Succession season 3 finale explained as the Roys brutally bare their souls

Everyone reveals secrets in episode 9, All the Bells Say, a revelatory season finale. But has Tom made the decisive move?

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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The Roy children take a stand at last.

Graeme Hunter/HBO

So that's it. The Roy family just laid it all out. After three seasons of maneuvering, lying and scheming, Sunday's heart-stopping Succession season 3 finale revealed all their biggest secrets and truest loyalties. Logan Roy finally managed to unite his kids and let them know what he cares about most. And it's devastating all around.

Season 3 episode 9, titled All The Bells Say, is streaming now on HBO Max. Spoilers ahead!

spoiler alert

Goodbye Mog

The episode opens with a tender moment: Logan (Brian Cox) reading a kid's book. Could this be a flashback to a happier time, maybe Logan actually parenting Kendall? Nope. Turns out he's reading to Kendall's son Iverson, the kid he whacked in the face with a jar of cranberry sauce in an earlier season, the same kid he demonstrated he would happily poison last week. Logan is reading a real book: Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr, in which a much-loved cat dies. Of course, Logan can barely conceal his disdain for Iverson's liking of such simple stories, and inevitably abandons the tender moment for a phone call.

It turns out Kendall did drown... almost. The ambiguous cliffhanger of episode 8 saw Kendall (Jeremy Strong) dead drunk and face down in a swimming pool. Luckily, his embattled PR rep Comfrey happened by and pulled him from the pool.

Kendall possibly coming to a watery end has symmetry with the worst moment of his life: the time he was responsible for a young waiter's death at Shiv's wedding in season 1. Broken by his failure to change anything about his family's corrupt world, Kendall finally breaks down and reveals the truth to Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin). Slumped and sobbing in the dust next to some trash cans, Kendall opens his heart to his siblings. Of course it's the worst possible moment. Shiv is on her way to stop a palace coup, and Roman consoles Kendall the only way he knows how, with horribly inappropriate jokes.


I know it was you, Tom...

Graeme Hunter/HBO

The kids' table

The world has changed in the past few years as powerful men have been called to account for sexual harassment and abuse.

Like many others, Shiv looks at the white men in charge and believes it's someone else's turn. But only, to be clear, if it's her turn. She isn't afraid to manipulate Sandi or step on Gerri, but her betrayal of the sisterhood hasn't actually gotten anywhere. This week, Logan would rather take Tumbledown Roman and his dick pics into battle than give her a moment of his time. Yet again the world slaps Shiv in the face with the stark reality that the men are still in charge.

She and the other Roy heirs flounder at the wedding, almost literally at the kids table as the real deal takes it all out of their hands in a bustling situation room miles away. She's on the phone to Laird (the company's banker, played by Danny Huston in a season 2 episode wherein Roman thinks he's being kidnapped by terrorists), but no-one else is taking their calls. It tuns out after all those years of scheming, the various candidates for the top job are about to be scooped up by a new contender. While they've been squabbling over the throne and doing unspeakable things to themselves and each other, Lucas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård) just walks in and buys it.

Logan has finally followed through on the treachery he's been promising from the very beginning of the very first episode. He'd rather piss it away than give it to his kids.

And why?

'I fucking win'

Mattson asks a simple but very telling question. When Logan blusters that he's excited about the future, Mattson counters, "Are you?"

Logan admits it's just a platitude, that he sees very little to be excited about. Logan bemoans modern America, scrawny from meth or yoga. But he neglects to mention his role in stirring the 21st century cesspool, monetizing the black bile of hate and division and bringing down presidents for his own venal ends. Meanwhile, his own kids and even his grandkids baffle and sicken him, even while he chomps maca root to (possibly) conjure yet another Roy heir to torture. 

But this moment of honesty is nothing compared with his final revelatory unburdening. Shiv, Roman and Kendall sniff out the deal that will surely take the family out of the family business, but still hold one ace up their sleeve: WayStar's holding company is controlled by the family and ensures familial control over the biggest decisions. Amid lots of references to various bloody revolutions (the Romanovs of Russia, Mussolini of Italy) the kids come together against Logan. But when they face him, united at last, it turns out he's been tipped off about their play. 

In the scene where Tom recruits his Greg-weiller, Tom's words from an earlier episode echo in our ears, and no doubt in his. He's never seen Logan get fucked, and that instinct overrides even his marriage. I was going to say "his love for his wife," but after last week's marital display it seems Shiv's casual cruelty has been paid back in spades. Did Tom tell Logan? Who knows, but it seems pretty clear that toilet wine is a distant memory for Nero and Sporus.

Logan buys out his ex-wife, Lady Caroline, mother of Shiv, Kendall and Roman. Their counter-coup is dead before it begins. Logan disinherits his kids for a few extra billion on his pile.

And what does he say to his children, the fruit of his loins, the people who should be the light of his life? "I fucking win!" There it is. The honest and unvarnished truth of what he cares about.

Successive thoughts

  • The extended visit to Italy recalls The Godfather. An aging patriarch and a dynasty of cutthroats do nasty business in the Italian sunshine.
  • I'm amazed we haven't seen the family playing Monopoly before. Who possibly thought that's a good idea (for anyone except the viewers, anyway)? I could genuinely watch them do that all day.
  • It must be interesting to be someone on the periphery of these Roy family events. This is a family that never went to a social event that couldn't be overshadowed by some awful bullshit. You'd just watch the family members running around, and then try and piece it together from the news reports the next day. I'd run a sweepstakes. 
  • Connor shows genuine brotherly concern for Kendall at first, but ends up derailing the intervention in chagrin at Kendall's careless remark about being the "eldest son." Connor has always seemed comically oblivious, but for the first time seemed genuinely dangerous as his pent-up frustration threatened to spill over. 
  • Logan's visit to Mattson's luxurious lakeside villa replays Roman's, but Logan does everything differently. He explicitly refuses to compliment the house like Roman did, winning Mattson's respect (which Roman didn't). The youngest Roy boy may as well not be there, hovering with his teacup as Hans Christian Anderfuck and the legendary bulletproof tankman thrash out the real deal.
  • "We don't love Mark..."
  • Look at Greg now. He's a plane crash away from being Europe's weirdest king.
  • "Lackey Slack."
  • Logan spends his life telling people to fuck off. Now he's finally said it to his children. With no company left to fight over, what new torture will season 4 bring?

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