As the highly anticipated Succession finale approaches, fans of the HBO series are working overtime to fine-tune their theories, thrash out their predictions, and place their bets about how the saga of the Roys will come to a close after four seasons of treachery, tragedy, and too many utterances of “fuck off” to count. Will tech billionaire Lucas Matsson successfully wrest Waystar Royco out of the siblings’ hands? Can Shiv and Tom mend their on-again, off-again relationship? Who, ultimately, will win a kiss from Daddy?
At Slate, we don’t claim to know all the answers, but we do have informed speculation. Here are staffers’ forecasted Succession endings, based on close readings of the show, examinations of all possible outcomes, and just a little bit of guesswork:
Tom emerges victorious
The boardroom fight over the GoJo deal is gonna be ugly; they’re all gonna knife each other. The deal will go through, but nothing is going to end well for Kendall, Shiv, or Roman. During the inevitable brawl, Shiv will reveal Kendall’s role in the waiter’s death from the Season 1 finale, as well as the issue of Roman’s dick pics to Gerri in Season 3. Kendall and Roman, in turn, will reveal that Shiv persuaded a Waystar Royco rape victim to not press charges against the company. In a state of mutually assured destruction, all three siblings will threaten to leak this dirty laundry to the press if they are not chosen to be CEO of the company.
The board, Matsson, and Jeryd Mencken will decide that they want the deal to go through, but that Shiv does not work as the CEO pick, due to both her pregnancy and the threats from Kendall and Roman. A majority of the board ends up agreeing to appoint the most viable remaining American option as CEO: Tom. His laundry is actually the least dirty; everyone already knows about his role in the cruises scandal and the election. He’s already proved that he’s willing to take risks at ATN on Mencken’s behalf. And, unlike the Roys, he’s very willing to be Matsson’s American boy puppet. Seeing no realistic path for herself, and thinking of both her baby and her own position, Shiv reluctantly ends up voting in favor of the deal, with Tom in charge. Kendall, Roman, and Shiv will not face legal consequences from their actions (that’s not how it goes for people this wealthy), but they will be disgraced. They’ll all end up as Connors: rich, but estranged from the company, out of power, and not quite sure what the hell to do with themselves now. —Seth Maxon, senior editor
I can’t take credit for this, as it’s my partner’s idea, but I think he is right: The deal will go through, and Tom will become the American CEO. This show is about power more than it’s really about competence. The Roy children have proven themselves incredibly inept at hanging on to power. Tom has proven himself pretty exceptional at serving those in power. So Tom will not end up “winning”—Tom will just end up doing the same thing he has been doing the entire show: placating those with actual power, being a fall man, being a yes-man, being allowed in the circles of power but never actually getting any power. The Roys will lose control of their family business because they don’t deserve to keep it. They’re neither competent enough nor powerful enough. —Susan Matthews, executive editor
… with Greg along for the ride (or in the driver’s seat?)
It seems pretty clear that no one (besides the siblings themselves) wants the Roy kids to direct the future of Waystar Royco. Mencken is not interested in speaking with them directly, and at this point, he can now side-channel with Matsson to figure out a deal. Roman lost all of his goodwill with his breakdown at Logan’s funeral, Kendall is obviously a mess, the misogynistic Matsson is more likely than not to screw Shiv over once he gets what he wants, and Connor remains a nonentity. As such, considering Tom’s willingness to 1) pull strings at ATN to save his bacon (whether that’s betraying Shiv to cozy up to Logan or taking credit for ATN’s Mencken call), 2) serve as loyal lapdog to pretty much anyone who will take him, and 3) profess devotion to Waystar Royco’s most valuable media property (which he demonstrated by skipping Logan’s funeral to man the fallout from ATN’s election call), it seems apparent that Tom will again bumble his way to undeserved victory.
As for whether he takes Greg with him? Matsson is happy to keep Greg around, mainly to razz him, which may play in Greg’s favor—he’ll degrade himself in front of the right people, and while that won’t earn him respect, it may earn him a useful role as supplicant. I think, however, that this sets up a path for Tom and Greg to be rivals from here on out: They both did the slimiest, most pathetic actions imaginable to get to where they are now, and eventually, Greg’s not gonna put up with Tom’s hostility any longer.
My prediction: Matsson gets the company, Mencken helps him out, the Roy kids are left in the cold, and Tom and Greg find themselves in a comfortable spot at Waystar Royco for now—at least until sometime in the future, when they may feel the need to take each other out for their own self-preservation. —Nitish Pahwa, associate writer
This whole season (show?) has been the siblings learning over and over again that they aren’t their father and can’t do business like he did, by being as brutish as possible. Even if Mencken becomes the president, he isn’t going to squelch the deal, so Roman and Kendall are once again on the outs. Mattson’s a loose cannon and HR scandal waiting to happen, so I can’t see Shiv actually pulling off the puppet-CEO switcheroo. If Mattson really does want an American CEO that he can boss around without being tempted to send blood to, someone obsequious to a fault, someone who fails over and over but always upward, well, there’s really only one choice: It’s Greg time! —Ben Richmond, senior director of operations for podcasts
Kendall remains strong—but at what cost?
I’m unsure of whether or not the GoJo deal will go through. On the one hand, I don’t see the board not taking that huge payday, and Mencken could honor his agreement with Matsson to let the deal go through; in that case, I don’t think Matsson will honor his decision to make Shiv the CEO—it could be Greg or Tom or anyone else. On the other hand, I don’t think the board will like that Matsson was attempting to hide GoJo’s really horrible subscriber numbers, and it would be slightly disappointing, narratively speaking, if the deal does go through.
If the deal is blocked—if Mencken sticks with his original Roy bet, or if the board simply doesn’t want the deal—I do think that Kendall will be named CEO. Of the Roy children, he is the most well-equipped at this moment to take it all. However, I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop on Kendall’s Season 1 secret, which his siblings now know about—I’ve been calling it “Chekhov’s waiter murder.” It would make sense if this secret ends up never seeing the light of day—rich and powerful people get away with horrible deeds all the time, a reality that the show has been incredibly realistic about. But it would be entirely unsatisfying! My prediction is that Kendall will become CEO, and the final few shots of the series will feature headlines about his role in the waiter’s death, courtesy of a leak from one of his siblings. We will watch Kendall’s face as he realizes that he could have had it all, if only his past hadn’t come back to haunt him. Roll credits. —Nadira Goffe, associate writer
Kendall will be CEO, but the company will be in absolute shambles. The reasoning? I mean, come on. It’s Kendall, it’s always been Kendall, it never could be anyone else besides Kendall. However, this is going to be one of those moments where your wildest dreams come true, but only through the most nightmarish means. He’ll be without Rava, permanently alienated from his kids, and irreparably severed from his siblings, on whom he’s stomped throughout the season to achieve his “one head, one crown” fantasy. It’s going to be glorious, and completely wrong.
Bonus: The Shivorce is canceled! Tom and Shiv have hurt each other in ways that most of us couldn’t conjure up in our saddest depression-nap dreams. But they also couldn’t possibly build a life with anyone else. Shiv hasn’t given much indication so far about why she’s keeping her baby, besides a mention in the penultimate episode of not getting an abortion. I think the reason is simple: She still loves Tom and, even after his betrayal, wants to find a screaming, crying, pooping deus ex machina to bring them back together. —Madeline Ducharme, producer for What Next
Wild card Roman: Because why not?
I can’t deny that it looks a whole lot like it’s going to be Kendall. But I just can’t see the writers doing something so straightforward as giving it to the one who was slated to take charge way back when the show began, and who has been looking like a frontrunner all season. (His name, you may recall, was on a piece of paper.) Unless the “all this for nothing” aspect would be the subversive part?!? In any case, I’m going to bet on a swerve. I could see Matsson crowning an American CEO but passing over Shiv for Greg or Tom or even some random person like Ebba (he does owe her). But I also really want it to be one of the kids. So I’m going to bet on the one who currently seems least likely, Roman, partly because of how unlikely it currently seems. He is technically still co-CEO, and I don’t want him choking at the funeral to be the last note for his character. Viva Romulus! —Heather Schwedel, staff writer
No one “wins” (except Gerri), but maybe the real inheritance was the siblings we trauma-bonded with along the way
I did pretty well with predicting the ending of Game of Thrones, but predicting how Succession will end feels like a much trickier game. As a show that’s driven by character and not plot, it doesn’t have an obvious unanswered question like “Who will rule Westeros?” at its core, which means that the finale could go almost anywhere. The people who are still arguing about which character will “win” control of Waystar Royco seem to be missing the point entirely: Kendall and Roman have already co-held the reins for a few days, and all they managed to accomplish was getting an unelected fascist perilously close to the presidency. An ending where Kendall or Shiv ascend the throne at the cost of everything else in their lives—Shiv’s marriage, Kendall’s relationships with his kids—feels too glib, and I think that, as much as the show’s writers see the Roys with all their faults, they care for them too much to hand them such a hollow victory.
My guess is we’ll see an ending where the Roys lose Waystar Royco altogether. Shiv signed their death warrant by forging an introduction between Mencken and Matsson, the white nationalist and the Nordic tech guru. Mencken is already hedging on his promise to block GoJo’s acquisition, and now that other networks have followed ATN in affirming Mencken’s election, the network’s co-CEOs are all out of leverage. So the Roys are out, made even wealthier than they were before, but finally severed from their father’s legacy. (As for who runs Waystar Royco, there’s another American woman eminently qualified for the top spot, one who also happens to have a dick pic of one of the company’s former co-CEOs to use if they try to get in the way. Congrats, Gerri.)
There’s an upside to all of this, though. Once the road to Logan’s castle is definitely closed to them, his children might—just might—be able to stop competing with each other and start processing their collective history of abuse, becoming the kind of family they never could while he was alive. —Sam Adams, senior editor