The SUCCESSION finale has been dropped, and if you’re someone that has other things going on in your life right now of higher priority, I’m gonna put a massive SPOILER ALERT on the balance of this musing. I’ll say this much before you go if you choose: if you haven’t yet discovered this gem of a series, or if you did are ready to watch what I did last night, I urge you to do so ASAP. Not only was it a superbly written, acted and directed supersized episode that was a fitting coda to an all-too-short series, but it also was a poignantly accurate Life Lesson as well.
It’s no secret that the fictional Roys are effectively channeling the Murdochs first and foremost, and even pregnant Sarah Snook still looks more and more like she was cast because someone had Elisabeth Murdoch’s picture as an avatar and a face recognition program simply looked for the closest match. But Snook’s Shiv Roy chose to make compromises and choices that her real life doppelganger never had to, and I’m not sure would Elisabeth would have acted similarly. Of the three children of Logan and Caroline Roy, Shiv wound up as the one who will have some association with the company Dad founded, albeit as the spouse of the new American CEO, or, as his new boss refers to him, “pain sponge”. And as USA TODAY’s Bryan Alexander opined, even that came with profound cost:
Tom fessed up to his wife about the CEO deal with Matsson. “Shiv, you should know, it’s me,” he confided to a blindsided Shiv in an effort to bring her on board. This only made her more determined to block the deal and his crowning.
When it came time for casting the final, deciding vote, though, Shiv had one last change of heart.
After an explosive side-bar blow-up with her brothers, Shiv voted to approve the GoJo deal − making Matsson successful in GoJo’s purchase of Waystar Royco, Tom the new CEO and crushing her siblings’ bid to stay in power in the family business.
Shiv’s decision to block Kendall from CEO seems to be made from the heart, because she loses with the deal. “I love you but I can’t stomach you,” she tells Kendall.
She will forgive Tom for his second huge betrayal for practical reasons. But Shiv will be the wife of a CEO in a frigid marriage rather than a corporate power player. Tom makes the new dynamics clear, putting his hand down in the car he ordered and waiting for Shiv to clasp it awkwardly.
And while Tom does get the job and, at least on paper, the girl, he does so at the bidding of a mercurial billionaire who essentially admitted that Tom fit the tick marks of a) a citizen b) subserviant and c) a way to get closer to the woman he so desires to sleep with and knows he can hold that over his employee’s head . So despite a Wambsgans beating the surviving Roys at their own game, and even getting to keep Cousin Greg as a even more feckless foible, it’s clear that Tom is literally a castrated spouse and executive, and Lord knows the therapy bills for the bun Shiv in incubating in her oven will offset whatever salary and bonuses Lukas Mattson decides to throw him–perhaps while he is making good on his lustful quest with Tom bound and gagged and being forced to watch.
As for the brothers, well, after an emotionally gut-wrenching ride that ran the gamut from one last “Meal For A King” and defiling their stepfather’s “special cheese” to a near-brawl as their board was in the process of voting them out of the company they believed should have been theirs since. well, Dad TOLD them it would–they did finally hug. They did cry. But they ultimately went their separate ways to grieve, Roman with a martini, Kendall with a driver watching him contemplate whether he should take yet another impromptu swim. Neither one’s gonna need a GoFundMe. But it looks like they’re gonna need LOTS of hugs, and it’s not clear where they will get theirs apart from each other.
As ROLLING STONE’s Alan Sepinwall wrote this morning, it’s the “feel-bad” ending this show always telegraphed:
For all intents and purposes, though, the only part that matters is a five-minute sequence toward the end.
Up until then, “With Open Eyes” is an almost shockingly chill episode of this show. Yes, there are insults aplenty, and the requisite amount of backstabbing. But a lot of it is just the three main Roy siblings(*) getting on the same page one last time, telling jokes, making plans, even shedding tears together. For a very long time, it seems as if the denouement of Jesse Armstrong’s saga of the absolute worst of the One Percent might be heading for… a happy ending? But of course, this can’t be how things would end, and it isn’t. If we have learned one thing from four seasons of this great show, it is that anytime someone seems like they’re up, they are soon to be down.
Knowing the Murdochs as I did, I now am more dubious the Roys are indeed them. They are more likely an amalgram of many media nepo babies who lacked either the brains or the sechel to do what their fathers and grandfathers did. I’ve seen plenty of them, particularly at companies with their roots in newspapers, radio or local TV. I’ve even advised a few myself, attempting to be counsel while quietly envying the world of luxury and entitlement they endured their come-to-Jesus moments in. More than ever, I’m aware that neither life nor business is fair, since I don’t even have those kind of relationships at my disposal nowadays. I could talk your ear off as to why I believe that’s the case, but most of you wouldn’t care. Certainly not the Roys.
And what’s most unfair, at least to me, is that we will likely be guessing what these characters’ lives will become now that this glimpse into their world has ended. Creator Jesse Armstrong has vowed that there will be no sequel, no spin-off, no reboot. Not even a prequel like we got with THE SOPRANOS. Might that eventually change? Hey, if Yosemite Zas throws enough cache at him, who knows? But under the current climate of how MAX values “creators”, that’s anything but imminent.
So in all likelihood it’s a fond farewell for SUCCESSION, with the enduring final images of Kendall Roy’s contemplating his next move to sustain us. Knowing that whatever next role Jeremy Strong takes on will ultimately be compared to this tour de force. Strong’s a fine actor and has great range, but I’ll be among the many that will have the barometer of this role as his crucible.
Is that fair? Arguably not. But life isn’t. And if you ever thought otherwise, last night was a reminder that anyone who should think otherwise should–well, you know. Logan certainly knew.
Until next time…