The End of “Succession” and the Modern Shakespeare Tragedy

“It’s difficult to define ‘Succession’… if I had to put a label on it, for me it’s a tragedy.” — Mark Mylod


Kamiah Johnson, A&E Co-Editor

When one talks about the “golden age” of television, they often bring up shows like “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Game of Thrones.” I didn’t watch any of those shows while they were airing, so I never understood what it meant to witness some of the best writing, acting, direction, and score on the TV screen in real-time until I started watching “Succession.” Watching this show — about greed, power, family, and legacy, with characters who are vile and manipulative but yet likable — come to an end before my eyes was surreal. 

When creator Jesse Armstrong announced Season 4 would be the last season a month before the season premiered, it came as a shock to everyone. I like to think five seasons is the perfect amount for a drama series, so it seemed like such an abrupt end to the Roy’s journey. As awful as they are, I wasn’t ready to let them go and wanted to see what corporate shenanigans they could get up to one last time. 

I’ve never had any inclination to call anything a modern Shakespearean tragedy before, but this show definitely deserves that title. This last season captivated me from the beginning and there wasn’t a dull moment, each episode building on one another. Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, and Kieran Culkin are the standouts of the season with their dynamic performances, especially in the jaw-dropping episode three, “Connor’s Wedding,” where we see an emotionally crippling hour of heartbreak that was beautifully directed by Mark Mylod. 

My favorite episode, “America Decides,” was what Armstrong said to be the most shocking episode of the season. While some might assign that title to “Connor’s Wedding,” I agree with Armstrong. “America Decides” takes us through election night and shows the Roys debating between backing the progressive democratic candidate and the far-right republican one. While fictional, this episode resembled the 2016 U.S. presidential election a little too much. I love this episode because they treat it almost like a bottle episode (an episode of a TV show that is written so that it requires only one set and limited amount of characters) where we stay with the Roy’s, Tom, and Greg following the election at ATN. It’s intense, anxiety inducing, and expertly crafted. It is a reminder that these characters who we do like, are also corporate monsters who — at the end of the day —- always follow the money. 

I wasn’t ready for it to end, partly because I’ve seen so many shows fumble their series finales. However, they knocked it out of the park with what will go down as one of the best series finales in television history. The 90-minute episode flew by in a whirlwind of emotions, betrayal, and surprises, leaving the Roy’s with an oddly fitting end. The conclusion to the Roy’s story felt as natural as Logan telling someone to fuck off, and I know we’ll never get another tragedy like this again. So goodbye, my dear dear world of a show.


Image courtesy of Parade