Succession is all about power—who has the most, who can wield it the best, and who is disastrously blinded by it. So every week during Season 3, The Ringer will check in on how the hierarchy at Waystar Royco shifts with each passing episode. It’s safe to say everything is in disarray—and to steal a line from another HBO series, chaos can be a ladder.
1. Jesse Armstrong
“All the Bells Say” opens with Logan reading his grandson a children’s book about a tired cat who just wants to rest forever, an obvious reference to Kendall, who just tried to go for the big sleep himself (though he’ll tell you he just fell off his floatie after too many limoncellos). As Logan finishes the page, he admonishes Iverson’s taste for skewing a little too young and asks Kerry to fetch him a new book—one “with a bit of action.” Logan might as well have been talking about the show he exists within: At the end of a season in which Succession was accused of spinning its wheels, creator Jesse Armstrong and his team ratcheted up the stakes and delivered back-to-back episodes dripping with intrigue, drama, and Shakespearean knife twists.
“All the Bells Say” shifts the discussion around the show from the well-worn ground it’s trodden for three seasons—it’s no longer about which Roy spawn is the No. 1 Boy or Girl, or what media entity Logan wants to acquire to inflate Waystar Royco’s market cap, or what zany corporate maneuvering Kendall will use to try to kill Pop. It’s now all three children vs. Dad, with Dad threatening to rip the safety net out from under the kids and watch them tumble to the earth. The question for some heading into Sunday’s finale was, Where does Succession go from here? That debate still remains heading into Season 4, but it’s gone from a supposed existential threat to a thrilling thought experiment. That’s a credit to Armstrong’s ability to rope-a-dope us into complacency only to deliver a knockout blow.
2. Tom Wambsgans
Speaking of Shakespearean knife twists …
My colleague Katie Baker has already documented the shocking transformation of Tom from Shiv’s trophy husband to the most powerful member of the Roy clan short of Logan, but it’s worth pausing for a moment to revisit the Tom-goes-to-jail subplot that added little to the overall plot of Season 3 but in the end meant everything. Earlier this season, as the DOJ investigation loomed and prison time seemed likely for at least a few key execs, Tom volunteered to take the fall to prove his fealty to Waystar Royco and the greater Roy family. But after making the offer, he quickly spiraled—a life different from the extravagant one the once-humble Minnesotan clawed his way up to felt like a fate worse than toilet wine. Even more devastating: After years of being made to feel invisible as his wife paraded her infidelities in front of him, Tom couldn’t get assurances that she’d stick by him through his toughest adversity. Even as the threat of prosecution faded, Tom remained a prisoner to an unbalanced love portfolio. When the moment came for him to break those shackles, he seized it.
It shouldn’t be a shock that Tom sided with Logan over Shiv; Armstrong even telegraphs it in the opening to Sunday’s episode. As the Roy family plays Monopoly—a game where Shiv is accused of cheating, naturally—Tom eventually gets a call and has to leave. But before exiting, he takes one more turn and lands on a Chance square. “Hey, get-out-of-jail-free card,” he says, grinning. “Another one.”
3. Lukas Matsson
In the same week Elon Musk was named Time’s Person of the Year, Succession’s meme-tweeting, market-disrupting foreign billionaire emerged from this third season poised to become the most influential individual in the tech and media landscapes of this only-sorta-fictional world. That should be enough to keep “Hans Christian Anderfuck” entertained—at least more than a night of sleeping on the floor of his cold, cavernous mansion.
4. Logan Roy
Here’s the thing about Logan: He’s a monster, but he’s also right about everything. Succession is mostly told from the POV of his children, which of course engenders them to the audience, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re petulant tyrants-in-training who have been handed bowls full of gold yet still believe their spoons aren’t shiny enough. When Kendall, Roman, and Shiv barge into Logan’s villa command post, they arrive like conquering heroes set to drag Mussolini off to the hospital. But this obscures the reality of the situation: They’re coming to pry control of a company away from the man who built it, all because they can’t imagine a world in which they aren’t guaranteed power. There’s a reason the Roy kids may be the only people on earth who enjoy playing Monopoly—money isn’t real to them, and neither are consequences. Taking down Dad and wrestling one another for control of the company isn’t something they need to do. It’s something that seems fun, which they admit on their ride through the Italian countryside.
But as has been well documented, the Roy family patriarch never gets fucked. (Well, Roman tells Lukas otherwise, but the less said about Kerry and Logan, the better.) As much as GoJo’s planned acquisition of Waystar Royco seems like a gentle giant being screwed by the scrawny meth-or-yoga set, the realities indicate otherwise. Media is changing. Acquisitions abound in the industry. Waystar’s market cap is plummeting, while GoJo’s is soaring. Lukas says Logan can keep a title and control of whatever assets he cares about. And he stands to make a cool five bil to add to his pile of other bils.
As Logan explains to the three would-be Cronuses, now is the right time to sell because he feels it in his bones. It’s not scientific, but historically, that approach has proved successful. Plus, he’s reworked the agreement with Lady Caroline to make it so the kids have no say in the sale. They’re playing toy soldiers against a man who has won wars (and surely caused a few). It’s time for them to make their own piles, but without their father, they have no idea how to.
5. Cousin Greg
This is what playing with house money (palace money?) looks like. Greg—who, like Tom, spent much of Season 3 worried about the prospect of prison—now finds himself in a no-lose situation. As things stand, he could sit tight and take control of the Buffalo theme park, ride out his Greenpeace lawsuit, and see how things go with Comfrey (though the sleeping arrangements do need to be fixed). That in and of itself would be quite the come-up for the kid who once had to beg a doorman to cover his cab fare. But you know the adage: Shoot for the moon, land in the royal family of Luxembourg. Greg spends the duration of the wedding weekend courting a contessa, who appears to enjoy his company—at least more than that of Roman, the sexual pervert. Even more shocking, the Cuz juggles the Comfry and contessa situations with uncharacteristic aplomb, even as he sits between them:
But Greg’s real heat check comes near the episode’s end, when Tom asks him to blindly follow him into the corporate fire. He doesn’t know what awaits him, but he knows he’s headed away from the endless middle and toward the bottom of the top, where perhaps as many as 20 of his own Gregs await. Who knows—maybe he’s a plane crash away from becoming GoJo’s weirdest CEO. But even if Tom implodes, Greg’s days of being an irrelevant pauper seem as far in the rearview as California Pizza Kitchen. Cheers to the king, 12 times removed or some shit.
6. Connor Roy
The undisputed no. 1 in our weekly Eldest Son rankings had the most Connor week imaginable, scoring a massive victory and a few embarrassing setbacks. On the downside: He was not made aware of the proposed merger of equals and Lukas Matsson wants to deplatform guys like him. On the plus side: The woman of his dreams literally said “fuck it” and decided to marry him. He may not have gotten to say his full piece during Kendall’s intervention, but he leaves the season with his long-shot presidential hopes intact and his long-shot first lady by his side. Any of the other Roy kids would probably gladly change places with him right now.
What caused Willa to cave? She’s right that Connor is a nice guy, at least as far as the Roy family goes, and she’s also right that they can have a fun time. But was it as simple as this kind smile Connor flashes her just seconds after showing off his Italian to an assistant who fully understood English?
I guess I get it. How bad could it be?
Right. Well, fuck it forever!
8. Logan and Kerry’s Unborn Child
There is one planned merger, albeit of unequals, that Connor was aware of before his siblings: Logan and his assistant/mistress, Kerry, may be trying for a child. His evidence: Kerry’s been putting maca root and almond in Logan’s smoothies, which should make for, uh, a more adhesive and potent gloop. (The writer responsible for that one is pulling more heat checks than Cousin Greg.) This potential child hasn’t even been conceived yet—we hope—but Logan likely already thinks more highly of them than he does of the rest of his children. No wonder Roman thinks they need a plan to kill it.
Let Logan and Kerry make their smoothies. Marcia’s going to get her omelette, and she knows whose eggs to crack to make it.
She may have been pushed to the periphery of this season, but Logan’s still-current wife has been living her best life, with all of the benefits and none of the stresses of being married to the Lion. Kerry might wanna start taking notes.
10. Lady Caroline and the Seat-Sniffer
There’s an argument that perhaps Logan’s ex-wife should top this list. Long portrayed as a sarcastic, swaggering woman who enjoyed the money and power that came with her divorce settlement, Caroline turns out to have coveted just a few simple things: love, happiness, and a flat in London. In “All the Bells Say,” she gets all of those things, plus peace of mind by renegotiating her financial arrangement with Logan. When she tells her children that “I’m not sure it’s been good for you, all the, you know,” she’s at least partly talking about herself. But now she’s out, free to live her life as Mrs. Peter Timothy Munga Munion. It may not sound as powerful as Mrs. Logan Roy, but a kicked dog eventually learns it’s better to not come back.
Does it feel as though Gerri’s story is missing a beat? In Episode 8, after the dick-pic mishap, Logan contemplates parting ways with his most trusted ally. So unless we’re to believe that Roman’s “I’m no radical feminist …” argument landed with Logan, it’s a bit jarring to see Gerri still in the inner circle, helping hammer out the GoJo deal (and, depending on how Lukas rates her and the Waystar leadership team, possibly negotiating her own demise). But her appearance does set up the most gutting bit of corporate speak of the season: When Roman asks for help stopping the sale, she responds cooly, “How does it serve my interests?” Roman, my man, I’m reminded of the famous sowing/reaping tweet, and yeah, it fucking sucks.
12. Frank and Karl
No matter what happens in the GoJo-Waystar restructuring, these two corporate cockroaches will find ways to get on with their office jobs at the office. For our sake, I hope their new boss treats them just like their old one.
Would you rather have spent this past week as Jeremy Strong’s publicist or Kendall Roy’s? We’re going with Jeremy’s: The New Yorker profile may have painted the former as an isolated, way-too-intense social climber, but it also launched a thousand arguments against the supposed depiction of him. (Some life advice: Find someone who loves you the way Jessica Chastain loves defending Jeremy Strong against straw men.) The alternative is ending up like Comfry, who admits that Kendall’s supposed Vanity Fair profile is still in the pitch phase—meaning they’re pitching the mag, not the other way around. (No word this week on the Curse of the Roys pod, but Ken, we’d be happy to host you on The Prestige TV Podcast.) In a world full of assistants doing the bidding of the worst people imaginable, Comfry may have had the least enviable task this season in trying to make a gold-plated husk of a person seem likable—and doing it all while freaking Cousin Greg was trying to play her. We’d separate-bed too.
14. The Help
Men will literally touch every employee who reminds them of the waiter they kinda-sorta killed instead of going to therapy, smdh.
15. The Other Roy Children
Since the three decided to go Spoiled Brat King Ghidorah and now find themselves in a worse position than ever, we’ll sub-rank them in one entry. First up …
If Succession had thus far been primarily the story of Kendall’s attempts to take down his father, Season 3 was about the maturation of the youngest Roy sibling, both professionally and personally. Roman spent much of this stretch under his father’s tutelage, at times proving to be just as savvy and ruthless as Logan, like when he found a new fascist plaything for ATN or brought GoJo and Waystar to the brink of a merger. His quick competence was a stunning development, especially when contrasted with Shiv’s Sideshow Bob routine. Dick pic aside, Season 3 made the case for the most crass, glib Roy as a future titan of industry—and one who could do a reasonable impersonation of his dad, so long as he can get himself straightened out.
But that success came as—and possibly because—he was able to suppress his emotions at nearly every turn. Sure, we’d get a quick glimpse of them, like when he refused to attach his name to Shiv’s cutthroat statement about Kendall, but mostly, he used his snark as armor. Take Kendall’s intervention early in “All the Bells Say”: As Connor and Shiv express love and concern for their brother, all Roman can muster is “I suppose I don’t want you to die.” To say anything more would welcome a torrent of feelings better left untouched.
Roman begins to thaw in the centerpiece scene of “All the Bells Say,” when a distraught Kendall confesses to his role in the death of the waiter from Shiv’s wedding. Roman comforts him as only he can: with pragmatism, sarcasm, and just the right touch of asshole charm. (At worst, Ken’s an “irresponsibler,” he says, and he sort of has a point.) By the time Roman asks who’s the real victim, the dead kid or the guests who had to wait for their drinks, Kendall’s laughing through his tears. When it’s time to head out and confront dad, Roman puts his hands on Kendall’s shoulders. It’s the warmest scene they’ve shared, and possibly the warmest scene in the show’s history.
The car ride to dad’s villa is more fraught for Roman, however: In the early discussion of the GoJo deal, Lukas had assured Logan that Roman would be taken care of—“the face of the family” within the new corporate entity. Now Roman’s trying to do right by his siblings—including the brother he once said taught him how to aim his “pee-pee in the toilet.” The three have a heart-to-heart in which they discuss what a post-Logan Waystar would look like. “I do think that we—puke—could make a pretty good team,” Roman concedes as both exhilaration and anxiety wash over his face. The “puke” is just for show, though—he’s bought in and committed to something for once in his life.
But the feel-good story of sibling camaraderie ends there. Logan informs them the terms have changed; there will be no coup. Roman tries to appeal to his dad with the one thing he has, his love, and Logan swats it away—it’s as useful here as a sausage in a gunfight. Roman’s eyes well up. Perhaps he can’t do an impersonation of his dad after all. As the episode ends, he crumples to the floor. Kendall returns the favor and puts his hands on his younger brother’s shoulders to comfort him. Finally, there’s no more snark, no more sarcasm. For once, Roman is letting himself feel—they’re just not the emotions he was hoping for.
So much of the past week online was spent debating the fate of Kendall Roy. When last seen at the close of “Chiantishire,” he had submerged his head in pool water, seemingly fatally in the eyes of many. “All the Bells Say” closes the discussion quickly: He appears in the cold open after a night in the hospital, claiming the incident was merely a mishap with a floatation device. His siblings don’t believe him, however, and as the episode goes on, it becomes clear that Kendall doesn’t believe himself either. When he breaks down outside the wedding reception, he’s at the lowest he’s ever been, a failure for falling short on his crusade and disconnected from both his children and his endeavors. “I’m not a good person,” he says, before confessing his darkest secret.
The second part of this past week’s Kendall debate was slightly more nuanced: If Kendall were still alive, where would the character go from here? Ken had already taken at least three shots at Logan—would having him emerge from this valley just to make another run at the top post be narratively fulfilling? Jesse Armstrong seems to believe the answer is yes, but with a caveat: He’s now going after dad flanked by his siblings. There’s no guarantee that an army of three will be more successful than an army of one—in fact, odds are against it—but gunning for Logan is Ken’s only real endeavor to speak of. It’s fitting that the one thing that snaps him out of his dejection is the prospect of winning once and for all. “How do we feel about killing dad?” Roman asks on that fateful car ride.
“Pass me the fucking shotgun,” Ken responds. As if that were ever a question.
Season 3 opened with so much promise for Shiv, supposedly the smartest Roy and the one who Logan had appeared to handpick as successor at least a few times now. An outsider may think she made good on that: Early on, she was named Waystar’s president of domestic operations, and when her family was on the verge of losing the company to a hostile takeover, she brokered a deal that cost little more than a few board seats and some private-jet usage. Both would be undisputed wins in any other corporate family.
Yet the Shiv Roy Season 3 story is one of losses and failures: She’s constantly excluded from important discussions or admonished for doing her job; she’s made a fool of by way of a Nirvana song and shut down when proposing an alternative to fascism. As Roman worked his way deeper into the inner sanctum, Shiv was relegated to the sidelines. It became clear that Logan didn’t want her for her skills or wisdom—he wanted her to put a female face on a company staring down an investigation for treating women horribly.
But don’t cry too much for Shiv, who knows how to dole out terrible behavior all too well in her personal life. She’s made a fool out of Tom through years of cheating and lying. And worst of all, she’s ignored the toll it’s taken; when she toasts her mom and her new husband in “All the Bells Say,” she wishes them a marriage as rich, happy, and fulfilling as hers. And she appears to really mean it.
Much has been made about the similarities between Tom and Peter Munion, the man who wed Lady Caroline on Sunday. Both are social climbers from simple origins who covet the proximity to power that comes with marrying a Roy; both were the “Bridezillas” of their weddings; both understand that once you’ve had a taste of the good life, you have to hold on by any means necessary. The connection is such that you could mistake a conversation about one as being about the other. The above quote recalls Tom’s story to Greg of Nero, who kicked his wife down the stairs and adopted the fresh-faced Sporus as his new partner. In the Season 3 finale, Tom gets to live a version of that fantasy by tipping Logan off about Shiv’s plans and promising Greg a new life higher up on the corporate ladder.
But that screenshot has nothing to do with Tom—it’s Roman and Shiv joking about Peter’s plans for their mom. Shiv never imagined it could happen to her. Then again, why would she? An outsider would’ve assumed her and Tom’s relationship was going well. And Shiv is nothing if not an outsider in her own marriage.
16. Iverson Roy
Even considering the gut punch that ends Season 3, no one—not Shiv, not Kendall, not the people who had to sit through Willa’s play—had a worse run than Kendall’s son, Iverson. He handmade his dad a gift, which was promptly lost among a bunch of meaningless presents. His giant rabbit nearly died after Kendall told an assistant to feed it a bagel. He was the taste-tester for a possibly poisoned chunk of mozzarella—and he doesn’t even like mozzarella. And now, after being the last person to see his dad before he nearly drowned, he’s gotta listen to his grandfather insult him over the one book he likes. This kid is getting a crash course on being a Roy, and for that, he has our deepest sympathies.