Saying goodbye to a television series is never easy. Succession made that harder than most shows. The family drama became appointment television after an incredible end to its first season. While many started out cold on the series, it quickly became apparent that Jesse Armstrong had big plans. In its final season, Succession leaves an impeccable legacy.
The Roy family certainly made it hard to find likable characters. Yet that ultimately became the point. Armstrong wanted to critique late-stage capitalism, and his shark-like characters quickly lived up to the billing. Logan (Brian Cox) was a monster that destroyed everyone in his path. Shiv (Sarah Snook) thought she was above it all, rebelling in politics away from the family business. Roman (Kieran Culkin) never stepped out of the shadows of his family. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) believed he would not repeat the mistakes of his father. Instead, he made new ones. Connor (Alan Ruck) became a passed-over prince. Each performance was nuanced and devastating in its own way. As a unit, they created several of the most nuanced and powerful sequences in television history.
Strong and Cox received the vast majority of the praise along the way. Both performers were incredible, and Cox’s volcanic Logan stole hearts and minds. Strong’s brilliance came in more subtle moments, but he could turn into a raging monster at the flick of a switch. Each felt unique and lived in, even if the actors could not agree on how to get there.
Snook became a household name, and while Shiv does not always make the best decisions, Snook excelled at bringing the character to life. She could play ignorant and arrogant with the best of them and always allowed a shred of humanity to stay within her reach. While she might have been the best-adjusted character, Snook explored every crevice of insecurity on and off the page. Culkin broke out of his shell after many years where he was framed as a fast-talking comedic actor. However, this season proved he was capable of far more. Succession gave Culkin a platform to showcase his talent, and by the end of Season 4, he might have proven himself the most capable actor in the series.
Yet what elevated Succession was the supporting players outside the family. Matthew Macfadyen created a brilliant portrait of how ambition forces one to sell their soul. It very well could be the performance we remember best as he goes on to great things. J. Smith Cameron brought a forcefulness to Gerri, and over time turned against those she once protected.
Nicholas Braun emerged as a surprisingly talented star. He captured the essence of a young adult blessed with privilege and clueless about the consequences. Peter Friedman and David Rasche killed with humor but also brought a subtle heart to the series. The parade of guest stars, highlighted by Alexander Skarsgård, became one of Succession‘s most exciting aspects. Armstrong and the writers maximized every character from Season 3 onward.
There will be years and years to praise the brilliance of these performers. No matter where they go from here, they’ve cemented their legacies on HBO and the history of television. Where Armstrong goes from here is another question. Other creators, like David Chase and Matthew Weiner, have struggled to land their next projects. Armstrong feels like he’s at the peak of his power but so did they.
The British writer could launch another show, and he’ll undeniably find offers abound. He cultivated a stable of brilliant directors, including Mark Mylod and Lorene Scafaria. Both have already directed “eat-the-rich” films. It seems unlikely they would pass up scripts from Armstrong. He could easily become the next Aaron Sorkin, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The final season of Succession is a triumph of his skill as a writer and visionary. These characters are so specific and so challenged they became a staple of television. Succession makes a real claim for the best series of the millennia, a feat few thought possible when it started. Yet its ability to predict the future, understand the politics of these corporations, and craft relatable family drama is nearly unparalleled. The whole package was on display, and with actors willing to put their all into every performance, the writing simply had to provide them the material. Armstrong did not just give them “fine enough” material. He gave them some of the best ever made. It’s why creators and writers will still study Succession in the decades to come.