"Not Serious People": On the Succession Finale, and Children Who Never Grew Up
Predicting Succession's finale, based on a show about stunted emotional growth
A brief diversion about my favorite TV show, before the free media newsletter returns later this week… Note: this “spoils” the show up through the episode that aired Sunday night:
One of the most brutal scenes of the entire series of “Succession” takes place in the second episode of the final season, in a grungy karaoke bar in New York City. As it would turn out, it doubles as the final moment Logan Roy spends with his children — his savage, in-person goodbye before his sudden passing the next day.
Logan spends five minutes with his four children attempting to convince them to go ahead with the deal to have GoJo, the cool upstart media company styled after a Vice-Spotify hybrid, purchase Waystar Royco, the crusty old News Corp stand-in. Logan gets to keep ATN, his Fox News-like cable channel, the kids will become rich, and get to buy PGM, a left-leaning media outlet. “The world likes it, it makes sense,” says Logan of the deal, imploring the kids to let the deal close, for fear that “pricks like Matsson” (the CEO of GoJo) might walk away if there’s any indication the deal is shaky. “This is fucking real.”
The kids aren’t convinced. They half-heartedly reference their “gut” telling them they should try to get a few extra millions out of GoJo. Sensing they’re unable to be swayed, Logan sighs. “You're such fucking dopes. You are not serious figures,” he says. And then, even more to the point: “I love you, but you are not serious people.”
I thought the scene was amazing at the time, and surely the clip that gets sent to the Emmys for Bryan Cox’s supporting actor nomination. But with Logan dying the next episode, it took on extra prominence. Now, as the rest of the season has aired, culminating with Logan’s funeral on Sunday night ahead of the series finale this weekend, I’m more convinced than ever it will be the seminal moment that explains the entire series.
Because the truth is, as we’ve seen play out over the subsequent seven episodes, in Logan’s shadow — he’s right. His kids are not serious people. They are dopes. They are older now, but they are still children, their own emotional growth stunted — perhaps as a result of Logan’s treatment, and perhaps because of their own deep psychological issues. Whatever the reason, it’s too late now, and Logan knows it. They are not able to be saved. They are lost souls, unable to do much of anything. Logan knew it, in what would be his final, painful interaction. And now the audience has seen it for themselves.
A lot of the rumblings about the finale of Succession have centered on which kid will take over for their father — as the show title suggests will happen eventually. There’s Vegas odds! But as we’ve seen each stumble over the past few episodes, it’s become clear none of them are able to take the reins in the absence of their larger-than-life dad. They are not Logan Roy. In fact, all have been told as much by characters on the show — Shiv was told that by Kendall and Roman in episode 8, Roman was told that in episode 9 by Kendall and earlier by Gerri, and Kendall was told that by Nate in episode 7.
Roman’s excruciating meltdown at his father’s funeral — in front of Mencken and Matsson — should obliterate whatever chance he had of taking over, exposing what a truly damaged child he remains in adulthood. He had what seemed like a Logan moment in episode 8 on Election Night, but even that was fool’s gold, as Kendall made clear to him on Sunday, having not landed the deal he thought with Mencken.
Shiv seems to have the upper hand if the deal goes through, having secured the “U.S. CEO” role for GoJo, according to Matsson. First, that’s contingent on the deal happening. But is it even real? I’m struck by a quote Alexander Skarsgard gave The Hollywood Reporter after episode 7. “He’s one hundred percent using her,” he said. (Sure, things have evolved since then, but he doesn’t couch the quote at all — and Shiv, as Matsson notes, has absolutely no real experience running anything.)
Then there’s Kendall, who between the Living+ presentation and his work over the back half of Sunday’s penultimate episode, certainly appears poised to earn the “one crown” at the top of the company assuming the deal implodes. But there’s also significant evidence that he’s not up to the task. Look at how he deals with Rava, at the beginning of the episode Sunday night — would Logan Roy ever embarrass himself on the streets of New York, making a scene by threatening to lay in front of the car of his ex-wife so she can’t drive away? Even in the next scene with his assistant Jess, who has taken on an increasingly bigger role over these past two episodes, he’s unable to restrain his emotion and throws a hissy fit, again, in public. Perhaps the “poison does drip through,” as Kendall suggested to Shiv in episode 8, when it comes to what one inherits from the parents — and some of the skills drip through too in the process. He can summon the spirit of his father in spurts. But more often than not, he, like Roman, can’t close the deal.
Plus, there’s the issue of his own skeletons. He knows his dad’s bodyguard Colin is taking the death hard, seeing a psychiatrist to talk through it. He tries to woo Colin over to his side, offering a job under his regime. Why? Colin — and his siblings, notably — are the only ones who know his darkest secret: that he let a man die, and worked to cover it up. Colin could blow up his whole future, if he was inclined to.
Look at the way all of the “old guard” treat Kendall, and all the kids. Frank and Carl have become completely aloof when any Roy child talks to them. Gerri has basically disappeared. Hugo plays along with Kendall’s plan, but as we’ve seen throughout the past several episodes, he’s most comfortable among the former regime. None of these people take the kids seriously. They have no inherent loyalty to them, or deference to them, in the way they did Logan. Some are more honest about it to the kids’ faces than others (some laugh at viral videos of Roman crying behind his back), but it’s clear they have their own agendas, and — likely as we’ll find out in the finale — their own plans already in motion.
So if it’s not one of the unserious kids, who does that leave to take over? My money’s on Cousin Greg. As surprising as it may seem, Greg has come into his own this season. Most importantly, he has developed an actual rapport with Matsson, who is sure to play a big role in the finale. At the funeral on Sunday, Matsson leans on Shiv for her advice, and talks with most of the Roy family. But his biggest smile — when he really seems to loosen up and be himself — is when he sees Greg. “Hey sexy,” he greets him.
But it’s not just personal… it’s business. Matsson was enamored with Greg’s ability to fire people — a skill Greg played up at the “Tailgate Party” in episode 7. We’ve seen Greg in action, and Matsson will certainly have a need for that particularly ruthless skillset if and when he takes over.
What more apt moment to expose just how impotent the Roy kids truly are than to have Greg fire them all to close out the series?
To bolster this theory, a few extra items to note. It’s also worth spending a bit of time on the “show poster” element. As Sarah Snook, who plays Shiv, told Jimmy Fallon in an interview before the season, the fan theory that the season 3 poster revealed something significant about what would happen that season was true. How about for season 4, Fallon asked? It does give some hints too, she said.
So what do the two posters for this season tell us? For that full breakdown, check out below the graphic: