WARNING: The article will include spoilers for some of Succession’s episodes and the series finale, “With Eyes Open.”
I’ve spent the last week or so “pre-grieving” the end of (HBO) Max and the internet’s favourite show, Succession. Since the series is finally over, I cannot believe we will never be able to watch a show as brilliantly written as Jesse Armstrong’s comedy-drama series surrounding the Roy family. The best way to describe the show is that it is a family drama where the head of the biggest media conglomerate and the family patriarch, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), prepare for the future — who will be the next successor of his business? His four children, Connor Roy (Alan Ruck), Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), Roman Roy (Keiran Culkin), and Siobhan “Shiv” Roy (Sarah Snook) have various connections to Waystar Royco, and they all want a piece of the cake.
I started watching this show a couple of years ago when the pandemic hit after a friend recommended it to me. Succession is brutal, in every possible way. It’s about a family that has deep, generational trauma and the many ways in which the characters are incapable of changing the nature of their trauma and abuse. The show has always been poetically tragic; with equal amounts of shock and betrayal and murder that brings a whole new level of drama and tension. It’s sad and upsetting for me to admit that Sundays (well, Monday mornings for me) are never going to be the same. Not only did we see the series finale of Succession, but we also saw the final season of Hill Hader and Alec Berg’s Barry.
Throughout the last three seasons, Armstrong has strongly reminded us that no matter who ends up fighting over the throne of Waystar Royco, it would be difficult to see the end of Logan Roy. The idea of the end of Logan’s reign has been introduced since the very first episode of the series. Kendall, his second eldest son, was trained and destined to be the successor from the age of 7. He was clear and confident that he would make it to the big throne. But when Logan collapses from a stroke, the Roy children discuss the ultimate question: who should be in charge of the company? It’s the question that haunts Kendall, Roman and Shiv until the very end of the series. Everyone has a place in the company but the destination that every dreams of is being at the top.
Social Etiquette on Spoiler Warnings
The game of deception and betrayal is a game that is ever present in the show. Several moments of characters backstabbing each other have taken over the internet. Cultural and social commentary on Twitter is something that everyone looks forward to on a Sunday night. This is not new, but it will perhaps be the last of (HBO) Max’s “appointment shows,” where the internet comes together to share their reactions to the episodes. The internet implodes every Sunday with people defending their favourite characters and what they disliked about them. Social media has been a huge part of the show’s success. It’s a cultural phenomenon that has people spoiling one of the major plot twists in the final season.
In “Connor’s Wedding,” Logan collapses on board the plane and dies. This reveal was shocking, and the internet’s reaction to it was even bigger. Right after the show ended, Vulture shared a tweet and the Los Angeles Times published a fake obituary about Logan Roy’s death. While the internet and fandom are the best parts of watching the show together, it can also be the greatest minefield. Everyone was trampling over themselves to not spoil Logan’s death. This debate of spoiler warnings and culture has been discussed thoroughly on Twitter. Some users say that it isn’t their responsibility to see whether everyone else has watched the latest episode, while the rest believe that people who tune into the show as it airs have a responsibility to warn of spoilers.
While I strongly believe staying off the internet for spoilers is the best route to take, I, too, have unfortunately gotten spoiled over Logan’s death and Shiv’s pregnancy in “Honeymoon States.” I woke up that morning and forgot that it was Succession Monday and when I saw the fake obituaries, I was upset. I wanted to be surprised just as everyone else was but that was taken from me. Regardless, I watched the episode and everything was different. The rush of the episode completely shocked me. I knew that it was going to happen, which it did, but the writing and the pacing completely knocked me over. I felt numb. It was difficult for me to process Logan’s death, just like the Roy kids did in that episode. It wasn’t because the eventual death of Logan finally happened, but the entire episode was a daze to me.
What would have been a great moment for me, and I’m sure for other viewers too, was ruined. The social etiquette of spoiler warnings, even at my best efforts to stay off Twitter, has come to the point where it’s just unavoidable these days. I believe that there should be a respectable amount of time for people to discuss spoilers on the internet. Not everyone lives in the same timezone and we all have responsibilities in the outside world that comes first. But after Vulture and the Los Angeles Times article spoiled Logan’s death, the internet was upset about it, and rightfully so.
“A Meal Fit For A King”
The tragic story of the Roy family concluded with a bloodbath. After the absence of Logan, it was time to decide on the successor of Waystar Royco. The final season takes place in 10 days or so, and everyone rushes to go ahead with the GoJo deal, the funeral, and the process to mourn the death of Logan. Kendall, Roman and Shiv team up to destroy the deal. But Shiv, as always, finds ways to have a backup plan because she gets left out of all of the decisions that her siblings make regarding the company. She tries to convince Lukas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård) to make her the American CEO so that she can finally secure the future for herself and her unborn child with Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen).
However, things start to fall apart. The series finale ends with the shocking revelation that the golden son never gets to sit on the throne — yes, I am talking about Kendall Roy. This has been his destiny since he was a little boy. Kendall, on more than one occasion, has tried to oust his dad from the company and tragically failed. In season one, he kills a waiter at Shiv’s wedding and returns to his father. Kendall tries to pull away from Logan’s power over him, ultimately, even for a short time, succeeding and trying to go out on his own. He never wins and yet, the internet roots for him. Even in his smallest wins; even when he has that sparkle in his eyes that indicates he is going to lose his mind and come up with something incredibly genius or ridiculous.
Ultimately, he loses everything. Kendall’s selfish drive to earn a seat at the top of the company also results in the ultimate betrayal from Shiv. She finally sees him for who he is; a murderer. “You can’t be CEO. Because you’ve killed someone.” The death of the waiter was always going to come back and haunt him, but Shiv uses this against him. Kendall has always had one purpose: to be the CEO of his father’s company. When that opportunity gets taken away from him, he knows that he has no purpose in life. Fans have speculated that he will die at the end of the season but the fate of Succession was always going to be cruel and more brutal than what anyone expected.
“The Poison Drips Through”
The loss of Kendall’s connection to his children and ex-wife shows how deep generational trauma runs through in the Roy family. His promise to protect his daughter from racist attacks by the new president-elect’s supporters leads to a disappointing conclusion. His decision ends with the devastating line that connects himself to his father’s distaste towards his children. Kendall casts his family aside to secure a future for his family but it amounts to nothing when he realises that he treats his children exactly the way Logan has treated them.
Kendall isn’t the only child of Logan who goes through major trauma in the four seasons. Roman, who has never been taken seriously by his father, was abused physically and mentally by his father. Even when he tries to make business decisions by himself, his father shuts him down. When Logan died, a part of Roman died too. Unable to mourn the death of his father and not being able to receive love from him leads Roman into a spiral. He breaks down at the funeral when he hears Uncle Ewan’s (James Cromwell) eulogy about his father’s life. Kendall takes over the eulogy and announces to the world that Roman is nothing like his father. Kendall’s words ring true in the exact manner that Logan repeats to his son to make him feel worthless.
In “With Eyes Open,” Roman is defeated. After he gets attacked by the new president-elect, Jeryd Mencken’s (Justin Kirk) mob, he wears a wound on his forehead. Every version of him trying to remake his image to be a different version of his father — to make his father proud and receive validation, even in death — leads to nothing. That version of him is dead. He believes that he deserves far worse than the stitched-up wound. It becomes obvious that Roman doesn’t want to be anywhere near his father’s company. He wants to be free. Even when Kendall’s hug represents the complicated love between them, Roman is dead.
The Fate of the Daughter
Lastly, Shiv’s arc is one of the most interesting that has been written in television history. From the beginning, she wanted nothing to do with her father’s company. She was never trained under her father’s wings and knows nothing about the business. But when Logan allows her to become the CEO — the next successor — she jumps at that opportunity. Like the rest of her siblings, she isn’t perfect. She has made some morally questionable decisions.
As Succession progresses through to the final season, it’s clear that Shiv was never meant to be the successor. She schemes and loses, and does it all over again. She betrays her brothers and tries to get a deal with Lukas but nothing comes of it. When Shiv gets pregnant in the last season, her fate is doomed. Not because of the pregnancy but because she ends up exactly like her mother. It’s an unsettling realisation that her efforts to be someone — to stand apart from her father and brother’s success are doomed.
When Tom is named the CEO, she ends up in an unhappy marriage with a powerful CEO, is pregnant and will most probably resent the child when it grows up. Shiv’s fate is directly tied to her mother. She reaps the consequences of her decisions. She chooses marriage instead of being able to cope with the idea of Kendall being at the top of the world. That’s why she chooses to side with Mattson’s deal and betrays Kendall for the last time.
Her ending isn’t anti-feminist because she chose to leave with Tom. I’ve never portrayed Shiv to be someone who rooted for women. Because she has made questionably immoral decisions, such as putting her opinions aside to work with Mencken. Also, ignoring her child after it’s born to focus all on the company. She is her mother. The poison drips through to the next generation of the family never ending the cyclical root of generational trauma.
Everything Comes Full Circle Again
In the end, everyone dies. None of the Roy children succeeded to the throne. But Succession at its core has never really been about who will succeed Logan. It has always been about a family whose egos destroy their relationships. The years of abuse and trauma from their father lead them to betray each other. It ruined their relationship for good. No amount of love and affection can mend their trauma. The Roy siblings were always going to end up hating and destroying each other.
From Kendall ousting his dad in the first episode of the series to his eventual ruin, walking in the park like a zombie with his father’s bodyguard a few steps behind him as he realises that everything is over for him. Roman sitting in a bar alone drinking a martini realising that he is free from his father’s expectations. Shiv is doomed to end with the same fate as her mother. The Roy siblings are powerless, despite their wealth and money that protects them.
I sat there and wondered, what is going to happen to the Roy siblings. Will Kendall jump into the ocean and drown himself? Will he reach the level of success of his father by creating his own company? What will happen to Roman? How will Shiv deal with the pregnancy and her husband’s win? Will the Roy siblings ever talk to each other?
What happens after the series finale of Succession will only be left for speculation. Grief, love, and trauma are vessels that haunt them. Even worse, losing Logan’s company to Mattson is their last connection to their father’s love. Kendall, Roman and Shiv love their father, regardless of what horrible things he has done to them. The company was their only power and hoped to hold onto their father’s memories. I don’t think it matters how long it takes but I will be pre-grieving the end of Succession for many years to come.