On May 28, America bid farewell to Waystar Royco. Legacy media is unceremoniously toppled by a “4chan Swede” and the Roy kids come out empty-handed (not literally — they’re still loaded).
The resolution of the GoJo merger unspools in the final episode of “Succession” with an exponential absurdity that stuffs every moment of its 90-minute runtime with even more shifting loyalties, power plays and brutal verbal takedowns than we have come to expect. Structured like a series of vignettes, the episode, titled “With Open Eyes,” glides between the storied locales of the show’s past, leveraging physical nostalgia factor to both cut deeper and keep viewers on their toes.
After taking an (extremely) brief hiatus for Logan’s (Brian Cox) funeral, the kids are once again in panic mode at the episode’s outset. Roman (Kieran Culkin) has absconded to their mother Caroline’s (Harriet Walter) Barbados mansion. Here, she tends to his wounds with her signature maternal warmth, which involves delegating eye drop duties to her husband because “There’s just something about eyes. They just kind of, ugh, revolt me.”
Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) each fly out to woo Roman and his vote. At the dinner table, they make little headway, falling into the usual petty spats and peacocking.
Back in New York, Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) takes the temperature of Tom’s (Matthew Macfadyen) willingness to be a “pain sponge” as GoJo’s potential American CEO, a gig Shiv has been shamelessly, and headlessly, in pursuit of. The conversation, perhaps one of the most sinister in the show’s history, culminates in Matsson making explicit his sexual desire for Shiv — then offering her husband the job.
The siblings catch wind of Matsson’s betrayal from Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) and his deft use of Google Translate. After getting played like “a pregnant cello,” in Roman’s words, Shiv reallies herself with her brothers and the three plot a plan to block the deal, but not without an internal power struggle amuse bouche.
In terms of who wants it the most, it’s always been Kendall. In Barbados, audiences get a fuller picture of why. Logan “promised” it to him when he was seven years old, and having experienced the lowest lows of any of the characters, it’s his whole reason to live. Shiv and Roman grapple with whether or not to give Kendall the company before they eventually crown him with a “meal fit for a king.”
Becoming wise to what has long been clear to viewers, Shiv and Roman (and maybe a little tiny bit Kendall) realize that the job sucks. “You get the bauble. It’s haunted and cursed and nothing will ever go right, but yeah, enjoy your bauble,” Roman says. Their nihilism — born out of extreme excess of wealth and power and a lack of love — maybe doesn’t ever get absorbed by Kendall in the way that it does for the other two, and it’s going to take something drastic to uproot the myth that he is “the eldest boy!”
And nothing is more drastic than the reality that it never could have been any of them. Waystar Royco was always going to die at the hands of an outside actor and “interchangeable modular part(s)” like Matsson and Tom. The eldest boy never really stood a chance.
“Succession” leaves off in unknown territory, each sibling left out in one way or another from the next chapter. Roman melancholically sips a martini at a nearby bar, Kendall again loiters precariously near a body of water (don’t worry, Colin is closeby) and Shiv — in perhaps the most upsetting turn of all — is the CEO’s pregnant wife, almost (but not quite) holding hands with him in the backseat of a limo.