SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers from “With Open Eyes,” the series finale of HBO’s “Succession,” now streaming on Max.
After four riveting, profane seasons and two best drama Emmys (so far!), “Succession” — the story of the Roy dynasty — came to an end on Sunday night. Creator Jesse Armstrong, who conceived the story of the Roys loosely around the mythology of the Murdochs, announced in February that Season 4 would be its last.
The death of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) in Episode 3 provided the engine for the rest of the season, and once again divided the adult Roy siblings — Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) — who have an interest in running Waystar Royco, the family’s mega-corporation that was about to be sold to tech giant GoJo. As the three of them fell back into their old feuds and reopened childhood wounds, the deal solidified and dissipated as the season went on. Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), Shiv’s on-and-off husband; his sidekick Greg (Nicholas Braun); GoJo founder Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), and a trifecta of Waystar executives, Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), Karl (David Rasche) and Frank (Peter Friedman) were also players in the high-stakes, often confused chess game among the siblings. Only Logan’s hapless oldest son Connor (Alan Ruck) remained on the sidelines of the family back-stabbings, and well … front-stabbings.
So, what happened on the series finale and who came out on top?
Once again, there’s an important boardroom vote. With a majority, the Waystar board will either approve the GoJo deal (putting Matsson in charge) or kill it (leaving the Roys in command). Kendall and Shiv rally their sides and gather their votes, with Kendall on the backfoot. They both need to know which way Roman will vote, and he’s currently recuperating at their mother’s Caribbean estate after he was punched by a protester in the penultimate episode after flaming out while trying to deliver a eulogy for Logan. He “fucked it,” as Kendall put it.
Shiv begins the episode thinking she would become Matsson’s new CEO after GoJo acquires Waystar, but he soon reveals that he’s second-guessing the decision, in part because he is attracted to her. “I want to fuck her a little bit,” Lukas tells Tom (Shiv’s husband). “Sorry to get weird, I think under the right circumstances, she’d fuck me too.” Tom is such a kiss-ass that his only response to Lukas’ slight apology is, “We’re men.”
That they are. Lukas’ new frontrunner? Tom. Kendall learns this juicy piece of information (from none other than Greg), and this puts the three siblings back into business together against Matsson. After some heated negotiations and heart-to-hearts, the Roy kids rally behind Kendall as their new “king.” They have a late-night swim and some midnight snacks in a heart-warming scene before the biggest vote of their lives. Shiv even spits into a disgusting concoction they’ve put in a blender for Kendall to drink, and after he drinks down some of it, they pour it over his head.
We even get one more dose of Connor as the entire family gathers together one last time at Logan’s house to auction off his belongings. They watch an unearthed home video of Logan singing and cracking jokes, and the siblings share a tender moment. But things quickly turn when Shiv reveals to Tom that she won’t be CEO (which he already knows) and that she learned that key piece of intel from Greg (which Tom didn’t know). In turn, Tom tells her that he’s Matsson’s choice for CEO, and that sends everyone into their battle stations. In the first physical fight of the episode, Tom pulls Greg aside into a bathroom, asks why he betrayed him and the two get into a slapping match.
Reunited once more, Kendall, Roman and Shiv enter the final boardroom meeting thinking they have enough votes to kill the GoJo deal. But this is “Succession” after all, and that would be too easy. Before the vote, Roman nearly bails because he’s self-conscious about his stitches, and he keeps asking Kendall why he can’t be CEO. In a moment of abuse-as-love that Logan himself would’ve appreciated, Kendall hugs Roman so tightly that he pops his stitches.
The rest of the board arrives, and the yeses and noes start to roll in. But Shiv suddenly leaves the room when it comes to her vote. Kendall and Roman confront her, and she says, “I don’t think you’d be good at this.” Kendall begins to beg her, saying, if he doesn’t get it, “I might die.” Shiv then says, “You can’t be CEO. You killed someone.”
And there it is: We’ve returned again to the young caterer whose death Kendall was responsible for at Shiv’s wedding in the Season 1 finale. He’d confessed this crime to Shiv and Roman in the finale of the third season, and Shiv has now used it against him. Kendall begins to flail: “It’s a thing I said. I made it up.” Shiv and Roman react in horror, not knowing what’s true. “It did not happen. It did not happen!” Kendall shouts.
This throws Kendall into a rage. He screams at Shiv, and physically attacks Roman after he called Kendall’s kids illegitimate, and the entire board can hear the commotion in the room next door.
Defeated, Kendall re-enters and asks for to adjourn the vote, but it’s too late. In a 7-6 decision, the GoJo deal goes through, Tom is the CEO and Kendall is reduced to practically nothing as he leaves the building.
Tom struts through the office and poses for photos with Matsson in a victory lap, and he even offers Greg a job offer despite his earlier betrayal. There’s even a glimmer of hope (or resignation) as Tom offers his hand to Shiv in their car back home and she begrudgingly takes it.
The series ends on a shot of Kendall as he leaves the office and walks in silence to Battery Park with Colin the bodyguard in tow — a visual callback to Colin following Logan in the Season 4 premiere, after he leaves his birthday party. Kendall stares at the Hudson River, completely empty, as the sun sets on the final episode of “Succession.”