Season 4, Episode 10: ‘With Eyes Open’
Whenever a show that’s been talked about and hailed as a “successor” reaches its conclusion, fans and critics start coming up with a list of the biggest questions that still need to be “answered” by the finale. Often, the finale answers some of those questions but leaves others hanging, because the stories TV creators want to tell don’t always match what viewers expect. That’s okay too. That’s entertainment.
Somewhat surprisingly, this last “successor” episode resolves a lot. The only major plot point of the season that is open by the end credits involves the outcome of the presidential election. We’re learning that Democratic candidate Daniel Jimenez has filed legal challenges over burned ballots in Wisconsin; But ultimately the “successor” in the mind of the winner of that particular race, Jesse Armstrong, is irrelevant to the outcome.
What matters is whether the Waystar board approves the GoJo deal; Who will Lucas Matson name as the company’s new CEO? We’ll get back to both, but for those who like what Logan Roy calls “protein,” the answers are: Yes, the board votes to sell; And in a shocking upset, Tom Wampskens steals the CEO job from his wife. (Show me, okay?)
Yet what makes it such a satisfying conclusion is that Armstrong and his cast and crew grapple with one of the series’ most divisive questions: Is there anything redeemable about Royce, all things considered?
Answer: Yes, sometimes. Kendall, Shiv, Roman and Connor are at their best when they’re away from the pressures of business and politics, swapping memories and jokes and talking about how strange their lives are. These riff sessions in no way make up for all the destructive selfish decisions they made or the people they hurt. But they show true humanity.
Matson and Tom – and, unexpectedly, Cousin Greg and Lady Caroline – have a lot to do in restoring that sibling bond for a while. When Shiv and Kendall learn that their mother is sheltering a humiliated and bruised Roman on her island estate, the two WayStar contestants race to talk to their brother in order to get his vote at the upcoming board meeting.
Shiv, thinking he’s gotten Matson the votes he needs, already tries to soften the blow to Kendall and Roman, talking about how the boys can update their plans for their bespoke information center. A hundred.” However, unbeknownst to Shiv, Kendall is being tipped off by Greg, who uses a translator app to find out what the Swede is secretly saying by hanging around Matson. Greg learns that Mattson is hurt by Shiv.
Greg doesn’t get the whole story, but we do. We know that Mattson didn’t think he needed Shiv’s political expertise and he certainly didn’t like her ideas. (Also, though he insists it doesn’t bother him, Mattson might start to wander after seeing a magazine cartoon showing Shiv pulling his strings.)
Early in the episode, when Tom’s future comes up with the company, Shiv lets Mattson know that he considers him “a very interchangeable modular piece”. This ends up being a selling point. After an awkward visit to an art exhibit (“the colors look good,” Tom praises a painting) and an equally awkward dinner (“those coot cheeks are a worthy enemy,” says Madsen), Madsen tells Tom to brace himself. .
The ATN leader immediately changes tones and begins expressing his desire to chop off heads and harvest eyeballs. He says he doesn’t want to give his ATN clients “dietary advice” about what kind of news they consume. He wins over Madsen, who needs a “pain sponge” — someone who does what needs to be done and doesn’t mind being hated.
Kendall doesn’t know Mattson chose Tom; But he knows Shiv has left. So he uses that information to convince her to vote no on GoJo. She tells a sweetly sad story about Logan naming Kendall his successor at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton when he was 7 years old. Between that story and Roman’s honest assessment that no one with real power sees Shiva or himself as the new Logan, she relents.
And that’s where this episode gets fun. By the end, the trio is hilariously bantering, whether it’s Roman expressing his anxiety about swimming in the ocean (which he calls “a big water tunnel for things that want to eat me”) or how Shiv can be Kendall’s deadpan monotone. Noise if she ever tried to kill him. The good vibes continue when they return to New York to hear Connor’s plan to distribute their father’s personal effects to whoever puts the most stickers, following the strict guidelines of his “stickering perambulating circuits.”
Everything eventually starts falling apart again, of course. When Tom learns that Shiv is going to vote against Kojo, he admits to her that he’s Madson’s favorite CEO, and she calls him an empty suit. (Tom responds to this by getting into a funny-looking smack-fight with Greg, while Greg is holding a roll of Connor’s heirloom stickers.)
But as much as Shiv and Roman hate Mattson and Tom, when it comes time to vote Kendall off, the two hesitate. They were not happy to see Kendall in Logan’s chair, in an office filled with memorabilia of their father’s amazing accomplishments.
Roman starts to falter at first, realizing he doesn’t want to add to the shame of his funeral, appearing head first in front of the board (including Kerry) and confessing to Kendall. Roman is brought back into line by Kendall embracing him in brotherly fashion and then grinding his bruised forehead into his shoulder. But Shiv? With the vote tied 6-6, she left the boardroom with Kendall and Roman in tow, with a “yes” or “no” decision.
Kendall finally makes a pitch and asks Shiv to feel a little sorry for a man who is “like a line built to fit only one machine.” But when it comes back to Italy with her confession to the drunk-driving death of a caterer — an unforgettable moment of honesty and sibling compassion for the three of them — Kendall withholds her answer, the whole story of the lie she’s created. Roman makes some unforgivable comments about Kendall’s children not actually being part of the Roy “bloodline” and Shiva’s unborn child being; And Kendall turns violent. By the time the dust settles, Shiv has already voted.
So we leave our three broken Roys one by one. Roman assures Kendall that anything not produced by Waystar (“broken shows,” “fake news”) really matters, and then he reluctantly participates in a big publicity photo shoot where Mattson signs the acquisition documents. Shiv probably admits to himself that he was just as willing to sell Tom as he was to betray him; When he asks her to ride with him to the post-signing celebration, she agrees, and even puts his hand lightly — very lightly — in the back seat of the car.
As for Kendall … well, throughout the series, we’ve seen Kendall get swallowed up by water or, depending on whether he’s thriving or not, swallowed him. Even as “Succession” ends, he’s staring at the water in the distance, stubbornly. He didn’t really lose because he was still obscenely rich. But he certainly didn’t win. If anything, he was kicked out of the game altogether.
Will all three be redeemed? Absolutely. That makes it all the more punishing that they are never redeemed.