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‘Succession’ Precap: One Burning Question Ahead of the Series Finale

Every Friday, Ringer staffers gather to answer one key question ahead of Sunday’s ‘Succession’ episode. This week’s topic: Who will end up on top?

HBO/Ringer illustration

It’s Friday, which means Succession’s newest—and last!—installment is around the corner. What can we expect from Episode 10? Read along as we examine one burning question heading into Succession’s series finale.

The burning question heading into the finale: Who will end up on top?

Julianna Ress: I’m hesitant to say Kendall, since he’s never been able to stick the landing in his attempts to take over (or take down) Waystar, and there are still multiple people who know about his role in the waiter’s death at the end of Season 1 who could easily be pissed off enough to leak that information. But all signs are pointing toward our no. 1 boy. Telling Roman, “You fucked it, but it’s all right” last week was some real Logan Roy-esque manipulation, indicative of who Kendall will be if he does come out on top. Namely, Kendall’s ascension will come at the cost of … pretty much everything else in his life. His siblings will resent him forever, his kids and wife (from whom he’s separated) are already upstate hiding from the evil he cosigned, and any semblance of a moral compass he has will completely disintegrate. Kendall has been such a tragic character over four seasons that even if he does win the top job, there’s no way Succession ends with him happy.

khal: Logan Roy died without finalizing who’d take over for him, and you expect me to know who’ll end up running Waystar Royco? Challenge accepted, but know that it’s not an easy call for me either.

I could give you well-thought-out reasons why each character could end up on top, but I can’t act like Kendall Logan Roy hasn’t stepped up to the plate at numerous points this season. Kendall delivered the Living+ presentation solo and freestyled an inspiring eulogy during his father’s funeral; out of the four Roy children, he walks the best CEO walk. In the penultimate episode, we saw Kendall making deals with Colin and Hugo as he assembled a squad ahead of the battle he’ll have to wage over the company with his sister Shiv. He’s also emulated his father in other ways, including pushing his family out of his life in favor of the business. Roman and Shiv may be able to talk the talk at times, but Kendall has been walking in his father’s shoes long before seeing his underlined name on that piece of paper.

Katie Baker: I don’t know who it will be, but I feel like it SHOULD be Marcia. Doesn’t this gal have multiple voting shares AND a son who knows full well what Kendall did the night of Shiv’s wedding? No wonder Marcia was so kind to Kerry at the funeral: She knows that the Brunette Quatre is about to extract a lot of wealth from her ex’s dumbass kids. And to that I say: THRIVE.

Alan Siegel: The ghost of Logan? The correct answer is no one. As ruthlessly, miserably domineering as Roman, Kendall, and Shiv’s father was, he was right about his kids: they’re not serious people. If they knew what was best, they would’ve gotten out of the family business years ago. But I suspect that in desperate pursuit of power—and approval from dad that will forever remain elusive—they’ll finally backstab each other to their metaphorical deaths. In the end, the Roys will lose their grip on Waystar, which is probably for the best. Logan’s empire was a rotten one. There likely won’t be a single main character left who’s truly fulfilled, except maybe lunkhead savant Cousin Greg, who never really had a soul to sell.

Justin Sayles: Let’s start with a fan theory that’s been gaining steam all week: Greg as Matsson’s U.S. CEO. Squint and you can see it. Maybe Shiv sold the GoJo tweeter-in-chief on the concept of a puppet executive, but not on Shiv herself as said puppet. Maybe Mencken feels more at ease with a handsome white dude lording over ATN than he does a politically-savvy woman who once worked for his opponent’s running mate. Or maybe the looming showdown among the Roy siblings will be so radioactive that only the corporate cockroaches can survive. If any or all of these things come to pass, there’s an answer hiding in plain sight, and he stands alarmingly tall.

But let’s be real for a second: this is Succession, not Veep. And while Veep was fantastic, it was satire. Succession is not satire; it’s a show that hires political consultants to make sure its electoral drama rings true. Installing Greg—someone who, perhaps months ago, was puking in his theme-park mascot costume—as one of the most powerful players in media would be a move made by a different show. A lesser show. I’d be shocked if Jesse Armstrong and Co. took that kind of fan-service bait.

So with that throat-clearing out of the way, let’s look at the title of this week’s supersized finale: “With Open Eyes.” Like every other Succession season finale, it’s taken from a poem by John Berryman named “Dream Song 29.” (A sample couplet with a title two-fer: “All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears; thinking.”) Divorced from “Dream Song 29,” it’s easy to read the phrase “with eyes open” as a positive, implying a newfound sense of clarity—perhaps Kendall’s self-actualization, or Roman’s realization that this fight ain’t worth fighting. Within the context of “Dream Song 29,” however, the line scans differently: “Ghastly, with open eyes, he attends, blind.” In this light—and based on, well, the 38 hours of Succession we’ve watched to this point—it’s hard to imagine an ending where any victory isn’t pyrrhic. Where the blindness doesn’t take precedence over the open eyes. Kendall could fall short of the throne; he could win it at great cost. All I know is that Succession has set itself up for an ending where a win should feel like a loss, and vice-versa.

All that said, you came for fun predictions, so give me Gerri dick-pic blackmailing her way to an eight-figure payout, buying a yacht, and hiring Karl and Frank to mop the deck. Maybe she’ll evoke another fragment of Berryman’s poem: “Starts again always.”

Ben Lindbergh: Put me in the “no one wins” camp; it’s hard to imagine Succession ending well unless it doesn’t end well for anyone. More so than that $5 million mausoleum, Waystar is Logan’s monument to himself, and his abuse and neglect of his kids is the crack in its foundation. His domineering nature and focus on fortune over family may have helped him build an empire, but it left him without anyone he was prepared to pass it on to—or who was prepared to receive it. It may be too much to expect the conglomerate to collapse like the House of Usher in one episode (even an extra-long episode), but it’s not too late for a lot of dirty laundry to tank the share price and remove the Roys and their flunkies from power.

We’re probably not getting that tell-all book about Logan or that podcast on the “curse of the Roys,” but however it happens, here’s hoping all the ugliness comes out. The dead waiter; the backroom dealing that led to ATN’s election call; the various files Greg didn’t shred or delete; the dick pics and blood bricks. Maybe Mencken goes down for ballot-burning, sparing the spawn of Shiv and Tom from a fascist future brought about by the sins of their father (and grandfather). But beyond that, the only happy ending for us is one where most of the characters we’ve loved to hate wind up (even more) miserable. Some men just want to watch Waystar burn. I’m one of them.