As someone who came to the world of Succession rather late, I had mixed feelings about the show’s fourth and final season. No, I hadn’t spent months and months weighing up the possibilities in my head or revelling in the sheer joy that comes when a new season finally drops. However, by consuming the entirety of the show in less than two months, I think I was able to enjoy it far more than some of my fellow ‘Successors’.
I didn’t have time to anguish over whether or not season two had been far better than season three, or over analyse one specific dinner or late evening whiskey sip. Instead, I could just tuck in, hoard my tortilla chips, and go along for the capitalistic nepo baby ride of the century.
But now, that journey has officially come to an end. On 28 May 2023, the last episode of Succession was released and oh my god, what a way to wrap things up.
*Major spoilers incoming. Stop right there if you haven’t seen episode ten of season four*
Now, while I could quite happily spend the next 2,000 words or so dissecting every single second of the 88-minute episode—assigning particular attention to those fleeting 30 seconds when the Roy kids actually liked each other and played ‘a meal fit for a king’—I’d rather divert my attention to the person who I believe is potentially one of the greatest TV characters of this generation. And no, it’s not cousin Greg—no hate, but seriously, if he’s your favourite character you need to reassess things immediately.
I’m of course talking about none other than Siovhan Roy. Before we dive into the travesty that is Shiv, it should be of course noted that she still remains to be an incredibly privileged white woman whose life and career topples the lives of most women in the world. Nevertheless, her destiny within the world of Succession remains to be one of the most tragic portrayals of female subjugation I’ve ever seen.
She’s a powerhouse bitch, in every sense of the word. The beauty of Shiv is that she can be both violently ruthless and insanely vulnerable in a split second. She’s nuanced and complicated in a way we still don’t often see in prominent female TV characters.
When we begin episode ten of season four, Shiv is flying high. She’s secured her spot as GOJO founder Lukas Matsson’s chosen American CEO of Waystar Royco, she’s positive that they have the board votes they need to secure the acquisition deal, and she’s attempting to salvage a relationship with who I’d describe as the world’s most pathetic and insufferable man, Tom Wambsgans.
On the surface, everything is looking good for Pinky. But of course, as we all know, whenever one of the Roy siblings appears to be on the verge of success, it isn’t long before treachery, betrayal and greed swiftly fall into play.
Matsson decides to rescind his offer and plucks Wambsgans for the top dog position because, and I quote: “I want to fuck her,” and “[he] can’t deal with the mess of that.” While we all know the dark reality of being a woman in corporate business, and the heaps of sexism that come with it, seeing that scene play out on screen was difficult to stomach. Made worse of course by the fact that Shiv’s literal husband, who was sitting directly opposite to Matsson at this time, barely flinched, clearly too enamoured with the idea of having Waystar Royco all to himself.
Later on, we learn that the three siblings have decided to block the vote and are planning to anoint King Kendall once and for all. A massive shout out to Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong for their performances in the finale. I don’t think I could ever tire of watching those two spar (both verbally and physically).
But back to Queenie, the fact that Shiv is never once considered a legitimate option for CEO by either of her brothers will forever hurt me. Moreover, it seems as though the only illegitimate claim of “dad gave it to me” is Shiv’s, with Kendall and Roman appearing more than confident of their own entitlement to the crown. While I wouldn’t like to think that her pregnancy is also impeding her succession, it’s pretty hard to ignore it.
We’re given a magnificent final scene between the three siblings when Shiv decides to use the only arsenal she has left, her board vote. She blocks Kendall from becoming CEO—which naturally results in one of the most impressive rich boy temper tantrums I’ve ever seen—and delivers the line: “I love you, but I can’t fucking stomach you.”
I think the real tragic aspect of how Shiv’s storyline comes to a close, at least for us to see, is the fact that she has never been taken seriously, not by one single character. Logan never truly saw her as his successor, both of her brothers refused to take a fragment of her advice during the Presidential election night despite her extensive career in politics, Matsson manipulated her every step of the way, and her husband used her as a pawn to enter one of the globe’s most valuable and successful families. In the world of Succession, Shiv Roy is not considered an asset, only a means to an end.
I mean, even Greg didn’t take her seriously when she threatened to silence him if he told Kendall about her deal with Matsson. That had to have hurt.
The last glimpse we catch of HBO’s most troubled redhead encapsulates this. With Wambsgans in charge, some fans have speculated over whether this was simply a smart power play from Shiv. In other words, she might not get to be King, but she can dutifully fulfil the role as Queen.
But when they sit together in that car on the way back to their apartment, we can see that Shiv isn’t triumphant, she’s hollow. Tom silently places an open palm in between them and Shiv gently rests her hand on top of his, they don’t actually entwine fingers, their hands just simply lay on top of each other—if it wasn’t so cinematically impactful, it would honestly look just really bizarre.
When it all comes to a close, Shiv is in exactly the same place her mother once was, subject to the whims and desires of men, with little agency left to take advantage of. It’s truly crushing, and it’s what makes Succession one of the best shows out there.
The series might look to be simply an exposé on wealth and power in the world of American media (or even a coy portrayal of the Murdoch family). But in reality, it’s a seriously gripping examination of relationships, family and abuse. And, most importantly, it’s a harsh reminder of the fact that even when your dad’s the boss, if you’re a woman, prepare yourself for defeat.