Ever since Succession’s first episode, viewers have been trying to answer the show’s central question: who will get a kiss from daddy? In other words, who will succeed media titan Logan Roy at the helm of his empire? Battles have been fought, alliances have been broken, and Logan himself has breathed his last and been laid to rest. Now, as TV’s reigning drama draws to a close with its series finale, we finally know the surprising answer.
We entered season 4, episode 10, “With Open Eyes” expecting a showdown between Roy siblings at the board meeting on GoJo’s acquisition of Waystar Royco. Shiv is pro-GoJo, teaming with Lukas Matsson and expecting to be named the U.S. CEO of the conglomerate if the deal goes through. Kendall and Roman want to sabotage the deal, but Roman doesn’t know yet that Ken wants to go “reverse Viking” (as in Waystar acquires GoJo instead and Kendall rules as sole CEO.)
The episode begins with Kendall arriving to the office excited (perhaps he listened to more rap in the car ride in), until he learns he doesn’t have Stewy’s support. He’s trying to rally his allies for the board vote, but can he wrangle them all in by tomorrow’s meeting? He doesn’t even know where Roman stands, let alone where he is after he got beat up at a protest the night before. Nevertheless, he assures his advisor Tellis “I fucking got this.”
Shiv is also on a high. She thinks she has Stewy’s vote as well as a few others Kendall thought he secured. As she and Matsson prep, she floats the future of Tom’s role. She’s so eager for CEO that she’s ready to throw her estranged husband out with the trash, telling Matsson he’s “highly interchangeable.” But Matsson already appears less enthusiastic. Shiv’s mother, Caroline, calls from the Caribbean and revealing that Roman is with her. Shiv flies out to meet him, not really to comfort her brother but to campaign for his support.
On the plane, she hops on a call with Tom, who is still fretting about whether he’ll get fired. She says she’s trying to help him (sike!) then clumsily switches topics to their relationship. Is there anything else left in their marriage? she asks. Because it would be convenient if so—you know, for scheduling reasons. When she asks him, “Are you interested in a real relationship?” Tom says, “Honest to God, I don’t know, Shiv.”
Kendall, who has now acquired a “New Jess,” has learned of Roman’s whereabouts and will also fly to the Caribbean. Caroline warns, however, that Rome is “very fragile.” Sure enough, when Shiv arrives she finds her brother in a striped tee and shorts with stitches on his head. Roman’s nihilism is on full display when Kendall strides in to goad him back to work. “You don’t have it,” Roman tells him regarding the board votes. “You’re a clown,” he adds and walks off.
The Roy siblings continue their bickering as the sun sets in Barbados. Shiv gloats as presumed CEO and brainstorms jobs to her brothers. (Remember The Hundred?) Kendall asks Shiv if she knew that he has Stewy’s vote now, and that her new boss has been meeting with Lawrence Yee, CEO of Vaulter. (Remember Vaulter??) But Shiv would love for her brothers to support her at the helm for once. Besides, she only turned on them because they shut her out, so she doesn’t understand “why I’m the cunt here,” pardon the language. Kendall responds, “Cunt is as cunt does,” surely inspiring T-shirts, memes, and Twitter bios across the nation. Shiv gets to the bottom of it: “I played it better, so why don’t you take it like a man and eat it?”
Back in New York, Tom is at an art gallery with Matsson, barely hiding his paranoia with a bit of awkward small talk. Over dinner, Matsson has him make the case for keeping his job. Tom says he’s a simple manager with a “high tolerance for pain,” which we’ve observed throughout his marriage. Then Matsson drops a few bombs: Shiv is great, but he actually doesn’t need her. What’s worse, he wants to “fuck her a little bit” and it’s possible that under the right circumstances, she’d feel the same way. (Tom’s face falls here.) Matsson doesn’t want to deal with the trouble if that happens, lest he fall into another Ebba situation, so why not appoint Tom as CEO instead? Matsson is looking for a “pain sponge,” and Mr. Wambsgans is just that. But will he betray Shiv again?
Afterwards, Greg meets the Swedes for more drinks, this time with a translation app on hand. While eavesdropping, he learns that Shiv is no longer Matsson’s pick for CEO. He calls Kendall with the news in hopes that he’ll be rewarded with a better job if his plan goes through. Cousin Greg has come a long way from copying those cruise documents as blackmail.
Kendall derails Caroline’s dinner, which has turned into a business pitch by Peter’s friend anyway, to break the news to Shiv. She doesn’t believe it at first but is devastated when she finds a new draft of the takeover announcement where her name has been replaced with “[XXXX].” Now she wants to get back at Matsson, and Kendall has an opportunity to get Shiv’s support to block the deal. Tellis advises, however, that the three siblings propose a single leader to the board, to show a united front.
The fighting resumes. Roman says Logan chose him to be the successor during one of their final nights together. Shiv says she was picked at one point too. Kendall says Logan promised him the role when he was seven years old. He even implies that Roman isn’t emotionally up for the job following his breakdown at the funeral. When the three of them head to the beach together, the idea of King Kendall and “reverse Viking” is growing on Roman and Shiv. In classic sibling manner, they joke about murdering Kendall first, but then swim out to him to “anoint” him as their leader. Kendall actually smiles for once.
What follows is a sweet, childlike bonding session between the trio. The younger two prepare a “meal fit for a king” for their big bro to legitimize his anointing. They’re kids making a ruckus in the kitchen while mom is asleep, talking in silly voices, throwing bread (well “knobbies,” as Caroline calls them) at each other, and assembling an ungodly mix of ingredients into a blender for Kendall to drink. “It’s nice to see you agree on something other than what a terrible mother I am,” an awoken Caroline says, almost echoing our own thoughts. Kendall chugs the brown sludge of Tabasco, raw eggs, milk, Peter’s off-limits cheese, other atrocities, and a loogie of Shiv’s spit before Roman dumps the whole thing on his head. The next morning, they land back in NY and frantically make calls before stopping at Logan’s—now Connor and Willa’s—apartment.
There, the eldest Roy has arranged a system for loved ones to bid over Logan’s belongings. Willa, with amazing hair and paisley co-ords, is planning on a complete decor revamp. She and Connor will try going long-distance as she stays in New York to work on a play while he heads to Slovenia for ambassador duties. In the dining room, the Roys come across a rare, pleasant video of Logan. He’s reciting a list of every losing candidate in a U.S. presidential election at the table with Kerry (showing some PDA with her boss), Gerri, Karl, Frank, and Connor. His eldest does an impression of Logan saying “I’m a Little Teapot.” The whole group sings “Green Grow the Rushes, O.” His heirs tear up watching their father enjoy himself for once.
Shiv runs into Tom and shares that Matsson picked a new CEO. Tom pretends to be surprised, but when he suggests that Shiv should still vote for the deal, she picks up on his act. He doesn’t try to hide it this time. “It’s me,” he tells her, just so she’s aware. Disgusted, Shiv tells their brothers and they storm out to run their numbers. Meanwhile, Tom pulls Greg into the bathroom to scold him for leaking the info. He hits Greg, but Greg, for once, slaps him back. They scuffle in the powder room until Tom pulls away to alert Matsson that they have a big fucking problem.
At the Waystar offices, Karolina makes a move herself: She pitches to Shiv that after the deal, they should get rid of Hugo. (I’m not shocked by her ferocity, but I will say I’m impressed.) Kendall finally gets Stewy on his side with the promise of a chairman position. But Roman isn’t doing well. When he spots Gerri, he decides he doesn’t want to see anybody at all. He’d rather call in for the vote, especially since he’s self-conscious about his stitches. When Kendall approaches him, Roman says what’s really bothering him: “Why isn’t it me?” Kendall holds him while he sobs, but he embraces his brother so forcefully against his chest that his wound reopens.
Frank commences the board of directors meeting. Kendall delivers straightforward remarks bashing the GoJo deal. The vote goes around: Frank, Sonya, Diane, Sandi Sr., and Sandi Jr. vote yes. Kendall, Ewan, Dewi, Stewy, and Roman vote no. When it gets to Shiv, she steps out of the room to “have a moment.” Uh oh.
To Kendall’s horror and Roman’s bewilderment, Shiv has changed her mind. She confronts Kendall for always thinking he’s the most important one out of them, that it’s always about him. Kendall begs her not to turn back now. This job is the one thing he knows how to do, he says, which is actually quite sad. Shiv insists, “I don’t think you’d be good at it.” In fact, she brings up his past to prove her point. “You can’t be CEO, because you killed someone.” To that Kendall sputters, “Which?” which triggers Roman to demand clarification. Kendall denies the manslaughter, saying he just made it up to bond with his siblings. At this point, the expression on Roman and Shiv’s faces spell WTF?. Kendall continues to beg for Shiv to vote for him, and she continues to refuse. “I love you, but I cannot fucking stomach you,” she says. Now Roman is against him too, especially after that lie. “I’m the eldest boy!” Kendall shouts like a toddler in a tantrum, sending Shiv keeling over in laughter. (Somewhere, Connor is too.) Mind you, their fellow board members can hear and see them embarrass themselves through the conference room’s glass walls.
Things go from bad to disastrous when Roman plays his own dirty card, dropping that Logan used to say that Kendall’s kids aren’t his own. Even Shiv thinks this is too far. Kendall responds by trying to crush Roman’s face with his bare hands. Shiv tries to leave the room. Kendall tries to physically stop her. Roman pulls him away, reminding him that their sister is pregnant. Roman and Kendall physically fight in the conference room. Shiv heads back to the meeting to vote yes.
As Kendall and Roman catch their breath, Kendall still tries to salvage his plan by approaching Frank, but Roman is done. Nothing matters anymore. “We are bullshit,” he tells his brother, and it’s hard not to agree. Despite the fandoms, fan cams, and thirsty tweets Succession has wrought, it reminds us that at their core, the Roys are horrible people. And they are, as their father once told them, not serious people. Watching them betray, fight, and wrestle each other at their place of work, I think of the Killmonger meme: Is this your king? Do any of them really deserve this? Clearly not.
Kendall still won’t accept defeat, though, so he walks back into the meeting to reconvene. But the vote is already final at 7-6; Waystar will sell to GoJo. CEO Tom Wambsgans walks in, chest out, with a few ideas of how he’ll structure his team. He wants to keep Karolina (sorry, Hugo) and Gerri, but fire Frank and Karl. Greg screwed his chances, but Tom won’t leave him out to dry. “I got you,” he tells him. Nero and Sporus forever.
After Roman begrudgingly poses with Matsson for a photo op, he grabs a drink at the bar and smiles to himself. It’s probably a relief to him to be out of the company. The millions he’s made from the GoJo sale don’t hurt either. Meanwhile, Shiv rides in the car home with Tom. She quietly congratulates him and lightly places her hand in his. As for Kendall, he walks toward the Hudson River with Colin a few paces behind. He sits down and stares at the water, letting reality sink in.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.