Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
After a third season filled with high-stakes chess moves, the question lingered whether “Succession’s” finale could close the deal. It did, literally and figuratively, in an episode that again shuffled allegiances and featured perhaps the most eventful wedding in terms of behind-the scenes drama since “The Godfather.”
The Emmy-winning HBO series entered the season with an abundance of hype, which produced the inevitable sniping about whether that reputation remained deserved. But the closing two episodes (which weren’t available for review in advance) yielded the kind of bracing moments that have earned the series all that cultural buzz and established it as one of TV’s premiere dramas.
In what felt like an inevitable progression, the deal-hungry mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox, spectacular throughout the show’s run, but especially here) went from buyer to seller, negotiating a deal for control of his company, Waystar, to the upstart tech enterprise GoJo and its chief Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård).
The agreement — brokered behind the backs of his grown children — deprived them of the baton pass each has sought from the beginning, with Logan concluding that securing the company’s future was a higher priority than passing it to his not-entirely-worthy heirs.
That concluded with a confrontation between Logan and Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin), discovering that their father had again outwitted, outplayed and outflanked them. He did so by turning to his ex-wife and their mother (Harriet Walter) to remove the leverage that they might possess to scuttle any deal. (Shiv described the process in characteristically colorful and crude terms.)
In hindsight, an opening sequence that involved the Roys playing a game of Monopoly, and cheating, seemed like a bit of foreshadowing, except that Logan is accustomed to doing so with real properties. His kids, born into power, simply don’t measure up, at least for now.
The final showdown left the youngest, Roman, caught in the middle, with the vague promise of a position at the newly minted company and Shiv warning him in regard to his dad, “You can’t trust him.”
That sequence followed another operatic moment as Kendall — having survived the penultimate episode’s cliffhanger, but just barely — experienced a near breakdown. He confessed to his siblings about the death for which he was at least partly responsible during the first season, which his father had covered up.
The extra-long hour also contained several memorable lines, underscoring that being laugh-out-loud funny is one of “Succession’s” secret weapons. That included Willa (Justine Lupe) belatedly agreeing to marry the eldest Roy kid (Alan Ruck) not by saying “yes” to his proposal but rather, “How bad could it be?”
Although series creator Jesse Armstrong has stressed that Rupert Murdoch and his clan aren’t the sole inspiration for the series, it’s worth noting that Murdoch made his own stunning deal in 2019 to sell major assets to Disney, retaining control of others. Given that Matsson floated the possibility of leaving Logan a few key baubles, there’s little to fear of him being idle in the seasons to come, however many that might be. (Like CNN, HBO is a unit of WarnerMedia.)
The finale didn’t answer every burning question, but of course, in this sort of serialized format, nor did it need to. At the same time, it introduced a huge new unknown — namely, what becomes of “Succession” if the battle for stewardship of Waystar is indeed lost, and what will the Roys do without that prize over which to fuss and feud?
The answer probably won’t be pretty, but if the first three seasons are any guide, it will be pretty near irresistible.
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