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The ‘Succession’ Misery Index: A Meal Fit For A King

Shiv Roy and Tom Wambsgans
Image via HBO
Shiv Roy Misery Index: 75 (You Got Shivved)

And here we are at last, right back where we started. In the second episode of this series, it was Shiv Roy who objected the most to Kendall's place atop the faulty Roy throne. She pointed out all his flaws—and she would continually point out all his flaws at various times throughout the series; his lack of killer instinct, his addiction issues, his weakness, his softness. So it makes a twisted sort of sense that it would come down to her, and when pressed she pass the baton to him. "I don't think you'd be good at it," feels like just a tidy face to her betrayal, but I really believe she believes that. She's always kind of believed that. And yes, the years of being brought up to not trust each other, to always compete and to never support, plays the biggest role in her decision, but frankly she doesn't respect her brothers. I don't know if she even respects herself all that much.

Which brings us to the other part of her decision. She didn't choose Tom, she just sided against her brother. As she sat there staring vacantly at her brother signing away their empire, contemplating the devil's bargain she just made, she wasn't thinking about how she can puppet-string Tom to do her bidding. There is no bidding. Tom's just a nice American face, the hick who made it by marrying into American royalty and leveraging his way to the top, not so different from how Logan Roy (an orphan from Scotland) married Caroline to get into English society and used those connections to start his media empire. Shiv's biggest fear is becoming her mother, but it's already too late. She's a stepping stone on someone else's journey to power, just like her mom.

Roman Roy Misery Index: 60 (Bullshit Bros)

Roman has been in a downward spiral since the death of his father. He was always going to take it the hardest, because unlike his other siblings he never actually wanted to run this company. He just wanted to impress his dad, earn his respect, learn more about him, and in doing so maybe finally have the love and attention from him he never got as a kid. He also wanted to beat his siblings (that Roy competitiveness). It was always about Logan for him. And without Logan, he has no real function, no purpose, no life outside of this, no love from anywhere. Roman has nothing, so much so that he's getting in brawls with protesters on the streets just to feel anything.

This journey to the bottom has also brought him the closest any real acceptance of himself. When he's hiding out at his mom's Caribbean Colonizer Camp, he's fragile and exhausted. He's dressed like a little boy again. By the time we're back in the city and he's watched that video of Logan being more tender with his braintrust than he ever was with his own family, he's emotionally wrung out and ready to collapse. Shiv's decision to defect is Roman's opportunity to finally call out what's always been apparent: "It's all just nothing." They really aren't serious people. It might be a little too neat of an endnote, but it's the appropriate one. There's nothing else you can say. And Roman in that bar alone, drinking a martini, is probably a sign of where he's headed for the next few years of his life, but at least he's finally free from the carousel of daggers.

Kendall Roy Misery Index: 200 (The Eldest Boy [Not Really])

Oh, Ken! How many times can this happen to one man? Succession is nominally a show about a family, but in actuality it is a show about a man named Kendall Roy and his inability to escape the shadow of his father, and how that's become the great travesty of his life. Never has a moment where members of a family all became hundreds of millions of dollars richer been so depressing and hilarious.

Kendall is not his dad. The excuse was always his lack of "killer instinct," and on some level that's true, but that's not actually it. He's just not the guy. Confidence is like a magic trick; everyone knew Logan was full of shit, but he was so forceful and commanding that they were willing to bet on him anyways. Kendall has none of that. He does not inspire any followers. He does not have any real ideas. He spent three seasons wanting Waystar to get in bed with tech, and then betrayed those principles in an attempt to become the last remaining media empire (a thing his dad wanted but eventually realized would not happen). And it was all because he just hated the guy buying them out. Understandable, but it's the selfish and petulant behavior of a kid who doesn't know the value of money because he's never had to know. He's a pretender, and everyone but him knows it. The minute he put his feet on Logan's desk and started peacocking to Stewy, you could see in Shiv's face that she could not allow him to take the wheel. That's the story of Kendall's life.

From the moment he saw his name on his father's highly edited last wishes, he convinced himself that this was his moment, that without the man hovering over him he could finally fly. He had a renewed confidence in his own bullshit but he didn't actually change; he still has no ideas (RIP Living+) and he still can't glad-hand in a one-on-one setting without coming off as inauthentic. He completely abandoned any pretense of being a good father and repairing his own family in the chase for power. He alienated his longest confidant in the chase for power. He had no plans to bring his siblings with him despite begging for their support all episode. And he was willing to pretend he lied about murdering a kid to manipulate them just to hold onto that power. He was reduced to a child, screaming and fighting and yelling to try and make the world something other than what it is.

It's fitting that the two most affecting scenes in this finale—that absurd scuffle in the boardroom and the kids goofing around in their mother's kitchen—portrayed Kendall and his siblings at their most childish. Kendall's never been more emotive, more truly himself, than he was in those two scenes, and they contrast so painfully with every wooden utterance delivered in the context of him trying to be a serious businessman. The only time he's a real human is when he's playing games with his brother and sister, talking in a baby voice, or screaming at them like a toddler who wants a lollypop.

He absolutely got what he deserved, and credit to the king of theater kids everywhere Jeremy Strong for making me feel bad for him anyway.

Tom Wambsgans Misery Index: 0 (The last cockroach)

The cornfed basic who would be king, at least in name only. So much of this season centered around Tom and Shiv's relationship: the shifting power imbalances, the toxic environment, the secrets, the awful things said to one another, and just the undercurrent of tenderness. I have always felt that Shiv loves Tom, but that she just doesn't know what love is. That's not to say that Shiv's choice was made because of love, but love certainly played a role in it.

But it's hard to call this a win for Tom. Matsson essentially asked for a dead corpse he could parade around like Weekend at Bernie's, and just to test Tom's willfulness, he told him he'd like to fuck his wife. And because Tom knows how to be subservient to the biggest dick in the room, he took it on the chin. That's what Tom's about; doing the job required of him and making himself of service, as opposed to the always overambitious and arrogant Roy clan. He wormed his way into this family, he got into the good graces of Logan at the very end, he helped a fascist (maybe) get elected, and he gets a fancy new title and status for his efforts. It would be inspirational if everyone wasn't so fucking awful.

Frank and Karl Misery Index: 9 (The Golden Parachute Pals)

I'll miss you two most of all.

Connor Roy Misery Index: 17 (The Best Pancake)

I know the whole point of this show is that none of these people are winners because they're doomed to their self-created misery and blah blah blah, but I gotta say, it kinda feels like Connor got the best out of all of this. He processed the emotions of losing his father and never having his love or respect, he got married to a woman that's willing to tolerate him—especially if he's in another country far away—and he got his dad's sweet penthouse in the city. I mean for being a born embarrassment, you can't ask for a better outcome. Not being a needy love sponge pays off.

Lukas Matsson Misery Index: 1 (Sexy Logan Roy)

It was clear as day that Matsson was going to betray Shiv. How could he not? She makes it so easy for people. What's been most telling is how much of a loser this guy really is, for all his grandeur and dynamism. He's a lot like the Roy siblings except without the daddy to give him a silver spoon. And maybe that's the difference. Maybe it's because he's so hulking and handsome that people want to buy into him, or maybe the world will buy any white man with a big enough personality. I can't call it exactly, but it was hard for me to believe he wouldn't end up victorious in the end. Too many guys like him do, and too many brats like the Roy kids might be given everything, but they can't inherit respect or admiration. Matsson might not deserve any of it, but you can't say he didn't garner it wherever he went.

Stewy Hosseini Misery Index: -1 (Kiss Me I'm On Molly)

I change my mind, I'll miss you most of all, Stew-stew.

Honorable Mentions

Willa Ferreyra: Cowprint couch? Someone has been on those Instagram boards heavy since move-in.

Greg Hirsch: Greg ends up right back where he started—little more than human furniture. While I would've preferred to see him thrown out onto the street, this will suffice. He tried to play both sides to always cover his bases, but he never had a sense of who to actually take seriously, only who was willing to promise him the most. May he play human footstool for his entire life.

Caroline Collingwood: Despite how much of a narcissistic viper she is, I do believe her when she says it would probably be better for these kids to finally just let go. Letting go is the one thing she knows how to do, much to the chagrin of her actual children.

Gerri Kellman: How does it work with her cushy new severance package? Does she still get it and take the job with Gojo? They are technically two different jobs. Either way, if there's one thing for certain, Gerri will always keep a job.

Hugo Baker: A business Fredo if there ever was one. Good riddance.

Karolina Novotney: The queen of staying out of the mess stirs up a little in the final moments. She deserved a little treat, why not.

Logan Roy: Still dead. The losers list is a pretty good bit, though.

The Hundred: Well, well, well, looks like a little media company just might be back in play now. And it looks like my new job might be safe after all.

Pierce Global Media: *Nan Pierce silently waiting for her $10 billion to arrive any day now*

Families: Without their dad around, there's probably very little chance these kids are ever all together in the same room again. Maybe a one-off Christmas or something? Baby Shiv's baptism (you know Tom's a baptism guy)? Or perhaps Kendall's funeral after he ODs?

Finales: I didn't know where this episode would go, but I trusted the writers' ability to pull off another magnanimous move for a fourth straight season. That said, I was surprised how much of a "finale" this was. All these tearful, nice moments between characters. When they got to that Logan video it felt like I was watching the last episode of Friends or something. I'm going to miss talking too much about this show.

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