WTF Is Going on With the ‘Succession’ Election Plot?

WTF Is Going on With the ‘Succession’ Election Plot?

For years, politics have hummed in the background of Succession like the weather, growing louder and softer, and then louder again. As the series nears its finale, however, the show’s election arc has started thundering.

Like stormwater from an unwelcome leak, political intrigue and ominous election reports have begun to bleed into family strife. Connor, Kendall, Shiv, and Roman Roy are struggling to process their father’s sudden death while also shepherding this final business deal into fruition. Meanwhile, Connor is running for president and just might spoil the successor that Roman hand-picked for Daddy Roy before his death. Ominous news reports that seem to hint at a possible insurrection have begun to play in the background.

With only a handful of episodes left, some meticulous Succession-heads have determined that the show will likely end on an Election Day finale. But what relationship do the Roys really have with politics, and how might this subplot factor into the show’s final ending?

Although Succession was never about lawmakers in suits, politics have always been top of mind. Still, in moments when the show’s fourth and final season focuses more intensely on the election, it can feel a little like yanking background noise into the foreground while grasping for resonance where it’s not needed.

Logan and his brood have long embraced their civic duties as American oligarchs; we’ve seen the Roy patriarch cut shady deals with senators in the woods, and last season, he even got to pick the Republican nominee for president. (The determining factor? Which of them was willing to bring him a bottle of coke.) At the same time, Logan never seemed to hold politicians in higher esteem than anyone else; he frequently called the sitting president, who sometimes called him for advice, “The Raisin.”

When ATN evaded consequences during its congressional hearings, Succession confirmed what many viewers already knew: the Roys and their many, many piles of money are basically above the law. The outcome of this election will affect them about as much, and for about as long, as a sudden rain shower.

This season, however, the election has begun to suck up more oxygen. On Sunday, Roman urged Connor to drop out of the presidential race and push for his supporters to back Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk)—the candidate Logan christened with his news conglomerate ATN’s approval last season.

That episode last year, in which Logan chose between presidential candidates, was among the most devastating for Shiv. It seems like little coincidence that both she and Connor—the two kids who knew Logan would never choose them as successors—sought influence outside of his world through politics.

But while the right-wing convention scene embraced Connor and his dunder-headed ideas, Shiv—the only one in the family with any real political expertise—languished next to her idiot brothers while their father ignored her insights. Roman, who cultivates the foulest persona to distance himself from the disgust he feels toward his family, latched onto the abhorrent Mencken—whom Logan chose at his young girlfriend’s behest over the more moderate candidate Shiv wanted him to pick.

In the end, however, Shiv posed for a photo next to Mencken at the end of the episode because her father said so. It was a perfect illustration of her internal bind—the pain of a young girl whose father never took her as seriously as her brothers, and who now craves her father’s power and approval too much to choose a different path.

There’s a woundedness to each Succession character’s politics; Roman gravitates toward anyone who might make him look nasty enough to hang with the rest of his family, while Kendall mimics their dad and plays aloof in public while also trying to cut side deals. And as we all know, Connor—whose mother was institutionalized when he was a child, prompting Logan to abandon him to live on “looney cake” for weeks—“was interested in politics at a very young age.”

Then again, haven’t we kind of known that for a while now? Logan’s death was a brilliant use of anticlimax, and now, the election could do something similar to expose how little a single race like this matters in these ultra-rich nepo babies’ worlds. Mostly, however, the election feels like one more thing on the Roy kids’ plates, along with the GoJo deal and the boardroom scheming and the scheduled periods of mourning—one that’s taking up a little more time than it needs to tell us (so far) little that we hadn’t already deduced ourselves.

Succession excels when it draws parallels between the personal and the systemic. Logan’s vile, exploitative impulses affected his corporate family (and the country) just as much as they did his biological relatives. Roman’s siblings watched their father abuse him and spent their childhoods locking him up like a dog; Logan’s underlings watched him abuse their colleagues and spent their careers using one another as footrests and playing games like Boar on the Floor.

What does this period of change at Waystar Royco say about America, and vice versa? If politics don’t really decide the Roy kids’ fates, then what does this election mean to them? And if it means nothing, what does that nihilism say about them or us? As clear as Succession has made its characters’ relationships with their work from the beginning, the same cannot be said for their politics, which feel more sketched out than lived-in.

It’s still too soon to try and predict where Succession might take its final, movie-length installment. Kendall and his siblings could spend the rest of their lives re-enacting their father’s malice, or one of them (or even a few?!) could have a moment of insight that inspires them to change course. If nothing else, the election might still provide some kind of test for the siblings, who are now in charge of a media company at just the right moment to exercise power. What kinds of decisions will they make, now that they’re out of Daddy’s shadow?

Soon after their father’s death, Kendall shared a very “Kendall” observation with his siblings—one that hints at their shared relationship with politics as part of the “game” their father played throughout their lives.

“Every single thing we say and do today is going in the memoirs—going in the fucking congressional records,” Kendall said. “It’s coming up at board meetings, it’s going in the SEC filings. … We are highly liable to misinterpretation. So what we do today will always be what we did the day our father died.”

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The Roys survive, in part, by avoiding any kind of self awareness; it’s why Kendall thinks he’s a good father, no matter how many times Rava begs him to call his children. In spite of everything he knows about his dad, however, so far Kendall still thinks he wants to be powerful like his father was. It’s why he’s trying to edge his siblings out of the succession game, and it’s why he tried to make a very “Logan Roy”-like deal with Nate (Ashley Zuckerman) at the party during Sunday’s episode.

But playing the game the way their father did means pushing past, through, and around human emotions of grief and shame to instead become something else—something either superhuman or animal. Is Kendall, who so desperately needs to be seen as “good,” really ready to be that kind of monster? If so, he’ll need to give up those worries about “misinterpretation.” Then again, there could be another way. Like Nate told him on Sunday, “I’m not Gil, and you’re not Logan. That’s a good thing.”

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