The end is nigh, not in the apocalyptic sense, but in the current golden age of television as HBO’s Succession reaches its final act.
Season four’s finale — coming next week — will at last answer the question viewers have been asking since the show began: who will succeed Logan Roy at Waystar Royco?
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Succession S4 E9
Brian Cox’s media mogul was a titan of the industry, and his death earlier in season four gave way for his children Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) to battle it out for the top spot.
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Episode 9, which premiered on Monday, 22 May on Sky, saw the trio and their sibling Connor (Alan Ruck) attend their father’s funeral, which proved to be less a place to mourn and more a chance to show their worth as his potential successor.
Kendall, Shiv and Roman react differently at the funeral. The funeral was meant to be Roman’s big moment but when it comes down to it he is overcome with grief and breaks down in tears, he’s incapable of speaking and so Kendall has to give his father’s eulogy. Afterwards, Shiv decides to give her own impromptu speech.
Their actions spoke to their capabilities as leaders and felt like a foreshadowing of their potential reigns at Waystar, should they be chosen to lead.
Why Kendall deserves to take over Waystar Royco
Kendall has appeared to be Logan’s choice as his successor from the start. He has the most experience in the company of his siblings, though his track record is shady at best.
After his father’s death, Kendall learned that he was named successor in his father’s will (however his name may well have been crossed out) and he took on the role of co-CEO alongside Roman with enthusiasm. He has shown he has a million ideas and is ready to take on the world.
Kendall has also been making moves on his own through Hugo (Fisher Stevens) and he’s begun moving the chess pieces to ensure his sole rule over Waystar.
The powerful speech he gave at his father’s funeral shows his ability to cope under pressure, and it certainly played out well enough that everyone shared their support of him afterwards.
Logan may have called him his 'number one boy' once, but they had a difficult relationship. They were never able to get past this in real life which may prove his downfall, but Kendall seems determined to succeed his father no matter what he has to lose to get it.
Why Shiv deserves to take over Waystar Royco
Shiv is the dark horse of the family because, so far, no-one has thought to support her claim to Logan’s throne, not even her father.
No matter, because Shiv has her own back and will do whatever she can to get the top position and in season four has schemed behind-the-scenes with GoJo's Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) in order to make it.
Of the three contenders, Shiv has the least amount of experience in the company but she successfully argues her case with Matsson so that he agrees to make her CEO when he takes over Waystar. She’s smart, capable and just as ruthless as Kendall and Roman.
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Shiv has proven herself as worthy as her brothers at talking her way into getting what she wants, but her speech at Logan's funeral was a pale imitation of Kendall’s powerful eulogy and served as a way of showing her inability to provide anything new to the table.
Whether her rule over Waystar would end up the same way is yet to be determined.
Why Roman deserves to take over Waystar Royco
The world of Succession is not one that rewards showing your emotions, and that’s why Kendall’s quip that Roman “f***ed it” by being too emotional to speak at their father’s funeral is heartbreaking.
It perpetuates the toxic trait their father bestowed upon them in his lifetime: suffocate your feelings or risk being seen as a failure.
That President-elect Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) shows Roman little regard for the “blunder” despite their dealings until that point certainly proves that this is a harsh world only a few can survive. Whether Roman can make it is the question.
Before this display of genuine emotion, Roman seemed the most like Logan. Detached and brutish, forcing his will on others and refusing to back down from a fight. In the lead up to season 4 he showed some aptitude to the role (but let’s not forget his failed rocket launch).
But once he became co-CEO with Kendall he became erratic and borderline tyrannical, as shown by his sudden firing of his staunchest ally Gerri (J Smith-Cameron).
These are probably traits that would see him succeed as leader of Waystar, but his perceived failings at his father’s funeral may prove too difficult to come back from.
Succession season 4 airs Mondays on Sky Atlantic, premiering at the same time that episodes are released in the US on HBO Max. The finale will air on Sunday 28 May (US) and Monday 29 May (UK).