Succession Season 4, Episode 10 Finale Ending Explained: Who Becomes CEO?

The following story contains spoilers for Succession Season 4, through the series finale “With Open Eyes.” IN THE Succession series finale, Tom Wamsbgans (Matthew Macfadyen, Emmy winner for the show’s third season and possibly on his way for a Season 4 repeat), wife guy from Minnesota with a florid vocabulary, takes it all. Imagine finding out that you’re inheriting billions of dollars and being sad about it. The Succession series finale poses this incomprehensible fantasy by ending exactly where it started for Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin): desperate for their father’s approval and longing for the Waystar-Royco CEO title. This tragic (but, again, keep in mind: they are billionaires) fate for the series’ main characters was inevitable: the sibling trio were and always will be obsessed with Logan Roy (Brian Cox). Even long after his death, they will be driven by his approval. This is among many inevitabilities in the plausible (a Succession word) Succession series finale. Although Succession was as character-driven as Mad Men, another show with a roster of supporting characters as rich in personality as they are in their bank accounts, the former’s rapid dialogue and push and pull relationships made it feel like it had a plot as rolling as Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones. At times, the characters’ sense of urgency, speed, and handheld camerawork gave some Succession viewers the sense that it was a show about who would “win” the title of CEO of Waystar-Royco. But that’s just the show—and the Roy children, sans the truly free and liberated Connor (Alan Ruck)–influencing its own audience with their own little game. Succession was never actually about the succession of Logan Roy. Succession was about the people adjacent to Logan Roy, by paycheck or by blood. In showing endless arguments over shareholder meetings, takeovers, and betrayals, Succession laid out how each and every one of them were traumatized, empowered, or affected in any way. HBOThe unimportance of Logan Roy’s successor is made clear as a Waystar office window, given that it winds up being the Midwesterner who takes it all. Shiv betrays her brothers by voting in favor of the GoJo deal, thus handing over Waystar-Royco to Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), who appoints Tom Wambsgans, the spinach lover from the Twin Cities, as his “American CEO.” The show’s decision to end the series with someone who is not a Roy in name or blood as the CEO of the life-consuming corportate firm at the center of its drama is indicative of its insignificance. If Succession was a show about who was winning at business, the title would have gone to Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) or Connor in a sickening, stupid twist. It’s also a bit of a wink, and realistic on paper, but fantastical in the real world: of any major character on the show, Tom has worked the hardest to get to his position, despite the shady things he did to get there. The shady things he did to get there are more impressive than his experience or his climb from the Midwest to the top of an office building in downtown Manhattan. Every move he made during the series’ run—and before it began—is more impressive than any of Kendall, Roman, or Shiv’s perceived qualifications. Similarly, Greg the Egg’s loyalty to Tom keeps him in a position close to Tom, Tom’s new Hugo (Fisher Stevens). HBOKendall Roy ends the series in the most stressful place for Kendall Roy to be: near a body of water. Or any water, for that matter. During a tantrum in a conference room amidst the GoJo vote, Kendall, in the peak of his alm0st-CEO-but-not-there-yet mania, admits that Logan offered him the role as Waystar CEO when he was seven years old. “I am a cog built to fit only one machine,” he tells Roman and Shiv. After looking down at the choppy river at sunset with the Statue of Liberty in the background, Strong contorts his expressive face into his best Kendall Roy sad face one last time, before the end credits. And in the last moment we see of Roman Roy, he is, for a rare moment in his life, silent. He sits at a bar alone and drinks a martini. With just a glare down at his glass, Kieran Culkin communicates a look of self-doubt and relief, as well as conflict over both of these feelings. He never wanted this life, but he himself may only partially realize it.Shiv ends the series in second place as the the most liberated-from-Logan Roy sibling, right behind Connor. But there’s a fair distance between them. Shiv, most likely in a selfless act guided by her love for Tom, her unborn child, and her brothers, betrays her brothers by voting to sell the company. Despite genuine motivators, as long as Shiv Roy is her father’s daughter, she’ll love her proximity to his legacy more than anything. Sarah Snook portrays Shiv’s final moments on screen to perfection: aware of the toxicity around her but unaware or willfully ignorant of her own. The GoJo deal, which occupied a majority of the Waystar plot over the last two seasons of the series, was, in the end, Logan Roy’s only good example of parenting. Deep inside Logan Roy’s minefield of a mind–but certainly not in his physical form–perhaps he knew that the best thing for his children was freeing them from his legacy. Succession’s clever finale, which is reminiscent of the series finale of creator Jesse Armstrong’s British comedy Peep Show, which similarly ends with its characters right back where they started, positions it with shows like Mad Men, The Wire and The Americans as the best series finales in television history and, by proxy one of the best television series, iconThe triangle icon that indicates to playContributorCarrie is a Brooklyn-based entertainment journalist and critic with bylines in GQ, The Ringer, Vulture, The Cut, and more. She tweets way too much @carriesnotscary.

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