The Succession finale, “Nobody Is Ever Missing”, keeps hearts racing (and stopping) as the war for power draws to a temporary close.
Shiv and Tom have tied the knot in the Succession finale, but it remains to be seen if they’ve tied it around their necks. Nobody was expecting the happiest day of their lives, of course, as this just isn’t that kind of show. HBO’s increasingly-brilliant rich-family drama might have taken a while to find its feet, but “Nobody Is Ever Missing” proves, like “Which Side Are You On?” before it, that when you pull open the closets of the one-percent, bones rattle to the floor.
The question that has underpinned the entirety of Jesse Armstrong’s Succession remains: How much can things change while still saying the same? And how many casualties can pile up outside the Roy family’s bubble of privilege before the view from inside gets obscured?
There might not be a more fitting metaphor for all this than Shiv, on the night of her wedding no less, confessing to Tom that she has been sleeping with her ex-boyfriend, Nate. “I thought we were grown-ups,” she says, choking on tears. What she means is that she thought she’d never care enough to tell him – and now she does, and she has, so she’s handing him the news with all the responsibility that comes with it. By confessing, she absolves herself. She proves her loyalty. And Tom, poor and pathetic and desperate, accepts it gratefully. In the end, they’re still the same soon-to-be-married couple they were before, on the brink of a normal relationship that continues to elude them – they just wear rings now.
Roman remains the same, too; still a fuck-up, still fundamentally unpleasant, but still not quite incompetent enough to be made to answer for it. Given the responsibility of overseeing a Japanese satellite launch, he accelerated the project so that it would coincide with Shiv’s wedding – like fireworks, he says. And he certainly got those. The thing detonated live on television, and his reaction to the disaster was exquisite. Kieran Culkin has been brilliant throughout this first season, but he saved his clearest illustration of Roman’s character for “Nobody Is Ever Missing.” His expression is muted. Emotionless. He literally washes his hands of the situation, a visual metaphor as potent as the Succession finale setting the second attempt at the Roy throne in a literal castle.
That, of course, was the centrepiece of “Nobody Is Ever Missing”, much like how the war between father and son has defined Succession throughout. Kendall’s latest coup was better supported and more feasible than his last, but it was equally fraught with disaster, and again undercut by Kendall’s own failure to imitate the ruthlessness of his father. He needs chemical assistance to even resemble the man he hopes to supplant. That’s why he’ll climb into a car with a drugged-up waiter and drive him along a pitch-black country road in search of cocaine. That’s why, when the car crashes into a lake, he’ll swim from the wreckage and leave the kid behind. He needs the drugs to italicise the personality traits he covets.
But Logan doesn’t require that kind of assistance. And thus, he wins. Just like the waiter’s watery lungs anchor him to the lakebed, Kendall’s repeated failures anchor him to his father.
The Succession finale was a fight for power – but the teams weren’t even. The struggle for control within the Roy family has always been a metaphor; a self-contained ecosystem, where Logan, the true one-percent, stalks piss-stained boardroom carpets and gazes out at his kingdom. His children are all rich, all privileged, all unpleasant, but they’re closer to us than he is. That’s why we cared about Kendall’s repeated, doomed attempts to overthrow the king – he was, however begrudgingly and temporarily, us. That’s why we cared.
And that’s why he lost.