“I don’t mean to be insulting but, having been around a bit, my hunch is that you’re going to get fucked,” Tom told Kendall in the sixth episode of Succession’s terrific third season. “Because I’ve seen you get fucked a lot, and I’ve never seen Logan get fucked once.”
Succession will often tell it like it is—using boundlessly creative profanity, of course—and Tom’s scathing summary of Kendall’s ongoing struggle to one-up his father might as well have been the show’s thesis statement.
Indeed, there’s been a feeling of repetition throughout Succession’s third season. While the series adds new wrinkles—from Logan nearly imploding Waystar Royco because he forgot to take UTI medication to his handpicking the Republican presidential candidate in the span of two episodes—it always reaches the same conclusion: Logan will never see Kendall, Roman, or Shiv as worthy successors to his empire. (Apologies to Connor for the omission: It’s an indisputable fact that he is the eldest failchild.)
That certainly didn’t change in the Season 3 finale, “All the Bells Say,” in which Logan is faced with the harsh reality of his company being acquired by GoJo, instead of the other way around. Logan is giving serious thought to GoJo founder Lukas Matsson’s new offer, which is apparent when the Roy patriarch doesn’t immediately tell him to fuck off. And so, as his ex-wife gets married in Tuscany, Logan secretly corrals his senior guard—Gerri, Karl, and Frank—to meet and put together the final touches on the deal. That Logan makes these moves behind his children’s back isn’t much of a surprise: Kendall nearly drowned in a pool and has actively tried to get out of the company; Shiv has repeatedly shown her corporate inexperience; and Roman lost a chunk of goodwill when he accidentally texted Logan one of his [clears throat] items. What’s more surprising is that, having caught wind of their dad’s plan, the trio finally does something that the siblings should’ve considered from the start of the series: actually working together instead of constantly stabbing one another in the back.
The siblings’ fateful meeting is mostly a reminder of all the weight Kendall has carried since the end of the first season, when he was partially responsible for the death of one of the waiters at Shiv’s wedding. (“I’m not a good person,” Kendall tells Roman and Shiv, flipping the script on his conviction in the previous episode that he was better than Logan.) Kendall opening up emotionally to his siblings is easier said than done, since Roman and Shiv initially believe that he has some angle or leverage against them instead of, you know, clearly undergoing a profound existential crisis. It also doesn’t help that Roman is incapable of sharing genuine feelings without some kind of ironic distance—he ends up joking about the waiter’s death being the reason why he couldn’t get a gin and tonic in a timely fashion.
But the sincerity of Kendall’s anguish finally gets to Roman and Shiv, and they realize that only through their collective strength do they have a chance to sink their dad’s GoJo deal. When their parents divorced, Caroline ensured that her children could prevent this kind of corporate takeover from happening; a failsafe measure to prevent Logan or some outside force from screwing them out of the company. The fact that this has always been possible but has never happened speaks to how totally Logan has pitted his kids against one another in a fight for his approval, and that, outside of Kendall’s failed takeover attempts, none of them has had the courage to stand up to him.
It’s a strategy that essentially results in what Kendall wanted at the start of the season: a unified front against their dad to screw him over. It’s not quite the stuff of Hallmark cards, and yet on Succession, there’s something oddly sentimental about Roman, Shiv, and Kendall coming to the realization that there’s strength in numbers. But while it’s taken most of the trio’s lives to hit this collective epiphany, someone else in the Roy family inner circle has been taking notes: The Roy kids get fucked a lot, and Logan always wins.
Tom has long been viewed as a punching bag, not least of all by his own wife, who didn’t seem particularly troubled at the notion of his going to jail. But ever since he had the balls to aggressively eat a plate of Logan’s chicken in the Season 2 finale, Tom has quietly ingratiated himself to the old dinosaur. This season, Tom went so far as to tell Logan that he’d be willing to be the company’s fall man—and despite all the panicky perusing of prison blogs, he held himself to that promise. (“I’ll remember,” Logan assured Tom when it became clear that the Department of Justice investigation would result only in a financial penalty.)
The tragic irony of being a child of Logan Roy’s is that, while he does love his kids in his own messed-up way, he nevertheless loathes the very thing he’s provided for them: immeasurable wealth. It’s almost impossible for Roman, Shiv, or Kendall to impress their father because everything has been offered to them on a silver platter, whereas he had to fight for every dollar he initially earned. (Hell, for all of Kendall’s dogged determination to get out from under Logan’s grip, he isn’t willing to leave without a $2 billion payout.) Conversely, though he probably isn’t from the most humble upbringing, Tom has undeniably punched above his weight to have a seat at the Roy table, a Fly Guy from Minnesota soaring like Icarus.
All signs pointed to Tom flying too close to the sun and facing jail time this season, and when he wasn’t worried about that, Shiv certainly lived up to her name by constantly demeaning her husband. (“You’re not good enough for me … I’m way out of your fucking league,” she said last week in the world’s most depressing dirty talk.) But right when Shiv, Roman, and Kendall think they’ve backed Logan into a corner, he reveals that Caroline has reopened the divorce agreement and removed the clause that gave her children a safeguard in corporate dealings. Logan doesn’t need Shiv, Roman, or Kendall’s support to get the GoJo deal to the finish line—and based on this brief exchange, he’s got one person to thank for the tip that a storm was coming:
Shiv has taken plenty of L’s this season, but arguably her biggest mistake was assuming that Tom wasn’t playing the game like everyone else. She always tells him what her plans are, as if Tom has no agenda of his own because he’s beneath her. That Tom enlists Cousin Greg in his intra-company coup is only fitting: The two characters reduced to punch lines are heading into Season 4 with all the momentum. (And in Greg’s case, maybe a shot to become king of Luxembourg?)
Now that Tom has betrayed his own wife in order to climb the corporate ladder, perhaps Logan sees something of a kindred spirit—someone who can be a potential successor to the Waystar throne outside of his perpetually unimpressive children. After all, Tom Wambsgans knows the cardinal rule of Succession: Logan never gets fucked.