Let’s break down the bloodbath that was ‘Succession’s’ Season 3 finale

Brian Cox in a beige suit
Brian Cox as Logan in “Succession.”
(Graeme Hunter / HBO )

The following contains major spoilers for the season finale of “Succession.”

Only another HBO character’s untimely demise managed to knock “Succession’s” highly anticipated Season 3 finale (momentarily) out of the headlines this week: After Kendall Roy’s much-discussed dip in the pool set the internet alight, all eyes were on Sunday’s “All the Bells Say.” Who lived? Who died? And did the episode manage to quiet critics who felt the Emmy winner had started spinning it wheels?

Staff writers Meredith Blake and Yvonne Villarreal and culture critic Mary McNamara convened after the episode to break it all down:


Meredith Blake: Well, color me shocked. I definitely did not have “the Roy siblings finally come together only to be betrayed by Tom and their terrible parents” on my “Succession” finale bingo card. In the end Kendall survived that fall off the inflatable, only to get smacked down yet again — bringing both Shiv and Roman with him.

It is extremely “Succession” that the moment anyone shows some personal growth, order in the universe is immediately restored when someone else does something extremely terrible. I was delighted by the kindness Roman showed Kendall after he confessed to killing the waiter — it was note-perfect in that Roman’s kindness takes the form of very dark humor about waiting too long for a gin and tonic and clipping kids with Porsches. But I feel almost personally betrayed by Tom. I am going to have to burn all my Mr. Darcy posters now. And don’t get me started on Greg the Egg! Yvonne, how are you processing this moment?

A man in a linen suit talks on the phone at a Tuscan villa wedding
Matthew Macfadyen as Tom in “Succession.”
(Graeme Hunter / HBO)

Yvonne Villarreal: Before I get into how I’m processing, I feel it’s worth noting that I am typing this while wearing a distressed gray cap that I am pretending is a Roy-style logo-less black cap. (Though Kendall finally busted the trend tonight!)

I just want to say I am glad we were spared a Kendall death. I don’t think I could do another week of Jeremy Strong tweets in my timeline. And Meredith, please pass your Mr. Darcy posters this way — I’ll add to my collection. Because I did a slow clap for Tom managing to pull a fast one on Shiv in the middle of her mom’s wedding reception. Every week, Shiv has shown us more and more just how much she does not love Tom. As Meredith Marks said in tonight’s “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” a leopard doesn’t change her spots, and Tom finally realized that.


Also, can we discuss the Connor moment? As a middle child who always feels forgotten, there’s nothing I loved more than Connor trying to remind everyone that he exists. In fact, if Kendall can wear ridiculous accessories like that necklace in tonight’s episode, Connor needs a baseball cap that says: “I am the eldest son of our father” so it’s out there for everyone to remember. But Mary, as a mother of three kids, what did you think of Caroline’s move?

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Mary McNamara: Well, this is what you get for ignoring your mother when she talks. Seriously, Caroline has mentioned that she was reviewing the divorce agreement several times and her kids could not even be bothered to ask her for details — they were too busy making fun of her new husband’s need for a posh address. Also, as much as I love Brian Cox, there is not enough money/power in the world that would distract me from the glory of having Harriet Walter as my mother. They should have paid her more attention instead of complaining about her shot-riddled pheasant. It’s still pheasant!

I admit I was hoping Kendall would die/come near death and wake his family up to the real dangers of screwing around with people, but then I am a Romantic and “Succession” is a deep dark satire. So how hilarious is it that after all their jockeying for position, Dad cuts them out entirely, reminding them that it is his company and his money, after all. Logan clearly knows his “King Lear” — he will not be handing his kingdom over, thanks so much. I did not call the Tom move, though hell hath no fury like a new husband scorned. I am very excited to see more of the “Tom and Greg” show, though, because you know Roman will be sliding in there as quickly as possible. And think of the dialogue!

A man in a blue suit and a woman in a floral dress walk the grounds of a Tuscan villa
Kieran Culkin as Roman and Sarah Snook as Shiv in “Succession.”
(Graeme Hunter / HBO)

Blake: I guess the big question now — other than, “So does this mean Alexander Skarsgaard is doing to be back next season, pretty please?” — is where do the siblings all go from here? It makes perfect sense, in its own horrifically gross way, if Logan is in fact trying to have a baby with Blunt Bangs. He’s cut out his own kids and wants to start anew. Kendall is already used to being on the outs, but I suspect Roman will not fare well as a prodigal son. And Shiv sure isn’t used to getting played by Tom. But hey, maybe she’ll be attracted to him now that he’s screwed her over?

At this point noting the brilliance of the performances in “Succession” is a little like saying “Gee, Tuscany looks nice,” but come on. Can we just talk about the performances for a sec? Sarah Snook was on fire in particular, and gave us a parting glance for the ages. (This show loves to end a season with an intriguing close-up.)


In the end it was a sensational episode in which everything changed and yet Logan, somehow, ended up on top once again. Bravissima!

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Villarreal: Tom said it best: “I’ve never seen Logan get f— once.” And, listen, for someone who has been lacking in “This Is Us” content, Shiv, Logan and Roman have emerged as the Big Three for me (sorry, Connor) with the twisted, tragic and heartfelt moments in this episode that yielded imagery worthy of a display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They’ve all been damaged in so many ways and have figured out how to cope on an emotional level, but it’s kept them from being able to play the game the way Logan does. It’s why Kendall has been the closest to it — he’s known who his father is.

This maybe isn’t top of mind for you, Mary, but I do wonder what this all means for Roman and Gerri. Will whatever their odd dynamic is cease? Is this a betrayal to him? What are your burning questions?

McNamara: The only person colder than Logan is Gerri, which is why Roman keeps throwing himself at her. I think the most biting aspect of “Succession” is how it succeeds in making us care about these three overly privileged “kids” who take “unexamined life” to terrifying new heights. When we met Shiv, she had an apparently successful career as a political consultant, but as far as I can see none of them know how to do anything but scheme. Frankly, being tossed out of Dad’s billionaire ball pit and into the world would be completely just and maybe even good for them.

Lest we forget, “Succession” is very much about the perils of concentrated wealth — having so much money and power in so few hands is never a good thing. Not to mention the media angle. Companies like Royco, and people like the Roys, are why so many media outlets have been shuttered or eviscerated, why American journalism has become so politicized. But sure, poor Shiv, poor Roman. How will they function without a fleet of black helicopters?

Me, I’m just glad that even without an actual death, the next season of “Succession” promises to be less of a “who does Dad like today” parlor game, though I don’t imagine sibling unity will last more than an episode or two. Tom may have fulfilled his own Nero prophecy, but he is not going last two minutes in direct contact with Logan. Greg will probably wind up running the company, and since we first met him yacking into a dog suit at a theme park, that seems about right.