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What to Expect When You’re Expecting Shiv’s Baby

Photo: HBO

When God closes one Roy’s door, he opens another’s window. Or something like that. The most recent episode of Succession dropped a bouncing-baby bombshell on viewers: Siobhan Roy is pregnant!

The timing couldn’t be worse for Shiv. The episode begins the morning after her father’s death; Kendall’s face looks puffy from crying, Roman is rushing through the motions of his morning routine, and Shiv is lying in bed looking shell-shocked when she gets a call from a Dr. Sharon Hasford with her amniocentesis results: “Everything looks healthy.” Amniocentesis is an invasive procedure often used to test for genetic and chromosomal conditions in a fetus, and Dr. Hasford alludes to the fact that prior blood tests came back with troubling results. This is a lot of information to take in before Shiv’s had her (decaf) coffee and before we’ve had our theme song: Shiv is pregnant, the baby’s healthy, and the Roys might be genetically predisposed to a hereditary condition besides assholery, which of course is their birthright.

With only six episodes left in the series, Shiv’s pregnancy raises a lot of questions. Like, when did this happen in the show’s frustratingly fuzzy timeline? What does it mean for Tom? And is a soap-operatic Hail Mary pregnancy really the best plot line the writers could think of for our favorite emotionally stunted girlboss? Let’s assess.

Um, is Tom the daddy?

Is there a possibility the father is anyone besides Tom? I find this unlikely, mostly because it’s hard to imagine Shiv’s motivation for going through with a pregnancy outside of appeasing Tom (pre-separation) or for “good” optics. Yes, Shiv reluctantly uses her womanhood to distinguish herself and get ahead in the corporate world — always girlbossing, but within heavy air quotes — to play into what her father expects of her and what sets her apart from her siblings. A Roy kid would give her a leg up with Logan, but only within the context of her marriage to Tom. Shiv as a single mom to a rando’s child would not look attractive to the conservative Waystar board, and it especially wouldn’t look good to Logan. (Plus, executive producer and writer Lucy Prebble confirmed on the official Succession podcast that Tom is the father.) Even so, Shiv has had documented affairs and expressed her desire for an open marriage, so let’s rule out her former paramours with less of a chance of being the dad than Connor’s chances at being president.

Up until their wedding, Shiv cheated on Tom with her ex-boyfriend and co-worker Nate Sofrelli. It’s doubtful she had another fling with Nate after the wedding, mostly because she was fired from Gil’s staff and Nate continued to work for him during his congressional hearings against Waystar Royco. The last time we saw him was in season three when the two had some light banter at a gala. This didn’t lead to anything, though, because Shiv went straight from the event to Logan’s place and then home to Tom.

We can also probably rule out the actor from Willa’s play whom Shiv had a brief fling with while Tom was doing Boar on the Floor in Vienna, mostly because that took place in the very early, still-chilly spring and seemed like a total one-off. And even if the timing lined up, in what world would she keep that baby?

Shiv sprung it on Tom on their wedding night that she wanted an open marriage, so there are infinite hypothetical, unseen NPCs with whom she could have had unprotected sex. But literally what is even the dramatic point of that? There’s talk about pregnancy throughout season three. We know Tom wanted to have a kid with Shiv. On the surface, he’s the more traditionally parental personality of the two. And selfishly, it would secure his attachment to the Roy empire if he had a Roy child. Overall, Shiv finding out she’s pregnant during her separation from Tom and hiding it from him is just a more interesting plotline.

How far along is she?

Dr. Hasford ends the call by saying her receptionist will reach out to schedule a 20-week appointment. Amniocentesis is usually performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and can be dangerous if done earlier than 14 weeks. Results of the test usually come back within three days, and Shiv is the sort of high-priority client who would receive her news on the sooner end of that. Patients are supposed to rest at home and not engage in strenuous activity for the day after the procedure, but in this season of Succession, each episode is a consecutive day. So she either Shiv had the amniocentesis done a couple days before the helicopter and PJ-heavy travels of the first two episodes and her results got delayed, or she had it done on the day of Connor’s bachelor party and ignored her doctor’s orders. This is already more thought than Jesse Armstrong has put into the timeline, so we can safely place Shivvy at around four months pregnant, right in the middle of her second trimester.

But what does “four months” mean in the world of Succession? The show does many things, but what it doesn’t do is operate within the mortal confines of space and time. We have to make some assumptions to figure out when Pinky Jr. was conceived. Season four opens with Logan’s birthday in the fall, placing it one year after the series premiere. (I know, I know, go yell at Nate about it.) If that’s the theory we’re going with, then Shiv would have gotten pregnant in late spring or early summer. There’s also the possibility that there were time jumps between earlier seasons and even between episodes, which would account for why season one saw Shiv working a Senate race, and seasons three and four have focused on an imminent presidential election. Thus, this is more of a vibes-based pregnancy timeline than a strictly literal one. We can’t get hung up on exact months. We’ll say the baby was roughly conceived over the summer.

Okay, but when exactly?

We know that during season three, Tom was tracking Shiv’s ovulation cycle even as Shiv continued to take contraception. But in the final two episodes of the season, there’s reason to believe she became pregnant with Tom’s child. When the penultimate episode, “Chiantishire,” begins, Shiv skips a board meeting because she’s home sick in bed. This could be some sort of childhood-reversion response to her mom’s upcoming wedding, like faking sick to play hooky from school, or she really could be sick. Morning sick-sick.

In Italy, Shiv has a smoke and a chat with her mother, who makes Logan look like Leave it to fucking Beaver. She doesn’t mind her mom’s smoking (although she doesn’t take a drag of her own cigarette), and she does drink throughout the wedding. She might not be pregnant at this point. She might know she’s pregnant but plans to terminate it without Tom ever finding out. She might be pregnant and just not know it. But now, at least, the idea has been planted in viewers’ heads, just like it’s about to be planted in Shiv’s. Lady Caroline tells her, “You’ve made the right decision. Some people just aren’t made to be mothers.” We see Shiv take this in, almost-tears almost-pricking her eyes, in a close-up on her face.

She treats her mom’s judgment like a dare. “Let’s have a fucking baby,” she tells Tom. She says a lot of things in the bedroom that night, so it could’ve just been the heat of the moment, but the next day, when he asks if she meant it about having a baby, she answers, “Yeah, I think so.” She thinks they should “bank some embryos” rather than freezing eggs, because they last longer, and she doesn’t seem to want this baby urgently. She says she wouldn’t presume to “automatically get them if we divorce,” and while Tom is offended at how her mind jumps straight to separation, he says, “I would want you to have my babies if I died.”

In the season-three finale, Connor is convinced (from maca root and walnuts) that Logan and Kerry are trying to have a kid. “Well, maybe we should get cracking?” Tom says to Shiv. “Space race?” At the wedding, Shiv toasts with water. And in the final moments of the episode, when Shiv realizes that Tom has betrayed her by selling her and her siblings out to Logan, she instinctually clutches her stomach. The show wants us to think that Shiv and Tom are, or soon will be, pregnant. Considering Tom’s betrayal and their ensuing trial-separation period, we can only conclude that Shiv got pregnant naturally during the period she and Tom were “trying,” whether it was at the wedding or in the days leading up to it.

How do we feel about this?

I dunno, man. There’s something disappointingly cliché about shows in their final seasons unable to imagine any possible future for their female characters besides motherhood. Of the seven main characters featured on the posters for this season, Shiv is the only woman, so there’s something reductive about this plotline defaulting to her, especially for a character who is so interesting and fucked up. Ted Lasso, also in its final season, is going through a similar issue with the totally out-of-character motherhood plotline for Rebecca.

I personally think it would have made more sense, on a character level, to give the plotline to Connor, who has just entered a new marriage, who believes he can never be loved, and who has so much parental damage of his own to work through. It would be sort of fascinating and redeeming for him and Willa to get a parenting arc. Another interesting story line would have been Greg, who brought a Tinder rando to Unkie Logan’s birthday, scandalously knocking up a girl in his tactless fuckboy era. Potential fatherhood would completely shake up the character’s status quo and give him some much-needed momentum. Or, best of all, imagine if we learned that Kerry is pregnant with Logan’s kid, but he never amended his will to account for it? It would be the show’s ultimate swan song, a last showcase for some patent Roy Family Cruelty.

But no, it had to be the only daughter, even though it doesn’t feel true or even relevant to her character. Look at how indifferent she is toward her poor dog, Mondale! Of the three full-blooded siblings, she’s the least likely to be the one who comforts another in an emotional situation (Kendall plays big brother, and Roman has a very soft center). On a line-of-succession level, it would theoretically help her get a leg up on her siblings to give Logan a grandchild whom he maybe even half-likes; he clearly did not give much of a shit about Kendall’s kids or care much for Rava. And the timing of his death would be extra-bitter for Shiv if he died when she was this far along in her pregnancy but before she could tell him. But again, none of these strategic obstetrics would be at all strategic outside of her marriage to Tom. It just doesn’t make sense, on a character level, that a pregnancy is something Shiv would either pursue or go through with after separating from Tom and pushing for divorce.

In the most brutal moment of episode four, Shiv stumbles on a step and falls to the ground, her voice shaking as she goes, “Ow! Shit!” She doesn’t want people staring at her. She doesn’t want to be touched by Tom. She’s shaken. It’s the last we see of her in this episode, so we won’t know if the fall harmed the pregnancy until at least next week. A miscarriage would be an exceedingly cruel thing to put Shiv through following her father’s death, particularly after her brothers edged her out of taking over the company. Or maybe she’ll realize she doesn’t want to go through with the pregnancy after all. (For the record, it’s likely the baby is almost definitely safe — Shiv turns her body to the side mid-fall, so she doesn’t actually make contact with the floor in a way that would impact her stomach.) But in the mid-season trailer that aired after episode three, it looks like she shares a Scotch with Matsson — I paused and rewound five times and I do think there’s a dark liquid in there. Roman also says, “My sister’s fucked up” on the phone, although this can mean anything.

Whatever the outcome, it’s a little sad that this show — which has so successfully explored highly specific, not-cliché dynamics within families, industry, and romantic relationships — went the obvious route for one of its most inscrutable characters. At least an explosive, profanity-filled baby-shower episode of Succession would be kind of a slay.

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting Shiv’s Baby