From the start, the HBO series “Succession,” returning Sunday for its fourth and final season, has kept us dangling. The first ever episode teased a retirement announcement that never came, and ever since, the characters have fought over who should succeed the powerful media titan Logan Roy (Brian Cox) as head of the Waystar Royco media empire. Should it be one of his spoiled adult children, who haven’t exactly instilled confidence, or a favored employee, whose motivations are often murky?
For three seasons, the hierarchical possibilities continually shifted as the father and his heirs played out power dynamics worthy of Roman history, or Greek tragedy, or Shakespearean drama. Siblings fell in and out of favor as they tried to curry respect, or just fatherly attention. The final season should at least answer some crucial questions: Who, if anyone, will take Logan’s place? And will there even be a Waystar left to helm?
Here’s a closer look at the candidates most likely to succeed Logan should he die, go to jail or otherwise abdicate his throne before a planned acquisition.
Odds of succeeding: Not bloody likely
Poor, pathetic, peripheral Connor (Alan Ruck), the overlooked eldest, the witless wonder. While his younger half-siblings scheme and maneuver, his presence is never required. “Everybody thinks you’re a joke,” Logan tells him. “You’re irrelevant,” says Kendall. “Generally speaking,” Roman adds, “people don’t like you.”
And yet, although he was never groomed to take over Waystar, Connor has his eye on an even bigger prize: the presidency of the United States. By the season premiere, he is barely polling at 1 percent, and even that seems tenuous. Logan could bankroll his campaign, or ATN could back him instead of Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). But these things are unlikely to happen, especially given the pending company acquisition by new-media mogul Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard). It’s beginning to look as if Connor may just have to settle for being incredibly wealthy.
The Rat Pack: Kendall, Siobhan and Roman
Odds of succeeding: It’s an outside bet.
Logan calls his other children “the rats.” We might call them nepo babies. These backbiting siblings usually work in opposition to one another — see the open letter from Shiv (Sarah Snook) about Kendall (Jeremy Strong), just for starters. For now, though, those two and their younger brother, Roman (Kieran Culkin), are presenting a united front.
Might they succeed together? In the Season 3 finale, they form an alliance to prevent the sale of Waystar, but that effort fails. If they want to beat their father at his own game, there are only a few options. They could use their inherited wealth (and the billions they stand to make from the Waystar sale) to start their own media company. Or they could just buy a successful rival. But can they ever stop obsessing about their father? Dreaming of patricide — symbolically, for now — is the glue binding them together at present.
Odds of succeeding: Not the family favorite
Once Logan’s likeliest successor, Kendall, a recovering drug addict, has proved to be too much of a Ken doll: too easily played with, manipulated and broken. He is a lost soul, still tormented by the accidental killing of a waiter at his sister’s wedding. (Word of that could still surface.)
The only thing that seems to give Kendall a purpose — or pleasure — is making moves on Logan. He has made three tries so far, with the bear hug (Season 1 finale), the news conference (Season 2 finale) and the failed coup (Season 3 finale). Will a fourth do the trick? It takes a killer instinct — and success — to earn Logan’s respect.
Odds of succeeding: The best value on the board
Roman is the neediest of the Roy children, and his insecurity has led him to make some stupid moves. Lately, though, he has gotten smarter — or at least feels he has. (“I think I might be the best businessman in America,” he tells himself.) When he is actually working (and not engaging in self-destructive psychosexual dalliances), he has proved himself to be capable, although still morally weak. (Supporting Mencken might be good for ATN, but is it good for the country?)
Roman’s strong ties to both Mencken and Matsson also put him in the best position to return to Waystar’s inner sanctum — he now has something his father needs, if he’s willing to put the sibling alliance aside. But he is still vulnerable, thanks to those inappropriate photos he meant to send to Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron). Don’t send nudes to your dad, especially if your dad is Logan Roy. It’s just ammunition.
Odds of succeeding: Coin flip
Logan once offered his daughter, Shiv, the top job, but he had second thoughts: “You’re a young woman with no experience.” She might not have run a global media company before, but she has proved herself capable — brokering deals and fending off a hostile takeover. The real problem was that Logan wanted a female face to represent the company only while it was facing allegations of sexual abuse. He doesn’t really recognize Shiv’s acumen. And doing his bidding, and suppressing her own liberal values, hasn’t earn her points, or respect. It only contributed to her getting stabbed in the back. If Shiv wants to prevail, she will have to start doing some shivving of her own.
Odds of succeeding: A close front-runner
Faced with a difficult choice between his wife Shiv and his father-in-law, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) chose Logan. It’s a decision that will likely destroy his marriage. Worse yet, a divorce could also affect his future standing with Logan. Right now, though, Tom is the head of the broadcast news division, he is Logan’s son-in-law, and he has put Logan in his debt by saving the merger deal (and by offering to serve prison time for the cruise line scandal).
But Logan has a short memory for the favors he owes, and he doesn’t respect obsequious yes-men. So Tom will have to continue to prove himself.
Odds of succeeding: Long
Tom’s accomplice and protégé, Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), is a bit of a dark horse, but he has come a long way from the days when he had to beg the doorman to cover his cab fare. Greg isn’t immediate family, but he somehow manages to be at all the important family events and becomes privy to much dangerous information. While he once seemed the most morally grounded member of this bunch, he was willing to sell his soul to Tom. What he might he do if Logan asks?
Granted, Logan would probably have to remember Greg’s name and existence before that happened, and even then, he would be more likely to grant control of a theme park than of Waystar. It’s still possible that Greg’s aged grandfather, Logan’s brother (James Cromwell), might change his mind again and bequeath his estate to Greg, which would give Greg a controlling stake in Waystar.
Logan’s Lackeys: Gerri, Frank, Vernon, Karl and Hugo
Odds of succeeding: Gerri alert!
Logan doesn’t trust most of his C-suite colleagues — namely, Vernon (Peter Friedman), Karl (David Rasche) and Hugo (Fisher Stevens) — enough to give them the keys to the kingdom. Gerri is the exception: He does recognize her business skills and wisdom. Gerri is cool and unflappable, and if she plays it smart, her current interim position as chief executive could become permanent, depending on how Matsson rates her. And whether she takes action against Roman for sexual harassment.
Odds of succeeding: The juice is worth a squeeze.
Each of Logan’s wives is a bit of a mystery. What do we know about the first one, other than that she was Connor’s mother? Does she have a stake in the company? Logan’s second wife, Caroline (Harriet Walter), did, but she gave up her claim — and her children’s supermajority of votes — in exchange for a London flat.
And his estranged third wife (soon to be ex?), Marcia (Hiam Abbas), seemed to have a stake in the company — or at least Logan wanted her to — along with an extra vote on the board when he dies. It’s unclear exactly how that was resolved, but she did get a larger financial stake when he cheated on her. There’s also the matter of her son Amir (Darius Homayoun), who can implicate Kendall in the waiter’s drowning. So Marcia, as Logan would put it, has some juice.
Odds of succeeding: All bets are off.
Logan’s friend, assistant, adviser — and probably new side piece — has managed to get very close to the tycoon in record time. And we know what sometimes happens with Logan’s mistresses — they are offered top positions. Remember Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter)? Kerry (Zoë Winters) may have growing ambitions, so she is one to watch, and not just for a baby bump. If she continues to smirk at and mock various members of the Roy family, it could be because she knows something we don’t.