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Succession series finale ending, explained

Note: This article contains major spoilers for the season finale of Succession.

After 4 seasons of arrogance, opulence, and intense familial power struggles, the HBO (now Max) series Succession has finally come to an end. The story began with a sick and disoriented Logan Roy (Brian Cox) coming to terms with the fact that he won’t live forever and needs to start thinking about the future of his company. Succession ends addressing this very need, with Logan’s sudden and shocking death midway through the final season.

Kendall sits by a river in the Succession finale.

While only one of his four children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), initially had any interest in taking over the media conglomerate Waystar Royco, it’s no surprise the other kids came running when a carrot of distant daddy’s love and public recognition was dangled. Youngest son Roman (Kieran Culkin) and only daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) threw their hats into the ring. Eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), meanwhile, is happy to sit on the sidelines and pursue his political aspirations, as long as the bank account never runs dry.

There’s just one issue: none of the kids is truly up to the task. They lack the required mix of skills, knowledge, foresight, killer instinct, and ruthlessness to step into their fathers’ shoes, and he knows it. This isn’t for lack of trying. But Logan can’t let go knowing that he doesn’t have capable hands into which to pass the baton. This is precisely why the nagging question that loomed over the entire series was: Who will take over?

Everything that happened before the Succession finale 

Logan Roy, Lukas Mattson, and Roman Roy walking outside in a scene from Succession.
Graeme Hunter / HBO

Following Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg’s (Nicholas Braun) massive betrayal at the end of season 3, the final season begins with Logan ready and willing to sell the company to Danish tech billionaire Lukas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård). He sees the writing on the wall and would rather take a payout and let his longtime baby go then decide who in his family can reinvigorate it.

Still not quite ready to retire, however, Logan cuts a deal to keep his news network ATN, with plans to refocus all his energy on that entity. Part of his strategy is to fold ATN into rival network Pierce Global Media, which he has set his sights on purchasing. But a bidding war with his own children ends that idea.

Despite being in tight with Kendall and Shiv, Roman falls for the charms of his neglectful father, who showers him with compliments and begs Roman to come work with him. It happens after Logan utters one of the most memorable lines of the season to his children, and arguably the series: “I love you all, but you are not serious people.”

Sadly, these prophetic and biting words become some of the last, if not the last, words that Logan ever speaks to his children. He tragically dies while en route in his plane to meet Mattson and finalize the deal. Now, it’s up to the kids, each of whom is dealing with the grief in their own way, to figure out what’s next. There’s no room for mourning. The board is already drafting a press release and urging for a decision to prevent a massive stock drop. Eventually, they decide that Kendall and Roman will take over as co-CEOs, with Shiv as a close advisor.

They really aren’t serious people after all

A close up of Logan Roy from Succession, sitting with the kids in a karaoke bar.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Through the next steps, all three kids prove that there was truth to Logan’s assessment of them. Roman acts like a spoiled child, firing anyone who doesn’t immediately agree with him. In his eyes, this is how his father would have handled things. Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) even becomes a victim of his impulsive wrath, and their once close relationship sadly never recovers.

Kendall is just as erratic, his decisions blowing in the wind. He begins to question whether selling to Matsson is the right plan and hatches a secret plan to purposely tank the deal so he can take over. He has something to prove, but he’s also reckless and reactive. Everything from his cringeworthy Living Plus presentation to his interactions with his ex, Rava (Natalie Gold), and his longtime assistant, Jess, (Juliana Canfield) when she gives her notice prove that Kendall is simply not a rational person.

Shiv is on her own journey. Feeling cast aside by her brothers, she cozies up to Mattson and begins to work as his secret mole on the inside. She provides guidance and advice on how to circumvent any obstacle standing in his way of the deal going through. Her plan? She nominates herself as the new CEO of the company, which she says will appease regulatory concerns about foreign ownership while solidifying her position in the company going forward. It’s a brilliant idea and Mattson knows it.

Roman breaks down crying as Shiv and Kendall try to console him in a scene from Succession.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The siblings continue to prove again and again that they may not have the capacity to lead long-term. They prematurely call the election through ATN, banking on this gaining favor with the predicted winner, Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), who promised to block the Mattson deal.

Roman tries and fails to deliver a eulogy at his father’s funeral, but breaks down sobbing in front of everyone in the church, finally coming to terms with his grief in an Emmy-worthy, emotional performance. He later roams the streets, screaming at protestors until he’s beaten down and bloody.

Kendall, meanwhile, thinks he has Mencken in his back pocket, only to have a conversation with the predicted president that suggests Kendall doesn’t wield the power he thinks he does.

The big board meeting: and the winner is … ?

Shiv angry walking down a hallway with people behind her in a scene from Succession.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It all comes down to the final board meeting. Shiv believes she has things on lock with Mattson, but Kendall is working the board members, trying to get more votes. It doesn’t help that Roman, who has a board seat, has disappeared to their mother’s place in the Caribbean. Kendall and Shiv arrive there not to comfort their sibling, but to fight over his vote. But Roman wants no part in the drama anymore.

Shiv’s boasting comes to a screeching halt when Kendall receives a phone call from Greg, who has come across some incredibly useful information. He has learned (thanks to the magic of smartphone translation apps) that Mattson is considering other American CEOs. What Greg doesn’t know yet is that Tom is the person Mattson has in mind.

Livid once she confirms that there’s truth to this, Shiv is back at square one again with her brothers and the three must figure out how to move forward. Roman has publicly shown that he can’t handle pressure. Shiv was just in bed with Mattson, so it would not look good for her to be the face. The only logical answer is Kendall. After much discussion, Shiv and Roman agree. They even anoint their brother “king” with a disgusting concoction of items they find in their mother’s refrigerator, one of few beautiful moments between the siblings.

How does the Succession series finale end?

Kendall and Shiv talking in a scene from Succession.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

During the vote, everything is going as Kendall plans until it comes to Shiv in a six-to-six tie. She leaves the room to get some air and Kendall follows. It appears Shiv has changed her mind. She doesn’t think Kendall can do the job. What’s more, she brings up the knowledge about the young man who died in the car accident with Kendall. How would that reflect on the company should the information ever get out?

Shiv has found out by now that Tom is the person Mattson plans to appoint, but she’d rather see her semi-estranged husband (and father to her child) in the hot seat than her brother. It’s a self-serving decision as well, since Tom will always know that he’d never have the job had it not been for Shiv. It also keeps her close to Waystar Royco and gives her a fighting chance at saving her marriage. Whatever the motivations, it’s still a hurtful moment of clarity for Kendall.

Roman digs the knife even deeper when he says it’s what their dad would have wanted since Shiv’s baby is the only “real” bloodline anyway, implying that Kendall’s children are adopted. The below-the-belt, insensitive comment leads to a physical altercation between the brothers, which only solidifies Shiv’s decision.

As the deal is being signed, Mattson is all smiles posing for photos, joking that he’s surrounded by his disciples. He points to Greg across the room calling him the Judas. Despite betraying Tom in favor of “the quad” cousins, Tom is willing to forgive Greg and implies that he’ll have a job for him.

Tom wearing a suit looking at someone in a scene from Succession.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Roy children are even wealthier than before. But what are they going to do now? Shiv hops in a car with Tom where they coldly “hold” hands. Roman enjoys a drink at a bar by himself, looking somewhat relieved that it’s finally all over. Kendall walks along the street, his new bodyguard (and his father’s old pal), Colin (Scott Nicholson), following behind. He stops at a park bench by the water, and simply sits, looking absolutely gutted. What’s left for him now? That’s the image fans see when the screen cuts to black.

So, in the end, Waystar Royco is placed in the hands of Tom, who is being used as nothing more than an American face for a now foreign-owned company. The Roy kids no longer have anything to do with the company their father built. This might very well have been the outcome Logan Roy would have wanted all along. But now, it’s the Roy children themselves who let it all implode.

Stream Succession on Max.

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Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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