Succession Finale; Or in Defense of Shiv
Huddle up, Succession lovers. Wake up and smell the woman. Shiv is the star of this finale, although the other actors’ performances are not to be ignored. No time for that in this piece.
But before I get Shiv’s fabulous change of heart, I first have to congratulate HBO for giving us such a fabulous, thought provoking, well written (such prose without Shakespeare, who knew?), unflinching view into money and what it does to humans. This is a show to watch more than once. Like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Girls, The Newsroom. As television, and particularly streaming series, have taken over the cultural dialogue and analysis of the times in which we live, we can thank HBO for elevating our tastes over housewives and silly half-hour comedies, instead provoking us to examine the nature of our own lives revealed to us through someone else’s.
Note: the following critique and statements laid out around Shiv and her intentions and motivations are mine alone, not to be confused with the truth, or anyone else’s.
Over the past few days, I’ve been laughing as I read reviewers discussing Shiv, her motivations, and her alleged resemblance to Lady MacBeth. Have you all lost your minds? It was so clear to me. Whatever.
No, she didn’t do what she did for the sake of her child’s future. Seriously? The baby inside her may slow her down physically, but it’s not the player on this stage—Shiv is. When did she ever say or do anything to make you reviewers think that this was her motive? Or do you think this is the case because you believe that, the moment your mothers and wives got pregnant (yes, it was mostly men who put this plot motivation out into the world), they did everything with their sole focus on you and your future? Look at her own history? It’s not about her child.
Neither were her actions meant to punish Kendall. Has she ever done anything other than treat him well, once the smoke of sibling rivalry lifted? Were this the case, she never would have agreed to give up her fight for control the night before the board vote. And that’s despite thinking that he would be a terrible CEO, along with everyone who watched this show, she was going to back him. His behavior in the board room woke her up to her future. And that was the end of that.
Lastly, she did change her vote because Tom is part of her family, so he’s a better choice for her. She knows that Tom’s days are numbered; he is an interim head of the company, to be removed within a few months, or even a few weeks. Matsson is shrewd. He will use Tom as much as he can (to know what was going on inside) and then spit him out, because Tom is a fool and fools do not run companies like this one. Or maybe they do, but Tom is not there for longer than the press release’s shelf life.
No—Shiv did what she did because she had the foresight to recognize that, if she didn’t, her family was bound to continue on the trajectory that had tortured their collective existence for all her life. She did it because only by losing the company could they all move on. She knew that Ken would be an awful CEO, sowing ego-maniacal chaos in his wake everywhere he goes. And, that chaos would permeate her life. And she did it because, since Tom told her he didn’t think he wanted to try to salvage their marriage, she sees that he can offer her nothing in this new role of his that he thinks is based on his brilliance. Oh the hubris of all the men in this show.
But Shiv has gained her freedom from the hunt. Freedom from the pain. Freedom from the greed. For a woman who has been tied and bound to the men who surrounded her from birth through the company and needing to be in on its management if it was in her family, this freedom is a great accomplishment.
I keep thinking of the scene at the end, when she and Tom are sitting in a car, both looking ahead, both seeing the future, but clearly not through the same eyes. You saw this same thing in Homeland, when Carrie sits next to the Russian spy in the theater at the end of the show. You saw it in House of Cards numerous times. You saw it in The Sopranos, and in so many other great series—a clueless man, lost in his head and thinking of his power and might, and the woman next to him who he thinks is appreciating his fabulousness. But really she is thinking about her future, days, months, or years ahead, and that it will be without him.
That’s my take and I’m sticking to it. I wish I read more female reviewers talking about this ending. Where did you all go?
Anyway, I love Shiv. I love the character the show’s creators gave us. Clear headed. Flawed. Smarter than the men around her, but outmatched by their sheer numbers and cemented foundation in running the company. She proudly carries the banner of the character I can most relate to. I’m glad the show is over—for her and for us. It was time. Now, I will wait a few months and watch it again with the benefit of hindsight, looking out for more clues and insight I might have missed the first time.