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Ranking Characters Of Succession By Loyalty

What is it like to have billions of dollars? How would you hold on to your humanity? "Succession," HBO's breakout hit now in its third season, is a dark fable of how awkward, tense, and sorrowful it is to exist primarily as a conduit for vast amounts of wealth. The story of the Roy family is one of dysfunction, resentment, and heartbreaking stasis. Patriarch Logan Roy, his four adult children, and a legion of flunkies and hangers-on all vie for the best position at the top of a very Murdoch-like empire of old-school media, tech, and intellectual property.

Even the idea of loyalty is bizarre in the context "Succession." When all your needs are met to an excessive degree, when your children and indeed your great-grandchildren will never want for anything, what responsibility do you have to anyone else? Especially from an individualistic American perspective, the concept of a social contract flies completely out the window when extra wealth enters the picture. On a show with constant posturing, backstabbing, and hostile takeovers, it can difficult to sift through the veneer of gentility to find glimpses of humanity underneath. Here are the 14 main cast members of "Succession," ranked from the least loyal to the most.

14. Logan Roy

"Power corrupts," the saying goes, and "absolute power corrupts absolutely." There is no one less loyal on "Succession" than the main man himself, Logan Roy. Despite battling various health ailments now that he's reached his 80s, he's spent the entirety of the show ruthlessly tormenting his children and employees, dangling his potential retirement like an illusory carrot. In the first season, he snatches the prospect of promotion away from Kendall and then eventually exploits his eldest son's substance abuse problems to end the threat of his hostile takeover.

He pulls the same routine on his daughter Shiv not long after that, luring her to the family business from the world of liberal politics with the promise of the CEO position, before reneging on his promise when she attempts to go public. His son Roman appears poised for the same lesson. It's clear from their family dynamics that he's always been a withholding father at best, verbally and physically abusive at worst. Facing his own mortality at the end of a long climb to the top, Logan Roy is loyal only to himself, and he is the wind to which everyone else in the world of "Succession" has to adjust.

13. Roman Roy

Roman Roy holds the distinction of being the most childish of the four Roy children, an impressive feat considering their collective arrested development. While he's shown occasional pangs of loyalty, notably refusing to sign Shiv's letter condemning Kendall's character in Season 3, and in his weird non-relationship with Gerri, Roman has recently completed his ascendency to his father's right-hand position by showing a Logan-like ability to twist the knife. He's maneuvered around Shiv to land new clients for Waystar Royco, shown a callous disregard for humanity at large by ensuring a Neo-Nazi will get the Republican nomination for president, and he's historically been the biggest culprit of launching casually cutting remarks when the family is gathered together.

It's tempting to have sympathy for Roman from time to time, but even his approach to dealing with his own intimacy problems is to push people away and refuse to confront them. Though he's a victim of his father's torturous influence along with everyone else, Roman has passed on nearly every opportunity to demonstrate humanity or empathy in his own right.

12. Greg Hirsch

Cousin Greg is a stealthily terrible person. He gives a strong impression of loyalty, and he's by far the most outwardly polite and seemingly timid of anyone in "Succession." He's tall, bumbling, endearingly awkward, and appears to be a lamb amongst a shiver of sharks. But as we've seen him grow from a distant relative to a corporate insider, Greg has bit by bit revealed that self-preservation is his biggest priority.

First, he makes copies of the incriminating documents from the cruise division when Tom orders him to destroy them, handing them over to Kendall at the end of Season 2 because he believes that a large corporate shakeup that results would benefit him personally. But he quickly wilts and defects back into the Waystar main fold and betrays Kendall in turn. The most revealing development was when his grandfather said he was giving Greg's inheritance to Greenpeace, and Greg's response was to sue Greenpeace for it. 

11. Kendall Roy

Oh, Kendall. By turns the most sympathetic and most infuriating character on the show, Kendall is a bottomless pit of need that you might find you can only watch with your hands over your eyes. He's undermined by his father early in Season 1, never given any credit for keeping the company afloat despite the massive debt his father incurred. So his vendetta is understandable on a personal level. But his allegedly pure motivations to expose the company's wrongdoing and be the man on the "right side" of things are clearly hollow and vain.

His struggle with addiction is relatable and adds some authenticity to his journey, but that only gets you so far — certainly, sympathy doesn't extend to excusing vehicular manslaughter, which he commits when he drives into a river and accidentally kills a passenger at the end of Season 1. The things that keep him from the bottom of the list are his real concern for his ex-wife and children, as well as a deep longing for acceptance. But loyalty with no clue how to express it or where to direct it doesn't get you very high either.

10. Shiv Roy

Shiv might have earned the title of Dumbest Roy Sibling by her actions In Season 3. Kendall at least turned on his father for good after being undermined; Shiv has seemingly forgotten how thoroughly she was humiliated after announcing she'd be taking over Waystar at dinner with the Pierces in Season 2, and thinking her father was favoring her with the nominal position of "President of Domestic Affairs." Foolish though this makes her, it does show more loyalty on some basic level than Kendall or Roman.

In the marital sense, she's not the most loyal sort: She waits until after getting married to tell Tom she wanted an open relationship. But Shiv at least balks at the idea of a far-right ideologue being the president, arguing for a more Reagan-like policy wonk when the family is picking the next GOP candidate. As her time in politics suggests, Shiv has some sort of idea that her family's vast influence could serve the greater good, although at the end of the day she's in the game for herself.

9. Hugo Baker

"Succession" is populated by the Roy family and a group of soulless corporate minions who can be relatively hard to tell apart, and Hugo Baker might be the most anonymous. A member of the Waystar communications team, his role primarily seems to be translating Logan Roy's angry whims into action and public statements: He's a yes man through and through. He arranges private jets on the spot and seems very capable and good at his job.

In small moments he reveals himself to be as cutthroat as anyone, offering up his colleague Karolina as a potential scapegoat for the cruise line scandal, or his casually cruel remark to Tom when he's in the plane bathroom: "Having trouble in there, buddy? Can't find a vein?" But for the most part, Hugo's role is to listen stone-faced while Logan explodes at his children and various other underlings, and position himself as a loyal, unflappable stooge. Speaking with The Ringer in November, actor Fischer Stevens noted how this made the part a dream: "It's such a great job because I don't say much but I get to watch everything."

8. Karl Muller

Of all of the anonymous suits in the Waystar Royco orbit, Karl manages to be practically invisible, landing him squarely in the middle of the chart. He's the Chief Financial Officer of the company, meaning he's as complicit in its human rights violations and malfeasance as anyone, but he manages to avoid taking the fall for anything by virtue of his blandness.

It's clear, when he makes a call to Logan in Season 3 to report on Shiv's activities, that he's loyal to Logan in a way that runs deep. But beyond that, there's just not much to Karl that we know of, and he's useless when the company is in crisis.  Logan cautions Shiv in turn to "keep an eye on Karl, because he likes to be liked." He may be the definition of a faceless middle manager, but he's always hedging his bets. Karl is a mystery.

7. Frank Vernon

In betraying Logan and throwing his lot in with Kendall's doomed takeover attempt in Season 1, Frank Vernon actually manages to distinguish himself a little bit from the rest of his faceless boardroom contemporaries. The bid fails in the end, but at least he stands for something. Logan welcomes Frank back into the fold after Kendall's original bear hug fails, but he keeps a line open to Kendall throughout Season 3 just in case his latest play with the Department of Justice works.

Frank is as callous and self-serving as anyone in the world of "Succession," but the recurring theme is him acting as a father figure to Kendall, a grown man who's desperately in need of one. That bit of loyalty comes at a steep personal cost and ongoing humiliation, but it speaks to the glimmers of humanity deep within Frank that remain untouched by all the Shakespearian posturing.

6. Marcia Roy

As obvious as it is that Logan Roy must be a difficult man to be married to, it's equally apparent that Marcia Roy has no qualms about putting up with tyrannical moods and occasional infidelities if it's in the best interest of her and her children from previous marriages. In the first season, she takes advantage of Logan's health crisis to strictly control all access to him and essentially briefly run Waystar Royco herself, much like Edith Wilson essentially ran the country after Woodrow Wilson's stroke.

Marcia has been much less of a presence on the show after Logan's dalliance with Rhea Jarrell in Season 2 — offended by his lack of decorum, she shows up only once in Season 3 to demand a substantial payoff in exchange for not putting Logan through a messy public divorce at a vulnerable time. But in a show of shifting whims and alliances, Marcia's resolute and straightforward self-interest has more moral clarity than almost everyone else.

5. Gerri Kellman

Though it's a morally compromised sort of loyalty, Gerri Kellman is on team Waystar Royco till the end. A company woman if there ever was one, she manages to navigate the various bear hugs, media blitzes, and Logan Roy's changing moods without taking the fall for anything, consistently being in the right place at the right time. She even becomes acting CEO during Season 3, although she seems to understand implicitly that since she's not a member of the Roy family, the company ultimately won't be hers in the end.

She takes a picture of the chyron announcing her position to send to her unseen daughters, and in her disturbing Oedipal relationship with Roman, she displays a genuine interest in teaching him how to navigate the cutthroat world at their level of power. If you find yourself playing the corrupt billionaire game, Gerri is the type of loyal that you want on your side.

4. Tom Wambsgans

Arguably the most tragic character on the show, Midwestern native Tom Wambsgans has come a long way from his humble roots. Marrying Shiv seems like a golden ticket to the outside observer, but for Tom it's been nothing more than an endless series of swords to fall on. First learning about the cruise division's "death pit," and then taking the personal risk of destroying documents and testifying in Congress, Tom eventually volunteers to go to prison for the sake of the company and the family, a possibility that tortures him for the majority of Season 3.

Within the world of "Succession," Tom would have a pretty convincing case for most loyal, if it weren't for his constant and psychotic haranguing of Greg. Immediately sensing someone a lower rung on the food chain, Tom has taken every opportunity to torment Greg in large and small ways since the pair met. Even in pure happiness upon learning he'll avoid prison, he walks to Greg's office and trashes it to let out his exuberance.

3. Willa Ferreyra

Willa is often the most relatable and human character on "Succession." A former sex worker, Connor Roy talks her into an "exclusive contract" that turns into a de facto relationship which could soon become an actual marriage, if only for the sake of his presidential run. With a very deer-in-headlights look, Willa is clearly in over her head amongst the Roys.

With her artistic aspirations as an actress and playwright flailing, she seems to have settled into a life of privilege and luxury. She's aghast at having to "fly scheduled" (i.e. not a private plane) with Connor and even berates one of Kendall's employees for bothering Connor about his jacket during a party. Sure, she's slid into the soulless life of absurd wealth, but she's developed a loyalty to Connor against all odds. With not much else at stake, Willa stands near the top of "Succession" characters in terms of loyalty almost by default.

2. Karolina Novotney

Even if you've seen every episode of "Succession," you might hear the name Karolina and think: "Who?"  Somehow the Head of Public Relations for Waystar Royco, Karolina Novotney, has appeared in every episode of the show without really being the center of attention at any point, deftly navigating from crisis to crisis while hardly drawing attention to herself. Her most tense moment is in the Season 3 premiere, when she's kicked out of Kendall's misfit revolution entourage for having the temerity to admit that Logan Roy still signs her paychecks.

Avoiding any of the fallout from Kendall's press conference, she reappears in Logan's inner circle and waits for the next disaster. Of everyone at Waystar, Karolina probably has the most damning internal knowledge, as she helped negotiate the whistleblower crisis personally, and could likely put the pieces together about what happened at Shiv's wedding based on handling Kendall's abrupt reversal in the press, but chooses loyalty to the company at every turn. Resolute, anonymous, and endlessly useful, Karolina lives in the neutral space between Waystar's colossal business interests and the public concern. 

1. Connor Roy

In a true upset, a member of the Roy family tops the list as the most loyal character on "Succession." But in largely staying out of the corporate interest shell-game that his siblings are playing, Connor Roy is the most decent character we meet on the show by virtue of never having all that much at stake. His bid for the presidency is objectively funny and doomed to fail, but other than being against taxation it's not even clear what he stands for. Luckily, the consequences of this newfound political aspiration will likely be minimal, since he's not even polling at 1%.

He's kind and caring with his family, showing up when his father has a stroke in Season 1 and staying as neutral as he can even during Kendall's big move. His relationship with Willa might be transactional at its foundation, but it's at least honest in a way that no one else on the show seems capable of being. His cheerleading of Willa's doomed career as a playwright is endearing, though cringe-inducing. As the sibling who seems definitively last in the battle for succession, Connor Roy is removed enough from the capitalist machinations at the heart of the show to claim the title of Most Loyal Character on "Succession."