Spoilers ahead for the finale of “Succession”.
For the past two months, I’ve been recalling events that happened in my life based on what Succession episode was streaming that week: I reconnected with an old flame and got ghosted in the same week that Episode 2 “The Rehearsal” was playing, just as Connor Roy declared “I do not need love, it’s like a superpower.”
I was knee-deep in campus politics as my university’s student council elections coincided with the Roys strategizing their political play in Episode 7 “Tailgate Party” and Episode 8 “America Decides”. I found myself alone, empathizing with these fictional billionaires in the back of my head for weeks—and so when I heard of a “Succession Watch Party ” for the season finale, I jumped at the chance.
On May 29, a group of friends led a watch party for Succession’s finale episode at AHKA Space. The event started off slow: like a waiting room for a job interview, but eventually, the attendees formed acquaintances with each other, exchanging “I know you from’s…” and “You’re a friend of…!” We played Kendall Roy’s infamous Season 2 Episode 8 “L to the OG” rap to prep us for the final episode.
Spoiler alert: we were not prepped enough.
The watch party was organized by Neil Nanta (@neilnanta), the ½ of Sugarhouse Podcast (@sugarhousepodcast). “Watch parties are fun because of the people,” said Neil. “It feels good to surround yourself around people who share the same love for something and for that night, we were just crazy about the Succession finale.”
Crazy we definitely were—one hour and thirty minutes went by quickly, and when the credits rolled and Nicholas Britell’s perfect ending score filled the room, we could only stare at each other in shock.
The finale of Succession is the screeching halt to an exhilarating four-season ride. The episode revolves around the final moves in the Gojo-Waystar Royco acquisition in the aftermath of the Roy patriarch and Waystar founder, Logan Roy’s untimely death. “With Open Eyes” is the perfect finale to a show that could have overstayed its welcome but didn’t, a show that stayed true to its objective of telling a captivating story about humanity, violence, and power, and where these things intersect.
There were two reasons why I started watching the show: first, a fan edit of Shiv Roy to the song “Money” by LISA, and seeing the Season 2 poster: an extremely powerful visual with all of the main characters seated on opposite ends of a cracked dinner table, with the painting “Dante and Virgil” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau in the background. These, coupled with the ever-trending names of Kendall, Roman, and Shiv Roy on Twitter, were why I pressed play on the award-winning HBO show. I was hooked instantly.
Isa Villanueva, a political science student from UP Cebu, stumbled upon Succession in a similar fashion. “I became interested in Succession because of a Roman/Gerri edit I saw on Twitter,” Isa said.
“When I started watching the show it became abundantly clear that Succession’s primary driving force was its characters and their dynamics, rather than the plot,” Isa said. “The characters are already well-written, to begin with, but it was really the actors who brought them to life. It’s hard to root for terrible people, but you couldn’t help it.”
Neil agrees with this sentiment. “It’s written in a way wherein I still root for these spoiled pieces of sh**, but if you really think about it, they’re horrible people. I love it when movies and tv make me feel a certain way, especially towards sh***y people because that means they are good characters.”
Aside from such compelling performances from each of the members of the Roy clan: Jeremy Strong (Kendall), Kieran Culkin (Roman), Sarah Snook (Shiv), and Brian Cox (Logan) and their supporting actors, especially Matthew Macfadyen’s “Tom” and Nicholas Braun’s “Greg” as a powerhouse cast, Succession shines most in its writing. Showrunner and creator Jesse Armstrong had me and many others crying over the death of a conservative media lord in Episode 3 “Connor’s Wedding”—a feat only possible by a tremendous talent in writing characters with such humanity and depth.
The masterful writing was evident in the final episode where—big spoiler alert—the newly inducted CEO of coveted media giant Waystar Royco is none other than social climber extraordinaire and husband to Siobhan Roy Tom Wambsgans.
Neil was also surprised at the big reveal of the new CEO. “But if I’m being honest, I’m just happy it ended right, and it just felt right.”
Phoebe Bulotano, a freelance writer and fellow Succession buff, agrees, although she was rooting for someone else. “As what Jeremy Strong said, ‘it makes sense dramaturgically,’” said Phoebe.
“I was rooting for Shiv, even though I know she isn’t perfect. It’s so sad that’s what she got.” Shiv’s final scene is in a car with Tom, with whom earlier in the season she was supposed to divorce after a grave betrayal in Season 3. In this season, Shiv is also pregnant with Tom’s child. She congratulates her estranged husband and ominously takes his hand, suggesting that the complicated couple might stay in their disaster of a marriage after all.
“In the age of “girlboss” and “female empowerment”, her ending was antithetical. It made me confront my morality and my place as a woman in this world.” Phoebe said. “Even if she’s the most capable person in her field, she’s still seen as just a mother or a sister, and not her own person. She was and is still not taken seriously—a mere accessory or a tool. Even if popular media would like us to believe that women are on the same level as men, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to eradicate the glass ceiling.”
The nuances of each character, but of Shiv’s especially, are important to analyze. Despite having the money, prestige, fame, and power, Shiv (as well as other women characters in Succession) will never escape the misogyny and sexism that plagues our world.
The media we consume influences how our world is shaped, and vice versa. The appeal of Succession across varied audiences shows—at least in part—our clamor for media that interrogates the sociopolitical zeitgeist. I doubt that Succession could’ve been made in any other time aside from now. As I reflect on how the show ended, I recall the moments when the show affected me.
My life is millions of miles away from these New York penthouses, billion-dollar deals, and private jets, but moments in the tragic lives of the Roys remind me of my own. I’ve made questionable decisions because of my ambition. I’ve trusted people who have betrayed me. I love my mother and my father, and live to make them proud—to ends that hurt.
Ultimately, my view is this: Succession does not exist for us to feel sad for the Kendalls, Romans, and Shivs of the world—God knows how many of us have more problems than these impulsive, spoiled billionaires—but as a question for the culture: why do we allow the world to be run by a system that favors the incompetent few, and how long are we going to tolerate this?
Hopefully, as much as we are entertained by the excellent writing and cinematography, we also accept the story’s invitation: for us to remain vigilant and nuanced in sociopolitical situations, for us to investigate where humanity creeps in through the crevices of transaction without losing sight of our humanity. Goodbye to Succession, one of the greatest shows of our time—and may many more come.