The Succession finale was perfect – and has been telegraphed since the first episode
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The Succession finale was perfect – and has been telegraphed...

Succession Season 4 (Picture: HBO)

*Warning: Contains spoilers for the Succession series finale.*

For all the intense, dramatic, hilarious manoeuvring and scheming at Waystar Royco over the years, the situation in Succession never truly, meaningfully changed.

Logan Roy (Brian Cox) ran Waystar while three of his four children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Siobhan (Sarah Snook), squabbled incessantly over who was going to fill his shoes. 

Logan unexpectedly died with seven episodes still remaining. In the weeks since his death, Succession has acknowledged that its combination of boardroom thrills, family drama, and sitcom stasis could only be stretched so far before it snapped.The final resting place of this impeccable series was telegraphed from the day it began – an entitled son denied his inheritance while his two siblings mock him from the sidelines.

Because while the monstrous Roy patriarch sat on his throne, the back-stabbing and betrayals were futile and farcical. Logan was king, the commander of the eco-system bubbling around his feet. 

No matter how much activity there was around him, he was omnipresent – he always won and order was always restored. 

But after his death, the stakes were higher than ever and chaos reigned. The Roy siblings declared war on each other.

In response, battle lines were drawn in the show’s fan base.

The viewers each had their horse – which sibling they wanted to ‘win’ by ending the series in Logan’s position.

But as the various characters in this series got deeper and deeper into the cesspit of their own making – it got harder to see viewers arguing over which of them was going to claim the very chalice that had been poisoning them from day one.

From left, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin (Picture: HBO)

Looking at Twitter between the final two episodes I was reminded of how it felt to be on the ground during the final weeks of another HBO juggernaut, Game of Thrones.

After years of war, misery, and trauma, it truly didn’t matter who sat on the Iron Throne in the end. That coveted seat, and the illusion of the titular ‘game’, had already caused irreparable destruction to so many characters. 

No matter how many Joffreys or Ramsays of Night Kings were killed, the true villain – the illusion of the battle for power – was the one foe that could never be beaten. Even with Logan gone, the Roy siblings still fought the same old battles as though their dad was still in the room.

So it was frustrating when so much of the show’s fan base remained desperate for someone, anyone, to ‘win’, long after it was made clear to them that nobody really could.

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And over its previous 38 episodes, Succession made it crystal clear that Logan, despicable and frightening as he was, was not the true enemy – there was never going to be a clear-cut winner. 

The true enemy, all along, was the structure of capitalism that ate away at everyone who walked in front of the camera. Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard), the dead-eyed misogynist tech-bro; Jeryd Mencken, a right-wing despot in waiting.

The Roy siblings sold off almost all of their souls and then tore apart the fragments that remained, while the likes of Matsson and Mencken waited, with their billions of dollars and unquenchable thirst for dominance, to strike.

It’s always been clear to me that whatever titles and positions the Roys held by the end were always going to be immaterial.

A power struggle ensues as the family weighs up a future where their cultural and political weight is severely curtailed. (Picture: HBO)

The fourth season had already firmly answered the question of the siblings’ potential ending when Logan, on the night before he died, looked his kids straight in the eye in that karaoke booth and remarked: ‘I love you, but you are not serious people.’

That line of dialogue should have been enough to cease the bickering in the Succession fandom on its own. But, alas.

It’s not foolish to root for TV characters, however troubled they might be. But as Succession has cycled through one Roy drama after another, it has become increasingly clear just how awful they are, and why viewers who were unironically ‘stanning’ the respective Roy siblings, and their various flunkeys and associates, missed the point.

Over the course of the series, they’ve each suppressed sexual assault claims, hidden evidence of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence, and mocked poor families by dangling (and then tearing up) $1m cheques in their faces.

This was made even starker in the finale, which conjures up more and more opportunities for the characters to debase themselves for the sake of more power.

And as has been apparent from the start, it’s not just the core family who are corrupted by the mere prospect of power. 

Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfayden) willingly cuckolds himself to Matsson when the GoJo owner makes despicable, sexual comments about Shiv. He’s so deep in the maze on his greedy quest for more influence and power that he offers his wife up as live bait (‘We’re both men’) to become the ‘American CEO’.

Matsson then hires Tom on the condition that he becomes a ‘pain sponge’.

And Cousin Greg, scheming and plotting, and too literally living the life of a Disgusting Brother, has spent the entire series selling his soul to any devil who’ll buy.

To a degree, it works, but then Tom to calls him ‘a piece of s**t’ and Matsson makes him nothing more than a court jester. It leaves Greg’s story on a hollow note and marks him out as a corporate shill. As Kendall correctly pinned him in season three, he was always ‘a parasite’. 

The sale of media conglomerate Waystar Royco to tech visionary Lukas Matsson moves ever closer (Photo: HBO)

Then there’s the Roy siblings themselves. After selling her brothers out, Shiv dooms herself to a hate-filled marriage of convenience with Tom. 

Roman might seem the happiest out of the siblings with the Waystar sale now complete, but he’s a phone call away from a litany of sexual misconduct trials if Gerri ever wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.

And Ken. Jesus Christ, Ken. 

Reduced to crying out that he’s ‘the eldest boy’ like some petulant pre-teen, an ex-wife and daughter who want nothing from him. No real friends, no father, no legacy – a life of entitlement left shattered and empty. 

After watching the siblings briefly behave like the innocent children they once were – giggling and playfully recreating their childhood games in the dead of night (a ‘Meal Fit for a King’ smoothie looks horrendous) – Succession saved its most devastating blow for last.

It took that previously preserved image of the Roys as little children and twisted it one last time. Kendall bullying his little brother to get his way, starting a stressful fight sequence that plays out in full, embarrassing view of their colleagues.

As the Roys continued their pathetic tussle, grabbing at each other’s hair, Shiv’s eulogy from Logan’s funeral played in my mind: ‘We used to play outside his office… he was so terrifying… he would yell at us to be quiet because what he was doing in there was so important. We couldn’t conceive of what it was – Presidents, kings, queens.’

That’s the Roy siblings without their father, I think. Squabbling, entitled children, forever on the outside of what’s actually important.

And what has it all been for? The Roys may be cash-richer than they started out, but they have nothing else left. 

The sum total of their endless fights and desperate quest for approval is them finally handing their inheritance, and the fate of a nation, over to a dead-eyed misogynist tech-bro and a potential right-wing despot in Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk).

The Roy trio are the most pitiable TV characters I’ve ever spent time with. 

Clearly a product of their father’s abuse (and his disdain for the comfortable lives he built for them) but so blinded by greed, hubris, and childish competitiveness, so invested in the game of capitalism, that they were doomed from the start.

In the end, they were not serious people.

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The Succession finale was perfect – and has been telegraphed since the first episode

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