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Succession's Series Finale Has One Clear Loser (& It's Not Kendall)

Contains spoilers for "Succession" Season 4 Episode 10 — "With Open Eyes"

If you came away from the series finale of "Succession" feeling like Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), the self-professed "eldest boy" who is now a cog without a machine, was the episode's biggest loser, that definitely makes sense. At the age of 7, while enjoying sweet treats at the Candy Kitchen with his powerful and imposing father Logan (Brian Cox), Kendall was apparently promised that one day, he'd grow up to be daddy's favorite boy and score that CEO job — what a way to bond with your son, Logan! — and when push came to literal shove, Kendall didn't get what he wanted. Yes, he's still extremely rich, which makes it hard to feel that bad for him, but he's unmoored, a man without purpose who seems to think his only role in life was to run Waystar Royco.

Kendall isn't the episode's most obvious loser, though. The title of "Succession's" biggest loser goes handily to his little sister, Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook). Shiv really thought that, by allowing Waystar to go through with its sale to GoJo, she would be crowned by Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skårsgard), anointed as the American CEO. Instead, the top job goes to her estranged husband and father of her unborn child, Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), leaving Shiv to simply stand by her man. Kendall might be lost, but Shiv knows exactly where she is, and she's doomed.

Shiv is doomed to the worst fate of all — she'll become her mother

Shiv's fate feels like the character's worst nightmare, based on everything we've seen her do and say and think for the show's four seasons. At the beginning of "Succession," Shiv isn't really aligned with the family and has her own career in politics, but when Logan has a health scare, she jumps back into the fray, positioning herself as a possible heir to the Waystar Royco throne. This almost becomes a reality when, in Season 2, Logan tells Shiv that she'll be the next CEO, only to watch as she completely flails in the position (realistically, Shiv has never possessed a single qualification to run a huge company, but that's a different issue entirely). After Logan's death towards the beginning of Season 4, Shiv allies herself with Matsson and against her brothers, convinced that the Swedish billionaire will make good on his promise to hand her the American CEO position.

Shiv seems to have a singular talent for getting stabbed in the back, and thanks to an alliance between Tom and Matsson, she ends the show with two knives firmly lodged between her shoulders. Left behind as the wife of the Waystar Royco CEO who's pregnant with a child she'll likely resent, Shiv is set to become her own personal nightmare: her mother. Shiv already made it clear that she's barely interested in being a mother, telling Matsson that parenthood wouldn't interfere with her being the CEO — saying she'll be "emailing through" her "vanity C-section" — and now that she's been edged out, she'll be stuck on Tom's arm, resentful of his power, and probably resentful of the child whose very presence held her back from becoming CEO.

Shiv basically handed Tom the CEO spot

Perhaps the worst part of all of this is that Shiv basically told Matsson to pick Tom without even realizing it. As the series finale opens, Shiv is simply trying to make sure Matsson doesn't cut Tom from his ATN job and describes her husband as "a highly interchangeable modular part," also saying that he'll... align himself with the biggest guy in the room, in so many words. This information clearly sticks with Matsson, who, in that same scene, is reading an article about his supposed world domination, which also happens to feature an enormous cartoon of Shiv looming over him as a controlling force.

When Tom and Matsson meet up for dinner, the Swede is nothing if not direct. Not only does he flat-out tell Tom he wants to sleep with Shiv, he tells the eternal striver that he's having doubts about giving Shiv the top job for a whole host of reasons (her pregnancy obviously being one of them). "Why don't I get the guy who put the baby inside her instead of the baby lady?" he asks Tom, before telling him that he needs a "pain sponge" and a "frontman." It's not surprising that Tom says yes to this more or less immediately. It's a little surprising that Shiv didn't see this coming, but she never, not even for one second, took Tom seriously; in doing so, she basically handed him the crown.

The CEO role doesn't even mean anything, which is kind of the point

The whole point here, though, is easy to forget: Waystar Royco was just sold to a different company. While Matsson does need an American CEO — presumably to appease the far-right fascist that the Roy children installed as President-elect, Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) — it definitely feels like the person with this job will be nothing more than an ornament. GoJo has its own problems, with its sketchy subscriber numbers (remember when Matsson admitted that the numbers out of India would only make sense if there was a "second India?!") and it's been strongly suggested, numerous times, that Matsson is buying the company for parts, and nothing more.

The only person with any legitimate power in this situation, when all is said and done, is Matsson. He just acquired an enormous media company, and he can do whatever he wants with it now — and whatever he wants to do with Tom, moreover. It's unclear what exactly the future holds for both Tom and Waystar — he's definitely going to fire some of the old guard, but keep Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) and Karolina (Dagmara Dominczyk) — but the power he thinks he holds is still an artifice. That's what none of these people truly get; none of them have Logan's instincts or acumen, and in the end, every single Roy and surrounding striver got played by Matsson. Shiv got played the hardest of all, just as Roman (Kieran Culkin) said — like a "pregnant cello."