There’s no Iron Throne, but the stakes feel just as high.
“Succession”, the critically acclaimed drama chronicling a Murdoch-esque feuding billionaire family, wraps its four-season run on Sunday May 28 with a highly anticipated 88-minute finale.
And just like another tentpole HBO show, “Game of Thrones”, there’s no shortage of theories over how the series will end and who will prevail. But instead of a throne, the Roy siblings are battling over the sprawling Waystar Royco media empire.
The Shakespearean-level intrigue has prompted speculation among fans looking for clues in past episodes, characters’ names and elsewhere. Even the final episode’s title, “With Open Eyes”, has critics poring through the John Berryman poem that has been used for each season finale’s title.
Here are some of the questions that remain as the finale nears.
WHERE DO THINGS STAND WITH THE ROY FAMILY?
“Succession” has been about who will ultimately run the media conglomerate founded by Logan Roy, the belligerent and profane Roy family patriarch played by Brian Cox.
For most of the series, three siblings have been vying for the crown: Kendall, played by Jeremy Strong; Roman, played by Kieran Culkin; and Shiv, played by Sarah Snook. A fourth sibling — Connor, played by Alan Ruck — instead mounted an ill-fated run for president.
By the end of season three, the siblings had buried their differences enough to attempt a corporate coup of their father — only to be betrayed by Shiv’s husband Tom Wambsgans, played by Matthew Macfadyen.
The series’ most shocking twist came early this season, when Logan died on his way to close a deal with GoJo, a tech company.
Logan’s death and the power vacuum it created have led to renewed struggle among the siblings, with Kendall and Roman hoping to block the GoJo deal.
WHO WILL PREVAIL?
Show creator Jesse Armstrong told The New Yorker earlier this year “there’s a promise in the title of ‘Succession,’” a sign that there’ll be some certainty at least on this question.
The finale could live up to Logan’s statement in season 3 that life is “a fight for a knife in the mud.”
Kendall appeared in the penultimate episode to be on track to follow in his father’s footsteps, delivering an impromptu eulogy at Logan’s funeral after Roman was too grief-stricken to do so.
After aligning himself with the far-right presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken — who the Roys’ network questionably declared the winner — Roman’s fortunes appeared to be falling and was seen fighting with protesters in the streets in the final scenes.
Shiv, meanwhile is still trying to shepherd the GoJo deal with a plan she’s concocted that would install her as the company’s chief executive in the United States.
Connor, after losing every state and endorsing Mencken, is instead planning for his hoped-for ambassadorship.
There are a few wild cards that remain, within and outside the Roy family. The biggest one of all is Greg, the cousin and fan favourite played by Nicholas Braun, known for his awkward quotes and verbal abuse he endures from Tom.
WHO WON THE ELECTION?
All of this is happening with the backdrop of an unsettled U.S. election that may have been swung to Mencken (Justin Kirk) with the help of the Roys’ cable network and a seemingly not-coincidental fire at a vote centre in a swing state.
The scenario and the series’ Election Night episode has echoed the conversations revealed among Fox News executives and talent during the defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems that led to a nearly $800 million settlement with the network.
“Succession’s” fictional election results have both professional and personal implications for the Roy family, with protests over Mencken erupting throughout the city. But even Shiv seems willing to put her moral qualms aside at the prospect of making a deal with Mencken.
WHAT ABOUT TOM AND SHIV?
Tom and Shiv’s marriage had been on shaky ground before he betrayed her to Logan at the end of last season.
This season it’s even more so, with the two holding a no-holds-barred argument at a pre-election party where the two traded grievances and insults.
Shiv’s revelation to Tom on Election Night that she’s pregnant prompted one of the most gut-wrenching responses, with Tom asking her whether she was telling the truth or just using a new tactic against him.
The show continues to offer some signs of affection between the two, with Shiv telling an exhausted Tom to sleep at her apartment after the funeral, but it remains to be seen whether their marriage is salvageable.
— Succession (@succession) May 27, 2023
IS THIS REALLY THE END?
There are plenty of examples of shows that lived on after their finales. “Game of Thrones” spawned a popular prequel series, “House of the Dragon”, while “Seinfeld” got a second try on its much-maligned finale on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.
Even “The Sopranos”, known for one of the buzziest finales of all time, came back with a movie looking at Tony Soprano’s beginning.
Armstrong has left open revisiting his characters in another fashion, and the possibilities for doing so are endless. A Tom and Greg buddy comedy? Or maybe a Logan Roy origin story, just to reveal the first time he said his signature vulgar phrase.