I know, I know. We’ve all been joking for the last year: what if bumbling Greg ends up on top at the end of Succession? It doesn’t seem realistic for Greg to be named head honcho. He’s incompetent. He’s awkward. He’s young. This is a smart show that makes smart decisions. His victory seems like more of a Veep subplot than a Succession ending.
Then again, Succession creator Jesse Armstrong did work on Veep. And it’s not like any of the Roy kids have exactly proven themselves worthy of capturing the throne. Might the Waystar board be convinced, with enough GoJo money as an incentive, that Greg would be an acceptable and easily manipulated figurehead?
As the show’s final season has worn on, with the series finale set to air on May 28, the writers have been dropping hints that cousin Greg, played by Nicholas Braun, is climbing the corporate ladder quickly—and may just be poised to take over as the American CEO of the new company that emerges from this GoJo-Waystar death match. It would be a logical end for Greg’s story. The journey of Greg from Hirsch to full-blown Roy is a story of nepotism, failing upwards, and white male mediocrity, persistent themes in the series. As Greg once said, “Souls are boring. Boo, souls!”
It’s ridiculous, I know. But hear me out.
Read more: Is Succession the Most Prescient Show on TV?
Greg started as our audience surrogate
Way back in the first episode of Season 1, Greg was just a lowly theme park employee throwing up inside his character costume because he got too high. His mother sends her messy son to his Uncle Logan for a job.
Though Greg certainly isn’t poor—his family is rich, even if Uncle Ewan won’t give him any money—he’s the closest thing the audience gets to an “everyman” character walking into Logan Roy’s New York penthouse. We initially see the Roys’ immense wealth and power from his perspective. He can’t afford rent and is bringing home free snacks from the Waystar Royco offices in doggy poop bags before Tom gives him a job and Ken gifts him an apartment. He doesn’t know how to dress or eat or talk like the uber-wealthy, as we learn during his boys’ night out with Tom at a restaurant where they munch on songbird.
Even as he begins to dress better, walk better, and play the corporate drone better, Greg still, four seasons in, commits the occasional social faux pas, like bringing a date with a bag capacious enough to fit her subway shoes to a party at his uncle’s home.
Greg’s transformation into a backstabbing Roy proves that Logan is inevitably a corrupting force. As Kendall says of his family, “The poison drips through.” Even from his disadvantaged position, often just outside the main action, Greg has amassed a lot of valuable information and learned how to leverage it. Greg betraying the other Roys to earn a spot at the top would complete this arc.
Read more: Succession Was Never Really About Logan Roy
Greg may know that Kendall killed someone
Chekhov’s car crash has yet to come up in the final season of Succession. But from a narrative perspective, it seems unlikely we’ll end the series without at minimum a conversation about the fact that Kendall is at least partially responsible for the death of a waiter at his sister’s wedding. Marcia and her son know the truth, and Kendall told Roman and Shiv last season. So far, none of those characters have brought up Kendall’s dark past as a reason he may be unfit to run Waystar Royco. But one more character may at least have a hunch about what happened to the waiter on that fateful night: Greg.
Greg and the waiter partied together after Shiv’s rehearsal dinner. We see the waiter drop off Greg to talk to Tom the morning of Tom and Shiv’s wedding. And when Kendall asks Greg where he can get drugs, it is Greg who points Kendall towards the waiter. Greg may have suspicions, if not actual proof, that Kendall was with his would-be drug dealer either shortly before or during the crash. Could he be the one to reveal this information at a key moment in the finale?
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Greg’s name was on that piece of paper
Remember the piece of paper found in Logan’s study that had Kendall’s name either underlined or crossed out? There was one other name written in his scrawl on that sheet: Greg. Why? Nobody knows. When Greg suggests that maybe Logan intended for Greg to be Kendall’s number two, everyone in the room—and at home—laughs at him. Nice try, Greg.
And yet…what’s his name doing on that piece of paper? We’ll never know what Logan was thinking when he jotted down the names of his second son and grand-nephew. But Succession rarely includes details for no reason at all. I don’t actually think Greg will point to the piece of paper as a reason that he should be head honcho at Waystar, but I do think it may have been a little clue by the writers that Greg has a more significant role to play in the succession drama than many viewers might expect.
Greg has a long history of selling people out for his own benefit
While Greg and Tom are usually cast as the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the show—the comic relief—both men have proven that they can be as ruthless as the rest of the Roy family. Greg, specifically, has been trading information for power for several seasons now. When Tom was considering going public with the cruises scandal in Season 1, Greg ratted Tom out to Gerri. That same season, Greg steals some of the paperwork about the cruises scandal first to blackmail Tom and then to help Ken try to take down Logan. As recently as two episodes ago, Greg exposed Shiv’s secret deal with Matsson to Ken. Shiv decided to threaten Greg instead of cut a deal with him and suffered the consequences.
Greg may put on an incompetent facade, but he hoards secrets and flips on anyone who treats him poorly or doesn’t offer him power in the moment. The Roys continually underestimate Greg—they shrug off his attempted hugs, and hang up on him on the phone. But Matsson has recently shone his light on Greg, who is willing to give his loyalty to anyone who will give him power in return. It’s easy to imagine him switching sides.
Greg impressed Matsson by firing all those ATN folks
For several episodes Matsson seemed to despise Greg. Like everyone else, the Swede judged Greg to be a buffoon. But then Matsson found out that Greg was firing dozens of people at a time via Zoom at WayStar Royco, doing the dirty work Tom wouldn’t do himself. And suddenly Matsson became interested in Greg. Matsson asks Greg how he does it.
“I don’t know, I just do it. I jackknife right in there and slit their throat,” he replies. When Matsson asks if Greg feels bad afterwards, Greg shakes his head. “Honestly, not really. HR says I’m the right guy for the job because it looks like I care, but I don’t.” Matsson counters that Greg is not a good person. “No I am, it’s just, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Greg, whether he knows it or not, has given Matsson tacit encouragement to betray Shiv in their deal. He’s also revealed himself to Matsson as someone with few ethical hangups who he may be able to siphon off from the rest of the Roys and use for information.
The two solidified their bond during a night of partying and, apparently, drinking questionable fluids after the election eve tailgate. Greg was able to glean enough information from his new buddy that Shiv was planning to betray her brothers with Matsson. Has he earned Matsson’s loyalty for good—or at least for now.
Greg said he was going to fire Ebba
When Matsson was picking on Ebba at the election tailgate party, he asked Greg—fresh off his Waystar firing spree—if he’d be willing to fire Ebba as comms director. Greg happily agreed. It was all a speculative joke, unless the farce planted an idea in Matsson’s head. Maybe he could use someone like Greg as a figurehead to fire the people he dislikes without blowback.
Matsson needs a puppet—and it sure isn’t going to be Shiv
Shiv seems to have talked herself into the idea that Matsson plans to make her American CEO, ignoring several signs that the tech bro has absolutely no intention of doing so. When Shiv first asked for the job, Matsson countered that he heard she was pregnant. (Was this another piece of information sourced from Greg, who heard it from Tom?) Shiv assured him she’d be back to work within days and never see the baby, but we already know that Matsson doesn’t have the highest opinion of women based on his creepy and demeaning behavior toward his comms-director-slash-ex-girlfriend Ebba. Matsson initially told Shiv he liked her exactly because she could hang with the guys, because she was like her dad. Any reminder that she is a woman will likely put him off.
Then there’s the complication of earning the approval of probable president Jeryd Mencken. Mencken is even more openly hostile toward Shiv as a (pregnant) woman. During the penultimate episode, he refers to her as “Kinder Küche Kirche,” the German slogan that translates to “children, kitchen, church,” used by the German empire to describe a woman’s role in society. Again, Shiv’s pregnancy is immediately being used by the men around her as grounds to dismiss her.
Later in the episode when Matsson calls Shiv to suggest that Mencken will wave through a GoJo acquisition of Waystar RoyCo, he says, “I think I can make a U.S. CEO work.” Notably, he doesn’t say who that CEO will be or confirm in any way that Shiv would hold that position. So who could be his American CEO?
Shiv herself said that Mencken would need a puppet. She suggested that she would play that role, though anyone who has spent 10 minutes with Shiv would realize that she’s nobody’s stooge. No, you need someone more naive, less political, perpetually indebted. Someone you could manipulate. Someone like Greg.
Greg is the ultimate symbol of a nepo baby failing up
What is Succession trying to say about America? The best way to game out the series’ ending is to figure out what outcome tracks most closely to this worldview.
If this show is a twisted tale of American success, we might expect to see the opposite of meritocracy playing out. Instead of a striver making it to the top after exercising smarts and making sacrifices, the story might end with a rich, white man who happens to be the nephew of a business titan stumbling into the position of CEO.
The idea is laughable. He is the least qualified of the possible successors. Some might argue that the board would never agree to it—unless, of course, the Roy siblings so divide the board with their bickering that Matsson’s half-baked plan looks impressive by comparison. Maybe there’s enough of a payout for them all to make them turn a blind eye to sheer incompetence.
There are other potential endings that would drive home the show’s message that capitalism corrupts absolutely. Jeremy Strong has cited Richard III in interviews, the story of an anti-hero who manipulates and deceives his way to power, destroying everyone around him in the process. It might make sense for Ken to rule over a kingdom of ashes after finally betraying his siblings.
But there is a certain satisfying appeal to watching Greg, a sniveling sycophant whom the Roys dismissed, overtake them to seize the throne they all assumed to be their birthright. What a fitting end for Ken, Shiv, and Roman.
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