Succession: The Series Finale Always Had To End This Way (Sorry Roys)
Contains spoilers for "Succession" Season 4 Episode 10 — "With Open Eyes"
In the weeks leading up to the "Succession", series finale, the internet was flooded with fan theories about how the show might end. Maybe Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), the show's sad resident boy who really just wants a "kiss from Daddy," will triumph and claim the throne from his late father Logan (Brian Cox) as CEO of Waystar Royco. Maybe Roman (Kieran Culkin) will never rise again, he died in the previous episode when he wandered in the middle of a protest and called for violence. Perhaps Shiv's (Sarah Snook) plot will pay off and GoJo's Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skårsgard) will appoint her as Waystar's American CEO after the Roy family company is sold to the Swedish billionaire. Perhaps his unfortunate cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) will be the only one left standing among the ruins!
It's interesting to theorize about the "Succession" ending, but in the series' finale, creator Jesse Armstrong offered the only possible answer: All three of Roy's children would fail. Over the course of 90 minutes, Kendall, Shiv, and Roman fully reveal their ugliest parts - based on what they've been up to in the entire series, which says something real - and reveal the truth, which is that none of them can truly be Logan Roy. There is no real successor; Waystar is now owned by GoJo; Roy's family legacy belongs to outsiders and strivers. It could never be any other way.
Kendall wanted to be the CEO too badly, so it could never happen
Kendall has learned the hard way that if you want something too much, you'll probably never get it. Kendall has always wanted to run Waystar Royco. In the last episode of Succession, we find out where this desire came from: when Kendall was seven years old, his father told him at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton that one day he would run the family business. In one of Kendall's few moments of self-awareness, he tells Roman and Shiv, "He shouldn't have done it." This is one of the few times Kendall is self-aware. Kendall feels confident, strong, and invincible right up until the end. Once Matsson kicks Shiv out of job as American CEO for good, the three brothers seem to be on the same page and ready to stop the Waystar-GoJo deal… until, as always, the three fall apart.
Shiv, the tiebreaking vote, storms out of the board meeting — and when Kendall follows her, all she says to him is that she doesn't think he'd be good at the job. That's it. From there, Kendall is completely undone. He physically attacks Roman, says that he made up the story about killing a waiter (and, disturbingly, asks "which one" when his siblings pointed out he's killed a person), screams that he's the "eldest boy," and flat-out tells Shiv he'll die if he can't run Waystar Royco. Kendall's ugly, naked desire for this job would have completed his transformation into Logan; he never should have even been considered.
Roman is reprehensible — and the Roy family's only realist
Don't let Kieran Culkin's often charming performance confuse you: Roman Roy is disgusting. He's friendly with fascists, an utter pig to women, and if he's not an outright racist, he certainly feels comfortable saying racist things. He ends his arc on "Succession" in true Roman form, making disparaging remarks about how Kendall's kids aren't "real" — as he claims Logan once said, also calling them "two randos" — and he's physically disgusting to boot, spending the entire board meeting dabbing his oozing, open stitches above his eye. (Whether or not he intentionally reopened them by digging his face into Kendall's shoulder during a sort of demented embrace between brothers is up for debate, but as Roman has repeatedly shown, he uses physical pain to face the concept of failure whenever possible.)
Roman is also the only clear-eyed Roy sibling in this finale, because he's the only one willing to say the quiet part out loud. When Shiv turns on her brothers, allowing the GoJo acquisition to go through, Roman is blunt with Kendall, saying that Waystar Royco was merely assorted parts, a bunch of broken shows and fake news. "It's all f**ing bullsht," he tells his older brother. "It's all nothing. We're nothing, OK?"
Accidentally echoing King Lear himself — "Nothing can come of nothing, speak again" — Roman is the only one who can see things for as they are. He ends the show alone, drinking a martini, a perverse smile on his face. None of this had a point; Roman knows that, and he's at peace with it.
Shiv underestimated the wrong man, and now she's stuck with him forever
"You run towards politics to prove that you're your own man? Fine," Logan tells his daughter Shiv in Season 1 of "Succession." "But that's not principle. You're scared to compete. You're marrying a man fathoms beneath you because you don't want to risk being betrayed. You're a f***ing coward."
For Shiv, it all comes back to this — just like her father before her, she thinks nothing of Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), and she tells him this at every opportunity, whether she's asking him for an open marriage immediately after their wedding reception or telling him he's not good enough for her during foreplay. In Season 4, Tom stops taking this lying down, attacking Shiv back in turn, but even so, she still calls him a "striver," openly acknowledging that she's always seen herself as the powerful one in the relationship. Thanks to Matsson — as well as Tom's willingness to be a "frontman" and a "pain sponge" — Shiv sees the tables turned on her when Tom gets the American CEO job she was promised, and there's only one move left for her to make.
She blocks Kendall's attempts to be CEO and crowns her husband as the new "head" of Waystar Royco — a company that sort of doesn't exist anymore — dooming herself to become her mother in the process, hating her husband and probably her unborn child. Fans will likely argue over Shiv's intentions here for years, but the fact remains that, when backed into a corner, she chewed her way out like a rat, making the only move that would edge out her brother and keep her relatively close to whatever power's left in the equation.
There is no next Logan Roy, because the Roy family era is over
Logan Roy died suddenly and rather unceremoniously off-screen in the third episode of "Succession's" final season, but his shadow loomed over the series and his on-screen children for the rest of the series. As Shiv put it during her father's funeral, they lost their "dear, dear world of a father," and not only are the Roy siblings grappling with their grief, but they're feverishly trying to figure out how to carry on his legacy. As Shiv puts it, the GoJo deal was what he wanted, considering Logan was flying to Sweden to complete it when he experienced a fatal cardiac event; Kendall, however, obviously thinks keeping the company within the Roy family is the only way forward.
However badly each of his children in turn wanted to become Logan, this was never possible; Logan's death wasn't just the death of one man, but of a family dynasty. None of his children could truly succeed him, and even his last act — trying to sell the company that his children viewed as their birthright — revealed that he didn't want to leave a single crumb for his power-hungry offspring. The Roy era ends as "Succession" does, with the company in the hands of two outsiders and Kendall, Shiv, and Roman unmoored in their own ways. None of this mattered, because none of them would ever "become Logan." Every single character still ends "Succession" in possession of more money than any one human needs in a lifetime, but still, none of them got what they really wanted — because they were never supposed to. The Roy supremacy is over, and it was always going to end like this.