The Roys’ reign of Waystar-Royco is officially over, along with one of the best shows of the past decade.
Succession came to an end with tonight’s 90-minute finale, as the HBO drama finally crowned one of the Roys kids head of the empire before tearing it all cruelly away. The episode begins with Kendall, Shiv, and Roman at very different places on the day before the GoJo vote: Shiv is sitting confident in the Mattson suite tallying their favourable votes, Kendall is scrambling to pull off his upset, and Roman is missing. Eventually Caroline calls her daughter to let her know that Roman has traveled to Barbados to recuperate after the funeral. That sends Shiv (and later Kendall, thanks to a tip from Greg) straight to the beachfront home to bring Rome onto her side, to solidify the GoJo deal.
However, Shiv’s slot as Mattson’s American CEO isn’t as stable as she thinks. There’s a dark harbinger on the Mattson suite’s coffee table: a political cartoon of the tech mogul as a puppet, with Shiv pulling the strings. Mattson pretends to shake the ego blow off, but it’s clear from the first scene that he’s begun to distance himself from Shiv mentally. He later admits as much to Tom during a night out, saying that he’s over Shiv’s strong ideas (and that he wants to hook up with her, which tracks with Mattson’s treatment of Ebba and likely every other woman in his professional circle). Instead, he wants a figurehead, someone to take the PR brunt as the public face while the tech mogul works his magic behind the scenes. And who would be better than Tom, the man who Shiv herself admits will “suck the biggest dick in the room.”
Meanwhile, in the Caribbean, Kendall hears (again from Greg, with the help of translation-app eavesdropping) that Mattson’s meeting with possible CEOs, including Lawrence Yee from Vaulter. (Love an early-season callback.) He tells the news to Roman and Shiv, and Shiv is shattered by the news. Now her allegiance is up in the air, as the siblings fight yet again over the possibility of one of them taking the throne. They know that they won’t sway the board with a shared-power pitch, and Kendall makes a convincing argument for why he should be the CEO. (Roman choked at the funeral, showing weakness because he was *checks notes* grieving his father, and Shiv is still inexperienced in a leadership role.) Shiv and Roman do float the humorous play of killing Kendall, but eventually they agree to go with him. The rare show of sibling solidarity transitions into a hazing ritual, with the trio devolving into child-like joy in a kitchen sequence that ends with Kendall’s coronation via a disgusting kitchen-scrap smoothie.
When they arrive back in New York on vote day, they take a detour to Logan’s old penthouse to figure out who gets what before Connor and Willa move in. In the couple’s last sequence, we learn that while Connor’s off to Slovenia, Willa will stay in NYC to stage her latest play. That update is followed by a sweet moment where the Roy children watch an old home video, giving Brian Cox a chance to make his necessary final appearance as Logan. The haunting moment gives another show of sibling unity, and the whole penthouse visit seems pretty benign until Tom and Shiv reunite. It’s then that the bomb drops: Mattson’s proposal to make Tom CEO was serious, and Tom himself breaks the news to Shiv. As Shiv storms out of the apartment with her brothers in tow, both Mattson and the Roys prepare for a showdown.
When it’s time to cast votes, the big players fall on their expected sides, and both Kendall and Roman make their votes to kill the GoJo vote and install Kendall as CEO. The last vote, with a six-six tie, comes down to Shiv…and she can’t do it. She recuses herself, and the board meeting pauses as Kendall and Roman follow her to a non-soundproofed office to berate her into following the plan. But Shiv says over and over that she can’t see Kendall as CEO, and four seasons of old wounds are resurfaced as a desperate Kendall tries to reel his sister back over to his side. The biggest impact comes when Shiv brings up the death of the cater-waiter at her wedding; Kendall’s so far gone that he says it never actually happened, in a show of desperation that makes Roman take back his support. When Kendall devolves to the “eldest boy claim” and brings up the need to keep the company in the family line, Roman points out that Kendall’s children aren’t his by blood. Kendall finally snaps and attacks Roman, and as they fight, Shiv casts the deciding vote for GoJo. In the aftermath of that shocking scene, Roman makes an admission that’s the final death knell of the trio’s claims: “We are bullshit…We’re nothing.”
Related article: ‘Succession’s’ Own It Girl: Annabelle Dexter-Jones
The only impossible way that Kendall, Roman, and Shiv would keep Waystar Royco in the family was to build a united front, and that was never going to happen. Every moment of genuine sibling unity throughout the show has been fleeting, and it’s devastating but not surprising that the group’s bond crumbled at the final, most necessary moment. Shiv’s about-face was sudden in the moment, but she had already spent half the season being pushed out of decision making by Kendall. Her fury at Tom’s latest betrayal didn’t propel her all the way through the vote; it weakened enough for the echo of doubt in Kendall’s trustworthiness to push through. Then, when Kendall tried to walk back the strongest moment of solidarity the trio had throughout the whole season, both Shiv and Roman were faced with the fact that Kendall would do anything and push over anyone he needed to grab the ring.
As a broken Kendall walks out of Waystar Royco, Tom waltzes in as the new CEO. He offers Greg a place as his side, even though the two came to blows earlier after Tom found out Greg was feeding Kendall information. Roman gets it together long enough to sign the company over to Mattson, though he doesn’t even want to be in the room with the guy, and later sits alone in a bar, sipping a martini with a contemplative face. Shiv leaves the building with Tom, taking his hand when he coldly offers it up in the backseat of a private car.
Does Kendall die at the end of Succession?
The final scene shows Kendall, shell-shocked, walking through a waterfront park with bodyguard Colin (Scott Nicholson) close behind. Ken walks up to a park bench, and stares out at the water as the sun starts to set. It’s an image of uncertainty, focusing on the man who has spent his entire life dedicated to the empire that he has just lost. Both he and the audience are left in the feeling of “what exactly just happened?” as Nicholas Brittel’s score plays and end credits roll on the series finale.
With this ending, Kendall’s fate after the loss of his “birthright” is left to the imaginations of the viewers. He has lost everything in the fight to keep the company; he may use his humongous payout to start a new company but, as creator Jesse Armstrong points out in the show’s last Inside the Episode featurette, there’s a very small chance that Kendall will accomplish anything to the scale of his father’s empire. The question now is whether Kendall will find something new to live for, or if his final water scene portends the character’s eventual off-screen death. For now, Kendall’s alive, and he’s left to figure out a way forward.
This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US.