In Season 3’s finale, “All the Bells Say,” we spent another episode ensconced in the Tuscan countryside. Beautiful scenery, food, clothes, atmosphere; everyone here is filthy rich and yet the Roys spend all of their time missing it. As soon as they can sneak away to get on their phones or have a covert meeting, they do. What was missing from so much of Succession Season 3 was the jet-setting that defined some of Season 2’s best moments. Europe brought us “Boar on the Floor,” after all. But more than that, it’s in these moments outside of the boardrooms and offices where we see the Roys for who they really are: Restless, conniving, miserable.
Last week, Kendall met with Logan for an understated, elegant private dinner to try and shake him down for a deal to leave Waystar, and Logan responded by having Kendall’s son taste the specially-crafted dish to test it for poison. In this episode, Tom asks Greg if he wants to make a deal with the devil (“what would I do with a soul anyway?” Greg replies) as wedding guests dance merrily behind them in the early evening glow. They are outside of this happiness—all any of these people can know is pain.
And on that front, by God did “All the Bells Say” deliver, twisting the knife even further by giving us a sliver of hope for reconciliation (fool that I am!) After Kendall’s “mic drop” moment to end Season 2, it felt like there should have been some kind of real struggle throughout Season 3 regarding factions and a choosing of sides among the siblings. But that didn’t happen; from the start Kendall was considered a joke and everyone was against him. That worked until it didn’t. The wheel-spinning through much of the season was palpable, the inevitability of Logan’s “I always win” assertions felt insurmountable. And yet, when Kendall, Shiv, and Roman talked together in that van—a kind of inversion of the discussion they had in Rava’s apartment earlier in the season—they saw clearly how their father had cut them out and betrayed them, and they were ready to turn on him. Like most things Roy, the urgency to do so didn’t take on importance until it became personal.
That hope was also built upon the emotional foundation of the incredible scene that happened just prior, when Kendall came clean about his crime and found surprising support from the others. But the siblings had also just gone through a moment where they wanted to check in on Kendall after his suicide attempt / falling off the float, and where he refers to himself as the eldest. And here—when no one bats an eye except the actual eldest son—Connor does get a small emotional reckoning. He calls them out but then goes his own way, per usual; there’s something different about the bond that Shiv, Roman, and Kendall have. “You know what he means, though,” Shiv tries to say to Connor. The three of them can hurt Logan, because he actually has some hopes for them. Or did.
(It’s also worth noting that Willa telling Connor that he’s a “nice man” comes at a moment when he’s completely removed from the others. Maybe he is the nice one—another reason he doesn’t belong.)
Ruthlessness is, of course, what drives this family. It reached a new kind of fever pitch this season, infecting everyone, even Cousin Greg, who we’ve seen fall into becoming a little soulless creep. He’s playing two women and chasing after titles and status in a way Season 1 Greg never would have. But his mentor, of course, has been Tom—and as was revealed in “All the Bells Say,” no one plays the game like Tom Fucking Wambsgans.
There were two devastating sets of comeuppances in this finale; in the first, Logan learns that if you kick a dog enough times (a terrible expression, but I’m using Caroline’s example here from last week), one day it might actually bite you. And so it came to pass: Caroline’s children united to stage a coup against their father, with a trump card that their mother had brokered for them long ago. Except, Logan got to her first and promised dispensations for her new husband if she relinquished the particular part in their divorce agreement that gave Kendall, Shiv, and Roman so much voting power. “Who could have told him we were coming?” Shiv asks her siblings as they see their world crumbling around them. (Even Gerri froze out Roman with “how does this serve my interests?” The “why?” he croaks out to his dad and the look of absolute devastation he gives Gerri was beyond heartbreaking).
And yet, Logan might not have won, and that deal might not have happened, if Shiv hadn’t kicked her own dog—not Mondale! but Tom—too many times. Tom did love Shiv, or at least what she represented, and maybe in some twisted way still does. But Shiv has constantly tested the absolute limits of this man and the ways she can humiliate him since before their marriage. Tom has spent a lot of that time taking his frustrations out on his underling, Greg, and also creating a monster. But when it came time for a play, Tom (who let us not forget was willing to sacrifice himself for the family just weeks before) sacrificed his wife. If Shiv was shaken by the losses sustained in her showdown with Logan, nothing could have prepared her for Tom to bite back and then pat her on the head and comfort her. Who could have told Logan indeed?
I don’t want to get too excited for where Season 4 could take us (although if things ended here, how truly delicious), because Kendall’s own “coup” turned out to be less interesting than expected. But this time it does feel like there are real stakes. As far as we know, GoJo is buying Waystar, Logan is taking a multi-billion dollar buyout, and his kids are screwed in terms of their power within the company. As he told them plainly, “go make your own piles.” It’s time to see if the Roy children can do anything on their own without daddy. It seems unlikely, but it will undoubtedly be fascinating to watch.
Amidst the emotional wreckage, though, the spoiled uber-rich Roys will continue to move in circles of opulence without really seeing any of it. They aren’t grateful for anything, they’re only bitter for what they don’t have. The game that rules their lives, as established by their father, is all they know. And it’s breaking them down, each in turn, in ways that specifically have gone for the jugular. We saw Kendall and Roman fall to the ground in two separate scenes, and Shiv lose her cool when she got, well, shived. Because everything they did amounted to nothing.
But you know who didn’t lose their cool? Who swallowed it all up and waited? Who played the game the way Logan would dare to dream any of his own children would? That’s right, the man who has groveled to Logan from the start, who was wounded when the gift of a watch was tossed aside, who was willing to go to jail to save the man whose approval he would die to have… Logan’s true oink oink boar on the floor, the man from the midwest whose obsession with being a Roy has put him ahead of all of Logan’s own children. He who brokers his own destiny. Who thanked Logan for the chicken.
Tom Wambsgans, well played.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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