‘Succession’ Series Finale: And The Winner is…


An improvised hug between Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin in “Succession” (Courtesy of Max)

By Andre Montoya, Arts Writer


Major “Succession” spoilers ahead.

“Succession” is a critically-acclaimed drama created by Jesse Armstrong that premiered in 2018 on HBO. The series follows the Roy family as it poses the question of who will take control of media empire Waystar Royco from patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) upon his death.

It’s no secret that the series is inspired by real-world American media families like the Murdochs and that Waystar Royco’s news division, “ATN,” is a riff on FOX News. What makes the show work is the black humor and frankness the characters’ awful decisions are approached with.

The three main players are Logan’s children: Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Romulus “Roman” (Kieran Culkin) and Siobhan “Shiv” (Sarah Snook). Additionally, there is Shiv’s husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun), the Roy siblings’ cousin and Tom’s assistant.

(Courtesy of Max)

Logan is a force of nature who sculpted his children through a mixture of emotional and even physical abuse. Each child is expected to be fiercely competitive and do anything possible to be heir-apparent to the Waystar Royco throne, except the eldest, Connor (Alan Ruck).

Season 4 begins with the Roy siblings united after being pushed out of the company. Logan, behind their backs, prepares to sell Waystar Royco to enigmatic Swedish tech billionaire and GoJo CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård).

In the second episode, Logan tries to appeal to his children and explain his decision. However, their obstinance prompts him to tell them the truth, they are not “serious people.” This through-line follows the siblings on their arcs as they are forced to come up to the plate after being blindsided by the biggest shock of their lives.

Logan Roy is killed off in just the third episode, “Connor’s Wedding,” disrupting every scheme the characters had in place and leaving a massive shadow in his absence. The episode quickly became one of the highest-rated of any television series on IMDB and spiked in viewership at 2.5 million same-day viewers.

The Kids Who Couldn’t Be Kings

(Courtesy of Max)

After secretly helping Matsson’s takeover, Shiv learns that Logan never intended on making her CEO. In fact, he was only using her to put the pieces together for the GoJo merger. Matsson intended to make her husband Tom CEO instead.

In a desperate attempt to fend off the merger, the Roy siblings scheme up a majority board vote to reject it. However, the plan is foiled as Shiv breaks rank and votes in favor after she sees with open eyes how much of Logan’s terribleness Kendall inherited and the world comes crashing down on them.

Kendall explodes, revealing his true petulant nature when things don’t go as planned. He even attempts to recant the murder confession he revealed to his siblings in the prior season finale. It’s difficult to watch as he claws and clings desperately to the idea that he may be CEO, only to be left all alone after alienating his siblings, ex-wife and children.

Shiv retreats inward and instead realigns herself with Tom, who she had consistently mistreated, now finding herself at the bottom rung of the power dynamic. Her fatal flaw had always been her overconfidence, but perhaps by conceding defeat, she may achieve a hollow victory. It is revealed that Tom had gotten her pregnant and now that the two may be in a loveless marriage, so the cycle begun by Logan may continue.

Roman settles down and accepts his father’s words of wisdom when he tells Kendall the truth, saying, “It’s nothing, it’s just nothing. … We’re bullshit.” Roman helped install a fascist president who he thought might block the merger, had a public breakdown at Logan’s funeral and spurned his work squeeze and Waystar Royco legal counsel, Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron). The last scene is him alone in a bar drinking a martini, finally free of Logan’s expectations.

Connor was raised differently and instead tried his luck at running for president. This failed — as expected — even though he was interested in politics at a very young age. He instead takes Logan’s luxurious New York City penthouse and seems poised to live a happy life with his wife Willa Ferreyra (Justine Lupe).

Dark Horses, Dark Victories

In the finale, Greg makes one final play to warn the Roy siblings about Matsson’s double-cross in an effort to get in their good graces and escape Tom’s shadow should they emerge victorious. Cousin Greg was once a slacker, but after joining ATN under Tom’s tutelage he became a bumbling would-be corporate killer. However, like Icarus, Greg flies too close to the sun and his move backfires.

Nicholas Braun and Mathew Macfadyen in “Succession” (Courtesy of Max)

Tom is made CEO by Matsson despite this, and Tom chooses keep to Greg even after the betrayal — because you can’t make a “Tomlette” without breaking some “Greggs.”

Dramaturgically, it fits that Tom would take over since he, like Logan, and unlike the Roy siblings, was not born next to the finish line and had to race towards it. Yet he, as Shiv labels him, is just an “empty suit” for a Matsson to use in whatever way he sees fit. So, the ending asks the audience if a dark victory is ultimately still a victory.

The final shot of Tom and Shiv is of the two sitting side by side despondent. Tom lays his hand down between them and Shiv takes it. Though they do not intertwine their fingers. Logan Roy is seen in the afterlife looking up at his children and shaking his head.

While “Succession” may have done well with critics, as it has decent ratings, it was not a viewership juggernaut like other recent HBO originals like “House of the Dragon” or “The Last of Us.” Perhaps word of mouth will bolster its reach in a similar way “Breaking Bad” did after it was placed on Netflix.

“Succession’s” ending coincided with the conclusion of another critically lauded HBO original, “Barry,” and the rebranding of HBO Max to just “Max.”  In a meta-sense, it’s a little funny that the story of a struggling media empire that hitches its wagon to a newer model is similar to how Warner Bros has hitched itself to Discovery. The writing on “Succession” was always sharpest when it mirrored reality.


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