This article contains spoilers for Seasons 1-3 of “Succession.”
Failing marriages, dick pics, and an Italian wedding were highlights of the penultimate episode of Season 3 of “Succession,” which will release its season finale on Sunday, Dec. 12. The show, which airs Sundays on HBO and streams on HBO Max, has maintained high-quality writing and a gripping plot throughout its third season, which will hopefully come to an appropriately dramatic ending on Sunday night.
Created by Jesse Armstrong, the show began in 2018. Season 2 aired in 2019, before a pandemic-induced pause in production that delayed Season 3’s air date until October 2021.
“Succession” centers on the Roy family, headed by Logan Roy (Brian Cox), founder of global media conglomerate Waystar RoyCo. The show’s central conflict is between Logan’s four children—Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Connor (Alan Ruck)—as they vie to be their father’s chosen successor to take over as the next CEO of Waystar.
Entangled with the Roy family is Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), Shiv’s fiancé-turned-husband who runs ATN, Waystar’s global news outlet. Despite his marriage to Shiv, it is clear that Tom will never be truly considered one of the family. Tom shares most of his scenes with Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun), Logan’s great-nephew, who gets a job working under Tom in Season 1 and starts adjusting to the insane world of wealth and power the Roys live in.
The siblings’ competition for their father’s favor drives the first season until Kendall breaks away from underneath Logan’s control and raises a vote of no confidence against him, which ultimately fails. He then attempts to conduct a takeover of Waystar with long-time friend and private equity investor Stewy Hosseini (Arian Moayed). The takeover might have succeeded if Kendall had not gone driving in search of drugs with a waiter at Shiv and Tom’s wedding, during which the two crashed off a bridge: the waiter drowned while Kendall escaped. This shocking twist to the Season 1 finale finds Kendall returning to his father’s sphere as Logan tells him he will make the investigation go away if Kendall calls off the takeover.
As a result of Kendall’s deadly car accident, he spends much of Season 2 indebted to his father and helping Logan in his attempt to acquire Waystar’s media rival, PGM. In the midst of those plans, a whistleblower at Waystar reveals that the company’s cruise line has covered up sexual harassment and abuse scandals. Logan decides that the family must choose one person to take the fall for the scandal and lands on Kendall as the sacrificial lamb. However, in the final minutes of Season 2, when Kendall is meant to accept responsibility for the scandal, he instead places full blame on his father and announces that Logan was personally involved in the cover-up.
Season 3 begins just minutes after Kendall’s press conference at the end of Season 2, with the family now split on either Kendall or Logan’s side. The rest of the siblings initially back their father, but their loyalties are tested throughout the season. Shiv and Roman are now the ones mainly battling for their father’s love and favor for CEO, while Connor is off focusing on his presidential campaign. Waystar also has to grapple with an investigation from the Department of Justice into the cruise line scandal, and Logan chooses Tom as Kendall’s replacement to take the blame for the cover-up.
The cast of “Succession” has consistently been incredible, and they continue to play off of each other amazingly in Season 3. Strong and Culkin, in particular, have shined in their roles. Additionally, Macfadyen has been, by far, the highlight of the season for me and deserves a Supporting Actor win at the next Emmy Awards. In every scene in which he appears, Macfadyen brings layers of humor, tragedy, and sadness, which have enhanced his depiction of Tom’s increasing panic about the possibility of going to prison for the cruise scandal in Season 3.
Among the other characters, Logan’s current wife, Marcia Roy (Hiam Abbass), and Stewy have sadly been absent from many of this season’s episodes. However, it has been wonderful to see Connor’s escort-turned-girlfriend Willa (Justine Lupe) appearing more often in the second half of Season 3. Given that his proposal to her in the penultimate episode went unanswered, she will surely be featured in the season finale.
Season 3 has been especially compelling because it highlights the relationship between each of the siblings, with standout episodes like Episode 2 (“Mass in Time of War”) and Episode 7 (“Too Much Birthday”) exploring the back-and-forth, love-and-hate nature of their family bonds.
Beyond the Roy siblings, Tom and Greg’s relationship has also been one of the highlights of this season, as Macfadyen and Braun have continued to develop their on-screen partnership. In Seasons 1 and 2, Tom and Greg’s relationship was dominated by their unbalanced power dynamic, since Greg served as Tom’s assistant. However, Season 3 shows their relationship taking an emotional turn, especially from Tom’s side. As his marriage slowly deteriorates following Shiv’s surprise request in Season 1 to Tom for an open marriage on their wedding night, he turns more and more towards Greg as the only person he can be honest with.
Episode 4 (“Lion in the Meadow”) sees Tom on the verge of a breakdown about his impending imprisonment. He tells Greg about the story of the ancient Roman emperor Nero and the young boy Sporus, in which Nero pushed his wife down the stairs and castrated and married Sporus instead.
“I’d castrate you and marry you in a heartbeat,” Tom tells Greg in response.
In Episode 6 (“What It Takes”), Tom sneaks out of his and Shiv’s hotel room to meet Greg at a diner in the middle of the night to discuss his feelings about the possibility of going to prison.
In light of this evolution of their relationship and the fact that Greg does not yet seem to reciprocate his feelings, it has been difficult not to feel for Tom in Season 3, especially after Episode 8 (“Chiantishire”), where Shiv tells him she doesn’t love him as part of their foreplay. The increasingly negative turns that their marriage takes might mean that something will change in their dynamic, either in the finale or at the start of Season 4, whether that be a divorce or something worse, à la Nero’s wife being pushed down the stairs to her death.
That type of plot twist would fit in perfectly with the show’s major themes of fragile trust and the desire for wealth and power. “Succession” continues to garner viewers because the show knows exactly how to cut from a comic moment between Tom and Greg to a darker image, like the visual of Kendall face down in a pool in the penultimate episode of Season 3.
Looking forward to the ninth and final episode of Season 3 (“All the Bells Say”), it seems likely that something big is about to hit the Roy family. I don’t think Kendall’s death will be the major event of the last episode, although Episode 8’s ambiguous ending certainly makes it possible. Instead, the show’s recent references to Kendall’s involvement in the waiter’s death in the Season 1 finale seemed to imply that Logan’s cover-up of the investigation may come back to bite him and the family. No matter what happens, viewers will be nervously awaiting this season’s final “Succession” Sunday to see the Roy family grappling with whatever dramatic final twist awaits them.
Jiyu Shin can be reached at email@example.com.