Succession finale review: A breathtaking, hellish climax

Cameron Frew
Roman in the Succession finale

The Succession finale, a masterwork of suspense and heart-racing drama, gives the Roys their Peep Show ending: condemned to tragic inevitability.

It all started with an old man pissing on the carpet in the middle of the night, and his self-professed prodigal son singing along to the Beastie Boys in the back of his car. This was our intro to the amped-up, upsetting, often strange world of Succession.

The show revolved around one question: who will succeed Logan Roy? Amazingly, it’s taken four years of consistently gripping, agonizing-to-wait-for television to arrive at the answer – but even then, its cyclical storytelling hasn’t given us any easy answers, nor any resolutions that are built to last, even after the credits roll for the final time.

What did we expect as Jesse Armstrong, the architect of the most brilliantly bleak ending of any British sitcom, closed the curtains? Anyone expecting a traditional, triumphant happy ending should feel a little silly right now, because Succession delivered a pitch-perfect, hellish conclusion – we should be angry, and that’s the point.

Some light spoilers to follow…

Succession finale is massive and fast

For a supersized 90-minute finale, it runs at an incredible pace: we open with Kendall steering his team as the board meeting approaches, vowing to get Stewy and anyone else on his side. Meanwhile, Shiv and Matsson discuss the Mortal Kombat roster of shareholders they need to schmooze before the big day.

Immediately, there’s a lack of steady footing for everyone: Kendall’s cockiness has a track record of preceding disaster, as does Shiv’s. Matsson’s pleasantries are obviously hiding something, as much as Shiv does everything in her power to ignore that suspicion. Roman is off spending time with his mummy in the Caribbean after “f*cking it”, in Kendall’s words, with Mencken. Tom thinks he’s being booked in for the “third hang” if GoJo gets Waystar, and that’s before we get to his relationship with Shiv. He wants to “Czechoslovakia it”, while she wants a “real relationship… once you’ve said and done the worst things, you’re free.”

The episode kicks into gear as the siblings agree to meet at Caroline’s sunny, beachside “air clearer”, where they bicker, debate the merits of one another as CEO, and eventually reach an agreement on how to move ahead.

Juggles its thread-tying with aplomb

Somehow, Armstrong and co. manage to tie up every loose end while leaving just enough open to the imagination. Naturally, its sense of momentum feels completely new: after years of back-and-forth, second-guessing, and corporate reboots, we’re on a collision course with a proper answer to the question at the heart of the show’s title.

That central tension never feels lost, even when the finale invests in the tender, fraught dynamic of the siblings: the sun rises on the trio as quickly as it falls, and the writing is impeccable in their laughs, sweary exchanges, and tearful warring. These moments feel nourishing… until the plates shift again, and again, and again. At least we got that adorable “meal fit for a king” scene amid the chaos.

There are pots cooking at all times: Matsson has an eye-opening conversation with Tom about Shiv-ian view of the future, while Greg continues to play all sides as best he can; he’s a snake in the grass, but one wonders if his Machiavellian ways will catch up with him. Everyone gets their farewell note, no matter how minor; we even get a hilarious goodbye from Karl and Frank, the original Disgusting Brothers.

Succession’s performances have never been better

They’re all deserving of praise, but we’ll hone in on the most deserving: building upon his devastating work in Season 3, Matthew Macfadyen is the key to Tom’s status as a legend in the echelon of TV characters. He plays him with a singularly slimy, pathetic blend of head-bowing neediness and superiority; god, we’d hate to meet him.

Kieran Culkin’s performance has seen the most fascinating evolution in the show. Roman has always been irresistibly funny, but his need for gallows humor is a crutch for so many insecurities, and they’ve all reared their head by the end. We hate to say it: we feel sorry for him, which is a tremendous achievement on the actor’s part given how horrible his character is.

Kendall in the ending of the Succession finale

Sarah Snook is exceptionally aggravating as Shiv; a nasty beacon of middle-child syndrome and arrogance. More so than perhaps anyone else in the show, she’s a portrait of finely tuned tells; few characters navigate and purge their own emotions so visibly, making her an incredibly dynamic presence.

And then there’s Jeremy Strong, delivering a performance that belongs in the same breath as James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and Bryan Cranston as Walter White. He is one of the most tangible characters to have ever walked the televisual Earth, completely immersed beyond any recognition other than Kendall. We’re privileged to have had such immense talent at the fore of the show, and even luckier that everything and everyone else has been able to match it.

Succession finale review score: 5/5

A note-perfect finale: heart-throttling, somber, infuriating, and thrilling from start to finish, echoing the view of the show as a whole. Who knows if anything will be able to succeed it.

Succession Seasons 1-4 are available to stream on HBO and Sky now. Check out our other coverage below:

Season 4 cast | Season 4 release schedule | Season 4 runtimes | Is Succession based on a real family? | What time does Succession drop? | Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Episode 9

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About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, and Oscars enthusiast. He loves Invincible, but he's also a fan of The Boys, the MCU, The Chosen, and much more. You can contact him at