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THE NEW YORKER MAGAZINE REVIEWS THE SERIES FINALE OF HBO’S SUCCESSION


The New Yorker magazine’s Naomi Fry took a look at the highly-acclaimed series finale of HBO’s Succession, noting that Sunday’s finale reinforced the strength of “Succession” as both a farce and prestige drama. There would be no future space for additional power-play flip-flopping, a definitiveness that lent the episode a gravitas that finally matched the show’s majestic score. No matter how things shook out, it would be the final word on the family that we’ve spent our Sunday evenings with: now that we were down to the wire, the stakes had reëmerged for the central characters.

Noting that the show has always done big life events like weddings, funerals, birthdays, company votes well, the writer stated, the final episode—a blockbuster hour and a half in length—proceeds toward a board meeting that will determine whether Waystar Royco will accept Matsson’s offer to purchase the company or whether it will remain in the family’s control. Early on, Shiv, whom Matsson has promised to make the company’s American C.E.O. if she helps him carry the deal through, goes head to head with Kendall, who is interested in blocking the deal and leading the company himself. After hearing from Caroline, their frosty British mother, that Roman is holed up at her Barbados villa, Kendall and Shiv both head to the island retreat—situated not far from “that horrible place where I think one of the guys from Pink Floyd did a poo in the pool”—each hoping to drag their brother over to their side of the voting bloc. Roman, who is convalescing after suffering a quasi-breakdown at Logan’s funeral, and a physical beatdown at the hand of street protesters afterward, immediately sniffs out their intention. “Fucking scorpion party,” he says. “Take a pop at the human fucking vote.”

Continuing, the review notes, Caroline makes condoling comments about Roman’s fragile state of body and mind, but her maternal instincts seemingly end there; she admits that she cannot bring herself to administer Roman’s eye drops, because eyes “revolt her.” “Eyes? Like, human eyes we all have?” Shiv asks incredulously, to which Caroline responds: “I don’t like to think of all these blobs of jelly rolling around in your head, just, face eggs.” This hilariously chilling image came back to me when, a bit later, Matsson dines with Tom and requests that he pitch himself as potential C.E.O., forcing Shiv out of the role he promised her, because she is “kind of pushy.” He’d rather have the obsequious Tom, who is, for his part, ready to step up. “I squeeze the costs and juice the revenue,” he says, of his business strategy, going on to explain to his prospective boss that he’s adept at “cutting heads and harvesting eyeballs.”

So what is, ultimately, the lesson taught by this remarkable show?

As “Succession” has taught us all along, people aren’t always people. They are votes, they are heads, they are eyeballs. And the variations of “It’s me” or “Why can’t it be me?” or “What about me?”—uttered, at different points of the episode, by Kendall, Shiv, and Roman in reference to the role of C.E.O.—are the natural complements to this perspective. Personhood is available only when it refers to the person assuming it—everyone else, family or not, doesn’t make the cut.

As the finale draws to a close, we get a deeper look at Logan’s true legacy. Kendall, followed at a distance by his father’s old bodyguard, wanders to the water, a king without a kingdom; Roman, sipping a martini at a bar, is also alone, though at least secure in the knowledge that, if he is nothing, then so is his brother; and Shiv, in maybe the darkest denouement of all, has joined Tom in his town car, once again in the position of a lesser complement to a powerful man. Thanks, in part, to the siblings’ messy efforts at power-grabbing, the country is in chaos, with the fate of the Presidency unclear. But, for the children of “Succession,” all that matters is the family, even when it’s gone.


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