A lot of questions hang over the heads of Succession viewers ahead of Sunday night’s series finale, but the biggest remains the same ever since the pilot episode first aired in 2018: who will take over the Waystar Royco throne? For four seasons, the Roy siblings, company executives, and international interlopers duked it out in an attempt to take that top spot, and the assumption is a winner will finally be crowned by the time the credits role on Sunday night. Following the penultimate episode, it seems the competition has whittled down to Kendall and Shiv (or at least that’s what the writers want us to think). Roman, meanwhile, was last seen in the fetal position on the streets of midtown Manhattan.
The race between the two is tight. Kendall is primed for battle, readying his troops, and solidifying a “take no prisoners” attitude his father would have likely admired. Is Shiv prepared to take that on? Can she make the necessary moves and fight the rampant misogyny at every turn in order to land her spot behind the likely beautifully crafted, mahogany CEO desk?
There are some points in her corner. She has ins with Matsson’s operation, her family, and, now, both campaigns in the still-undecided presidential election. She remains the least tied to controversy (she never killed a waiter, and kept her hands clean during ATN’s controversial election call). Plus the phenomenon of the “Glass Cliff”—when a female CEO is brought in for PR reasons and tasked with attempting to clean up the messes of her male counterparts—is a real world occurrence. Still, that’s far from an iron-clad case.
As with any formal hiring process, let’s begin with Shiv’s resume. As Matsson mentions in last week’s episode, Shiv is inexperienced. While Kendall has seemingly been working for the company since he learned to tie a tie (and then immediately realized he didn’t like how it looked with a Brioni suit and ditched the accessory all together), Shiv took an alternative path. She may as well have moved to Bushwick and taken to selling homemade phone cases on Depop. Her decision to go into liberal politics has haunted her throughout the series, and now is no different. She will continue to insist her outsider nature is an asset, and her other traits make her a good fit for the job. If anyone is actually convinced by this argument, however, is a whole other question.
The other major obstruction on Shiv’s path to the finish line is six-foot-four dead weight tied to her ankle. For Shiv to win out as the Waystar CEO, the GoJo deal must go through, after which Matsson has to hand her the position. At the end of episode nine, it is revealed that Mencken won’t block the deal as he promised Kendall, meaning part one of Shiv’s plan seems to be going her way. But this whole Waystar/GoJo situation has been more on and off than Tom and Shiv. It’s happening, it’s not. Oh, it’s happening again. Never mind. Even if it finally does come to fruition, Matsson still needs to give the final blessing and make Shiv the US CEO.
Whether Shiv saw it or not, Matsson was seemingly never into this idea from the moment Shiv proposed it. When initially discussing it at the funeral, he immediately loses interest, changing the subject to her pregnancy, which is, of course, yet another element working against her. Shiv jokes throughout “Church and State” that she will not be raising this child. “She’s one of those hard bitches, right?” Shiv says about herself. “Who’s going to do, what, thirty-six hours of maternity leave, emailing through her vanity cesarian. Poor kid will never see her.” But is this joke—which, by the way, is clearly shrouded in truth—enough to convince Matsson?
Though, the pregnancy might not even be Matsson’s biggest sticking point. When initially pitching the idea to the Swede, Shiv jokes that she’d be his “total puppet,” but they both know that’s not the case. It seems more likely that Matsson would want an actual puppet for the job, someone who lacks the capacity to work independently in any way. There has been discussion on the Internet surrounding the idea that Matsson might be eyeing Greg for such a role, and while it seems silly and beyond the scope of Jesse Armstrong’s story, it honestly makes a lot of sense. Over the past few episodes, Matsson has gone from actively disliking the walking joke of a human being to being oddly enamored by him (but still, likely seeing him as a joke). When Greg approaches Matsson at the funeral, the Swede’s eyes immediately light up and he greets Greg with an inappropriately timed, “Hey sexy.” Later, when speaking with Shiv over the phone from his car following the post-funeral lunch, Matsson says he thinks he can “make a US CEO work.” He doesn’t say anything about Shiv taking on the role specifically, and many believe Matsson is about to pull a fast one on Shiv, using her to work Mencken, and then appoint a real goat he can control as the CEO. Greg winning out in the end could be a little too “Bran taking the Iron Throne” for some, but if done correctly, it could make for an equally satisfying and humorous ending, a line Succession has successfully walked for four seasons.
Basically, the odds are stacked against Shiv. Her lack of experience, her brother, and maybe even the cousin she always look down on are all standing in her way, and Shiv has never proven that she’s great at overcoming adversity (not that she’s had many chances to do so). If she does have one thing going for her, however, it’s that she looks great in a pants suit, and while she might not be totally prepared, her closet is very much ready to take on the role of CEO.
This post was originally published on W Magazine
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