Spoiler alert: Do not read if you have not seen the Season 3 finale of HBO’s “Succession,” “All the Bells Say.”
After a rollicking Season 3 finale, one thing’s for sure: “Succession” built a lot of shareholder value in its third season.
The HBO drama wrapped up its nine-episode run with a 65-minute closer, “All the Bells Say.” The episode saw the power dynamics among patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his battered-and-bruised adult children go up and down as much as much as the stock market in recent months.
The episode — written by series creator Jesse Armstrong and staff writer Jamie Carragher and directed by Mark Mylod — showcased “Succession’s” signature brand of boardroom thriller, with deeply emotional scenes among estranged family members cut with dealmaking and double-cross machinations as the Roy clan’s Waystar Royco conglomerate pursued a risky transaction with tech giant GoJo.
As much as the Roys bared their souls to one another in this episode, they were all able to turn on a dime into cutthroat corporate maneuvers to determine the fate of Waystar Royco. The gamesmanship of the episode was telegraphed early on when the siblings were seen playing Monopoly to pass the time at the Tuscan villa where they gathered for their mother’s wedding to creepy businessman Peter Munion (Pip Torrens).
Season 3 featured the Roy siblings — Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) — in various of favor (or not) with their father.
Logan the lion ended the season stronger than ever even as he makes a historic decision to hand over the keys to the kingdom — or at least make it look like he’s handed them to GoJo’s tech visionary Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard). As Logan testily explains to his children after they confront him about handing over control to Matsson, the answer to Roman’s plaintive question “why” is simple. “Because it works,” he said. “I fucking win.”
Here’s a look at where the Roys and their inner circle stand at the end of the episode:
For a few moments in the episode, Logan looked as if his health problems were about to catch up with him again. But by the end, he was back in his familiar position of deflecting a blow from an enemy — in this case, three of his four adult children — with a stealth maneuver that they didn’t see coming.
“Oh go on, fuck off, you nosy fucking pedestrians,” Logan says to Shiv, Kendall and Roman when they break into the deal war room at Logan’s Italian villa (where he’s journeyed to attend the wedding of his ex-wife and mother of three of his four children). The siblings believe they have the power to deny their father a super-majority vote needed to approve the deal. But Logan still has an ace to play.
“Mom fucked us,” Shiv explains in the big confrontation scene when she, Kendall and Roman confront Logan about the GoJo takeover deal that would leave them with no roles in the enlarged company. Logan gets his ex-wife Caroline (Harriet Walter) on the phone, fresh from her nuptials, to explain to her kids that she’s sided with her ex in the deal, and that her brand-new husband is “excited” about opportunities Logan has for him at the company. This reinforces why Peter was so cravenly pushing Caroline to get Logan to attend the wedding, and it validates Roman’s instinct that Peter was bad news for his mother.
As he has all season, Logan proves to have a heart made of leather when it comes to parenting. He’s still smarting Roman having accidentally sent him a dick pic that was meant for Gerri. He confronts his youngest son by asking him the startling question: “Are you afraid of pussy?” And then he imposes a kind of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” that grinds Roman down even more: “If you need to get straightened out, get straightened out. I don’t want to know,” he instructs. Roman’s face indicates that he doesn’t want to know what his father means by “straightened out.”
When Logan sprung his twist of enlisting Caroline on his kids, he announced with a verbal slap: “I’ve have you beat, you morons.”
Logan’s most emotionally vulnerable of the episode came when he was talking to Matsson, the fellow self-made mogul (who Logan had earlier derided as “Hans Christian Ander-fuck”). He sounded downright wistful. “America, I don’t know,” Logan laments. When he first arrived from Britain he found a land of “milk and honey” but now he sees a nation that is “fast as fuck or scrawny on meth, or yoga.”
Later, he concedes to his children that his pirate’s instincts tell him that it’s time to prepare Waystar Royco for the future. “It has to be now,” he said. “I feel it in my bones.”
The beating heart of “Succession” was on an emotional roller-coaster again in the finale. The big surprise is that Kendall admits in a moment of meltdown to Shiv and Roman his involvement in the shocker that ended Season 1 — that he was in the car crash that killed the server at Shiv’s wedding to Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) and helped cover it up.
Kendall cheats death at the start of the episode, after the penultimate installment closed with him drunk floating face-down in a pool. But we learn he was rescued in the nick of time by his resourceful assistant Comfrey (Dasha Nekrasova). But Kendall has hit a new low while in Tuscany. His siblings try to stage an intervention — which goes awry when Connor becomes agitated after Kendall refers to himself as “the oldest son.”
Earlier in the episode, a distraught Kendall warns the other Roys that he plans to put all of his communications from the past five years “on my Insta” and that he’s planning a tell-all interview with Vanity Fair. “I’m really ready to get into it all,” he says, without much conviction.
Kendall winds up literally wallowing in the dirt by the trash cans at the villa as Shiv and Roman hear his deep confession and try to help him, as only they can.
“There’s something really wrong with me. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me,” he said, head in hands. “I’m not feeling very connected to my children or my endeavors right now. I can’t get one thing right with another.”
Kendall snaps out of his depression once Shiv makes clear to him the severity and the urgency of the corporate threat. He’s the one who informs them of the super-majority clause required for any change in control of Waystar Royco. But he ends the season seemingly as untethered from reality as he was at the start.
Roman spent Season 3 trying to maneuver into his father’s good graces (at the expense of his sibling rivals) and into a legitimate leadership role of his own. His naked ambition made it even more significant that in the closing moments of the season that Roman sided with Kendall and Shiv in confronting Logan about his right to approve such a transformative deal for Waystar Royco. And he did so even after getting a vague assurance from Matsson that he would be “essential” to the integration and “the face of the family” after the deal.
“Do not do this, please,” Roman says to his father as Shiv and Kendall look on. Logan tries to bring Roman to his side as Shiv barks “You can’t trust him.” Roman stares at his father and appears to agree.
Earlier, Roman has an Emmy-reel worthy scene as only that amoral character could. As Kendall sits in a dirt road outside a row of trash receptacles behind the villa’s kitchen, Roman tries to convince Kendall that his connection to the death of the server wasn’t such a big deal. “Who hasn’t killed the odd kid with a Porsche?”
Shiv seemingly came into the final episode of the season on a position of strength: At the end of the penultimate episode, she seized the opportunity presented by Roman’s waylaid dick pic to insinuate her brother was unfit to their dad and then threatened Gerri about the way she handled sexual harassment. She also engaged in sexual mind games with her husband Tom.
But she ended up outmaneuvered by her father by the end of the episode: Logan mocked her for suggesting the siblings had the upper hand to quash the deal he was making with GoJo, and there was an insulation that her husband may have tipped Logan off to the siblings’ arrival at clandestine deal-making location. On the plus side, she did show some concern for Kendall’s fragile mental state. It had to hurt that, despite their unity, their mother Caroline did her own deal with Logan to help her new husband, the Seat Sniffer. All in all, a losing season for Sarah Snook’s “Pinky,” who joined the company after keeping it at arm’s length, only to see her dreams of being top Lady Boss slip away.
Tom’s role in the finale was the murkiest of all the Roy family members and their immediate circle. After a season wherein he was obsessed about the prospect of going to jail, and increasingly humiliated by his wife, who became more and more open about how much superior she felt to him, he arrived at the deal confrontation to a warm greeting from Logan just as the siblings wondered who might have tipped Logan off to their imminent presence.
Matthew Macfadyen closed the season with Tom engaging in more amusing banter with Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) about his flirtation with minor royalty. Just as tension was ratcheting to a crescendo, Cousin Greg bounded over to update Tom on his romantic maneuvering, and Tom looped Greg into the behind-the-scenes machinations. “Do you want a deal with the devil?” Tom queried. “What am I going to do with a soul anyway,” Greg parried, game as ever. Tom’s ongoing role in Waystar Royco is one of the most intriguing cliffhangers of Season 3.
Connor had a mixed outing in the finale: He joined his siblings for an intervention with Kendall following the latter’s rescue from a possible drowning, only to erupt in frustration when Kendall referred to himself as the eldest son. Outraged, Connor reminded him he is Logan’s eldest child, just born by another mother from the three younger siblings. And Connor was feeling the sting of his girlfriend Willa’s (Justine Lupe) reluctance to commit to an engagement. The tables soon turned when she agreed to marry him with the less than rousing acceptance: “Fuck it! How bad can it be?” But as his stepsiblings caught wind of their father’s dealings with GoJo, which would put that tech company in the driver seat over Waystar Royco, Connor was once again left out of the drama, which hinged on a deal that the mother of his three rivals, Caroline, made with Logan.
If Kendall, Roman and Shiv got screwed over by their father in their confrontation over the GoJo deal, where does that leave hapless Cousin Greg? Nicholas Braun’s upwardly failing interloper was blissfully aware of much of the drama as it unfolded, more intent on getting in good with European royalty, his multi-episode infatuation with Kendall’s PR consultant Comfrey mostly forgotten. His character did make some amusing remarks about Greenpeace and the like before eagerly joining forces with Tom as the siblings scheme to stop the deal with GoJo. Greg bounced between ostracized Kendall and the rest of the Roy family during the season, seemingly breaking with his stern grandfather Ewan (James Cromwell) over legal representation at one point. His bond with Tom as a fellow outsider to the core family could serve him well in Season 4, however.
Never underestimate Gerri’s survival instincts. One episode after Shiv threatened her for failing to properly handle sexual harassment by her own brother, Gerri reclaimed her spot in the inner sanctum, making the pragmatic decision to go with the deal and not to let any fond feelings for her younger mentee Roman get in the way. Logan was clearly skeeved out by the thought of his younger son having any sort of sexual thoughts about his trusted interim CEO but got over it as soon as the deal making with GoJo heated up, bellowing: “Gerri! Where are you, Gerri?” Hard to guess how much Shiv’s meddling influenced Gerri’s decision to side with a deal that potentially cut out the children from their long-held dreams of succeeding their father at the top of Waystar Royco’s heap, but it certainly did not help. J. Smith-Cameron did a masterful acting job in the season, guiding Roman as best she could, until she finally chose herself and the shareholders. Just like a true CEO.