Succession: The Series Finale Always Had To End This Way (Sorry Roys)

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

In the weeks leading up to the series finale of "Succession," the Internet was rife with fan theories about how the show could possibly end. Maybe Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), the show's resident sad boy who really only wanted a "kiss from Daddy," would triumph and take over his late father Logan's (Brian Cox) throne as the CEO of Waystar Royco. Perhaps Roman (Kieran Culkin) would never resurface, having died during the previous episode where he wandered into the middle of a protest and invited violence. Maybe Shiv's (Sarah Snook) machinations would pay off and GoJo's Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skårsgard) would crown her as the American CEO of Waystar after the Roy family company sold to the Swedish billionaire. Maybe hapless Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) would be the only one left standing amidst the rubble!

It was definitely fun to theorize about how "Succession" would end, but in the series finale, creator Jesse Armstrong provided the only possible answer: all three of the Roy children would fail. Over the course of 90 minutes, Kendall, Shiv, and Roman reveal the ugliest parts of themselves in full — which, based on the things they've done throughout the series at large, is really saying something — and reveal the truth, which is that none of them can ever truly be Logan Roy. There's no true successor; Waystar now belongs to GoJo; the Roy family legacy belongs to outsiders and strivers. It could never go any other way.

Kendall wanted to be the CEO too badly, so it could never happen

Wanting something too badly is basically a guarantee that you'll never get it, a fact Kendall now knows all too well. All Kendall has ever wanted was to run Waystar Royco, and in the finale, we learn the origin of this want — at the age of seven, while at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton, Logan told his eldest son he would run the family company one day. (In one of Kendall's only self-aware moments, he does acknowledge that this was a deeply messed-up thing for Logan to do, saying to Roman and Shiv, "He shouldn't have done it.") Right up until the end, Kendall feels confident, powerful, untouchable. Once Matsson screws Shiv out of the American CEO job for good, the three siblings seem united and ready to stop the impending Waystar-GoJo deal... until, as they always do, the three fall apart.

Shiv, the tiebreaking vote, storms out of the board meeting — and when Kendall follows her, all she says to him is that she doesn't think he'd be good at the job. That's it. From there, Kendall is completely undone. He physically attacks Roman, says that he made up the story about killing a waiter (and, disturbingly, asks "which one" when his siblings pointed out he's killed a person), screams that he's the "eldest boy," and flat-out tells Shiv he'll die if he can't run Waystar Royco. Kendall's ugly, naked desire for this job would have completed his transformation into Logan; he never should have even been considered.

Roman is reprehensible — and the Roy family's only realist

Don't let Kieran Culkin's often charming performance confuse you: Roman Roy is disgusting. He's friendly with fascists, an utter pig to women, and if he's not an outright racist, he certainly feels comfortable saying racist things. He ends his arc on "Succession" in true Roman form, making disparaging remarks about how Kendall's kids aren't "real" — as he claims Logan once said, also calling them "two randos" — and he's physically disgusting to boot, spending the entire board meeting dabbing his oozing, open stitches above his eye. (Whether or not he intentionally reopened them by digging his face into Kendall's shoulder during a sort of demented embrace between brothers is up for debate, but as Roman has repeatedly shown, he uses physical pain to face the concept of failure whenever possible.)

Roman is also the only clear-eyed Roy sibling in this finale, because he's the only one willing to say the quiet part out loud. When Shiv turns on her brothers, allowing the GoJo acquisition to go through, Roman is blunt with Kendall, saying that Waystar Royco was merely assorted parts, a bunch of broken shows and fake news. "It's all f***ing bullsh*t," he tells his older brother. "It's all nothing. We're nothing, OK?"

Accidentally echoing King Lear himself — "Nothing can come of nothing, speak again" — Roman is the only one who can see things for as they are. He ends the show alone, drinking a martini, a perverse smile on his face. None of this had a point; Roman knows that, and he's at peace with it.

Shiv underestimated the wrong man, and now she's stuck with him forever

"You run towards politics to prove that you're your own man? Fine," Logan tells his daughter Shiv in Season 1 of "Succession." "But that's not principle. You're scared to compete. You're marrying a man fathoms beneath you because you don't want to risk being betrayed. You're a f***ing coward."

For Shiv, it all comes back to this — just like her father before her, she thinks nothing of Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), and she tells him this at every opportunity, whether she's asking him for an open marriage immediately after their wedding reception or telling him he's not good enough for her during foreplay. In Season 4, Tom stops taking this lying down, attacking Shiv back in turn, but even so, she still calls him a "striver," openly acknowledging that she's always seen herself as the powerful one in the relationship. Thanks to Matsson — as well as Tom's willingness to be a "frontman" and a "pain sponge" — Shiv sees the tables turned on her when Tom gets the American CEO job she was promised, and there's only one move left for her to make.

She blocks Kendall's attempts to be CEO and crowns her husband as the new "head" of Waystar Royco — a company that sort of doesn't exist anymore — dooming herself to become her mother in the process, hating her husband and probably her unborn child. Fans will likely argue over Shiv's intentions here for years, but the fact remains that, when backed into a corner, she chewed her way out like a rat, making the only move that would edge out her brother and keep her relatively close to whatever power's left in the equation.

There is no next Logan Roy, because the Roy family era is over

Logan Roy died suddenly and rather unceremoniously off-screen in the third episode of "Succession's" final season, but his shadow loomed over the series and his on-screen children for the rest of the series. As Shiv put it during her father's funeral, they lost their "dear, dear world of a father," and not only are the Roy siblings grappling with their grief, but they're feverishly trying to figure out how to carry on his legacy. As Shiv puts it, the GoJo deal was what he wanted, considering Logan was flying to Sweden to complete it when he experienced a fatal cardiac event; Kendall, however, obviously thinks keeping the company within the Roy family is the only way forward.

However badly each of his children in turn wanted to become Logan, this was never possible; Logan's death wasn't just the death of one man, but of a family dynasty. None of his children could truly succeed him, and even his last act — trying to sell the company that his children viewed as their birthright — revealed that he didn't want to leave a single crumb for his power-hungry offspring. The Roy era ends as "Succession" does, with the company in the hands of two outsiders and Kendall, Shiv, and Roman unmoored in their own ways. None of this mattered, because none of them would ever "become Logan." Every single character still ends "Succession" in possession of more money than any one human needs in a lifetime, but still, none of them got what they really wanted — because they were never supposed to. The Roy supremacy is over, and it was always going to end like this.