The ‘Succession’ Finale Takes The Roys Back To The Beginning
After 4 Seasons of cutthroat corporate family drama of Shakespearean proportions, Succession saw all four siblings reach their final destinations last night in a series of harrowing full circle moments. Naturally, it was unforgettable television.
— Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the finale of Succession. —
Succession was a show about many things: the horrors of late capitalism, the meagre morality of the out-of-touch wealthy, sibling rivalry, and corporate espionage. But series creator Jesse Armstrong always portrayed all of these themes as part of an inescapable intergenerational cycle, a one-track relay sport in which, to quote Fiona Apple, “the one whose burned turns to pass the torch.”
The Roys are bereft of morality because their father raised them to rule a system that allows for little else. Over 4 Seasons, there are glimmers of hope. Moments of unity and protest among the siblings, but these moments merely magnify the tragedy of their inexorable fates. Turns out, it was all determined by a cycle set in motion long ago. Now, in a sublimely tragic ending, the Roys’ fates are crystalised with the sobering realisation that this was always the end, right from the start.
Kendall Roy: Falling At The Finish Line
When we first meet Kendall (Jeremy Strong) in the pilot, he’s a cocky, anxious wreck, believing he has CEO in the bag until he botches the acquisition of publication Vaulter. Despite bagging the deal at the episode’s end, his walking away from the table is enough for Logan to pull the CEO-ship out from under Kendall — despite him already been announced. Logan just doesn’t see Kendall as the true heir.
Substitute Vaulter for Gojo and Logan for Shiv and you have the climactic final sequence of the finale. Kendall walks into his last chapter, as he did his first, believing he will finally be rewarded with what he is owed — only for his own family to take it from him. Shiv cast her vote, the last vote he needed to keep Waystar and be CEO, against Kendall because she, just like Logan, “changed her mind”.
Not to mention, the idea for acquiring Gojo was originally Kendall’s back in Season 2. Once again, he is ousted on a family member’s whim, over a deal that was his idea in the first place. Only this time, there is no next time. No hope for another chance when Logan dies. Logan is dead and Waystar is gone. His destiny is the same as the beginning. Only this time, it is real.
Tom Wambsgans and Shiv Roy: Becoming Her Mother
The sibling who chooses the most disheartening fate is Shiv (Sarah Snook). Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) being anointed Waystar CEO sees Shiv end the series as the one figure she truly hated: her mother.
As the only daughter, Shiv’s always been in a different lane of the succession race to her brothers’. Logan’s misogyny and the patriarchal playground he built never had space for Shiv, despite Shiv being the most like her father. Unlike Kendall and Roman, who both lacked their father’s ruthlessness and ambition, Shiv had all the makings of her father’s ideal successor except for the fact she is a woman.
And so, with the only slice of power she was ever granted, she deprives Ken and Roman of being their father’s sons. Because if she cannot be successor, no Roy can. She resigns herself to the gendered fate of her mother; a CEO’s wife in a loveless marriage, doomed to have children she doesn’t even want.
Our final shot of Shiv, beside Tom in the back of the car, mirrors one of the earliest sequences of the pair from the pilot episode on the way to Logan’s birthday. But there’s nothing between them now: no lies, pretence, excitement, or even fondness. Their true colours revealed, they are exactly where they started too. Tom, grovelling at the feet of a puppet master and Shiv bound to an undeserving empty suit she does not love. But this is not a strategy, there’s no more plan. This is their endgame.
Connor Roy: An Embarrassment of Riches
The eldest Roy’s end is laced with tragic irony. While many fans have praised Connor (Alan Ruck) and his favourite escort-turned-wife Willa (Justine Lupe) as the show’s most successful relationship (hardly a brag), Connor ends the series as he began: alone in bought company.
Now moved into his father’s house, surrounded by his father’s most prized possessions, Connor has an embarrassment of riches, and no one real who wishes to share it with him. His final chapter closes in the manner of his first ever scene: in his father’s house with a woman bought and paid for on his arm.
Roman Roy: Freedom In Exile
In Roman Roy’s (Kieran Culkin) first ever scene, he strolls into his brother’s office and boldly proclaims with his arms spread wide, “Look at all this fucking bullshit!”. Similarly, his final lines of dialogue console Kendall on their sister’s inevitable betrayal, reiterating defeatedly, “We are bullshit.” Only this time, it’s not a quip or a bit, it’s the reality laid bare.
In the first episode of Succession, Roman is out, clawing to get back in, even while claiming Waystar was a cage. Over 3 Seasons, it becomes abundantly clear that Roman does not truly hold any ambitions to be CEO, but ambitions to please his father, and trapped in the thankless violent cycle of failing to do so.
As desperately as he sought his father’s approval and sibling’s togetherness, the finale sees him forgo both for freedom from the cage. With his siblings splintered forever, his relationship with Gerri ruined and no friends outside of Waystar, it’s a lonely exile — not unlike the one he was in at the beginning. But this time it’s chosen, and perhaps even welcomed, as we leave him smiling into a martini glass.
Succession has always been a tragedy, and, like any great tragedy, each character was doomed from the beginning. There is no saving these characters from the only the story they could tell. There is only appreciating that they tried to tell us from the very start.
One of my favourite lines in all the show is said by Marcia Roy (Hiam Abbass). She says to Shiv on the eve of her wedding, “He made you a playground, and you think it’s a whole world”. Over and over the siblings question their reality, asking if the events of the series are real or just part of their father’s game. So, at its end, it’s perfectly fitting that with their father dead, the world is no longer their playground, and so they’re no longer playing the game. Despite ending in similar places to how they began, the difference between the end and the start is that the siblings no longer need to ask if this is real because this is the world they made, and the game is over.