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The ‘Succession’ Season Finale Exit Survey

Fire up the grill for some ortolan and break out the ketamine: We’re talking about the Roy family standoff—and the cringiest wedding ever—that capped off the first season of HBO’s 1-percenter drama

HBO/Ringer illustration

Tom and Shiv got married, Kendall fell to unimaginable depths (figuratively speaking, of course, though we can’t say that about every character), and Cousin Greg Cousin Greg’ed. With the excellent first season of HBO’s Succession now finished, The Ringer staff gathered in a boardroom to deliver their thoughts on the finale, “Nobody Is Ever Missing,” on the season at large, and on what they’d do as the CEO of Waystar Royco.

1. What is your tweet-length review of “Nobody Is Ever Missing”?

Jason Gallagher: There is no more doubt afoot: This is the best show of 2018.

Ben Lindbergh: More unmissable than a Connor Roy stump speech.

Katie Baker: Even when he’s lashing out at clumsy cater-waiters, Logan Roy is never not playing the long game.

Shaker Samman: Somebody should’ve gone to the emergency room, somebody probably should be going to jail.

Paolo Uggetti: A testament to the greatness of this show is that it makes you root for a murderer as much it makes you root for some of the richest, most selfish people in the world.

Justin Charity: Succession is a show about how all families, above a certain tax bracket, are criminal conspiracies.

Miles Surrey: Succession is my no. 1 boy, now and forever.

2. What was the best moment of the episode?

Samman: When Tom, benefited by some post-marital coitus and the confidence that only a Billy Joel song can inspire, tells Nate to beat it, but not before pouring the wine from his goblet back into a bottle. Because, you know, the wine was his mom and dad’s contribution.

Baker: It’s a testament to this show that I’ve spent a good 10 minutes trying to pick one, but: everything related to Roman Roy’s rocket—particularly his post-FUBAR face in the bathroom mirror—brought me so much joy, and sooooo much appreciation for the continued existence of my thumbs.

Lindbergh: Tom telling Nate to stop drinking the Wamsgans wine (and, implicitly, to stop sleeping with the Wamsgans wife). The marriage may not be the bond that Tom wanted—fittingly, the episode skipped the vows and the rest of the ceremony itself—but he had his moment.

Charity: The moment when Kendall sulks through the castle, up the long stairways, to deliver the bear hug letter to his father. Kendall is a childish and petulant character, and Logan routinely debases him, but Kendall’s long walk to Logan’s room underscores the son’s arrogance, and his immaturity, and his anxiety, all through his body language alone. He walks like a kid delivering a report card riddled with C-minuses to his parents.

Uggetti: Cousin Greg and Kendall’s interaction. “You little Machiavellian fuck; I like it” is iconic, but the moment was also a unique encapsulation of Kendall’s arc this season. You get the sense that Kendall was thrown off, jealous of Greg’s bravado, knowing deep down that he’d kill to have an ounce of that kind of self-assured confidence and go-getter mentality. In Cousin Greg, that attitude is a mix of naivete and youthful ambition; in Kendall, it’s a sad blend of hollow pretension and an inferiority complex that follows him everywhere.

Surrey: Tom confronting Nate, threatening to hire people to break his legs, and kicking him out of the reception. I know Succession deals with an ensemble of sociopaths, but there was something about Nate’s smugness that was just … the most aggravating. But then Tom forced him to pour the wine back into the bottle! And then Tom and Cousin Greg exchanged a nod! And this all happened while “Uptown Girl” was playing!

Gallagher: The last scene with Logan and Kendall was perfect. After the first episode, I was a huge skeptic—massive skeptic. I thought the show took itself way too seriously. As the season went along, it slowly started to break me down with some of the most memorable characters, moments, and dialogue I’d encountered in years. Then in the final scene of the finale, the show hugged me close, called me its “No. 1 Boy” and forced me to take it seriously in a way that felt real and earned. We are now reconciled.

3. What was your least favorite part?

Baker: Not to be rude to the dearly departed local boy, but I was actually hurt even more by Tom’s fragile-yet-proud psyche on display during Shiv’s “so, uh, by the way ...” boudoir speech. Shiv, how could you do this to a man who offered to go by Tom Roy?

Uggetti: The non-Logan wedding speeches. I don’t think I needed to cringe at the public awkwardness of Shiv and Tom’s ill-fitting relationship anymore.

Samman: The Tom-Shiv argument after their nuptials. Listen, I get it. Tom is (mostly) spineless when it comes to Shiv, and he’s hopelessly, madly in love with her. But not only did she tell him she was unfaithful, but that she would continue to stray. Tom, buddy, get mad. You took it out on Nate, which is cool, but you needed permission from your adulterer wife to do that. Tell her off. You deserve it. And then get some ortolan to celebrate.

Lindbergh: Probably the literal failure to launch. It’s completely in character for a Roman venture to explode spectacularly, but I’m used to Succession treating failure with more nuance and subtlety. Although the satellite subplot seemed somewhat rushed, the blow-up was worth it for Gerri’s reaction.

Surrey: It’s an exceptional scene, but seeing Kendall completely broken and left a pathetic, sobbing mess—after spending most of the season trying to usurp his father—was really difficult to stomach.

Gallagher: When the credits rolled on my third rewatch.

4. Who was the MVP of Succession Season 1?

Samman: Jeremy Strong. Tom and Cousin Greg make a great comedic duo, Logan is a terrifying monster, and Shiv and Roman have their own fun moments, but Strong’s performance all summer—and especially in the season finale—added a depth to Kendall that isn’t apparent in any other Roy or Roy-adjacent character. Get this man an Emmy.

Uggetti: Logan Roy. You come at the king—the flawed, arrogant, insensitive, and pedantic king—you best not miss once, twice, and especially not thrice.

Lindbergh: From an entertainment perspective, it’s almost impossible to pick one actor or character, which is why Succession works. But for playing the primary plot mover, for managing to make doing drugs look a lot less fun than it’s typically portrayed on TV, and (as revealed in the “after the episode”) for going full method in the finale by demanding to be doused in ice water after his swimming scene, I’ll give it to Jeremy Strong. Kendall could really use a win right now.

Charity: Roman Roy—functionally, I think he’s crucial to the show feeling sharper, faster, and more charismatic after the first couple of episodes. He forces the rest of the family to loosen up, which becomes crucial to their otherwise thin appeal as obscenely wealthy people.

Surrey: Best character: Cousin Greg, my wholesome California Pizza Kitchen king.

Best actor: Jeremy Strong, who delivered the best performance on TV since Carrie Coon in The Leftovers, which is about as close I’ll get to calling someone God.

Baker: I’ve already pledged my sword to House Gerri, but pound for pound, every Stewie line was the best line on the show, including and especially his insistence that Kendall deliver the bear hug letter.

Gallagher: It is a true testament to the show that it has so many compelling candidates for MVP. These characters left me speechless with breathtaking performances backed by rich stories … I’ll go with Tom. He swallowed his own load.

5. Who comes out of the season on top? Who’s in the worst shape?

Charity: Shiv—she’s the only Roy who isn’t either worse off or else back at square one.

Lindbergh: Cousin Greg may be the only character who’s improved his position since he puked in the premiere. He wins the season. Kendall loses, for going from heir apparent to barely being in better shape than the waiter he kind of killed.

Samman: Logan has to be the season’s champ, right? He beat a brain hemorrhage, kept control of his company after not one, but two attempted coups, and managed to press his boot even harder down on the throats of any and all who dared cross him, including his son Kendall, who takes the “worst shape” crown. Tough look, plunging a kid who was just about to clock out for the night to his death. Tougher look, knowing you have to swallow that guilt, and capitulate to your greatest foe—likely for the rest of your life—in order to avoid consequences.

Baker: Greg the Mothafuckin Egg, that Machiavellian fuck, definitely has the most momentum. As for who is in the worst shape, I’ve decided to throw my full support and conviction behind this tantalizing Twitter theory I came across last night:

Uggetti: On top: Marcia. While Logan thwarted the plethora of attacks at the throne, Marcia stood to the side essentially bulletproof, and got through a whole season without revealing a single one of her cards.

Worst shape: Tom Wamsgams. He married into the Roys, which means he both loses (not literally, but figuratively) his illustrious last name and any semblance of power.

Gallagher: Logan Roy had a walk-off to end the series, so he’s feeling pretty good, but I’m going with Marcia as the big winner. There’s no getting out of this for Kendall. Ever. If he was only indebted to Logan, that’d be fine; he would’ve just needed to outlive the old man. But Marcia and her son were in that room for a reason. They know and they will always know what Kendall did. Kendall’s debt went from lasting a decade (tops) to the rest of his life and that’s thanks to Marcia’s ability to earn Logan’s privilege and trust—ensuring herself (and her son) a seat at the table forever.

And Stewie probably took the biggest L heading into Season 2, although the kid who died at the bottom of the lake is arguably in worse shape.

Surrey: Has anyone fallen upward better than Roman? Dude blows up a rocket and is celebrating like it’s Mardi Gras because there were only a couple of lost thumbs and an arm in the explosion. Who’s in the worst shape? Other than Kendall, it’s probably Stewie and Sandy, whose takeover was a failure for reasons they won’t be privy to.

6. So … Kendall is not only addicted to cocaine, but fled the scene of a crime and is now beholden to Logan. How does he bounce back in Season 2? Can he bounce back? Did you want to give him a hug?

Samman: Is there a way he can bounce back? He’s responsible for the death of an adolescent whose only crime appeared to be getting a little too high after spilling wine on a billionaire (waiter kid ... welcome to the resistance). Kendall needs a few hugs, a long look in the mirror, a trip to a rehabilitation program, and maybe a pair of handcuffs.

Surrey: I’m sure that Succession will eventually find a way to bring Kendall back to his glorious, Lanvin sneaker–wearing, tech-bro ways, but not before he suffers a bit longer under his father’s thumb. When you’ve hit rock bottom—and I can’t imagine Kendall stooping any lower than this—the only way is up.

Charity: If Succession were as smart as I’d wish it to be, each season would posit a different Roy as the season’s dominant pretender. Personally, Kendall is ruined. Pass the mic to Siobhan.

Gallagher: Kendall will never win again. In fact, he’ll have to redefine his definition of winning to feel any sort of accomplishment at this point. If he can learn to embrace the agenda of Logan and Marcia, he’ll be good.

And hell yeah I wanted to see the hug. Are you kidding? Raise your hand if you didn’t want to see LeBron dunk on Jason Terry that one time. You saw it coming. It looked brutal. But at a certain point you realize you’re watching greatness at work and you have to embrace it.

Uggetti: Kendall deserves more than a hug. He needs a spinoff that involves a one-way ticket to the French countryside where he assumes a new identity as a dairy farmer who raves about the health benefits of whole milk yogurt, invests in a tech startup, and spends his off-time streaming his Fortnite matches on Twitch under the gamer tag “LoneWolf99.”

Lindbergh: Kendall, who went from to being the bear-hugger to being bear-hugged in the span of a single episode, could learn a lot from pre-presidential Connor while he’s drying out in the desert. Instead of trying to one-up the old man, embrace the life of leisure. It’s easy to stop aspiring.

Baker: What’s the equivalent of sending Jimmy McNulty to the docks division? Maybe Season 2 will open with a scruffy hippie Kendall in a short-sleeve linen shirt attempting his hand at directing the newest Waystar Royco Original Feature Film, Tasty Morsels From Groovy Hubs.

7. You’re the new CEO of Waystar Royco—what is your first order of business?

Lindbergh: Resign.

Charity: I would just buy the local TV stations already.

Uggetti: Sell the company to Stewie for a price that makes it worth my while and get myself to the Hamptons.

Samman: Fire every member of the Roy family, with the exception of Tom, who, despite his glaring character flaws and willingness to shred evidence, actually seemed to do a decent job when given more responsibility. Greg can stay too. He knows where the bodies are buried. (Hint: They’re in the death pit.)

Baker: Get rid of Frank and figure out how to stash Roman away in some sort of meaningless Big-Head-at-Hooli type sinecure that does not involve explosives.

Surrey: Folks, we are buying The A.V. Club.

Gallagher: One of two things:

1. Give Cousin Greg whatever job he wants. He knows too much.

2. Kill Cousin Greg. He knows too much.

8. Dream up your ideal Tom-and-Greg scenario/diversion for Season 2.

Charity: Greg is Shiv’s concubine.

Baker: A day at one of the theme parks, followed by a night at the youth hostel.

Surrey: I need the two of them to attend one of those underground fight clubs for rich people. (See Game Night for reference.)

Lindbergh: Having already displayed a talent for ferreting out Tom’s then-fiancée’s unfaithfulness, Greg gets assigned to shadow Shiv to prevent her from finding a new side dude.

Uggetti: Greg forgets to pay rent, gets kicked out of his apartment in New York, and has to move in with Tom. A Step Brothers sequel ensues while Shiv is “gone for the weekend” at Nate’s.

Gallagher: Tom and Cousin Greg need to get arrested and detained together for one night. Imagine The Night Of but with Cousin Greg and Tom and try not to pass out.

Samman: [black screen, card reads: “Lyon, France.” La Marseillaise plays softly in the background] Tom and Greg tour the French countryside, searching desperately for an underground ortolan breeder. The government has enforced laws banning the consumption of the bird for more than a decade, so the two gents, fresh off the wedding and already in Europe, decide to campaign the French Parliament to overturn the ban. When that fails, they go hunting for the bunting themselves. The rest of the Roys can have their media empire; Tom and Greg trade in ortolan now.

9. What has Succession taught you about life as a 1-percenter?

Surrey: As dope as personal helicopters sound, they can’t fill the empty void in your soul. Neither can ortolan. Or “Uptown Girl.”

Baker: Having all the money in the world still doesn’t mean you’ll ever be able to get the damn wedding bus to go where it’s supposed to.

Lindbergh: It’s supposed to have taught me that life as a 1-percenter secretly sucks, but I’m not buying it.

Samman: Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy things that definitely seem like they’d make me happy, be it a castle, a handful of local television stations—I’d dictate they play nothing but Succession reruns en lieu of the 6 o’clock news—or some ugly $670 calfskin sneakers. I’m not saying I’d want to wear them, but if I could afford to buy them, I could afford to throw them out a window. And that seems like it might be pretty fun.

Uggetti: Eating is overrated and rich kids get nicknames. Look at the character names. Only the Roy family kids have nicknames and are referred to as those nicknames by other people. Kendall, “Ken;” Roman, “Rome;” Siobhan, “Shiv;” Connor, “Con.” Nobody else in the show has a nickname. I don’t think this means anything, but I noticed it around Episode 8 and thought it was interesting. Hey, Jesse Armstrong—shouts to you for making an amazing show, by the way—is the nickname thing a thing or am I too deep into the web? I’ll hang up and listen.

Charity: No one is ever really broke.

Gallagher: I would also need cocaine to survive in that world.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.