‘Succession’ Creator Breaks Down That Shocking Season 3 Ending

In a featurette released by HBO, director Mark Mylod also explains how that final moment happened

The HBO series “Succession” wrapped up its third season on Sunday night with a characteristically dramatic episode, which built to a shocking ending on par with the thrill of the first two season finales of the show. And now creator/showrunner Jesse Armstrong and director Mark Mylod are offering some insight into the ins and outs of the final episode of the season.

The end of “Succession” Season 3 Episode 9 found Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) teaming up to take their father down, only to be out maneuvered once again and found on the outside looking in.

By the end of the episode, it very much appears as though Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is going to sell Waystar Royco to Gojo, therefore putting his kids’ futures at the company in jeopardy.

But before Shiv, Roman and Kendall team up, Kendall breaks down in front of Shiv and Roman and confesses to killing the young man at Shiv’s wedding back in Season 1. “It’s not a unique insight that sometimes when you say an un-sayable thing, you realize it wasn’t that un-sayable,” Armstrong explained in a video featurette released by HBO. “Jokes often bring a new way of looking at things, and it seems true and right that quite quickly someone like Roman starts making jokes, and there’s something terrible about that but there’s something liberating as well.”

While many had speculated that Kendall Roy might die at the end of Season 3, what we got instead was a rebirth of sorts – at least with regards to his relationship with his siblings. “Kendall sees that it’s not something that’s the end,” Armstrong explained. “Some things will continue including a relationship and love from his siblings.”

And so with Kendall baring his soul in a uniquely earnest moment for the Roy children, the trio then agree to push their father out of Waystar RoyCo in an effort to stop the sale to Gojo. But it will necessitate Roman, who has spent Season 3 in Logan’s favor, making a rough decision. “Roman has the most difficult decision because his position through the season has changed and the way he feels valued by his dad has changed,” Armstrong said. “Kendall has already declared [himself] as an antagonist, Shiv finds that’s how she feels when the prospect of losing the company arises.”

Armstrong cited the Season 1 vote of no confidence, when Roman failed to raise his hand in Kendall’s favor, and noted that there’s a question of why Roman is now able to stand up to his father. Has he grown as a human being? In Armstrong’s opinion, not so much. “Some people would see growth,” Armstrong admitted. “I’m on the fence about human beings, and people certainly change what they do, but in my view people’s essential selves don’t change. In a way that’s what makes drama and choices interesting. So, I would say that the circumstances around Roman have changed. He feels this weight of support which makes it possible for him to be a full sibling. It’s a superpower that Logan has, to lie to people’s faces, and then if people have the power to make him come good on those promises then he will. And if they don’t, then they’re in a new situation and there’ll have to be a new accommodation found.”

succession s3 ep8
Graeme Hunter/HBO

But the Roy Childrens’ Last Stand is for naught, as Logan has already been tipped off and has neutered their ability to push him out of the company. “The implication is that Tom is the one who blew the whistle and enabled Logan to secure the deal which they could have stymied,” Armstrong confirms.

Indeed, Tom (Matthew Macfayden) shows up with Shiv, Roman and Kendall in shambles and is greeted by Logan with a warm pat on the back. “Other people who are in the family will always be a Roy, will always be in the newspapers, but Tom maybe has a certain cold calculation to make about what he needs to give if he’s going to stay in that world,” Armstrong said of Tom’s decision.

As for Tom and Shiv’s relationship, Armstrong believes Tom still loves his wife. “I think he does love her quite passionately, and she after her own fashion loves him, but there are a lot of caveats for both of them. If you’re being generous to them, their relationship is very complicated.”

And yet there’s a chill to the final moment where Tom puts his hand on Shiv’s shoulder, almost as if the power balance in their relationship has shifted completely. In the same video featurette, director Mark Mylod explained that moment was not immediately clear while filming the scene. “For a long time I couldn’t find the ending, and then we did a take where we gave Sarah’s character time to process that moment,” Mylod said. “When Tom walked over and said, ‘Are you OK?’ despite that absolutely extraordinary betrayal, she put her game face on and said, ‘Yep.’ And because it was such a perfect ‘Succession’ moment that she would still somehow find the strength to put that kind of Teflon coat on and be in denial of that pain was so powerful to me that I knew we had the end of the season.”