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How the ‘Succession’ finale will go down: Our character-by-character theories

A man in a suit walks down stairs amid blooming flowers.
Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy in Season 3 of “Succession.”
(Graeme Hunter / HBO )

This is the Los Angeles Times newsletter about all things TV and streaming movies. This week, we try to predict the “Succession” finale, sing the praises of “Yellowjackets” and catch up with Vanessa Estelle Williams. Scroll down.

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who knows that the project gets us to the people.

In this case, the project is AMC’s acclaimed Silicon Valley origin story, “Halt and Catch Fire,” and the people are its indelible quartet of lead characters: Joe Macmillan (Lee Pace), Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), Donna Clark (Kerry Bishé) and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis).

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But where you can find the project and its people is about to change. After years of being listed among the best TV shows available on Netflix, the Golden Age drama departs the streamer next week before making its way home to AMC+ on Dec. 16. It’s the latest in a long string of prominent TV series (“The Office,” “Friends”) to migrate services as entertainment companies marry their programming with their platforms. And with a brand built on titles like “Halt,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” there may be no outlet that stands to benefit more from this process than AMC.

“Every time we’ve dropped one of these series, we’ve seen an immediate uptick in overall engagement,” says Courtney Thomasma, general manager of AMC+, citing popular sketch comedy “Portlandia,” cult favorite “Hell on Wheels” and critical darling “Rectify.”

Two women, both in red, sit at the edge of a pool at night.
Mackenzie Davis, left, and Kerry Bishé in “Halt and Catch Fire.”
(Bob Mahoney / AMC)

AMC Networks, whose streaming portfolio also includes Anglophile favorite Acorn TV, ALLBLK, horror-themed Shudder and Sundance Now, will have 9 million subscribers across its platforms by the end of 2021, up from 6 million at the end of last year. It’s a far cry from Netflix’s whopping 214 million global subscribers. But AMC’s strategy is not about scale, Thomasma says. They’re “zigging while everyone else is zagging”:

“We’ve made a decision that we are not trying to be a whole-home service with something for everyone in the household. ... I like to describe AMC+ as your next-generation premium network.”

And to become the kind of conversation-driver in streaming that it has long been in cable means building a library of catalog and original titles as beloved as “Halt and Catch Fire.” “Streaming services aren’t the thing,” as Thomasma paraphrases one of the series’ most memorable lines. “They’re the thing that gets us to the thing.”

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Three women walking on a New York street.
Cynthia Nixon, left, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis in “And Just Like That…”
(HBO Max)

Peloton blames shocking “Sex and the City” death on character’s “extravagant lifestyle”: The fitness company has what may be an unwelcome cameo in HBO Max’s “Sex and the City” reboot. But a spokeswoman cited the character’s bad habits.

Jennifer Coolidge dreamed of being a dramatic actor. “White Lotus” was her chance: On a new episode of “The Envelope” podcast, the “White Lotus” actor opens up about overcoming cocaine addiction, channeling her mother’s death and what she wants from Season 2.

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“We can do better”: How Hollywood’s diversity awakening hit a speed bump in 2021: This was the year of accountability, as consumers looked to cultural institutions, corporations and individuals to make good on their promises.

Turn on

Streaming recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

Five cartoon animals standing on a rainbow road looking at the horizon.
An image from Netflix’s animated musical fantasy series, “Centaurworld.”
(Netflix)

Part of the magic of “Centaurworld” (Netflix) is that it defies easy categorization. The animated musical epic fantasy adventure follows a warhorse called Horse after she is transported midbattle to the vibrant and colorful Centaurworld, which is populated with singing and dancing “half-animal half-man things” of all types. With Season 2 now streaming, it’s the perfect time to binge the full series. The new season picks up where the first left off: Horse, having (nearly) completed her “Wizard of Oz”-inspired initial quest, is now traveling to even more regions in Centaurworld to assemble a magical centaur army. Packed with catchy original songs, the show hits plenty of feel-good themes around found families and acceptance, with comedy that ranges from the silly to the weirdly grotesque. But it also doesn’t shy away from going darker. The way that the series can seamlessly weave in fart jokes while also engaging with its more heartfelt, deeper themes — like self-doubt and anxiety — is what really makes it sing. — Tracy Brown

“Saturday Night Live” player Kyle Mooney and animator Ben Jones collaborated on “Saturday Morning All Star Hits” (Netflix), a melancholic, somewhat perverse pastiche of an early-’90s kids programming bloc, as ostensibly preserved on VHS; the tone is Adult Swim, stretched out into an eight-episode serial, because: Netflix, baby! Mooney plays long-haired twin hosts Skip and Treybor, introducing cartoons that in no known world would ever be presented to children. One concerns Randy, a dinosaur — a Regretasaurus — living in the present, who, although he hangs out with kids, also binge drinks and is in a failing adult relationship with a female firefighter. Another features a pack of craft-themed Care Bears types that dominate the life of a mediocre creative director; there are also anthropomorphic superheroic wild animals and a sports-themed adventure, equally twisted. A thin yet intricate plot line knits the various strands into an internally reflexive whole; the writing almost miraculously does not push the conceits over the edge. Themes and motifs include sibling rivalry, loneliness, success, commercialism and sub sandwiches. Along with the cartoons, there are live-action musical numbers, snippets of commercials, news reports and a murder mystery. — Robert Lloyd

Catch up

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A nurse smiles down on a patient at a nursing home.
Christina Ricci as Misty in “Yellowjackets.”
(Paul Sarkis / Showtime)

Call it a cross between “Lord of the Flies” and “Heathers.” Or the Spice Girls meet the Donner Party. Or my horrible high school years retold in a blood-spattered forest. Showtime’s suspenseful psychological thriller “Yellowjackets” is many things, including my favorite new mystery drama of the year.

Created and executive produced by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson (both of “Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico”), the series alternates between 1996 and the present day as it follows members of New Jersey’s state champion Yellowjackets, one of the nation’s top-ranked girls high school soccer teams.

On their way to a championship game in Seattle, their plane crashes somewhere in the wilds of Ontario, Canada, where they’re stranded for 19 months. In their fight for survival, madness descends upon the group. Mean girl competitiveness grows into a ruthless hierarchy, replete with guerrilla warfare, black magic, animalistic rituals and savagery that rivals “The Revenant.” Those who survived the ordeal are the women we meet in 2021. They have become a public source of fascination, especially now that it’s the 25th anniversary of the crash: What happened out there in the woods?

The search for the truth becomes an addictive quest in this dark, mysterious and thrilling story that reimagines the vicious social pecking order of teenage girls in a live-and-let-die setting. And if you’ve missed it thus far, don’t worry: It runs weekly, meaning the story, and the conversations it’s generating among a growing community of “Yellowjackets” sleuths, are far from finished. — Lorraine Ali

Guest spot

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A woman sits at a restaurant table outside, with trees trimmed with lights behind her.
Vanessa Estelle Williams in “The L Word: Generation Q.”
(Liz Morris / Showtime)

Unlike in her movie “Candyman” (VOD, multiple platforms), Vanessa Estelle Williams doesn’t need for you to say her name five times in the mirror. She just wants you to get it right the first time. Her career has been marked by indelible roles (Keisha in “New Jack City”); meme-able ones (“Candyman,” the new class); and memorable ones (“Soul Food”). It’s also been marked by “mixups” with her “sister” Vanessa L. Williams, the singer, actor and former Miss America, “including getting some of her residual checks that I promptly sent back because I didn’t do the Macy’s Day Parade.” The klieg lights are bright enough to spotlight them both, and the veteran actor is proving it with the recent release of “Candyman” on Blu-ray and digital, stints on “Days of Our Lives” (Peacock) and “The L Word: Generation Q” (Showtime), Christmas movies and a new role on “9-1-1" (Fox). She talked with The Times about “Candyman” new and old, getting her due and finding her peace. — Dawn M. Burkes

On “Candyman” classic: I had done “New Jack City,” and I felt like there might be some traction. So that was the first project I got. And it was pretty wonderful. We had no idea what it would do to the genre itself. . And it was just a great on-camera and behind-the-scenes kind of thing where we would go over to [costar] Virginia [Madsen]'s house and have all this marvelous red wine and cheese and tomatoes — real Italian-type dining. So it was just a wonderful entree for me into the Hollywood scene.

Her name: I was the first to be a member of all the unions, and I got my professional start before my sister, also a New Yorker, Vanessa L. Williams began. SAG, in that sense, sort of failed me in not making sure she had a different name, or a different enough name so there wouldn’t be all this confusion. Because her trajectory, with all of the press, and notoriety and infamy with [the] Miss America contest, had sort of a blurring effect in terms of the public persona. … And I felt like it was up to my union to make those distinctions. Because the rule was that no two people could have the same name. But really the culprit, if I may, if there’s any “blame” to place, it’s with IMDb. That database became the place where everybody got their information, and... this erroneous “A” got placed in my name. And when I went many, many times to IMDb to make the correction, they never would. After the pause that the pandemic created, [I felt], “Let me just eliminate any confusion.” It’s a rebrand with Vanessa Estelle Williams, my whole name.

“Candyman” again: I don’t watch the genre. Because I’m a scaredy-cat. So I only watch the horror films that I’m in. It gets broken down, and I’m not so fearful. … Jordan Peele was absolutely on my bucket list of people I wanted to work with. Nia DaCosta, as the director … just created such a marvelous set. Working with Yahya [Abdul-Mateen II] was magical. It was just amazing to be back there re-creating and very few times does an actor get to revisit a character that they’ve done all those years ago. It was so gratifying as a full-circle moment. It checked so many boxes.

From horror to Christmas: I’m like Miss Christmas Movie because I did “A Fine Christmas” last year. I got “A Rich Christmas” this year. I got “A Christmas Family Reunion” this year. I give thanks for the whole Christmas movie genre, And I’ve just been really fortunate to continue working, to be invited to parties. Because as an actor it’s like, “When do I stop paying dues and somebody owes me?”

Break down

Times staffers chew on the pop culture of the moment — love it, hate it or somewhere in between

Three people talk in a Tuscan villa's garden in the summer.
Pip Torrens, left, Brian Cox and Hiam Abbass in “Succession.”
(Graeme Hunter / HBO)

Never have a few bubbles in a pool caused such a ripple. Fans of HBO’s “Succession,” which concludes its third season Sunday, have spent the week debating the penultimate episode’s final moments, in which Kendall — exhausted, inebriated or both — dips his face in the water and lets go of his beer bottle as the credits roll. But whether Kendall has met his end is not our only question heading into the finale. So senior editor Matt Brennan and staff writer Yvonne Villarreal put their heads together to predict each character’s fate.

Kendall: If Kendall is dead, Megan Draper is Sharon Tate, the survivors of Oceanic 815 are alive out there, and we’re in the Good Place, actually. “Succession” killing off its prodigal son could be exactly the surge of electricity the series needs heading into Season 4, but it seems highly unlikely — note that we did not say “impossible” — that a series so influenced by “Veep” would do so before the fact that Kendall’s actions led to the death of a British cater-waiter become public. He’s down, but we don’t think he’s out.

Roman: The rhythm of “Succession” is that of the horse race, and each of the Roy children (and their allies) must be surging ahead or falling behind to sustain its momentum. And Roman, like Shiv during that disastrous visit with the Pierces in Season 2, appears to have overplayed his hand: with Gerri, with Logan, even with Lukas Matsson, who is about as reliable as Kendall on a ketamine bender. (Justin Kirk’s loathsome presidential candidate/neo-Nazi Jeryd Mencken is his ace in the hole, admittedly.) What we’re wondering is whether his squabbling with his sister blossoms into a full-on feud that pushes one of them into Kendall’s waiting arms. Speaking of which...

Shiv: We may not love her, but we do love her. Pinkie has been working overtime to win Daddy’s attention, trying not to let Roman steal the show in Logan’s eyes as his battle with Kendall rages. And she took tattling to a new level in the process by exposing Roman’s predilection for texting Gerri pics of his little Roman, undoubtedly setting the stage for some more corporate scheming in the finale. While y’all worry about Kendall’s possible death, we’re over here preparing for a battle royale between Shiv and Gerri. But if the “Succession” producers know what we really want, they’ll give us some bonus content of Shiv’s therapy session venting about that exquisitely tense exchange she had with her absentee mother on the streets of Tuscany.

Connor: The eldest, flightiest and in his own way most ambitious Roy sibling had his Oval Office ambitions dashed when Logan tapped Mencken as the family’s political pawn, but Connor is overdue for a stint at the head of the pack. He’s poised to back into an alliance that helps Logan secure his hold on Royco, rise in his father’s favor and maybe even come inside the company (he’s the only one of the quartet not to). Plus, we think Willa’s not-a-no will turn into a grudging yes: “Succession,” like “The Godfather,” can’t resist a wedding sequence.

Tom: Poor Tom. Abused by his wife, unfulfilled at work, his dreams of becoming a father on pause, a stint in the pokey might not sound all that bad anymore. But like the slimy human barnacle he is, Tom will cling to the hull of the good ship Roy as long as he possibly can: We expect him to follow Shiv like a puppy wherever her loyalties fall.

Cousin Greg: We hope he finds a love interest with depth — or realizes how crazy it sounds when he says that.

Gerri: Could the interim CEO with perhaps the most BDE be brought down by some unsolicited penis photos from Roman? Logan is on the warpath, and Shiv rallied to make some chess moves by consulting Gerri on the possibility of launching a sexual harassment complaint against Roman. But this is Gerri. There’s no outsmarting Gerri. Could this be the push for her to switch to Kendall’s team? You know, because he’s not dead.

Lukas Matsson: If Alexander Skarsgard’s tech magnate is indeed in search of perfection — “deep-dive on the best mattress in the world,” welcome to the lexicon! — it’s unlikely he’ll be able to bear the Roys forever. The question is how long he’ll toy with them, and on that count we predict he’ll stick around into Season 4, if only because the writers seem to enjoy the juxtaposition of his flat, icy silence with Roman’s frenetic, whiz-bang dialogue.

Marcia: She’s been less of a presence this season after negotiating her return to Logan following his, uh, indiscretions with Rhea. She was last seen dutifully accompanying Logan to Tuscany for his ex-wife’s wedding, where she uttered a total of zero words yet still relayed a thousand with her aloof posture and facial expression. We hope there’s some screen time redemption for Marcia in the finale. A theory we can’t stop thinking about is that Logan’s assistant, who has been a presence, is actually Marcia’s unnamed daughter, whom Logan is training to be another possible successor. Please be true. Please be true. Think of the drama.

Logan: The old man’s death has been the driving force behind “Succession” since the pilot episode, and we can envision it as the series’ final image. But until then, the piss-mad master manipulator will keep doing what he’s always done: pitting his children, hangers-on, political allies and corporate adversaries against one another in order to survive. And come out on top.

What’s next

The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week

Fri., Dec. 10

“Encounter” (Amazon): Riz Ahmed leads this thriller about a father desperate to protect his sons from an alien invasion.

“The Expanse” (Amazon): A favorite of space traveler Jeff Bezos himself, the acclaimed drama about a cold war of sorts between Earth and Mars enters its final season.

“For Auld Lang Syne” (Apple TV+): The first new “Peanuts” special in a decade takes on New Year’s Eve, with an assist from Lucy Van Pelt.

“Twentysomethings: Austin” (Netflix): This is the true story of eight strangers picked by a streaming giant to live in a house in Austin, Texas, and have their lives taped...

“The Unforgivable” (Netflix): Sandra Bullock plays a woman who rejoins society after a long prison sentence in this film, which also features Jon Bernthal and Vincent D’Onofrio. Not to be confused with “The Unforgiven.”

Mon., Dec. 13

“Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” (HBO): The beloved, half century-old children’s television institution gets the documentary treatment from the director of “Mad Hot Ballroom.”

Tues., Dec. 14

“Grand Crew” (NBC): A comedy about a group of “Friends” whose “Cheers” is an L.A. wine bar. Creator Phil Augusta Jackson has bona fides: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Insecure.”

Wed., Dec. 15

“The Hand of God” (Netflix): Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s coming-of-age story, set in Naples in the 1980s.

“Selling Tampa” (Netflix): This “Selling Sunset” spinoff features an all-Black cast and a new real estate market.

Thurs., Dec. 16

“Juice WRLD: Into the Abyss” (HBO): The late rapper becomes the latest musician profiled in HBO’s music docuseries, following the likes of Alanis Morissette and Kenny G.

“MacGruber” (Peacock): A “Saturday Night Live” sketch turned feature film turns once more, this time into a Peacock original series starring Will Forte. Now do Stefon.

“Station Eleven” (HBO Max): Emily St. John Mandel’s wildly successful novel about an apocalyptic post-pandemic society becomes a TV series thanks to showrunner Patrick Somerville (“The Leftovers,” “Made for Love”).

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Want to know more about one of the filmmakers we’ve interviewed? Need a new show to binge now that your fave is done for the season? If you have a question about TV or streaming movies for the pop culture obsessives at The Times, send it to us at screengab@latimes.com and you may find the answer in a future edition.


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