Our expert’s seen every engrossing second of the billionaire family saga. So who better to predict how the final episode might unravel tomorrow?
The phoney truce is over. Within hours of their father’s funeral, Kendall, Shiv and Roman Roy have hurled aside any pretence of a power-sharing alliance.
But as the Succession siblings fight like hyenas, which of them will emerge victorious? Or will they all lose?
Sky Atlantic’s Succession, the most brutal family saga ever aired, is often compared to King Lear – Shakespeare’s grand tragedy of a kingdom torn apart in a battle for the throne. The play ends with everyone mad, blind or dead.
Tomorrow’s 90-minute finale – airing at 2am – appears poised to follow the same formula… but could be even more bloody.
Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox) has died – so who now will take his place in Succession?
In the aftermath of last week’s cliffhanger, fans and critics have been arguing incessantly about possible outcomes.
Don’t read on if you haven’t finished catching up with season four so far.
But if, like us, you’re agog to speculate how the 40th and final part of this series could pan out for each character, here’s the best insider information.
Read it now, before Tom Wambsgans orders Cousin Greg to shred it.
THE STORY SO FAR
Each episode of this season has taken place over a single day. On day three, patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) died aboard his private jet, on his way to seal a deal where his media company, Waystar Royco, would be sold to an eccentric Swedish internet billionaire – instead of being handed down to any of his children.
In the aftermath of his death, that deal was tentatively rubber-stamped – but now Kendall and Roman (Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin) want it scrapped. Their pregnant sister, Siobhan, or Shiv (Sarah Snook), is keen for it to go ahead – as long as she can take the helm.
Kendall Roy has been desperate to succeed his father since the first episode, in 2018. He sees it as his birthright, although he is not the eldest son.
That’s Connor (Alan Ruck), Logan’s child by his first wife, who characters gossip was committed to a mental asylum and divorced.
But Connor isn’t interested in business. After his delusional presidential bid ended in farce, he’s got his sights set on an ambassador’s role in central Europe (and reviving the Hapsburg dynasty as a European Union alternative, a contingency that can safely be dismissed from consideration here).
With his father dead, though, Ken (played by Jeremy Strong) appears to have seized centre stage. He is actively recruiting underlings as allies, from PR guru Hugo to bodyguard Colin. It’s as if he’s no longer afraid to be the boss.
Five years ago, the prospect of Kendall, or Ken, becoming Waystar’s chief executive seemed remote. He cut a comic figure – though actor Jeremy Strong told New Yorker magazine that he always saw Ken as tragic and never played him for laughs.
Every opportunity his father gave him to impress was fumbled. His chaotic drug use spiralled, culminating in the death of an employee after a drunken family wedding, and he appeared to torpedo his last chance when he publicly denounced Logan as ‘a malignant presence, a bully and a liar’.
With his father dead, though, Ken appears to have seized centre stage. He is actively recruiting underlings as allies, from PR guru Hugo to bodyguard Colin. It’s as if he’s no longer afraid to be the boss.
He turned a disastrous corporate launch into a publicity triumph with an improvised speech and repeated the trick at his father’s funeral, taking the microphone when his brother Roman broke down in tears.
Ken is revealing himself as the best billionaire speaker since Steve Jobs. That talent alone could be enough to propel him to power.
Fans who see parallels between Succession and The Godfather films have always predicted this. In that story, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) becomes a Mafia don in the image of his father (Marlon Brando), losing his soul in the process.
At this point in the series, there doesn’t seem to be much left of Kendall’s soul.
What remains of it yearns for his dead father’s approval. In his eulogy, he attacked people who tried ‘to denigrate that magnificent, awful force of him’.
‘But my God,’ he said, ‘I hope it’s in me.’
SUCCESSION ODDS: 4/10
THE SLIME PUPPY
That’s the nickname coined for Roman Roy by Waystar executive Gerri Kellman, during a bout of foul-mouthed phone sex.
Actress J Smith-Cameron says she ad-libbed the phrase: ‘I’m proud of slime puppy. It’s my contribution to American literature.’
Gerri is now looking forward to a comfortable retirement, thanks to a collection of obscene photos sent by her canine admirer.
Gerri is now looking forward to a comfortable retirement, thanks to a collection of obscene photos sent by her canine admirer
Roman made the mistake of upsetting her once too often (sacking her on a whim) and she coolly blackmailed him. This alone ought to rule him out as a serious contender for the crown.
But Roman’s combination of wit, charisma and amorality has enabled him to keep pace with Kendall’s ruthless plotting.
His one-liners are so disgusting that it’s hard not to admire him. When his sister revealed, in the car on the way to the funeral, that she was pregnant, Roman immediately quipped, ‘Is it mine?’ – then made an outrageous joke about watching her breastfeed.
The brilliance of Culkin’s performance is that we know this bravado is camouflage for his deep insecurities. His brothers bullied him viciously as a child, even locking him in a cage and forcing him to eat dog meat.
He has a horror of his own emotions, is incapable of a relationship and is paralysed with envy of Kendall’s business acumen.
Underneath it all, Roman is naive and easy to manipulate. Logan knew it and so does Republican presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), who might have just, controversially, won his White House bid.
Roman’s lack of confidence betrayed him at the funeral, when he broke down at the beginning of his tribute speech and was led away sobbing.
Later, Kendall twisted the knife, accusing him of ‘f***ing’ everything – the speech and the attempt to win over Mencken.
In a fit of self-loathing, Roman dashed out into the New York streets, where an ugly protest march was close to violence. Hurling himself into the ‘bull run’ of demonstrators, he screamed abuse at them until being punched and kicked to the ground.
So the question is not, ‘Will Roman rule?’ but, ‘Is Roman even alive?’
SUCCESSION ODDS: 1/10
THE DOUBLE AGENT
Shiv Roy’s duplicity was exposed on election night, when her brothers found out she was secretly undermining their efforts to stop the company falling into the hands of Lukas Matsson, Scandinavian creator of the social media giant GoJo.
Kendall and Roman could hardly be surprised – they outmanoeuvred her after Logan died, claiming that the board would never accept a ruling triumvirate.
They meant that she was female and thus of less consequence. Shiv is used to such chauvinism from her family – she told mourners at the funeral that her dad ‘couldn’t fit a whole woman in his head’.
Shiv Roy’s duplicity was exposed on election night, when her brothers found out she was secretly undermining their efforts to stop the company falling into the hands of Lukas Matsson, Scandinavian creator of the social media giant GoJo
She is the most politically moderate of the siblings and the most astute. People might not like her, she’s cold, abrasive and sarcastic, but they see they can do business with her. She isn’t as emotionally unstable as Ken or as unpredictable as Roman. Also, she’s clever.
Her weakness is her failing marriage to the venal Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), head of the right-wing ATN news channel and father of her unborn baby. Despite affairs, back-stabbings and poisonous rows, the couple seem to love each other – but they might hate each other more.
Shiv’s only hope now of succeeding to the throne is through an alliance with Matsson, a man so socially unbalanced that he sends bricks of his own frozen blood as a love token to his ex-girlfriend.
SUCCESSION ODDS: 2/10
THE SAD SWEDE
That’s what Shiv calls Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard), when she’s flirting with him.
He tolerates her teasing, because her inside information is invaluable and she’s helped him hide a piece of false accounting that could have sunk his bid to buy Waystar.
She wants the deal to go ahead so he can install her as CEO. This will calm American anxieties over European ownership, she says. Matsson can see the logic… but might have other candidates in mind for his puppets.
The Sad Swede…That’s what Shiv calls Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard), when she’s flirting with him
One would be Shiv’s husband, Tom, who is prepared to do anything to further his career, even risking jail. Crushing his wife’s lifelong dreams wouldn’t give him a moment’s pause.
But another possibility is Tom’s gopher, cousin Gregory Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) who is Logan’s great-nephew. Greg is a klutz, a chump, a true American idiot.
We first met him at a Waystar theme park, where he was dressed as a cartoon character and throwing up inside the costume. Since then his salary has improved but his competence hasn’t.
Matsson likes him, though. He needs people around him who are even more socially inept and who will never contradict him. Greg can’t do much, but he knows how to say ‘yes’ and soak up abuse. He could go far on that alone.
It seems ludicrous. After all the scheming of the siblings, surely the mantle could never fall on a simpleton.
But sharp-eyed viewers spotted that Greg wasn’t at the wake and Matsson left early. Later, Matsson seemed to be sharing his limo with someone. Could it be… ?
SUCCESSION ODDS: 6/10
Kendall and Roman used their media power to influence the US election so nakedly that they risked destroying Waystar Royco’s credibility and its share price. It’s not hard to imagine a collapse on the stock exchange and Matsson buying them out of bankruptcy for a nominal $1.
But that can’t all happen in a single day. What could happen though, in an instant, is everything Kendall dreads – his exposure as a killer.
Since the night he crashed his car while drunk and stoned, killing his passenger, Ken has been a haunted man. Others know his secret, including Logan’s ex-bodyguard.
This ending is hinted at heavily in the title. Each series has concluded with an episode that takes its name from words of a sonnet called Dream Song 29 by American poet John Berryman.
Tonight’s episode is called With Open Eyes, a line in the second verse of the poem. The volume in which this sonnet appears is 77 Dream Songs, a collection of poems that won Berryman the 1965 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
It is about a man haunted by a death, and No 29 is explicit in its foreboding.
The man cannot forget the dead face. It weighs on him, ‘so heavy, if he had a hundred years and more, and weeping, sleepless,’ he could never stop thinking about it.
If that secret becomes public, it might be more than Kendall could stand. He has often seemed on the brink of suicide. Perhaps, in the end, Succession really will be a tragedy and not a comedy at all.
SUCCESSION ODDS: 3/10
A GLORIOUS shot last week saw an array of Logan’s ex-wives and girlfriends on the front row at the cathedral: his second wife Caroline (Harriet Walter), his third wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass), his final lover Kerry (Zoe Winters) and another ex-mistress, Sally-Anne – played by Brian Cox’s real-life wife, Nicole Ansari Cox.
The four of them are ideally placed for a remake of Sex And The City.
SUCCESSION ODDS: 0/10