Last week on Succession, the Roys traveled to Tuscany, Connor posed a question, and Roman sent an ill-advised sext. This week on the season finale, Logan considered a merger, the siblings made their stand, and Tom made his move. Succession is a show all about how people jockey for power (and process trauma) — after the video below, check out our spoiler-filled season three, episode nine Succession Power Rankings.
1. It's Not TV, It's HBO: I just want to take a moment at the top of the power rankings to appreciate just how electric this show is right now. There are lots of very, very good shows I would recommend from this year—For All Mankind, The White Lotus, What We Do In The Shadows, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, Yellowjackets, The Underground Railroad, etc—but Succession is operating on another level from almost every other ongoing American television drama currently on TV.
Really, the audience should be at the top of this week's power rankings, because we get to enjoy a top tier HBO show in its prime. How many of you watched Deadwood season two live on Sunday nights, or the fifth season of The Sopranos? I'm not saying Succession is definitely up there in the pantheon of all-time great television series just yet, but after tonight's season finale, I think it is certainly making a case for itself.
And this finale was undoubtedly an all-time great episode for the series—it was funny and thrilling, it kept everyone in motion while withholding a couple crucial pieces of information. It gave the siblings tons of quality time together where they were just talking to each other, finally, like people. It had an unforgettable ending with a shocking "betrayal" that makes total sense. It was like one of the exciting status quo-changing episodes of Mad Men, the ones where the core players band together to pull off an unlikely plan and it feels like a heist movie, except in this case, they fail miserably, and probably deservedly.
It deftly set up new and exciting stakes for the next season, completely defying the naysayers who said the show was stuck in limbo this season. It upended the power structure of the show as well—instead of Shiv, Roman and Kendall jockeying for the top positions under Logan, they've all been jumped over by the likes of freakin' Tom and Greg.
2. I Fucking Win: It's amazing to rewatch the final scene after you know what's about to happen. It makes it so obvious that Logan knew exactly why they were coming, what they were trying to do, and explains his initial weirdly cheery behavior. It is a gift for Brian Cox, as Logan completely loses his patience with his ne'er-do-well kids and finally lets them know how he really feels.
The deal has to happen now, he says, because he feels it in his bones. "This is the best move we can sell," he explains. "If I don't do the best deal at any given point, what's the point of anything? If I don't get out, I leave five billion on the table." It's not just that this is the best deal for his bank account—this is a chance to put his kids in their place, to remind them why he's the king, to show them what a killer instinct looks like. "Make your own fucking pile. I know this is a readjustment, but blood is in the water, and I need to control the situation," he says. "This is an opportunity for you kids to get an education in real life."
They get that education: the coup fails miserably. He's been three steps ahead of them the entire episode, and now he gets to flaunt it (which also explains why everyone else in the room, especially Gerri, looks so uncomfortable once they arrived). The kids thought that he needed them onboard with any change in control, because they controlled the supermajority in the holding company, and their mother got them that in the divorce. What they didn't consider was that Logan would get to Lady Caroline and rearrange the terms. "We agreed the arrangements were a little antiquated," he gloats. "Mom, you just slit our throats," Shiv says.
Roman makes one final appeal that is doomed to fail. They have no other play, so he tries...love. "Love? You come for me, with love? You bust in here, guns in hand, and now you find they've turned to fucking sausages. You talk about love? You should have trusted me," Logan responds. But they still can't quite understand. So Logan gives them a kiss-off: "Why? Because it works. I fucking win. Go on, go on, fuck off, you nosy fucking pedestrians."
3. Slab Of Gravlax: Roman was right about one thing: Lukas Matsson is not a clown, or a nut-nut, or a "Twitter panty flasher." He's a serious person who saw that there was a better deal here for him, and he grabbed the opportunity. He can see that the two companies fit well. He respects Logan and everything he built ("You're a legend. Fucking bulletproof. Tank man."). But this isn't really a "merger of equals," at least not to him. He has all the leverage, and he has the future on his side. He'll soon have control of the Waystar board, though he will of course let Logan keep his "prestige."
If Logan really believes no one in his family is ready, capable or able to take over the company and succeed him, then Matsson is giving him an easy out. It certainly looks like Matsson, and actor Alexander Skarsgård, is going to be playing a very large and important role in season four. But it would be wise not to count Logan out just yet. As he said last episode, "I can win any bout with a boxer fuck, but I don't know how to knock out a clown." Matsson is a serious person, and I have no doubt that despite this apparent loss, Logan has his own plans for the future.
4. Maca Root: Kerry has obviously been a pivotal behind-the-scenes figure all season, slowly working her way from assistant to Logan's main confidante. But this is taking things to a whole other place.
"He's working on his baby batter," Connor declares after sussing out that Logan has been drinking smoothies filled with Maca root, which apparently is good for increasing sperm. "You don't tangle with the root unless you're firing up the siege engines...I guess he really doesn't like you guys."
"He's working on his jism, are you fucking with me?" Roman said. "Well, we need a plan to kill this baby." What's more disturbing: imagining Logan in the spawn chamber, issuing his hell seed, or Tom pooping out his own baby?
5. Shoulder Touching: This was, undoubtedly, the most amount of physical affection offered between characters in the entire season. Each gesture was filled with meaning, whether fraternal, pseudo-romantic, or parental: it was Shiv and Roman reaching out to comfort Kendall, Greg and Tom embracing in unity, or Logan patting Tom on the shoulder. For a show that is generally devoid of emotional connection, we got an outpouring of emotions—and yes, love—this episode, which only made the final scene even more crushing.
Especially since the final image of the season is Tom holding onto Shiv's shoulders as she cries.
6. Failchildren: This is not to say that the beautiful failsons and faildaughter of Logan Roy had a great week—in fact, all four has decidedly horrible weeks that only solidified the fact that these children of privilege have been absolutely outmaneuvered at every turn this season. This is just an acknowledgement of the fact that these failchildren have truly entered their flop eras.
And it was all set up so perfectly in the first scene, when everyone (Connor, Willa, Roman, Shiv, Tom, Greg) was gathered around playing Monopoly (technically, Kendall isn't taking part because he just got out of the hospital, but he is there in spirit). They're literally at the kids table playing a kids game—Kerry even offers to go get kids menus for them—while the grownups are off elsewhere. Roman, Shiv and Kendall, in particular, think they're making this grandmaster move to knockout their dad and finally wrest control of the company, the thing they briefly considered doing way back in episode two before Logan's donuts scared them.
They've grown up coddled inside the protective nest of Waystar Royco. They think they're owed this place. Really, they're just rich children playing at being grownups, and that's how Logan sees them when they try to make their move. "You're playing toy fucking soldiers," Logan berates them at the end of the episode. "Go on, fuck off. I have you beat. You morons."
The real question is: why are they so desperate to keep the company? Why do these filthy rich people, who will remain rich beyond anyone else's wildest dreams even if they lose their roles in the company, need Waystar? Why can't they take their millions—or billions—and just go live their lives, do something else?
And it all comes back to trauma (as Lady Caroline said last episode about Logan, "He never saw anything he loved that he didn't want to kick, just to see if it would still come back"). And it's also a testament to the exquisite character work that has gone into this show, and the writing and acting that elevates filthy one-liners and pithy boardroom maneuvers into Shakespearean heft. The magic trick, of course, is that despite the fact that losing the company would be the best thing that could happen to any of the Roy children, we want to see them retain it because we care about these characters and their problems. They are pathetic and often grotesque, but there is something buried inside them, constantly being snuffed out by their father, and it aches.
7. Tom Fucking Wambsgans: In a lot of ways, the most important line to understanding what happens at the end of this episode came back in episode six, when Tom met up with Kendall at a diner down in Virginia, and Kendall tried to convince him to help him take down Logan. "I don't mean to be insulting, but having been around a bit, my hunch is that you're gonna get fucked," Tom told him. "Because I've seen you get fucked a lot. And I've never seen Logan get fucked once."
But hey, this is what happens when your wife spends the entirety of your marriage treating you like hired help, rolling her eyes whenever you fretted about going to prison, ignoring your desperate need for partnership and compassion, and literally telling you to your face that she is better than you and doesn't really love you.
So Tom seemingly makes his big move finally, tipping off Logan about the siblings' attempted coup, giving him just enough time to snuff out any chance that they can do him any harm. After offering himself up as a sacrifice for the family with nothing in return earlier this season, he makes himself invaluable to Logan once again. Who knows where he would have ended up with Shiv, Ken and Roman taking over; it certainly wasn't on the top of Shiv's priority list.
8. Europe's Weirdest King: Cousin Greg has romance on his mind all episode—things with Comfrey remain on low simmer (they're "separate bedding") so he's more interested in getting closer to the contessa, who it turns out is actually a princess. "She's eighth in line for the throne of Luxembourg," he explains to Tom. "You're a plane crash away from becoming Europe's weirdest king," Tom realizes. "Dude, you off a couple hemophiliacs and you'll be the king of Luxembourg, you'd sound like a fancy cookie."
But Greg only has one true love on the show: "Who has ever looked after you in this fucking family," Tom asks, and Greg basically says in so many words, you had me at fucking family. He can be his attack dog, a Greg-weiler. What's his future if he sides with Tom? "You could be heading away from the endless middle and toward the bottom of the top." But best of all, he could get his own Greg, or even 20 Gregs!
"Do you want a deal with the devil?" Tom finally asks. "What am I gonna do with a soul anyways?" Greg responds. "Souls are boring. Boo souls!" Then comes the most romantic hug of the show's entire history. Maybe these kids can make their dream of being the Nero and Sporus of the 21st century come true after all.
9. The Heartbreaking End Of Gerri & Roman? Obviously things were bad after Dickpicgate last week, but the nail may be in the coffin now. After the attempted coup goes up in flames, Roman makes one final attempt at pleading with Gerri for help. Her response is swift, brutal, and entirely in keeping with her survivor's mentality: "It doesn't serve my interests. How does it serve my interests?"
10. The Fall Of Roman: Out of the three main siblings (sorry Connor), Roman is the one who has grown the most since we first met him in season one, when he was just a foul-mouthed rich asshole fucking with children. He's taken his role seriously, he's learned how to work the business, and his father has clearly chosen him as his favorite as of recently. But of course, when it comes to Logan, that means nothing.
"You think you're close to him? You're just his little rat fucker," Shiv declares. "Dad is never going to choose you because he thinks there's something wrong with you." But it's understandable why Roman is the most reluctant of the three to go all-in on the coup. He has a pretty good relationship with his father right now; he was the one who got Matsson to the table. He doesn't want to rock the boat if he doesn't have to, but his siblings convince him that once Matsson is in charge, the three of them are expendable. They are very likely right.
"I do think that, even though this literally makes me want to vomit and I want to kill you both every day and it's all gonna end horribly, I do think we—puke—could make a pretty good team," Roman finally admits, joining in with his sibling.
So it's, surprisingly, heart-wrenching to see that after everything falls apart, Roman tries an emotional appeal to Logan. "He rates you, you have my word. This is an opportunity, son, a bit of fucking grit, adversity, like me," Logan says as he tries to peel Roman away from the other two. "You can trust me." For a few moments, this whole thing seems to be a battle for Roman's soul. Roman chooses his siblings, then tries to reach out to his father with love, to disastrous effect. Trust is worth something to Logan, but love is worthless.
11. Celebrities Writing Flattering Things About Their Good Friend Jeremy Strong: In the wake of the New Yorker's quite excellent profile of Jeremy Strong last week—a profile which painted a picture of a very serious method actor who puts his whole being into the work, and maybe annoyed some of his costars along the way—celebrities have been falling over themselves to, uh, defend his good name? I walked away from the piece with more respect for Strong's commitment to his craft, and also chuckling at the self-seriousness of an actor who definitely uses the term "craft" in casual conversations and, like his character Kendall, maybe isn't always in on the joke, which doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world.
But the celebrities are talking about the profile in their various group chats, and they are not happy! How dare a profile have an angle, or reveal something slightly unflattering about a person that further humanizes them! How dare people have outsized, typically extreme Twitter reactions to a very well-done profile!
Jessica Chastain was the first to raise her sword in solidarity, tweeting that she has known Strong for 20 years, he's very inspiring, and "snark sells but maybe its time we move beyond it." Chastain did not move on however, because even though talk of the article started to die down as the week went on, she then tweeted out a long statement from Aaron Sorkin, who doesn’t have social media, because then he'd have to read about how much everyone makes fun of The Newsroom. He printed the full questions and answers he offered to the New Yorker about Strong, in an attempt to prove that journalism is biased because they only used the best, most memorable quote he gave. Snark strikes again, I'm sorry Jessica Chastain, I am a very sick man, the snark is eating away at my brain.
Sorkin's letter revived the conversation, and provided plenty of fodder for mockery. Anne Hathaway got in on the action too, writing on Instagram that she deeply values Strong's "qualities of thoughtfulness, sincerity, authenticity, sweetness, depth, kindness, generosity, as well as his powerful intelligence and extraordinary sensitivity." I wish someone would say that about me, but I would never allow anyone to profile me, so alas, I shall never know whether my friends appreciate my extraordinary sensitivity or take it for granted.
Anyway, I'm sure by Tuesday, Meryl Streep or Dame Judi Dench will weigh in on all this and everything will be right. Until then, BoJack Horseman's Raphael Bob-Waksberg gets the final word: "If anyone ever wrote a profile of me I considered unflattering, I only hope that each of my friends and co-workers would take turns keeping the story in the conversation every day and making sure everybody knew about it, for as long as possible. That would really help things."
12. Kurt Cobain Of The Fucking Floaties: Say what you will about Jeremy Strong's process, but it clearly pays off on this show. There is no better example of that than the devastating scene where Kendall finally breaks down in front of Shiv and Roman, sobbing in the dirt while confessing to his involvement with the death of the waiter during Shiv's wedding in season one. It's a tour de force on Strong's part, a tremendous display of actor-ing by a capital-a Actor. He stammers, he shrinks, he collapses, he folds within.
"There's something really wrong with me Shiv, I don't know whats wrong with me," he says. "I'm not feeling very connected to my children, or my endeavors right now. And I can't get one thing right with another. I don't know what happened. I tried to do something, I really tried. I tried."
Last episode, he was still clinging to the idea that he was a good person, or at least better than his dad. No more: "I'm not a good person...I'm bad," he says before launching into the story of the car crash with the waiter. Shiv bends down and touches him, and her maternal side seems to emerge. Roman handles this like he does any other emotional display: he jokes and lightens the mood, saying that Kendall sounds like a hero. "Who hasn't clipped the odd kid with a Porsche?" This is by far the most affectionate these three have ever been with each other.
In its own way, it works too: "One waiter down, that makes sense, it took me forever to get a drink at her wedding," Roman says. "I guess I'm trying to say, like, who is the real victim here? I waited three quarters of an hour for a gin and tonic." This is an especially interesting dynamic to see after learning about Strong's approach to the show vs. Kieran Culkin's—as we learned in the New Yorker profile, Culkin thinks of the show as a comedy, while Strong compares it to Crime & Punishment, and that divergence is fully on display here.
Kendall almost gets everything he really wants: he is able to confess, he's connected again with his siblings, and they finally unite as a family to take down their dad and divide the company as equals. It's just too bad they were too little too late.
13. Shiv: All the kids fuck up in this episode, but arguably no one fucks up more than Shiv. It's not just that the coup fails, that she stands up to her father and is swatted down to Earth yet again (and that Logan mockingly imitates her to boot). It's not just that she neglected her husband to the point where he is making his own moves to secure his future with or without her (though something tells me he'll spin this as doing it for their future, and their embryos future, because he always knew Logan would win). It's not just that her mother, who she had such a bitter fight with last week, is the one who ultimately fucks them to secure her new marriage. It's all of those things, of course. But it's also that Shiv got everything wrong. And underneath it all, there is an undeniable realization that she really has never been the smartest in the room.
14. The Eldest Son: Connor is the eldest son. He is the eldest son. He must be considered and taken into account. He is the eldest son of their father. He didn't see pop for three years, but everyone's crying now because Kendall's spoon wasn't shiny enough. Connor is the eldest son and all he gets is chump change from chumps. This is the fate that befalls all maverick thinkers, truly.
15. Fuck It Forever! Willa still isn't sure about getting married to Connor. But listening to him bemoan his shitty day—his siblings don't respect him, the A/C wasn't working last night, his presidential hopes may be going down the tube along with the company, and his would-be fiancée is keeping him guessing—something about his pathetic state moves her to accept. He is a nice man! And as she romantically puts it, "You know what, fuck it. C'mon, how bad can it be? Why not, we'll have fun. Fuck it, right?" That is exactly the kind of proposal story you will one day regale your children with as they sip wine in their doomsday bunker. Willa never technically says the word "yes" but she does scream, "Fuck it forever!" She looks mildly terrified getting into the car with him, and even worse when we see her, uh, sobbing during Lady Caroline's nuptials. Can't wait for the wedding, you two.
16. Lady Caroline Collingwood: On the one hand, she got to marry her little tart, who is more fun than a bottle of cheap Prosecco. If she really wanted to spend the rest of her life eating dick and drinking champagne, as Shiv put it, she seems to be doing well. But she also screwed her kids out of their best chance at securing the company, all so her Bridezilla can enjoy a flat in Pimlico, so I suppose there are some trade-offs to eternal happiness.
17. Peter Timothy Munga Munion: You might think at first that he should be above Lady Caroline; after all, he didn't have to betray any of his children to get his happy ending. But then you'd have to ignore the heartbroken look on his face when he realized Logan really wasn't coming to his wedding. How will he ever get over it.
18. Weddings: I'm starting to think weddings are cursed affairs on Succession. First there was Shiv and Tom's season one wedding, which was overshadowed by Kendall killing a waiter and Roman witnessing a rocket blowing up. Now we get this wedding, completely overshadowed by the GoJo play, the kids' failed takeover, and Lady Caroline fucking over her kids. And topped off with Shiv's speech: "I hope that your marriage is as rich and happy, rewarding and fulfilling as mine." The nuptials of Connor and Willa seem most likely to come next (perhaps toward the end of season four??), and boy I can't wait.
19. Marcia Roy: If there was one really disappointing thing about this entire season, it was the fact that Marcia Roy was basically jettisoned from the cast. For a while there, it seemed like the show was purposefully keeping her in the back pocket so the audience forgot about her, or so they could deploy her at a dramatically opportune time. But in the finale, she barely got one scene, in which she confirmed for the audience that Logan wasn't going to make it to the wedding, and then had a subtle acknowledgment of his relationship with Kerry.
20. Sophie & Iverson: Dad is doing okay, he just hasn't been able to connect lately with his endeavors. Or his children. Also, he killed a guy, sort of. Does anyone know who is watching the kids during the entire episode? Does anyone care? As ever, Sophie and Iverson are the least powerful people in the world of Succession.
Succession Season 3 Episode Rankings:
9. Lion In The Meadow (3.4): Logan and Kendall were forced to play nice for Adrien Brody's benefit, while Roman pursued Tattoo Man.
8. Secession (3.1): Kendall Roy declares war on his family in the season premiere, while the rest of the family contemplates which Eastern European country to hide out in.
7. Mass In The Time Of War (3.2): All the siblings got together for a little quality time over some potentially poisoned donuts.
6. What It Takes (3.6): The Roys head to fake CPAC and help pick the next Republican presidential candidate, an alt-right conservative sensation who bonds with Roman.
5. The Disruption (3.3): Shiv wrote an open letter about her brother, Tom offered to be a blood sacrifice for Logan, and Kendall learned he wasn't in on the joke.
4. Retired Janitors Of Idaho (3.5): Logan dealt with a UTI as the rest of the family scrambled to put together a deal to retain control of the company before the dreaded shareholders' vote.
3. Chiantishire (3.8): The Roys head to Tuscany, where Shiv has it out with her mother, Connor proposes to Willa, Kendall has dinner with his father, and Roman accidentally sexts the wrong person.
2. Too Much Birthday (3.7): Kendall throws himself a "big nervous breakdown of a party" for his 40th birthday, and almost everyone had a bad time.
1. All The Bells Say (3.9): Lady Caroline gets married, Logan makes a deal with GoJo, the siblings band together to knockout their dad, and Tom makes a surprising move.
Red Wedding Throwback Of The Season: Doesn't this clip make you wish viewing parties were still a thing? I certainly wish I could watch a dozen clips of people freaking out at Roman's dick pic fiasco.
Did Anyone Get A Kiss From Daddy This Season? Roman got a couple of really nice pats on the back, and Kerry definitely got some action, but ultimately Tom is the one who got the metaphorical kiss from daddy. Congrats on getting a kiss from daddy, Tom, I don't think your wife is going to be too happy about this one.
And that's a wrap for season three of Succession! We laughed, we cried, we sent dick pics to our dads. The show won't start filming season four—which very well could end up being the penultimate season, but hopefully not the final season—until next spring, so expect the new season to come either in late fall or winter. Until then, in the words of Brian Cox, fuck off!