with open eyes

All the Callbacks in the Succession Series Finale

Does this look familiar? Photo: HBO

Much of the coverage of Succession’s four seasons presumed that the events of one episode would influence what happened in subsequent installments, and that really wasn’t the case. Things like the leaked cruises documents or the DOJ raid would be incredibly important one week, then brushed aside the next. However! Sunday night’s series finale demonstrated an impressive and totally fulfilling regard for Succession lore. We may have never gotten to the bottom of Marcia and the trust, but many other Chekhov’s guns fans feared would remain unfired did, indeed, go off before the night was through.

Lawrence Yee of Vaulter

As one viral Tweet put it, one of the funniest things to ever happen to Succession was the character of Lawrence Yee, the new-media mogul who threatens to ruin Kendall at the end of the pilot, barely doing anything else again before having his entire company ignominiously shuttered at the beginning of season two. (Even better, actor Rob Yang occupied a prominent place in the show’s credits long after his character faded away.) Making a lot of bold promises that never pan out is not exactly uncommon in digital media, so it seemed likely we’d never hear from him again. Except that in the finale, Lawrence Yee returned to exact his revenge. It was entirely off-screen, but still, his interview for the position of Waystar CEO served as confirmation Matsson was betraying Shiv. Another callback: investment banker Tellis telling the siblings a power-sharing triumvirate would be considered a “cop-out at the fudge factory” echoes season one’s iconic Vaulter headline, “Shitshow at the Fuck Factory.” Lawrence’s influence!

Lady Caroline’s horrible food

One thing the three youngest Roy children can agree on is that, as far as mothers go, theirs was quite subpar. Lady Caroline’s terrible food is one of the series’ best running jokes; in season two, she served her brood “a bit of pigeon” with “quite a lot of shot.” (“So mind how you go or you’ll crack a tooth.”) In the finale, it was a fridge full of abandoned bread crusts, bottled water, hot sauce, and Branston pickle. A meal fit for a king, indeed.

Kendall’s cleansing swim

An academic could write an entire essay on Kendall Roy and water imagery, and hey, look, my colleague Kathryn VanArendonk already has. Suffice it to say that water is where Kendall goes to feel reborn, so how else would he celebrate what he thinks is his imminent coronation than to purify himself in the waters of the North Atlantic?

Tom screwing over Shiv

Tom Wambsgans is a predictable man. When faced with the opportunity to gain power at his wife’s expense by aligning himself with her enemy, he’s going to take it. And when confronted by that same wife with new information — whether it be her pregnancy or a piece of business news — his response will be the same four words: “Is that even true?”

Board-vote calculus

Just like Succession’s sixth episode, “Which Side Are You On,” the series finale hinges on a pivotal vote during a Waystar board meeting that will determine whether Kendall takes over the company. Much of the pre-meeting jockeying for position in the finale mirrors the events of the earlier episode: There’s a lot of scenes of people gaming out the vote count, Kendall has to get on a plane to lobby a wobbler, Ewan is there being a grouch. (The show even brought back actor Jeff Blumenkrantz as Simon, the vote-count-y guy.) And, just like in season one, it all came down to:

A Roy in the hot seat

In season one, it was Roman who cast the deciding vote, bullied by his father into voting against Kendall. In the finale, it was Shiv in the catbird seat, her last-minute crisis of confidence ultimately ending things in the same place: Kendall out. (Why did she change her mind? I think the gears started shifting once she found out Tom was Matsson’s pick. When the choice was Kendall vs. Matsson, it was no choice at all. But Kendall vs. Tom? That she had to think about, and once she started thinking, issues like who would actually be good at the job couldn’t help but come up.)

The death of the cater-waiter

Kendall’s Chappaquiddick-inspired murder by negligence in the season-one finale has loomed large ever since. It wouldn’t be right to say the show never brought it up again: Kendall’s guilt over the incident made him a shell of himself for much of season two, and his tear-filled confession in the season-three finale brought the siblings closer than they’d ever been before. Still, considering it was manslaughter at the very least, they didn’t talk about it all that much. Given the moral stakes, fans couldn’t help but wonder if the incident would play a larger role in the endgame, and indeed it did: When confronted about the incident, Kendall’s impulsive lie that, actually, he’d made the whole thing up was the thing that turned Shiv and Roman against him for good.

One last quirky sit

Peep how Roman was sitting at the end of that conference-room scene: cross-legged on top of the table. A classic Roman Roy quirky sit, one of the first pieces of characterization the little stinker ever received.

Roman’s martini

Finally free of the weight of family expectations, what does Roman do? Goes to a bar and orders a martini, the favorite drink of Gerri, his one true love.

Tom and Shiv’s weird hand stuff

Similarly, the last glimpse we get of Tom and Shiv is them sitting together in a car, their hands posed awkwardly on top of each other, as if they want to clutch them together in a loving embrace but just can’t bring themselves to do it. It’s of a piece with other occasions where they demonstrate their complete inability to do normal couple stuff, most notably the scene where Shiv responds to Tom’s blown kiss not with one of her own, but by snatching it out of the air and dropping it behind her.

Kendall’s dazed walk

But no one ends Succession lower than Kendall, whose dazed walk through lower Manhattan is a virtual replay of the way he ended “Which Side Are You On.” Earlier in the finale, he called himself a part that only fits one machine, and how he’s been stripped of the one thing that gave him any meaning. However, there’s one key addition: This time, he’s got Colin in tow. Utterly alone, with only his trailing bodyguard for company, Kendall has got what he’s always wanted — he’s finally become his father.

All the Callbacks in the Succession Series Finale