Is Succession Ending Too Early?

Saying goodbye after Succession's fourth and final season will be hard. Should the show have soldiered on anyway?

Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong in Succession Season 4
Photo: Claudette Barius | HBO

When fans of the critically-acclaimed HBO hit Succession found out that the upcoming fourth season would be the last of the series, it came as a surprise to many. The unique comedy-drama seems to be at the peak of its powers right now, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Drama Series last year and getting nominated for a litany of other accolades. 

The third season finale left off on the cliffhanger surrounding the divide between the Roy children and their father, with supporting characters such as Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) siding with Logan (Brian Cox). It doesn’t really feel like the story needs to come to an end yet. There are still so many different plot lines to wrap up before the finish line arrives, from uncovering family trauma to resolving marital distress and corruption. 

The epiphany that there was very little time left to do all of these things seemed to surprise Shiv Roy actor Sarah Snook just as much as it did the fandom. The Australian talked to the Los Angeles Times about the end of the road for the story, saying that she was taken aback and upset. 

“I was very upset,” she said a few weeks after our Brooklyn meet-up, in a follow-up call from Melbourne. “I felt a huge sense of loss, disappointment and sadness. It would have been nice to know at the beginning of the season, but I also understand not being told until the end because there was still a potential that maybe this wasn’t going to be the end.”

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It’s natural for the people who put so much into their characters to feel emotional when the journey comes to an end. Transforming into a different person is an art-form, and it’s certainly not like any other job on the planet. Still, these sentiments from Snook are a little concerning for the end of the show when taken at full. She talks about not being told that the fourth season was the end of the show, something that would seemingly be vital information for any actor who wants to help conclude the arc of their character. Going in blind might mean that we are going to get more of an ambiguous ending than we originally thought. 

Avoiding “Jumping the Shark”

No matter how the show ends, we know that Succession hasn’t “jumped the shark” in the sense that so many other legendary series have. Dexter, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead would have benefited tremendously from knowing when it was time to call it quits. Overstaying your welcome often overshadows the iconic scenes and moments from earlier on in the story. 

On the other side of the coin, getting cut off prematurely can be just as detrimental to the plot. Deadwood needed a movie nearly two decades later to make up for the cancellation it received on HBO in the mid-2000s. Ending a story is a very delicate choice that involves many factors. Often these variables are outside of the storytellers’ hands, but Succession doesn’t seem like the type of show that would be rushed out the door before creator Jesse Armstrong is ready. 

Is There An Endgame? 

What makes the end of a show excellently executed? Well, it’s simple enough to look at the past to glean some answers. Breaking Bad, and more recently Better Call Saul, both seemed to pinpoint this location on the storytelling map to perfection. All character arcs were completed without being rushed, yet there’s still some room for interpretation in the lives of the protagonists. Stranger Things’ creators Matt and Ross Duffer and the cast of the Netflix hit have been candid about how the upcoming final season of their show will satisfy fans because the show was never meant to go past five seasons. Even though they still have to stick the landing, it has to be a huge boon for the actors and writers to all be on the same page about where they are in the path to the endgame. 

Hearing Sarah Snook say she was unaware the show was ending this season means that we may not get all of the answers we’re looking for when watching Succession. The main plot since the pilot has been all about who will overtake Logan and succeed to the throne of Waystar Royco. The various interludes that have taken place between that time and now have been intricate and fascinating. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) is a broken man with a (potentially) good heart. Tom and Shiv have navigated their selfish relationship with slime and substance, leaving us to wonder whether there is any authentic love below the surface of the facade. And let’s not forget the way Greg went from puny nepo baby to potential CEO. It would be unfair to think that we need answers to all of the questions we have about these characters, but we certainly deserve closure on the central thematic elements that make it special. 

What Could More Seasons Accomplish?

This is almost an impossible question to answer until we start getting into the meat and potatoes of the new season. If more seasons means repetitive storytelling such as Logan foiling the plans of the Roy children over and over again until he croaks, we’ll take a hard pass on that. But if extra time allows the relationship between Kendall, Shiv, and Roman to breathe, or it creates a scenario where the satirical writing can commentate ever more on the current pulse of the political landscape in America, then there should be a green light by all means necessary.

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Most of all, Jesse Armstrong needs to stay true to what he originally intended for the show. Great writers know where the ending lies. Just because Snook and others on set were unaware of the light at the end of the tunnel, it doesn’t have to mean the climax will be insufficient. The fact that we’re always guessing about what that conclusion will be is a testament to the originality of the story.

Succession season 4 premieres Sunday, March 26 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.