Contains Spoilers… Obviously
Let’s begin with quotes from a writer, a rapper, and a cannibal.
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E.L. Doctorow
“You know life ain’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift though.”* — Kodak Black
“First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask, ‘What is it in itself? What is its nature?’” — Hannibal Lechter
To the first point, I’m not great at predicting series’ endings. That’s because I stay in the present moment. That way, I don’t miss much. But I also can’t see much into the future.
To the second point, life doesn’t necessarily tie up all of its loose ends. It’s OK, even in the TV world, if some plot lines end up being red herrings. Not everybody can lock it all down the way Jerry & Larry did Seinfeld, or write in ABAB couplets like the Eagles.
And to the third point, to try to imagine the ending, it helps to start here: what is Succession about? On the familial level, in one word, it’s about abuse. It’s the abuse handed down from Logan Roy’s uncle (which was probably meted out to him) to Logan via emotional manipulation and physical lashings. (I shuddered seeing those marks on Logan’s back after he resurfaced from his son Connor’s pool.) Logan then abuses his children: all four of them emotionally and Roman physically. On the Prestige TV Podcast, Joanna said we’re not rooting for the kids. We’re rooting for the poison not to drip through. To me, one of the ultimate ironies is how we as audience members have so little empathy for the kids, despite the fact that we know they’re victims of abuse. We’re quick to call the kids assholes, but doesn’t that make US assholes, too?
On the societal level, Kendall called out the show’s theme when he said that Waystar Royco, an American company, is “a declining empire inside a declining empire.” British show creator Jesse Armstrong has taken enough potshots at the United States that this is likely to emerge as the key theme.
As such, I’d have to imagine that this means:
An American behemoth is bought out by a foreigner. In fact, to add insult to injury, an American, imbued in greed and delusions of grandeur, believing America still has its past power, tries to bite off too much and falls on his face: Kendall attempts to buy GoJo, reverts to form after his recent victories, and blows it. Matsson wins.
One of the producers/directors let it out that this is a RIchard III story. It’s at least a Godfather II story.
(There are so many parallels. The ending of S1 concludes with a reunification of Logan and Kendall after a death, like Michael Corleone and Senator Geary after the prostitute’s death. Shiv’s eulogy described how they’d have to remain quiet outside their father’s office, which is exactly what Michael tells Frank Pentangeli about Vito.)
Whether it’s Richard III or Godfather II, this would indicate a victory with a high cost. Kendall wins the firm but loses his family. Moreover, this story seems to be about the rise of one character’s status and the fall of that same character’s morals. Kendall wins.
Many have speculated that the central question of “Who’s taking over the company?” is itself a red herring, or at best, incidental. I disagree. If you call the show “Succession,” then you’ve telegraphed how it must end. There are really only a few possibilities, right? And since old men either harden or soften in their old age, and it’s kinda obvious which one Logan was doing, his death seemed inevitable. The only shock to me was that they did it in E3 and not E9. Outcome options, in order of my perceived likelihood:
1. One of the four kids wins: Connor, Kendall, Shiv, Roman.
2. One of the other family members wins: Tom, Greg, Amir, Ewan, et al.
3. The would-be acquirer’s team wins: Matsson, Oskar, Ebba, et al.
4. One of the members of the old guard wins: Frank, Karl, Gerry, Karolina, Ray.
5. One of the investors wins: Sandi, Sandy, Stewie, Josh Aaronson (Adrien Brody).
6. Some total wildcard comes out of virtually nowhere.
7. Some combination of the above join forces as co-CEOs.
8. Nobody runs it: Waystar Royco ceases to exist. Extremely unlikely.
Let’s consider the most probable scenarios…
The central character has always been Kendall and the central conflict has always been Kendall vs. Logan.
Indeed, unless the show’s writers do it well, I’ll be upset if a non-Kendall sibling wins. He’s the only one with any vision and the only one who has consistently demonstrated the ability to perform under pressure: yes, this problem is self-wrought, but he’s had to carry on despite committing second-degree manslaughter. He held it together on the day of their Dad’s passing. With their backs against the way with the possibility of being bought out by GoJo, he — rather improbably — nailed the Living+ presentation and his father’s eulogy. Despite Kendall’s own failings as a father, where the poison from Logan has truly dripped through, Kendall snaps at anyone who goes after his siblings, wife, or children. Like Michael Corleone, he’s a fierce defender of his family, but lest it be forgotten, Michael destroyed his family.
Kendall might have something on Colin, which will keep him from disclosing the manslaughter. Colin seemed genuinely unsettled when Kendall all but indicated that he knows not only that Colin is seeing a therapist but also what he’s disclosing.
Symbolically, Kendall turns up his collar after the church. He’s gone full-on Beelzebub.
Of course, the kids are composites of Logan: Shiv is the most ruthless. Roman is the best dealmaker. Kendall is the only visionary.
SHIV: But whereas Logan’s gut (“It’s all I’ve got”) often seemed right, Shiv’s intuition often seems off.
ROMAN: Logan’s sexual flaws somehow became another source of strength for him — his multiple mistresses cost him nothing substantial — whereas Roman’s did him in, as we saw through Gerri’s (justified) extortion. Don’t forget that in the very first Succession scene, we see Logan pee all over the carpet. He’s going, not coming, but it’s still about his penis. If we’re looking for the kind of story Succession is, I wonder if Roman’s epic collapse in E9 was, in effect, “The Fall of Rome.” If that’s an Easter egg, then this could follow some kind of et-tu-Bruté Julius Caesar ending. I’m a bit surprised Roman, in his moment of extreme despair, didn’t blame himself for killing Logan, which he might very well have done. Many times, when the kids would try to hurt Logan, he’d collapse.
KENDALL: And Kendall just hasn’t been able to seal the deal. His Dad famously told him he’s “not a killer.” But Kendall now certainly seems to be. And it seems more than obvious to me that Kendall’s name on that infamous piece of paper was indeed crossed-out: I’m guessing Logan wrote “Kendall” and then later drew a line through it, after Lord-knows-which Kendall betrayal.
So, which one is most like Logan? It’s tough to say, but wouldn’t it have to be the best killer and visionary who also happens to be a terrible father and manager?
So, which one is most like Logan? It’s tough to say, but wouldn’t it have to be the best killer and visionary who also happens to be a terrible father and manager? And I wish I would’ve thought of this myself (like I figured out “Christian Shephard” in LOST), but since his full name is Kendall Logan Roy, he is indeed a KLR.
𝗦𝗵𝗶𝘃 𝗼𝗿 𝗧𝗼𝗺 𝗼𝗿 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝗴 𝗼𝗿 𝗥𝗼𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗪𝗶𝗻
SHIV: Matsson said anyone could serve as the American CEO to placate GOP presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken. Though Matsson has been noncommittal to Shiv and comes across as quite the chauvinist, Shiv did help him, so he might feel an iota of guilt and award the CEO job to her (if the board does indeed vote for GoJo to acquire Waystar). When Matsson tried to set Shiv up by stating in front of Mencken that she’d be happy to see him win, she had an even better answer: “My feelings are irrelevant. Our audience loves Jeryd and I respect our audience.” Spoken like a man. I write it that way to capture the way that these two douchebags would see it. “Oh, she didn’t go all girly-girl on us.” Indeed, Matsson and Shiv’s charm offensive seems to have worked: at the end of E9, Matsson calls Shiv to tell her that Mencken won’t block GoJo’s purchase of Waystar, so it seems like Shiv has won another round. Shiv has the blood brick blackmail over Matsson. Could she play this card to become CEO? There’s a slight chance that Matsson is making that up, much like there was a chance he was exaggerating the India numbers. But the latter turned out to be true since they released the info. This would be some serious 3D chess, as Matsson accused the C-E-Bros of playing Scooby-Doo and trying to make it seem like the film division was chaotic and that there are “bad deal vibes.” Could Matsson be doing that right back? The problem with that is it doesn’t make sense if GoJo wants to be the acquirer. Why would Matsson want to GET acquired? Unless the India numbers model is true everywhere and it’s a house of cards. Remember that he wanted to get this done fast, and that he’d told Roman he was interested in failing fast. All in all, I think the blood brick is real. Ebba spilled the beans to the C-E-Bros about India. But I can’t help but wonder: why doesn’t Shiv just go run Pierce? That seems like the most obvious role for her.
GREG: Why might it not be Shiv? She said the CEO could be “anyone.” Well, Greg is the definition of “anyone.” He’s shockingly good at “getting in there” and seems to have forged a bond with Matsson. Maybe he gives it to Greg out of spite and as a joke. And maybe Greg finally stabs Tom in the back. Boom Goes the Dynamite.
TOM: And then there’s Tom. When Matsson probed to find out if Tom was more of a hands-on or hands-off leader, Tom asked what he’d value more. Matsson incredulously replied, “Really?” That seemed to be downright mocking. But what if it was Matsson’s surprise that he might have found his puppet? After Logan’s death, Tom claimed he was here to “serve.” And nobody has offered himself up more in a more subservient fashion than Tom. In Tom and Shiv’s epic fight, she called him that twice. Tom runs ATN and this would seem to be right up the ladder.
ROMAN: Roman appears his weakest of the entire series but we can’t count him out. After all, he knows what Kendall did.
𝗔 𝗡𝗼𝗻-𝗦𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗙𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗹𝘆 𝗠𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝗪𝗶𝗻𝘀
Even though Logan has a brother, it almost certainly won’t be Ewan, though I had to find a spot in this essay to give a shout-out to James Cromwell for absolutely bodying that eulogy. He described Logan like a dark lord in a fantasy novel, as if he were Sauron or Darth Vader. Chilling stuff.
Amir is Marcia’s son. Recall that they are only a few living people who know Kendall committed manslaughter. In her divorce renegotiation, Marcia was explicit about securing Amir’s “prospects.” What did that mean? Could they blackmail Kendall for control? Why else would Marcia play such a large part this season? Recall that S3 ended with Logan’s reopening his divorce settlement with Caroline to screw his children out of the company. Might it happen again?
If the writers are trying to show us how American greed taken to the extreme leads to destruction, then this could parallel House of Gucci where no family member has a stake in it.
Despite Reddit’s amazing speculation, the Succession writers have managed to stay one step ahead of the rest of us. Could there be a curveball? They tied up the Roman/Gerri angle: harassment came back to bite Roman pretty damn hard. The “cruises” fiasco and Sally Ann have all been accounted for.
- Will somebody die? At the end of S4E9 (“Church and State”), it truly looked like Roman was going to get trampled to death. Despite headfaking us for years with a possible Kendall demise, this didn’t seem that far-fetched.
- The entire show has been told entirely from the family’s POV. I believe a Roy is in every single scene of the show. This might not affect the plot, but it might affect the narrative: what if they zoom out to broader society?
- We haven’t seen a dead Logan. Why was his casket closed? But if he were somehow alive, that would be absolutely ridiculous.
- Do Shiv and Tom end up together? I think pivoting to a Shiv/Tom axis instead of a Kendall/Logan axis for the show is a thematic mistake, but we still want to know. I personally hope they don’t make it.
- In S4, each episode is a day. At the outset, I wondered whether that meant 10 consecutive days. That would’ve been an interesting twist, but now it appears it is. If they want to resolve a pregnancy, the only way to do that would be to end it. Does Shiv miscarry or get an abortion? Since the show is about a declining empire within a declining empire, my guess is the child will be born into a dark future, both because of his terrible parents and the world the Roys have fashioned.
- Similarly, unless there’s an epilogue (which would be a stylistic departure), it doesn’t seem we’re going to have a resolution to the presidential race. That would normally be a major thread to leave dangling, but remember: this show’s narrative is only about how it affects the Roys directly (and everyone else indirectly). So, Mencken’s decision as to whether or not to block the deal would have to be rendered moot. It won’t be up to him but rather up to the board. Mencken surely wouldn’t block Waystar’s purchase of GoJo, so maybe that’s the way this goes? That still doesn’t mean that Kendall would win but it would certainly place him in the driver’s seat.
- This isn’t a curveball, per se, but while the last couple of episodes have been great, we need more Statler & Waldorf from the peanut gallery of Frank, Karl, and Gerri.
- Adrien Brody was in the “S4 Previously On” and is far too big of an actor not to play a major role. (See James Cromwell, who obviously did.) Sure, there’s Sandy, Sandi, and Stewy, but could Brody be the deciding board vote that hands it to Kendall or Shiv?
- We still don’t know what Shiv was going through when she met Tom. We know it has to do with “TK” and “the Washington situation.” This feels like a loose end that needs to be tied up.
- Logan threw Connor’s Mom in jail or the nuthouse. It seems kinda important to unpack this.
- For my final prediction, I’m going with: Waystar buys GoJo, so America pollutes not only its own ecosystem but also the world’s. The abuse continues, writ large. Kendall ends up on top but isolated, resenting himself for becoming even worse than his father. The poison drips through. And I’ll do nothing to disabuse you of that notion.