With few exceptions, the hit HBO series “Succession” has followed the “Seinfeld” model of “no hugging, no learning,” as the ultra-privileged Roy siblings seek to replace their late father, Logan (Brian Cox), at the top of the Waystar Royco media empire.
For some reason — despite their narcissism, recklessness and stunning lack of personal growth — we really care about what happens to them and their lackeys anyway. Who will emerge victorious? And at what personal cost?
Now, with the 90-minute series finale set to air on Sunday, we seem poised to receive some kind of answer, as the long corporate death match winds to an end. But before it does, the show still has plenty of questions to answer.
Can even a supersized conclusion cover them all? Here are several we would like to see addressed.
What will America decide?
In hopes of helping secure their own leadership positions, Kendall and Roman Roy (Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin) directed Waystar’s right-wing news network ATN to call victory for the far-right presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), who indicated he would squash the GoJo deal. But those burned ballots in Milwaukee mean the election is still contested, and the Democratic candidate, Daniel Jiménez (Elliot Villar), still has a shot at the White House. How long will the count drag on? Will we see a resolution?
Whatever the outcome, the top Waystar brass are vulnerable. If the Roys’ motivations for calling the election for Mencken come to light, ATN may not survive. (Then again, real-world parallels suggest it might.) Perhaps no one is so vulnerable as Tom, who as the head of ATN may once again be at risk of becoming the sacrificial lamb, a fate he barely escaped during the company’s cruise line scandal.
The finale may need a significant time jump to wrap all of this up. As for the lasting damage of the assault on American democracy? That may be a tough one for any single TV episode to parse.
What will the board decide?
Logan once said that life was a “fight for a knife in the mud.” If his children want to control whatever company emerges from the Waystar-GoJo negotiations — wresting it back from the tech mogul Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard) — they need to escalate their efforts, fast (and bring a gun to that knife fight).
None of the Roy siblings have secure positions or strong advocates. Kendall thought backing Mencken would ensure his later help in stopping the GoJo sale, which would help the Roy children keep the company. But Mencken seems poised to disregard that promise. Nor does Mencken seem to respect either of the co-C.E. Bros: Roman lost whatever currency he had after his meltdown at Logan’s funeral. (Mencken calls him the “Grim Weeper.”) Kendall lost his with his obsequious approach to negotiation.
As things now stand, Mencken is considering approving GoJo’s acquisition of Waystar if an American chief executive is attached, and neither of the brothers would make Matsson’s shortlist. Their sister, Shiv (Sarah Snook), thinks she is in line, but Matsson hasn’t agreed to that. If all Matsson wants is a useful pawn, he might be looking at Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), who is dedicated to the work and flexible in his loyalties, or Greg (Nicholas Braun), who will be easy to manipulate.
However the deal shakes out, there’s no guarantee Matsson and the board want a member of the Roy family at all. They have plenty of reason not to. Given all the familial infighting and rash decision-making, the board could decide to install someone with real experience — maybe Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) or Stewy (Arian Moayed).
Are Shiv and Tom salvageable?
Put another way, is the Shivorce off? Put still another way, can Shiv ever have it all — a high-powered career and a functional family? Whatever she does, she might have to pick some goals and commit. She is so busy flip-flopping on her various positions that it’s hard to know where she really stands.
For example, is Shiv really so repulsed by Mencken? Or do her values lean left only when they don’t interfere with her personal gain? Does Shiv want the GoJo deal only if it allows her to become chief executive, or will she support it under other leadership? Shiv assures Matsson that her impending motherhood is a nonissue — the way she describes it, she might as well put the kid up for adoption. But does she really want to follow in the footsteps of her neglectful, abusive father?
Shiv needs to make these decisions — about the person and the parent she wants to be — before she can consider reconciliation with her estranged husband, Tom; otherwise their relationship will be doomed by its toxic dynamics, however the corporate and political gamesmanship plays out.
Will Kendall’s past run him over?
In each season finale so far, Kendall has had to come to terms, on some level, with the drowning death of a waiter he helped cause at his sister’s wedding. The news of his involvement has yet to become public; if or when it does, it will be a doozy, though at this point “when” seems more likely than “if.”
His siblings know the truth; he confessed to them at the end of Season 3. Cousin Greg is also privy to a few details since it was he who connected Kendall with the waiter. And Marcia (Hiam Abbas) and her son, Amir (Darius Homayoun), who were present during the aftermath of the accident, are a threat to Kendall’s alibi.
And then there is Logan’s former bodyguard Colin (Scott Nicholson), who helped cover it up. This might be why Kendall was so concerned in Episode 9 to learn that Colin was in therapy — and felt the need to let him know that he knew. We haven’t heard much lately about the podcast investigating the curse of the Roy family, but we should remember that whatever confidentiality agreements might be in place, secrets have a way of leaking.
Cousin Greg, a.k.a. the younger Disgusting Brother, sold his soul a long time ago, and it has secured him face time with some of the most important people in the world. But do any of them respect him? (We can answer that ourselves: no.)
It might be that their — and our — disregard for Greg is part of the point of “Succession”: He defines failing upward. At first, his disarming meekness made him a good audience surrogate, his mediocrity a good source of comic relief. But then he began to master the skills essential to this rarefied world of relentless ambition, including blackmail, perjury and betrayal. Now he gets invited to every party, though no one quite seems to want him there.
This season, he took it to the next level by helping facilitate ATN’s premature call of the election. If it all blows up, he seems unlikely to go down with Tom, not least because he knows where the bodies are buried going back to when Tom ran the cruise division.
If Matsson succeeds, he might see the advantage of having a Roy ally who isn’t as contentious as Kendall, Roman or Shiv — a Roy he can control. At the very least, Mattson and Greg make better photo ops together, both being well over 6 feet tall. Leadership positions have been decided over less.