In the world of the series there is no purity or justice and certainly not selflessness, it does not believe in ideals.
That is why the really important character from "Lear" was constantly hiding in her right in front of her eyes. Edmund, the illegitimate son of the nobleman of Gloucester, whose ambition to establish himself at the top at all costs leads him to the top. Like Edmund, Tom is an outsider caught up in a situation where treachery is the ladder to the power he has always dreamed of. In the show's official podcast, Jeremy Strong quoted Carl Jung: "Where love is missing, power fills the vacuum." This is the consolation prize for those who have not been able to achieve love.
The ninth episode was surprising to suggest that Kendall had finally stepped into Logan's shoes, not only in body language but also in deeds. He establishes facts that become reality, moves people at will, decides fates. The opening of the last chapter reminds us that it never really was. The attempt to harness Hugo to build a media narrative about a stalled deal with a hesitant board fails. His minority coalition is shaky and crumbling, with a stoic threatening to defect and an affair disappearing after the nightly street brawl.
On the other hand, Shiv controls such a solid majority for Matheson that even if the swingers fall on Kendall's side, it won't matter. Still, the feeling at the Swede's headquarters is that of a crippled spirit. At their meeting at the church, Shiv persuaded Matheson to appoint her CEO in part because "everyone thinks I'm your puppet anyway." But Wistar's popular tabloids show the exact opposite. In the cartoon it is Shiv who pulls the Swede's strings, provoking all paranoia from a character that will overshadow him. The article even said that he liked her sense of control over him, which is true but in a completely different context, as will become clear later.
This is Shiv's who-knows-how chance to finally make a small gesture that won't cost her anything, and to keep Tom in front of the undecided Matheson, and as in all previous times she chooses ambivalence. "He has excellent abilities... He's a good businessman... But it can also be easily replaced," she advises. The conversation that follows immediately afterwards with Tom is almost a copy of the conversation the two had in the final episode of season three. Tom desperately tries to figure out what will happen to him, and Shiv dismisses him evasively, leaving him floating in the air. There was also a moment in that conversation when Tom realized that even if he wanted it with all his heart, there was nothing about him being loyal to him, interested in him because of who he was. This time it's happening when she hints that maybe they shouldn't break up, because it's very convenient for her busy schedule as CEO of a giant company, not to mention the visibility.
"You fell in love with our schedule opportunities," Tom replies with a heart-wrenching reply, "You don't like to fail a test, do you, Siobhan?", No other character can analyze Shiv as sharply as he did, he always knew how to penetrate her defenses, even when she told herself they worked. It's not the relationship or the other side of it that interests Shiv, but the fact that someone might infer something negative about it. Even if the failure is in an area where she never really wanted to succeed. This is also why she ends the scene in tears.
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Finally came for his reward. The latest episode of Descendants (Photo: HBO)
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Beyond Tom and Shiv, the show's most important relationship was that of Tom and Greg, even (not to mention mostly) when it served as a comic break. "Will he leave you? The highest-paid assistant ever?" wonders Tom with characteristic cruelty, "Your salary will be cut, and if I get fired, I think you'll get screwed." When asked to sell himself to Matheson, Tom does so in a way that best suits his counterpart's grandeur craze. "I just, I follow the boss, circle strategy and implement... I give the customer what he wants." It's such a scene so typical of "Descendants" in the discomfort it provokes. Matheson confesses to Tom the cool functionality Shiv has served as for him: political strategy and passion. By the time the first part is resolved, the second is already weighing on him. He doesn't need it for ambition or ideas. And in the face of this confession about who his lover was, Tom had to keep ingratiating himself with a potential boss, and this time he finally got paid.
Like Kendall with Hugo in the previous episode, Matheson is quick to make it clear that he is not looking for a partnership. He needs someone to do the ugly work and stay in his shadow. The man who cuts, fires, replaces and appeases those who are needed. Of course, it's also a near-perfect reproduction of the previous season's Slave Rebellion ("Only this time it's with a sexier version," as Matheson puts it), and once again it's the only choice left for Tom. The other part of it, Greg, is much less good at these give-and-take matters. Tom's golden advice about "information that you keep, hoard, and then at the right moment smash someone's head with it" doesn't resonate with him. Throughout this season, he has repeatedly been the source of valuable intelligence for various characters. He tried to buy Shiv's silence in exchange for a promise of a position with her, he gave Kendall the information about her partnership with Matheson and now his intention to betray her and appoint another CEO as her replacement. But his gold was sold for free, in exchange for empty promises of "something wonderful."
In Kendall's hands, this information becomes a makeover again. Kendall is the Sisyphus of Descendants, repeatedly rolling the heavy rock to the top of the mountain only to see it fall back. And yet, he can't stop. He convinces Shiv first that there is no other option but him, and she helps get Roman through the Rubicon. Some of the most beautiful moments of Descendants were when the Roy children were together, and just before the final breakup she gives us one last grace. As they prepare together a shocking combination of a "king's meal," including eggshells and saliva. It's such a wonderful performance by its trio of big stars that there seems to be no original praise left to sprinkle on them. For a moment, she instills that elusive feeling that maybe they can get along after all, win together. She follows right after her in one of the most beautiful scenes in the history of the series, the family dinner video that plays in Logan's dining room.
This is such a rare moment in the history of "Descendants". A family gathering devoid of animosity and intrigue with a chain of fives. Logan recites by heart the list of candidates who lost the U.S. presidency with graceful hamshir. Jerry with a lewd hamshir about a horny heiress, and Connor with a Logan-style "I'm a Little Teapot." The climax comes with Carl singing "Green Grow the Rashes," a traditional Scottish hymn sung at holidays and family gatherings. He describes two kinds of people: the gloomy and the cheerful. The former are engaged in the obsessive pursuit of money, and the latter are busy in pursuit of the pleasures of life. The stark contrast of the message to the series creates a wonderful moment here.
It's the last gathering of all the stars of the series together, even if some are in the past (on tape) and others are staringOh, and everyone is reacting so wonderfully to this moment. Logan with longing in his eyes, sensitive as we've never seen before. And his children on the other side break down in tears when they remember this rare side of him, the warm rays of light that Shiv spoke of at the funeral. It's as close to the sentimentality Descendants allows itself, and how beautiful it is when sentiment comes in a gourmet dish and isn't shoved down your throat.
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Wonderful contrast. The latest episode of Descendants (Photo: HBO)
"Descendants" is a series about deceit and falsehoods, so naturally she marveled at fooling her viewers time and time again, leading them down one path only to reveal that she was coming to a completely different place. Nevertheless, a thick hint of its finale was hidden in the names of the finales of its various seasons. Each of them: "No one is missing" (season 1); "It's Not for Tears" (season 2); "All the Bells Say" (season 3) and "With Eyes Open" (season 4) is a quote from John Berryman's Dream Song 29, one of the giants of American poetry. It's a collection of poems that won Berryman a Pulitzer, and this particular poem tells the tragic story of a haunted and depressed man named Henry, who has an enormous weight on his heart. He thinks he committed a murder and desperately tries to awaken his memory and see if any of those close to him are missing. Each time he comes to the conclusion that he imagined the murder, and each time the cycle begins again.
It's a testament to the meticulous planning of "Descendants" and Armstrong's clarity about the final destination he seeks to reach with his heroes. In "Nobody Is Missing," the episode in which Kendall travels with an unfortunate waiter who dies in an accident, Logan whispers to his crumbling son in his arms, "That never happened." But Kendall once knew, and this scarring trauma reshaped his character until the third season finale, when he shared it with Shiv and Roman. This final round of trying to become Logan makes him believe that lie. A moment earlier, he delivers another heartbreaking moment with Roman shaky in his arms (just as he was then in Logan's arms), who wonders "why isn't that me" as he tears the stitches from his forehead against his suit. Like his father, Kendall provides him with the easy lie to believe: "It could have been you," he tells him, even though they both know nothing could be further from the truth.
This momentary walk in Logan's shoes causes Kendall to lose himself. With his feet on his father's desk, he detailed all of Shiv and Roman's weaknesses for whom his queen is like a bone in his throat. When Shiv abandons just before passing him the final hurdle on the board, he reveals his entire essence. "I'm a screw that only fits one machine... If I don't get to do it... Maybe I'll die." But Shiv can't bear that feeling, the truth she's always known, "You just don't fit." Kendall's rampage and denial of the murder prove her right. At this moment, Roman also realizes that the story is finished. Kendall can't get on the throne.
Roman is enough to twist the knife even deeper. "Dad didn't think your genetic continuation was real," he says cruelly about Kendall's children. "One bought his place (adoptive Sophie) and the other (Iverson) is half Rava, half filing man," alluding to Kendall's absence to the point of doubt that he was his son's father. But the more important truth about the kids was told much earlier this season, at the end of the second episode. "I love you, but you're not serious people," Logan told them. Now Roman repeats things, finally believing in them himself: "We are. You're, I'm, she's. I'm telling you this because I know."
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Know he's. The latest episode of Descendants (Photo: HBO)
In King Lear, Edmund finds his death near the end in a duel, as a moral for his treachery. In Descendants, Tom's treachery is the punishment for the arrogance and blindness of Shiv and her two brothers, as well as the circle around them, which has always seen him as an opportunistic outsider. They could have bought him through any minor and meaningless role, certainly after they already knew he could go against them. Once again, he was dismissed as an "empty suit," and now he gets to lead their empire. Wistar-Royko was founded by a Scot who hated the United States and enjoyed tearing it apart for his own good. Now it is in the hands of a Swede who hates the United States, and his right-hand man who will not hesitate to tear it apart with a slight sign from his boss. But Tom appreciates quality subversion, and Greg is pardoned by him. He sticks one of Connor's stickers on it, claiming it for himself as property. It's likely that, like Hugo Lendall and Tom Lameson, Greg will continue to be a reluctant assistant, but unlike Roy's children, Tom at least wants him. In the cold world of "heirs" this is no small matter.
It's hard not to wonder what will happen to Kendall. Ostensibly, the "loss" of him, Shiv and Roman will make them much richer than they were. But for him, the struggle was what kept him from deteriorating into depression and addiction, and possibly suicide. As he sits on the banks of the Hudson, with a worried Colin watching nearby, the feeling is that the water that has always pulled him dangerously is calling to him again, this time for good. Without his father, without his family, without his brother and sister, even without Jess, it's hard to see what keeps him up in the morning. Roman, on the other hand, looks like someone with a big stone lifted from his heart. Perhaps this was what he needed to free himself from his family's trauma. And finally Shiv gets the ending she deserves. Standing in the shadow of the man who wanted her love and failed, she places her hand on his hand in submission. And now he is officially the strong side in the relationship. She had probably never been more in love with him.
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The proper ending. The latest episode of "Descendants" (Photo: screenshot, HBO)
There are so many reasons why Descendants is one of the best shows seen on our screens in the last two decades, some would argue the best ever. The brilliant disharmonic soundtrack, the seemingly casual cinematography that is actually engineered to perfection, and of course, the writing. "Descendants" is not a series about human beauty or business, it is not a series about wealth, it is not even a series about inheritance. It has business jargon (which is, in the words of Jesse Armstrong, "most of the time not"), its heroes are privileged and their excessive wealth affects them greatly, and it certainly has a succession struggle, but its essence is a sober interpretation of human nature. "Descendants" doesn't think most of us are inherently bad. She does argue that to be human is to be the sum total of our traumas, childhood landscape and breeding ground, and that in choosing between victory and justice we usually choose the latter, because power is stronger than ideals. In fact, he is able to distort them to fit him. This attitude has been repeated over and over again with almost every character in the series, including with innocence and merit like Greg. Their ideal of themselves has always lost to the potential of what they could be.
This is where the duality of "heirs" comes in. On the one hand a heavy relationship drama, loaded with dialogue and business jargon, Shakespearean in the size and complexity of its relationships, and on the other hand sharp and witty like very few successful comedies. It's not just the wonderful writing of the dialogue, but the writers' ability to make the absurd naturally funny. There is no slapstick here, no one slips on a banana or suddenly loses their pants. The comedic nature of "Descendants" comes from the flaws of its characters, whether it's by third parties noticing or pointing them out, or the characters' lack of awareness of the situation they're in. In its heyday, "Veep" was considered the comedy with the most jokes per minute. "Descendants" failed to break that record, but its ability to shoot wonderful punch after wonderful punch at a dizzying pace is the softening of its heroes. Thanks to this humor, they seem less cruel, less dark, and as a result, the series manages to balance its inherent heaviness.
The path of "Descendants" was not perfect. It took at least half of the first season to reset in a clear direction, at least half of its third season was a long and often futile shuffle. But on the other hand, she managed to create a huge gallery of characters, each distinct and relevant in its own right. "You can't make a Tom omlette without breaking a few grains," Tom wrote to Greg with characteristic genius in an email revealed at a congressional hearing (it sounds so much better in English), and Descendants really needed each and every one of its parts, large and small, to produce its king's meal. And when it came time to shine, it's hard to come up with another series that managed to set a season finale where the bottom bar for each episode was excellent. You can combine the last two wonderful episodes of season three, and in doing so "Descendants" has built a sequence of 12 episodes, each of which is a luxurious, brilliant, beautiful and tragic television. A real wonder.
It is impossible to create such television without a collection of amazing actors. But here, too, "Descendants" went for a model contrary to most prestige dramas. She created a boutique casting process, devoid of any thought about who the "right" names were or who would bring her a buzz. She pulled Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin out of careers bordering on obscurity, she chose Matthew Macfadyen and Brian Cox precisely because of their history in the theater (Cox not only played King Lear in several stage versions, but also wrote a book about this experience), she believed in Jeremy Strong, even though until then he was mostly "that one." She has built a cohesion that is far greater than the sum of its parts, and that each brings to the table abilities and character that complement the others. Hence, it was the talent that enlarged the text on the page, the improvisations and reactions, the deep understanding of the characters each of them embodied. Together they transformed a work about flaws and weaknesses, disharmony, into an extraordinary human harmony. Alongside every professional award they deserve, this gang has turned the absurd into the empathetic, the cruel into a sympathetic one, and for that alone it deserves eternal glory.
All "Descendants" episodes are available on BIS, Hot and Cellcom TV.
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