Where Succession Can Go From Here After the Season 3 Finale

11 minute read

This story contains spoilers for season 3 of Succession.

If we didn’t know that HBO had already greenlit a fourth season of Succession, the final episode of season 3 could have served as a brilliant series finale.

Each of the three main Roy children has tried to earn a spot as the heir to Waystar Royco. Each has failed. In season 3, episode 9, their father, Logan, threatens to sell the company and spoil any chance of a Roy child ruling over the empire. The kids finally realize that they are more powerful as a cohort than individuals and join forces to take on Logan. And they fail. Again.

They storm into the room and throw child-like tantrums. They prove to Logan, for the umpteenth time, that they are spoiled and ill-prepared for the brutal capitalist world that Logan rules. As if disappointing their father weren’t terrible enough, the Roy siblings suffer betrayals at the hands of their own mother, Caroline and Shiv’s husband, Tom. As Logan says at the end of the episode, “I f-cking win.”

So if Logan is infallible, where does the show go from here? Here are the questions we have after the final episode and some predictions about what might happen in season 4.

Does Tom win?

Matthew Macfadyen and Jeremy Strong in SuccessionMacall Polay—HBO

Andrew R. Chow: About fifty minutes into the episode, when a tense Kendall asked Shiv if her husband Tom would go along with their plan to overthrow their father, I nearly laughed. Tom has been buried so deep under his wife’s thumb for three seasons that the idea that he would do anything but meekly accept their machinations seemed ludicrous to me.

How wrong I was. After getting off the phone, Tom almost immediately turned on his wife, warning Logan of their ambush and giving the Roy patriarch the time to, in his words, turn their guns into sausages. Tom now has the inside track on a cushy job inside the new WayStar-GoJo Death Star, and has seemingly leapfrogged over any of the real Roy siblings in the pecking order. Social media erupted in his praise last night; he’s made Kendall’s fake newspaper headline reducing Shiv to “Wife of Toms Wambsgams” come true.

But while Tom’s play was momentarily successful, I have a lot of doubts. Watching him saunter into the room in the season’s closing moments, I was reminded of the Game of Thrones season four finale, when (spoiler alert, I guess?) Stannis Baratheon came galloping to Jon Snow’s rescue north of the wall. At the time, “Stannis the Mannis” memes proliferated on Twitter for a once-defeated character that had finally found his mojo. But we knew all along that Stan didn’t have the wiliness of Tyrion, the ruthlessness of Dany or the rallying ability of Jon—and ten episodes later, he was dead.

So Tom, too, finally figured out that he needs to act for himself; that his wife isn’t thinking about his best interests, if she’s even thinking about him at all. But now he’s gone from one master to another—and we know that in order to truly get in Logan’s good graces, he has to respect or even fear you. While Tom proved useful to Logan in this interest, he did so as a pawn as opposed to a partner. So even if Tom lands a C-suite job, it seems like his best case scenario is to become New Frank, i.e., an executive with ostensible wealth and power but who is nonetheless a human footstool. Plus, Tom now has three very angry Roy enemies. I’m guessing that this is his peak before a devastating fall.

Eliana Dockterman: In retrospect, Tom has been playing the long game. He offered to act as the fall man and go to prison for Logan in hopes that Logan would remember his loyalty. (He did.) Tom refused to team up with Kendall against Logan because, as Tom told Kendall at the time, “I’ve seen you get f-cked a lot, and I’ve never seen Logan get f-cked once.”

And he stood silent as his wife told him she was out of his league, and that she didn’t love him. As Logan learned earlier this season with Marcia, humiliate your spouse, and you will suffer the consequences.

In fact, Tom hinted several episodes ago that his true love was Greg, not Shiv, and that he would happily betray his wife.

But I agree that victories on Succession are short-lived. Tom sacrificed his relationship with Shiv to earn Logan’s love. That may not seem like a big deal. Relationships in the Roy family tend to be emotionless and transactional: Logan paid off Marcia to stay in their marriage; Roman kept Tabitha by his side even though his heart (or at least his libido) belonged to Gerry; Shiv thought Tom could play her lapdog. Shiv and Tom even advised Greg to trade up from dating a PR exec to a duchess because, well, he’d be one plane crash away from becoming “Europe’s weirdest king.”

But I do think Tom loves Shiv. The season did not end when Logan patted Tom on the shoulder as the Roy children gazed at the exchange through an open door, a shot that perfectly mirrored the final scene in the Godfather. No, the show somehow conjures up an even more devastating final scene. Tom left Logan’s side and went to his wife to ask, “What happened?” He kissed Shiv on her head, while she silently seethed.

Tom is fooling no one. Shiv knows exactly who betrayed her. So is this a power play? Or a genuine display of pity for his wife? Tom, as savvy as he’s become, is not quite as callous as the rest of the Roys. I’m not sure he’s ready for the emotional fallout of this betrayal.

What happens to Shiv and Tom’s marriage?

(l-r) Matthe Macdyen and Sarah Snook on SuccessionGraeme Hunter—HBO

ARC: I’ll let an Adele meme sum this one up:

ED: As much as I hate to disagree with Adele, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, I actually think Shiv and Tom stay together. Shiv said nothing when she realized Tom double-crossed her. The moment reminds me of the season 2 finale when Kendall betrayed Logan. We saw a flicker of a smile on Logan’s lips as he watched his son’s devastating press conference. Shiv doesn’t crack a smile. But she may finally respect Tom for the first time in their marriage.

And, practically speaking, Tom is in a position of power now. It behooves Shiv to stay close to him, and she may even enjoy the toxic chess game that will inevitably ensue if they stay married.

I keep thinking about that moment in the car when all three Roy children are daydreaming about battling one another for control of the company after they overthrow their father. “That would be fun,” Kendall says. They love these power games. And now Shiv finally has a worthy opponent.

Is Logan really ceding control?

HBO Succession S3  07.12.21  Italy S3 Ep 9 - ext Mattson Villa terrace 309 - 5,6 Logan & Roman talk with Mattson   Kriti Fitts - Publicist kristi.fitts@warnermedia.com   Succession S2 | Sourdough Productions, LLC Silvercup Studios East - Annex   53-16 35th St., 4th FloorLong Island City, NY 11101 Office: 718-906-3332
(l-r) Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin and Alexander Skarsgård in SuccessionGraeme Hunter—HBO

ED: I struggled to understand why Logan would give up control of Waystar Royco, and why he would do so at this particular moment. Even on death’s door, he kept a stranglehold on the company. He was never going to let any of his children take over, but why hand over power to Lukas and why now?

Logan’s closest real-life parallel is Rupert Murdoch, the tycoon behind Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and many other right-leaning news outlets. And perhaps it’s instructive that Murdoch did break up his vast media empire in 2017 when he sold 20th Century Fox Studios and most of his entertainment assets to Disney.

Notably, Murdoch held onto Fox News. And when Lukas pitches Logan on buying out Waystar Royco, he says that Logan can continue to rule over whatever assets are most precious to him. Logan might happily give up influence over the studios, theme parks and cursed cruises line and turn his attentions solely to ATN.

Tom, as the head of the news division, would, of course, play a crucial role in Logan’s team next season if this were the case. Logan might spend most of his time making sure that the the white nationalist congressman he endorsed earlier this season gets elected president. Shiv could even get back into politics, possibly championing a candidate on the left in hopes of foiling her father and husband. And while Connor’s presidential dream may be dead, there’s always VP.

ARC: Logan’s prior position as Waystar CEO gave him power in several key respects: to make key decisions about his company; to receive public adulation and respect; and to lord over those he cares about most. After three seasons, I think it’s fairly clear that the aspect of power he cherishes most is the third: he structures his whole identity around being a patriarch and dominating any room of peers and family.

So while this deal with Lukas will sacrifice his corporate control, it also means that his sway over his family has arguably never been greater. He gets to impose his wrath on his children, especially after each of them has erred in devastating ways in his eyes. As a firm believer in negative reinforcement, he probably believes that he is doing what is best for them—by forcing them to “make their own f-cking pile,” just like he had to. And to top it all off, he also gets to save face with the public, by partnering with a 21st century tech guru instead of slowly commandeering an ocean liner into the sea. Or, as he so eloquently put it: “It works.”

Does the true eldest brother, Connor, have a bigger role to play?

HBO Succession S3  06.30.21  Italy S3 Ep 9 -  7- Ext Pienza restaurant  -  Siblings break it down  Kriti Fitts - Publicist kristi.fitts@warnermedia.com   Succession S2 | Sourdough Productions, LLC Silvercup Studios East - Annex   53-16 35th St., 4th FloorLong Island City, NY 11101 Office: 718-906-3332
Alan Ruck in SuccessionGraeme Hunter—HBO

ED: Each season of Succession has belonged to a different Roy sibling. Kendall, the initial heir apparent, made a major play against his father in season 1 that ended with the car crash. Shiv seemed to be ascending in season 2 but sabotaged her own chances to take control when she blurted out she’d been promised the kingdom at an important dinner.

Season 3 was Roman’s time to shine. He convinced his father to endorse an Internet-savvy fascist for President and lured tech bro Lukas Matsson into negotiations to merge with Waystar Royco. But then, in the end, he betrayed his true weakness—not his love for dick pics, but his love for Logan. And, as we know, Logan cannot stand sentiment.

It seems no child can take on Logan. But let’s not forget about Connor. Connor, long the comic relief, got perhaps his first dramatic moment of the entire series when he reminded his siblings that he is Logan’s eldest son, not Kendall. Sure, Connor is a buffoon. But if Tom’s surge has taught us anything, it’s beware the most disrespected family members. They will get their revenge. It may be only a matter of time before Connor reaches his breaking point.

Or perhaps he’ll just spend next season instructing the bartenders at his wedding on how to properly hyper-decant wine.

ARC: Is there some universe where Shiv, seeing no other option, jumps onto the rising populist wave of the Conheads and a Connor Roy dark horse presidential campaign centered upon the promise of breaking up Big Tech? Semi-relatedly, I’m choosing to believe that Willa was drinking so hard during the wedding out of sheer exuberance about her engagement. That relationship is definitely going to end well.

Will Logan have another baby?

HBO Succession S3  07.05.21  Italy S3 Ep 9 - Int Logan’s Villa 309 - 24pt  Nuggets on the table, Logan calls Caroline, Roman pleads with Gerri Kriti Fitts - Publicist kristi.fitts@warnermedia.com   Succession S2 | Sourdough Productions, LLC Silvercup Studios East - Annex   53-16 35th St., 4th FloorLong Island City, NY 11101 Office: 718-906-3332
(l-r) Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Brian Cox in SuccessionGraeme Hunter—HBO

ED: Logan is apparently bolstering his sperm count. As long as we’re throwing out wild theories, here’s one: Logan, disappointed with his children, does indeed try to impregnate his assistant and produce a worthy heir. The show jumps years (decades?) in the future. Everyone is in old age makeup. The cycle plays out all over again but with a new, young scion.

ARC: On the one hand, it would also be completely on brand for Lorgan to start drinking Maca root just to psychologically mess with his kids and whip them into shape. On the other hand, his disappointment with his grandson not having aged out of picture books was palpable, and it would also be completely on brand for him to start immediately preparing a fallback option for his flailing line. There were plenty of Red Wedding comparisons on Twitter following the episode; could Succession be setting Kerry up for similar infanticide? (Sorry—too dark.)

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com