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In a ‘Succession’ finale to savor, the Roys save their worst for last

Jeremy Strong in the final moment of "Succession."Courtesy of HBO

This article contains spoilers.   

If you hadn’t been watching “Succession” for years, you might have thought the Roy siblings had come to their senses midway through the series finale. Visiting their mother, away from the boardrooms, they finally realized that sticking together was the answer. The desperate Kendall, the slippery Shiv, the fragile-not-fragile Roman, still hurting from his “Day of the Locust” moment — suddenly they were a merry band of Roys ready to take over the world.

It was a charming segment, as the trio goofed off in the kitchen, laughing about Lady Caroline’s “knobbies” and Peter’s beloved cheese, Kendall having successfully made his case to lead Waystar Royco. Shiv playfully pronounced, “We anoint you,” Roman and Shiv made him drink a disgusting blender creation, and they teased one another affectionately and, of course, ruthlessly. It was easy to forget that, moments earlier, Roman and Shiv had pondered teaming up to “kill” Kendall. So that would be the lesson learned by Logan’s broken children in this fast-talking, funny, and fierce drama: United we stand, divided we fall.   

But yeah, “Succession” was true to its deeply cynical self until the very end in Sunday night’s thoroughly satisfying series finale.


From left: Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, and Jeremy Strong in Sunday night's final episode of "Succession."Courtesy of HBO

Those sweet moments of accord dissipated like every single “Succession” moment of conscience and peace. When push came to shove at the big board meeting, there was some serious shoving, as Kendall’s siblings waffled, Shiv turned against Kendall by throwing the waiter’s death in his face, and Kendall lost everything. Would Shiv have given up her resistance if, in that moment, Kendall hadn’t lied so feebly about the drowning? It’s possible, but unlikely. Deep down in her opportunistic soul, she may well have realized that a GoJo win with Tom as CEO held more potential for her than putting Kendall in his father’s seat.


Once again dejected, Kendall was left communing with some body of water, the motif that has followed him throughout the series. Once again, life pulled a Lucy on our rap-loving Charlie Brown, pulling the ball away just as he went to kick it. The guy who seemed destined to replace his father, a fulfillment of his dreams and his Freudian battle, was left with nothing — or, to clarify, left with nothing but the consolations of billions of dollars. As he stared out at the water, you had to wonder if he was thinking about ending his life.

And so the Roys lost the empire their father had built. They were ultimately as self-destructive as they were self-serving, and the object of their desire went to traitorous and insulting Lukas Matsson, a man who is ultimately more like Logan than any of Logan’s children. In his last moments, Logan wanted his company to go to GoJo, and he ultimately prevailed from beyond the grave (or, rather, from beyond the mausoleum). He was, indeed, larger than life. 

“Succession” wrapped up with a finale that not only landed, but pulled into the gate and let us off the plane with plenty to think about and savor. The characters’ fates weren’t spelled out, and yet their ways forward seemed clear enough. It was all as witty and ironic as you’d expect, and it twistily toyed with viewers as expertly as ever. The show ended in the exact right place and, to me, at the exact right time, before these spineless creatures and their metrical reflections and rejoinders became more self-parodic than intended. 


Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook.Courtesy of HBO

There were a few moments of violence in the finale, including a slap fight between Tom and Greg that reminded us of the juvenile, punching-down nature of the new king of the world. The sheer absurdity of Tom’s ascension was one of the highlights of the episode. But the aggression that gave me chills was the embrace between Kendall and Roman, a hug that saw Kendall pressing Roman’s stitched-up forehead into his jacket so hard that he reopened the wound. It was one of those rich moments that needed — and got —no explanation, a brotherly moment that had biblical vibes.

The show’s existential diva, Roman, delivered a few lines toward the end of the 90-minute episode that struck a fitting note as the action wound down. “It’s all nothing,” he says to the despairing Kendall about letting go of Waystar Royco. “We’re nothing, OK?” From him, at that moment, it really almost did sound like consolation.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.