I Had Hoped ‘Succession’ Would Do This With Its Ending, but Never Thought It Would
Succession has always been a dramedy that satirizes the 1%. Though its characters are compelling as hell, we were never meant to “like” them, or even root for them. Still, as we approached the series finale, fans and critics alike were talking about “Who will be crowned?”
I was lulled into the same discussions, yet there was an ending I imagined in my deepest heart of hearts that I didn’t share with too many people because it felt impossible.
**No, seriously. SPOILERS AHEAD**
Many assumed that the logical conclusion to the series was that one of the Roy children would become CEO of Waystar Royco.
Like many, I assumed that since Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is the main character, the story would conclude with him achieving this thing he’s been going after for four seasons, though Succession is way too well-written and nuanced to just give anyone the thing they want. I figured if Kendall did get the company, the “win” would somehow be bittersweet. Maybe he’d have the company, but lose his family. Maybe he’d end up Maatson’s lackey the same way he was his father’s.
But deep down, a question kept popping up: What if none of them gets it? What if the show ends with all the Roy kids getting their comeuppance?
The other thing I wanted deep in my soul? For at least one of them to recognize that this entire endeavor was pointless and foolish.
None of them gets the crown
As I watched them fight over Daddy Logan’s (Brian Cox) legacy for four seasons, it always felt like they were fighting without truly wanting it or knowing why. I kept wondering, Don’t y’all have any other interests or ambitions of your own?
Mid-finale, Shiv and Roman decide that they should back Kendall as CEO. He wants it the most, and he’s the most likely to be favored by the board. For one, shining moment, the Roy children are a truly united front, even if they have a gross way of showing it. (“A meal fit for a king?” Eeeew.)
Then, Shiv has second thoughts at the board meeting, leaving right before she’s supposed to give her tie-breaking vote in favor of Kendall. In a harrowing, emotional scene, the Roy children have a knock-down, drag out fight as Kendall furiously (then pathetically) fights for Shiv to change her mind.
However, Shiv has come to the horrifying realization that Kendall really shouldn’t have this. He’d be bad at the job, and his mental health wouldn’t stand up to it long-term. It is then that Kendall breaks down, asserting his status as “eldest boy.” Shiv votes to sell Waystar Royco to GoJo, and Maatson has chosen Tom as CEO, because he’s exactly the kind of puppet Maatson wants in an American CEO.
What do we get from the Roys’ comeuppance?
I had hoped for this ending, but I wasn’t sure Succession would end without “crowning” one of the Roy children. I’m so thrilled this is how it went down and fascinated by how the GoJo sale affected each of them.
It took grief and getting beat up at a Leftist protest, but Roman has arrived at a place where he can let go of his desire to please his father and start to interrogate his role in society as a billionaire. He won’t change overnight, but after selfishly steering election results because “nothing matters,” he’s starting to reframe that to mean “nothing we do matters”—meaning him and his siblings, and people like them.
He tells Kendall that they’re “bullsh*t,” and it’s true. Season after season, we’ve watched them care so much about this empire without any desire or ideology behind it. They don’t want this empire in order to accomplish anything of their own.
Roman is now free. He has no idea what to do next, but of the three of them, he seems most likely to heal his wounds and evolve away from the “family business.”
It was a gut-punch to watch Shiv lose because of how she lost. Shiv’s role as “The Girl” in the family has always been infuriating to me over the years, which is why I hoped that if one of them were going to get it, it’d be her.
What we got instead was Shiv taking her final form as White Feminist Lady MacBeth. Shiv likes being wealthy. She likes being powerful. And if she can’t achieve power on her own, she’ll latch onto whoever will get her closest.
Tom, despite being a man, is the same way. As Shiv said, he’ll “suck the biggest dick in the room.” So, despite the fact that they’re terrible human beings who’ve hurt each other, they’re also perfect for each other. Tom has latched onto Maatson, and Shiv latched onto Tom in a reversal for them, because Tom “married up.”
It’s not a happy ending, but it’s the ending they deserve. Tom and Shiv prioritize money, status, and power over “happiness,” so this is an outcome they can accept.
The way things ended for Kendall were tragic in the way they’d be most tragic for him. Despite the seeming progress he’d made, he remained completely devoted to proving himself to his father until the end.
As he said to Shiv:
“Here’s the thing. I’m like a cog built to fit only one machine. If you don’t…let me do this…it’s the one thing I know how to do. […] I feel like…if I don’t get to do this…I feel like…that’s it. Like, I might…I might die.”
A moment of pure honesty before fully detaching from reality and denying that he ever killed anyone. (He did.) When Roman pointed out that Kendall’s children likely aren’t his and that Logan knew that (a low blow that was nonetheless explosive and fun to watch), Kendall grabbed onto Roman’s injured skull and looked as though he might crack it open.
When he’d played all his cards, Kendall became an empty shell of a person. What do you do when you can’t do the one thing you were supposed to do? Kendall isn’t equipped to start answering that question. We leave him sitting on a bench overlooking the Hudson River.
I’m glad Succession didn’t choose to have Kendall take more drastic measures in his devastation. Kendall needs to sit with this for a while if he’s ever going to have any kind of life worth living. He needs to accept that the father he’s spent his whole life trying to please was trash, and that he’s wasted a lot of his life chasing approval at the expense of other, more important things.
Succession gave me the anti-capitalist ending of my dreams
Watching Roman literally have sense knocked into him in the show’s penultimate episode by an anti-capitalist protester at a march outside Logan Roy’s funeral was so cathartic. What made it more interesting was that Roman egged it on. In his pain and grief, he was at his most vulnerable, masochistic, and permeable. He yelled at the passing marchers seemingly hoping things would escalate.
He wanted distraction from his grief, but I believe there was also some guilt over his part in everything he’d done. He wasn’t thrilled that people are demonstrating outside his father’s funeral, but it also felt like he was, in his way, trying to understand why they’d do this.
The way that encounter affected him in the series finale felt right. At first, he saw the scars from the beating he took as a badge of honor, but despite one last attempt to see himself as CEO, he couldn’t do it. His wounded head meant that he couldn’t be CEO, and perhaps that he shouldn’t. And, perhaps, none of them should.
To have the CEO title go to Tom, the guy who was “fu*king [Shiv] for a fu*king ladder, because [his] whole family is striving and parochial” was the icing on the cake. The crown didn’t go to a member of the billionaire nobility. It went to someone who didn’t come from money.
And yet, it doesn’t seem like much of a prize when he’s signed up to be a puppet. Then again, so has everyone else on this show at one point or another. There’s very little self-respect in the face of that much money. Those who have any sort of ethical code or self-respect, like Jess (Juliana Canfield), find it within themselves to leave this orbit. The baubles aren’t worth one’s personhood.
It’s interesting that this show was brought to us by a company currently being struck by a union for its corporate greed and mistreatment of labor. As I said earlier, Succession has always been a dramedy that satirizes the 1%. How thrilling, then, that in this time of late-stage capitalism and rising pro-worker sentiment, Succession gave us the anti-billionaire ending we deserve by showing us that power and prestige are bullsh*t.
Billionaires aren’t aspirational. They are sad cautionary tales.
(featured image: HBO)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]