Succession series finale review: A remorseless, rewarding farewell to TV’s unhappiest family

In hindsight, it’s clear that this was the only possible ending. The Roy children received nothing because, as Roman (Kieran Culkin) bitterly acknowledged, they were nothing — without the man who molded them to exist solely for his approval, no matter the cost.

The unflinching and satisfying finale, “With Open Eyes,” stayed true to its title: Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen, delivering a standout supporting performance) is appointed the CEO and “pain sponge” of Waystar Royco by the ruthless new owner, Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). But Succession’s final season wasn’t really about who would ascend to the corporate throne. By dispatching Logan (Brian Cox), the formidable Roy family patriarch, early on, the last seven episodes zeroed in on the series’ central question: Could Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman ever break free from their father’s emotional stranglehold?

The finale opened and closed with familial betrayal. Following his public breakdown at the funeral and an altercation with anti-ATN protesters, Roman escapes to the Caribbean with his enigmatic mother, Caroline (Harriet Walter). Kendall and Shiv follow suit, needing Roman’s vote for the impending board meeting regarding the GoJo sale. But over dinner, Caroline reveals her own agenda as her husband, Peter (Pip Torrens), blindsides the siblings with an investment pitch. It’s a sharp reminder that in the Roy family, love is always transactional.

Despite their turbulent dynamics, the Roy children have moments of genuine connection. They supported Kendall after his emotional confession in Tuscany, braved a dive bar with Connor when his fiancée got cold feet, and rallied around Roman after his breakdown at Logan’s funeral. Their shared trauma bonded them briefly, but old wounds reopened when it came time to choose a successor. Roman reluctantly sided with Kendall, but Shiv’s refusal to do the same led to a brutal confrontation. Ultimately, their childhood pact to never betray each other again crumbled under the weight of their father’s legacy.

While fans and critics debated over the show’s most detestable character, my primary sentiment toward the Roy family was pity. Yes, they were terrible, but Succession always highlighted the pain beneath their actions. These were individuals raised by emotionally distant parents, conditioned to expect betrayal. The series could have easily painted them as villains, but instead, it portrayed them as tragic figures we laughed at, cried for, and sometimes even empathized with, thanks to the exceptional writing and performances.

“RIP to every other show competing at the Emmys this year, truly,” tweeted one fan, alongside a clip of Roman’s breakdown. The lead actor category will be a tough call between Strong, Culkin, and Cox, while Macfadyen’s portrayal of Tom’s descent into moral decay is deserving of recognition. Moments like Tom labeling Greg with an estate auction sticker exemplify the show’s darkly comedic brilliance. Ruck also shines as Connor, the only sibling possibly equipped to navigate a world without Logan.

While the finale didn’t quite match the intensity of earlier episodes, it remained faithful to the series’ bleak vision: parents can ruin their children, and for some, that’s the goal. The Roy children, left alone by birth and further estranged by death, end Succession obscenely wealthy but emotionally bankrupt. As they contemplate their future, the words of Robert Burns echo in their minds:

The worldly race may riches chase,
And riches still may fly them, O
And though at last they catch them fast,
Their hearts can ne’er enjoy them, O.

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