Monday, December 13, 2021

Succession's Third Season's Diabolic Finale


Just two months ago, Succession's third season started off with Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong, sensationally profiled this past week in The New Yorker) flying high (too high, Icarus-like?) and at last threatening to bring down his hateful father and his family's evil empire, both of which seemed literally on the run. But only briefly! Logan Roy's apparently infinite malevolence and the corrupt nexus of his evil wealth and Republican party politics appeared to have salvaged the situation for the company, for Kendall's increasingly conscience-less siblings, and for the evil mastermind, Logan himself. And, as Succession does so well, the trajectories of the major characters advanced and fell in their vain competition for power (and Logan's love) throughout the season. 

Among the siblings, Shiv (once a serious possibility to replace the hapless Kendall as heir apparent) showed herself as just not quite up to the challenge (apparently also taking her never model marriage even further down with her). Connor seemed to be undergoing some sort of transformation from comic character to tragic. Kendall, hopelessly deluded by his self-image as a good guy, still hopelessly substance-addicted, and still unable to form a real relationship with the only people who really do seem to have loved him (Rava, Iverson, and Sophie), slowly but surely has undermined whatever advantages he might have had at the season's start. By episode 8, he seemed both totally defeated and aware of it, even ready to surrender. But, of course, even that proved impossible, because of his cruel father's need not to set him free.

The only one who seemed steadily to be advancing - in the process becoming more and more like his father - was Roman, until his sexually perverse text intended for Gerri was inadvertently misdirected to Logan, potentially precipitating Roman's own dramatic fall. For a moment, that appeared to be the cliffhanger set-up for the finale, until - in a brilliant surprise move, the episode ended with Kendall alone face-down in the pool, possibly as dead or dying physically as he has been dying relationally and emotionally all season.

Well, Kendall didn't die, having (we're told) been rescued by Comfry. So, instead of a funeral, the finale opens with Logan improbably reading a children's book to Iverson, while the siblings and their others play (of all things) monopoly. Kendall comes back from his overnight at the hospital as much of a wreck as he was before, seemingly inspiring some modest demonstrations of affection from his siblings and an "intervention" of sorts. Meanwhile, Caroline's crazy wedding to the scholarship boy who bought his own furniture (in other words, someone socially beneath her) goes on as planned, and Shiv even makes a bizarre toast referencing her own failing marriage. How much it has failed she does not yet realize! At the same time, Logan and Roman return to Lake Como to continue negotiating with Matsson, who more and more resembles the son Logan might wish he had, and who, as it turns out, has decided he wants to buy Waystar himself. Unceremoniously dismissed and sent back to his mother's wedding while Logan continues to negotiate with Matsson, Roman should have recognized that, from there, the road to disaster will be direct.

The siblings' "intervention" fails when Kendall opens up about how it felt for him to lose what he had expected to get as the "eldest son" - only to trigger the actual eldest son Connor's anger and resentment. Does Connor's lifelong marginalization in some way foretell the fate of his half-siblings? Meanwhile, for whatever reason, Willa now accepts Connor's marriage proposal. "How bad can it be?" she somewhat unromantically responds to his proposal. Of course we all know by now how much worse it can in fact get!

With Logan and his machiavellian minions away from the wedding to negotiate the deal that would presumably make Logan even more unneeded billions but destroy any of his children's hopes for succession to his throne, Shiv corals Kendall and Roman to react. Kendall still seems to be too much of an emotional mess to care. But the sight of the waiters dumping the garbage triggers whatever shred of conscience he has, surfacing his memory of his greatest crime, which he finally amazingly confesses to Shiv and Roman, who somewhat performatively offer some sympathy (to the extent these damaged characters can). But Shiv quickly brings them back to business, and Kendall accordingly agrees to accompany them to confront their father, on the way explaining to them that their mother, in her divorce settlement, had protected their future by enabling them to deny their father the votes needed to approve this deal. Have they forgotten that in her infatuation for her worthless but ambitious new husband Caroline had already favored Logan over Kendall at the wedding?

Perhaps the most emotionally riveting part of the finale is that car ride and what follows, as the three siblings slowly unite against their father (the thing they failed to do in the first episode of the season), although even at this late date Roman remains torn and seems an uncertain ally almost until the end. But, when they confront their father, they find that he has already been tipped off to their plan and has already gotten his ex-wife's support against her children. The season ends with the three united as never before, but (like Kendall at the end of the first two seasons) seemingly lost, while Roman pathetically pleads with his father and with Gerri, only to be rejected by both.

Throughout the entire series, Logan has always held the real power. His privileged children, who falsely believe in their own security, think they can outsmart him (and one another), but they always fail. Shiv too thought she could play Logan to her hapless husband, only to have him too turn stunningly on her at the end. Tom's Logan-like relationship with Greg (his "Sporus"), which sometimes seemed almost as if it were comic relief, ends up a tragic signifier for the whole story. "Do you want a deal with the devil?" Tom asked Greg, who summing up well what he has learned from his depraved family, answered, "What am I gonna do with a soul anyways?"

Literally everyone in this extended family had made such soulless deals with the devil. That is what wealth does.

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