Succession Series Finale Breakdown: Family

S4E10, “With Open Eyes”

Kendall stares at the sea, defeated
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

The Succession series finale is now in the books. I haven’t seen any social media reactions as of this writing, but “With Open Eyes” was a tough watch. It’s depressing. It’s true to life and to the characters. This series was a tragedy more than a drama or even a comedy, and like any tragedy, the ending is going to sting and perhaps even haunt. We’re about to get into heavy spoiler territory so if you haven’t seen the Succession series finale, you’ve been warned.

Meal For a King

”With Open Eyes” was exactly what most people probably expected it to be. A last minute attempt to save the company, where the siblings band together to fight Matsson and then duke it out to be CEO. With references to their deceased father aplenty, of course. Succession’s magic is that it doesn’t stray far from expectations, but it stays true to its tragic nature and we don’t get what we want. We get what these people would really do. And that hurts.

We got Roman to start the episode, after fleeing to his mother’s house to hide after getting beat down bad last week in a sea of protesters. His father is gone, the person he most wanted protection, affection and approval from. So he ran to his mother in his absence.

Shiv thinks she has the votes to close the sale and become CEO. Kendall knows it’s a long shot and he’s down to days to prevent this sale. He needs his brother. Shiv needs to flip Roman to secure the vote. Soon enough Kendall and Shiv have both crashed their mother’s home in an effort to win their brother’s vote. Kendall in desperation mode and Shiv in sealing the deal mode.

We got the plot twist that many saw coming. Matsson wanted Tom, not Shiv. Tom isn’t going to push back. He’s a “pain sponge” and can be the puppet Matsson wants. Greg tries to play savior and gets this all to Kendall so the drama can unfold from him. Can the siblings stop Matsson?

Tom and Matsson make a deal
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Anytime the siblings get together, alone, it’s good. Some of the best moments in the series are Kendall, Shiv and Roman alone, not talking shop. At their mother’s house, Shiv is presented with the evidence that she’s going to be played by Matsson and guards drop. Hard feelings, desires and resentments come out. All three siblings want to replace Dad. All three of them have valid reasons why it shouldn’t be each other.

Kendall, as annoying as he can be, was spot on when he said it had to be him. Roman is too emotional. He’s now seen as weak after the funeral. And Shiv was just recently seen in public touting Matsson as the guy. To do an about-face at the last moment would look weak.

I loved the genuine resentments coming out. It felt real. It couldn’t be a clean anointing of Kendall, even though he made logical sense. When Shiv and Roman came around to agreeing that it should be their brother, it felt real. It felt genuine. So did the laughter afterwards. The childlike humor in their mother’s kitchen as they made Kendall drink a nasty cocktail of various ingredients laying around the kitchen. Roman pulling out “the good cheese” and licking it as he mocked his mother’s British accent. It was one of those rare bonding moments in the show. But the Succession series finale would break our hearts shortly after.

Shiv and Roman prepare a nasty drink for Kendall
Photograph by Sarah Shatz/HBO

A Tragedy

We saw the siblings prepare to go to war. They got their votes in line. They could win it at 7-6 and keep the company. Before they got back to the office, we got to see a brilliant sequence of events at their father’s home. Tom told Shiv it was him, but only because she tipped her hand and said she was siding with her brothers. She also outed Greg in the process. Then we saw a home video of Logan, Gerri, Karl, Frank, Kerri and Connor sitting around the table, laughing. Singing. Reciting every losing Presidential candidate in US history. It was a rare sneak peek at Logan and his inner circle, plus the eldest child he was so cruel to at times, having fun. Enjoying each other’s company. It showed that Connor was close to his father in a way that the younger siblings weren’t. Maybe he didn’t get treated the same in terms of the family business, but he got to experience a side of their father that his younger siblings didn’t. In a show full of cruelty, it was a highlight, a rare moment of hope, much like the siblings in the kitchen earlier.

The warning signs were everywhere that something was going to go wrong once they got back to the office. Someone was going to crack. Roman was first, bursting into tears out of nowhere in Kendall’s office. Even their old pal Stewy seemed shaky, even though he was counted as a locked in vote. The tension was high as they prepared to vote.

I didn’t see Shiv coming, although I should have. Throughout the Succession series finale, she said she hated Kendall multiple times. That she couldn’t stomach him. And when push came to shove, she couldn’t vote for her family to keep the company and make Kendall King.

The fight Kendall, Shiv and Roman had for all to hear was the show at its core. We saw how broken Roman is. He’s ending the series exactly how he was when it started. Unable to cope. Unable to take steps forward. Defaulting to his position of failure. When he looked at Kendall and said, “You are bullshit. I am bullshit. We all are bullshit,” that was Roman’s insecurities coming out. He’s unable to take meaningful steps in his life. He’s simply broken.

Tom and Shiv hold hands in a limo
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

Shiv is more complicated. She is angry. Genuinely spiteful. She chose to vote for Matsson to buy the company even though he had played her for a fool and was naming her husband (who has been working against her for years now) the CEO instead of her because to her, that was a better reality than letting her brother win. Seeing Shiv get in the car with Tom and take his hand when he offered it was gut wrenching. Shiv cast a vote to stay with a man who doesn’t like her. Who used her to get to a position of power. Who has now stabbed her in the back twice in meaningful ways. She knows that her future would have been better with Kendall being the CEO. She could have influenced change. But she couldn’t let him win and made a deal with the devil. Shiv ends the series out of power, married to it instead, and seemingly as unhappy as a person can possibly be. But at least her brother didn’t win.

Seeing Kendall walk out of the building after the vote was official was tough to watch. His face said it all. He walked from the office to the park, to stare at the ocean. He sat there, broken, staring at the sea. His father’s former bodyguard walking behind him to make sure he didn’t jump. Kendall will live the rest of his life, replaying this day. Feeling like a failure. He had power once again and yet it slipped through his fingers. He can’t fill his father’s shoes. He can’t live out what he believes his purpose is. No matter how he recovers from this, he will never get over this. This day will haunt him for the rest of his life, the way that him staring at the sea before the credits rolled will haunt us forever.

It’s Over

The story ends with Tom weaseling his way to power. Kendall more broken than ever. Roman exactly how he was in the beginning and Shiv perhaps creating her own bed of misery, all out of genuine spiteful feelings towards her siblings.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that we don’t get over bad parenting. Perhaps it’s that power corrupts absolutely. Perhaps it’s that life truly isn’t fair. Maybe it’s all of these things. Succession will go down in history as a dark series, full of people in pain who reacted because of their pain. Hurt people hurt people. Toss in money, power and greed and it’s a bad recipe.

I will forever be haunted by Kendall staring at the sea at the end of the Succession series finale. Broken. Humiliated. Hurt. Wondering what he did that was so wrong that his siblings couldn’t support him. The reality was that he didn’t do anything wrong. This was simply how their parents raised them and the generational cycles weren’t changing just yet. Not here. Not today. The pain and repercussions from that pain carry on. Hope was fleeting. Scars live on. A true tragedy indeed.

Kendall stares at the sea, defeated
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

Written by Andrew Grevas

Andrew is the Founder / Editor in Chief of 25YL. He’s engaged with 2 sons, a staunch defender of the series finales for both Lost & The Sopranos and watched Twin Peaks at the age of 5 during its original run, which explains a lot about his personality.

One Comment

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  1. If the siblings had an ounce of creativity, they would have listened to Logan when he told them all to ‘make their OWN fortunes’, when they were in Italy. None of the siblings had the business genius of their father to really create an empire the way Logan did. Most of the time the Evil Genius doesn’t pass on those world-changing business smarts, just a lot of money and moral bankruptcy.

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