Succession creator Jesse Armstrong, in a podcast that recapped the first episode of season four, said that sometimes he thinks, “maybe this show is just about Shiv and Tom.” Armstrong said their relationship often veers back and forth between something romantic and something more transactional.
That veering was never more present than in the series finale. The episode started with Shiv in the driver’s seat to be the American CEO after the deal goes through, as Roman fled to his mother’s house.
Kendall and Shiv quickly followed Roman, the hopes that Kendall can convince Roman to pull it together and vote no on the deal. Shiv tries to make the board decision more of a blowout in her favor.
Imagine if you thought either of them was just comforting their brother. Among family, the Roy siblings couldn’t think about anything more than their business pursuits.
Even their mother, Caroline, wagged their finger at them, only to bring out a friend of hers for a business pitch, supported by her now-husband, during dinner. But there was more important business to handle while the Roys were eating.
Kendall heard from Greg that Matsson had cooled on Shiv being the new CEO. After Shiv hears the news, she changes her mind about the deal, and now all Roy siblings (besides Connor who isn’t present), make an agreement to fight on the same side.
What would that side be fighting for? Shiv and Roman eventually swallowed their pride and elected Kendall as the Roy representative at the top of the company once the deal gets axed.
After the siblings made amends and agreed, we saw a rare, authentic family moment. Roman and Shiv, with a layer of sarcasm, make Kendall a meal fit for a king.
Their mother comes to the kitchen, amid all the commotion at night, and told them to be quiet. It’s been a while since they’ve looked like anything more than business associates, but here we see an actual, familial connection.
Tom’s final decision
But elsewhere, Tom is veering into the more transactional side of himself. After hearing that Matsson doesn’t know if Shiv is a good fit for American CEO — and part of the reason being that Matsson feels a sort of sexual tension with Shiv — Tom agrees that he would be ideal for the role instead.
Now, we have seen Tom’s full progression. He went from a man who loved Shiv but also saw the benefit of her being closely related to power, to this: a man who loved power so much that he saw the benefit of betraying the mother of his child. He played it cool throughout all of Matsson’s speech, and he was rewarded.
In fact, he has played it cool throughout most of this — dealing with the cruise allegations, the drudgery, and the tongue lashings from Logan. He really hung in there.
And I don’t think he ever fully stopped loving Shiv, but I also think the more pragmatic side of him started to take over. For all the talk of money in this show, nothing else mattered besides power as the series came to a close.
Kendall and Roman are so defeated by the end, that it’d be easy for the audience to forget that the GoJo deal likely makes them filthy rich. I won’t go so far as to say it was never about money for the Roy siblings.
But I also think what money is supposed to bring them in theory, eventually eclipsed the actual money they’d be getting in practice.
Ready for war
Before the board meeting, the three Roy siblings (sorry Connor) walked into the Waystar Royco offices ready for war. Kendall looked determined, even thrilled, as he swiveled in his chair a bit at his father’s old desk.
Roman saw Jerri and succumbed to a surge of emotions. Kendall comforted him the best he could, by telling his little brother it could have easily been him to take over as CEO.
Shiv was a difficult read until the end of the board meeting. Eventually, with the board decision for the GoJo deal tied at 6 apiece, Shiv became the final and decisive vote.
Unable to make an immediate decision, she ran out of the room with Kendall and Roman predictably following after her. Shiv’s motives began to take form: she didn’t want the deal to go through, and she didn’t want Kendall to be the CEO, saying she didn’t think he would do a good job.
Kendall, so focused on winning and taking over the role, even denied his involvement in killing a staff member at Shiv’s wedding, after admitting to doing so in the past. Eventually, Roman restrained an irate Kendall, and Shiv left the room to vote yes and greenlight the deal after all.
Kendall eventually re-entered the board room, but it was too late: he had lost, in his version of things, at least. We later see a triumphant and determined Tom walk into the office in front of a pack of coworkers.
Perhaps Shiv couldn’t see that she was going to be played by Matsson. But when it came down to it, she ultimately saw the practicality in her husband being American CEO.
Kendall and Roman’s fate
Tom could always see the practicality, and that was maybe the difference between him and someone like Kendall or Roman. Roman’s lack of killer mentality at his father’s funeral, while understandable through the lens of a normal person with rational feelings, ultimately cost him with Jeryd Mencken and overall optics amid some of the employees at the company.
Kendall, at the very least an accomplice to a literal killing, became so enthralled with his ideas and ambition that there was nothing left besides nice-sounding lines. Yes, yes, he maybe was the most qualified among the Roy siblings by the end, but what did he substantively do to deserve that other than a few fancy speeches at the right time?
Each season finale of Succession being an excerpt from John Berryman’s Dream Song 29, has been well documented. But I still think it’s still worth looking at the final parts of the poem now that the series is over:
"“Ghastly,with open eyes (season four finale name), he attends, blind.All the bells say (season three): too late. This is not for tears (season two);thinking.But never did Henry, as he thought he did,end anyone and hacks her body upand hide the pieces, where they may be found.He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody’s missing.Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.Nobody is ever missing (season one).”"
Kendall, blinded by his own ambition, a quality that helped him rise to the top of the Roy power structure, couldn’t see that maybe his ideas weren’t as good as he thought they were. He couldn’t convince Shiv otherwise, because he didn’t have any kind of comprehensive plan or coherent belief structure.
He just wanted it. And he didn’t know what he would do without it, because he wouldn’t have anything without this job.
He had compromised his family for his job, similar to Tom, and could only see the top. Only Tom had a better idea of how people perceived him.
Something that probably did not get talked about enough with the death of the staff member: the waiter took the wheel and swerved the car off course to avoid a deer in the road. Kendall tried to dive in and get the worker out of the car twice.
His biggest moral crime was more like complicity in the cover-up of his involvement, like when he didn’t call the police to get help. And that didn’t get talked about because Kendall mostly chose to ignore the event entirely.
That is before admitting to killing someone to his siblings, and then denying the accusations outright in the show’s finale, saying he wasn’t even in the car. Besides outsourcing to his therapist, I’m not even sure Kendall has deeply contemplated his involvement and reflected over time on how it had affected his life.
Now, though, he has all the time in the world to think about that event, his father, and how he can be a better dad than the one he received. But on the bench in the finale’s final scene, he looked like a man with nothing to live for.
Because when the moral decay of a cutthroat industry, and ideas and theories and pitches and the next big thing all fade away, what’s left for this extremely rich man with a family, but no friends or deep connections? For Kendall, there was nothing left.
What did you think of the Succession series finale? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
You can watch Succession currently on HBO.