Congratulations, Tom Wambsgans.
After 90 blistering minutes of wheeling, dealing, begging, borrowing, and pleading, Succession’s series finale closed out with a new sheriff in town: Matthew Macfadyen’s opportunistic exec, officially anointed as the CEO of Waystar Royco. Tom beat the odds to win the chair with a last-minute assist from his estranged wife, Sarah Snook’s Shiv, who made a dramatic eleventh-hour decision to vote against her brother Kendall.
“I love you, I really, I love you—but I can’t fucking stomach you,” she tells Jeremy Strong’s character, shortly after walking away from the episode’s climactic board meeting.
Up until the finale’s last minutes, it looks like Kendall may have finally found a way to whip up enough votes to win back the company he believes to be his birthright. (As we all know, promises made at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton are binding.) He has a sometimes-wavering Roman (Kieran Culkin) on his side; he has Arian Moayed’s Stewy, making a triumphant return to Succession in its final hour; he has Shiv, once she discovers that Alexander Skarsgard’s Lukas Mattson has only been using her, and is planning to name someone else as Waystar’s American CEO after the Gojo deal. (His pick, as we learn halfway through the episode? Tom, largely because Mattson is a sexist nightmare. “I can’t deal with the mess of that” Mattson tells Tom, speaking about Shiv. “So if I can have anyone in the world, why don’t i have the guy who put the baby inside her instead of the baby lady.”)
Except, when it counts, Kendall doesn’t have Shiv. Just as she’s about to cast her all-important vote, she stalks out of the boardroom, claiming she needs a minute to think. When she comes up for air, she tells Roman and Kendall that she just can’t go through with voting Kendall in—because, she says clearly casting about for a reason, he killed someone. She’s speaking, of course, about Kendall’s season one Chappaquiddick moment—something Kendall confessed to his siblings at the end of season three.
Ironically enough, it’s Kendall’s impulse to cover his own ass that seems to doom him in the end. He tells Shiv and Roman that he was lying about the waiter’s death; his move instantly backfires, convincing Roman and Shiv that Kendall can’t be trusted. As Shiv’s resolve stiffens, Kendall’s increasingly desperate pleas fall on deaf ears. “It doesn’t even make any sense!” he howls, before fully regressing into a spoiled kid, perhaps throwing a tantrum at the Candy Kitchen: “I’m the eldest boy! I am the eldest boy.”
He’s actually not, says Shiv—somewhere, Alan Ruck’s Connor is thanking her—before going to seal Kendall’s fate.
And, after nearly 90 minutes of buildup, the episode and series end with a rather muted sequence indicating that regardless of the outcome, everybody on this show is and will remain miserable. We last see Roman having a drink alone, the stitches Kendall opened up during the boardroom fight gently bleeding; Shiv and Tom together again, holding hands but looking in opposite directions, like the one-percenter version of Ben and Elaine; and Kendall, poor, lost Kendall, drawn to the edge of Battery Park.
Kendall was undone by water when he accidentally drowned a man; he nearly drowned himself near the end of Succession season three. Just hours before that fateful board meeting, we see him triumphantly convincing his siblings to go for a midnight swim with him, then emerging from the surf believing he’s been reborn as Logan’s true heir. In the end, he faces water once more, flanked only by Logan’s ex body man and best pal, Colin. This, it seems, will be the last of his inheritance—and we’ll never know if, in the end, he wound up drowning for real.