‘Succession’ Finale Explained: Why They Crowned [SPOILERS]
— Updated on 31 May 2023

‘Succession’ Finale Explained: Why They Crowned [SPOILERS]

— Updated on 31 May 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

Warning: This Succession finale explained article contains major spoilers (obviously)

After four seasons, 39 episodes, and five years of the finest modern television HBO has gifted the masses since The Sopranos, Jesse Armstrong’s deliciously Shakespearean Succession honoured the long-held promise of its very name.

In the wake of all the devastating emotional violence, comedic slap fight violence, and backstabbing galore, Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfayden) was installed as the American CEO of the Waystar Royco empire – which had officially been acquired by Lukas Matsson’s (Alexander Skarsgård) tech giant GoJo – thereby living up to part of the claim the former ATN president was a “clumsy interloper.”

So how did we get here?

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The Wambsgans shall inherit the Waystar

Succession Finale Explained: Why They Crowned [SPOILERS]

As some of you may have noticed, we’ve recycled this subheading from our Succession finale predictions article (it’s just far too appropriate in this case).

Granted, we had our doubts about Tommy Boy. But in retrospect, it makes perfect sense.

When Lukas Matsson mentioned he was open to the idea of a US CEO to appease president-elect Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), and to run the day-to-day of Waystar Royco while he Elon Musk’d his way through life, he never explicitly named Siobhan “Shiv” Roy (Sarah Snook). Which should’ve been the first red flag.

Of course, as everyone but poor Shiv herself had anticipated, her flimsy alliance with the Swedish billionaire collapsed when it mattered the most. Lukas began auditioning for the role of CEO as soon as the most unqualified Roy boarded a private jet to appeal for the vote of her brother Roman (Kieran Culkin) to greenlight GoJo’s acquisition of Waystar. And that’s when everything became perfectly clear.

Lukas Matsson wasn’t looking for a partner as Shiv had so naively assumed. Lukas Matsson was in search of a puppet or, to borrow his own distinct verbiage, a “pain sponge” to endure what he had neither the patience nor the stomach for. That’s where Tom Wambsgans comes in. Sweet, agricultural, human punching bag Tom. Equal parts yes man. Equal parts ruthless, blunt corporate instrument.

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“I’m sure there’s a clever answer in terms of the dramatic narrative, like the fools in a Shakespeare play, but that would diminish them, because they’re not just comic relief,” Matthew Macfadyen himself explained of Tom and Cousin Greg’s (Nicholas Braun) triumph during an interview with The New York Times.

“But they’re not the cold, hard, screwed-up Roys – they haven’t suffered at the hands of Logan like the siblings have. They’ve got a different energy.”

This exact outcome had been teased all throughout season 3, particularly in the closing episode wherein Tom’s dedicated service to Logan Roy and betrayal of the Roy siblings (including his own wife Shiv) was rewarded with an embarrassment of riches. Never underestimate a man with an inhuman ability to eat s**t and a malleable “eunuch” of a lackey whose talent lies in self-preservation.

MacFayden added: “I mean, the whole world of Succession is absurd. The corridors of power are absurd. Greg and Tom are on the broader end of that.”

“Kendall is uber serious, hilarious in his seriousness. We dip into farce. But it’s a mistake to think that they don’t care – they care just as much as the others. We played everything like life and death.”

The tragedy of Kendall (AKA Sisyphus Roy)

Succession Finale Explained: Why They Crowned [SPOILERS]

As an overarching narrative, Succession offered so many twists and turns that we forgot about the one consistent through-line: it was never going to be Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong). In fact, it was never going to be any of the Roy siblings who, as Logan once said, are not “serious people.” But more on this later…

Think about it. We were practically told from the very beginning. Logan comes to realise that despite all the grooming, all the private school and Harvard education, his “number one boy” was ill-suited for the posting of Waystar Royco CEO. No killer instinct. No stomach for what was required. And most importantly, he wasn’t Logan.

Once you realise Kendall isn’t the hero of this story, and recontextualise the bigger picture knowing he’s destined to do nothing more than push a boulder uphill while screaming about his so-called birth right, it becomes painfully clear.

Incidentally, fans were almost treated to an alternate ending which would’ve effectively punctuated both the heartbreaking journey of Kendall Roy and his semi-existential relationship with water.

“As scripted, it was meant to end with an aerial shot where we see Kendall walking, and we see Colin following him. I begged [series creator Jesse Armstrong and director Mark Mylod], “Can we go to the water? I want to keep walking,” Jeremy Strong revealed to Vanity Fair.

“We ended up at the bitter end of Battery Park, facing the water. I’d never seen waves like that in the East River. It felt biblical. And there was this terrible clanging on some scaffolding nearby. We didn’t know what we were looking for, but something profound happened… The water was calling to me. It felt right to all of us.”

Strong continued: “Listen to the John Berryman poem that Jesse has named these finales after. John Berryman himself died by suicide, jumping into the frozen river.”

“I tried to go into the water after we cut – I got up from that bench and went as fast as I could over the barrier and onto the pilings, and the actor playing Colin raced over. I didn’t know I was gonna do that, and he didn’t know, but he raced over and stopped me.”

“I don’t know whether in that moment I felt that Kendall just wanted to die – I think he did – or if he wanted to be saved by essentially a proxy of his father.”

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Slime puppies don’t have spines

Succession Finale Explained: Why They Crowned [SPOILERS]

There’s not a whole lot to elaborate upon with the Roman Roy of it all.

As he’s steadily proven across all four seasons, but particularly over the past few episodes from the “firing” of Waystar Royco General Counsel and mentor Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron), backing out of the Living+ investor presentation, to the moment he publicly crumbles at his father’s funeral, he isn’t Logan Roy. And he’ll never be Logan Roy.

Signing away the family media conglomerate and GTFO-ing is quite possibly the happiest ending he could’ve ever hoped for.

Survival of the Shivvest

Succession Finale Explained: Why They Crowned [SPOILERS]

Similar to Kendall, we’ve been so distracted by subplots and whatnot that we’ve conveniently forgotten Shiv’s actual function in this modern adaptation of King Lear.

At face value, Shiv was in pole position to become Waystar’s next CEO after the events of the penultimate episode ‘Church and State,’ but history has a funny way of repeating itself with the Roy family, and having famously fumbled her audition for the top job in season 2 and 3, she lost possession of the ball at the five-yard line. Again.

It’s like we said before. Shiv’s purpose/arc in Succession was never to be a legitimate candidate in the race to replace Logan – it’s to serve as both an obstacle and direct opposition to Kendall, culminating in that gut-wrenching boardroom scene that reminded us just how pathetic the Roy siblings are.

In a deserved act of poetic justice, when the husband she’s long deemed “beneath” her prevails as the new King of Waystar, Shiv comes crawling back to him with tucked tail, pregnant belly, and the deeply uncomfortable knowledge that she’s no longer the alpha in this shamble of a marriage.

“Maybe she doesn’t choose Tom over her brothers. Maybe she just can’t stomach her big brother,” explained Matthew Macfadyen.

“It’s not a binary choice. She just looks at Kendall and thinks, ‘I can’t.’ I don’t think she made a rational decision. And then there’s this beautiful stage direction that Jesse wrote in the script of Tom and Shiv in the car. He talks about two bombs being transported.”

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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