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'Succession' is dead. Long live 'Succession.' 4 min read

'Succession' is dead. Long live 'Succession.'

Tomorrow will conclude one of the best shows in recent television history. We've come to expect a lot out of finales. Here's why I don't care about Succession's.

By Cary Littlejohn

The Internet is all aflutter with giddy anticipation of the Succession series finale, which will air on HBO this Sunday.

Countless culture outlets and content creators alike are racing to publish their finale predictions in the never-ending race for clicks and attention. Those pieces have a very short shelf life though; they'll be obsolete in a matter of days. They'll mostly have been swings-and-misses, and any potential staying power survives only because of the novelty of guessing correctly.

While I'm as interested as the next viewer to see what happens, it's not been my reason for watching. And I've watched, week in and week out, since the series began. More than the answer to the question that gives the show its name—Which of this motley crew of characters will succeed Logan Roy as the CEO of Waystar Royco?—what I've sought out week after week is just a little more time in this world. I've enjoyed seeing what happens, not to answer the question, but just to revel in the struggle.

This is a roundabout way of saying I like the show's DNA. Its writing is brilliant; line for line, it's the best on TV. Its production quality is unmatched; it shoots on film, for god's sake!

I will miss the brilliance on display every week, no doubt. But I'm not at all nervous about how, if at all, the writers and creators manage to land this plane. Even if it's a debacle (which it won't be), the show would be a masterpiece.

This is the sentiment shared by The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh.

Against the Cult of “Sticking the Landing”
The ‘Succession’ finale may be great—or it may be deflating. But it likely doesn’t matter either way. A TV show is mostly remembered for what happens before the finale, not during it.

It's not excuse-making for the creators. I expect a lot from them, but I don't fret about expecting a lot from them because they've always managed to deliver.

There's something to be said for a decision to end the show "early." In a world that's nearly devoid of original storytelling, where everything is a reboot or the third, fourth, fifth, sixth installment of a thing, hats off to these show runners.

Lindbergh captures it nicely here:

"Barring something inconceivable, though, the series’ bona fides are mostly cemented in my mind. Even accounting for the finale’s 90-minute run time, more than 96 percent of Succession has already aired. If you’ve seen the whole series, the enjoyment you’ve derived from it has already been banked. The Sundays you spent in a state of anticipation and, later, engrossed in the TV. The recaps, opinion pieces, and podcasts you consumed. The lines you laughed or cried at. The speculation you engaged in. The watercooler conversations you had. Whether Succession ends the way you always wanted it to—or, better yet, a way you never knew you wanted it to—won’t change what watching it was like."

For me (and many others, I suspect), the season's defining episode (and thus perhaps the series') was episode 3, "Connor's Wedding." It was in this episode that the eponymous wedding took a back seat to a massive development, completely off screen: the death of Logan Roy.

What followed was a frenetic scrambling by the kids, processing and dealing with and denying the very existence of reality in the moment. It was staggering and heartbreaking, and one of the most brutally real things I've seen dramatized in a television show.

But I was in a particular headspace when I watched that episode. It was April 10, the Monday after the show had aired the night before, and I watched it before work.

I was a wreck, midway through. You see, three weeks earlier, I got a call from my mom that sounded not so unlike the one from Tom to the kids. It said, "Your dad is not well. He has cancer."

I'd rushed home, and I spent the next two weeks with him in the hospital. When he'd been discharged and sent home to recuperate from a surgery before he'd start his likely aggressive chemotherapy treatment, I went back to my home in Missouri.

I'd been there a week at the time I watched that episode. My reality and the show's came a little too close for comfort, and I watched the last half of the episode with tears streaming down my face.

Later that same day, my dad would be readmitted to the ICU. He'd been in a lot of pain since going home. Things seemed worse, I was told.

I rushed back to Tennessee, arriving at the hospital's ICU waiting room at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, Dad would be in our family living room, entrusted to hospice care. By noon on Friday, he was gone.

I don't think I'll ever forget the acute pain I felt watching that third episode. I don't think I'll ever feel as seen in a moment, through pure happenstance, by a piece of popular media. It's probably too much to say I loved the episode; in the moment, I was more triggered by it than anything else. They stopped being characters on the screen; suddenly, I was looking at my own family. The Roy kids—two sons and a daughter—were a tidy stand-in for me and my siblings: two more sons and a daughter. At the time, we were struggling to make sense of what we thought our new reality would be: the ups and downs of chemo, the sickness, the weightloss, the struggle. But we'd soon end up more like the Roys than we could have ever predicted, and while unique to my viewing experience, I wanted to celebrate the show for stopping me in my tracks and making me feel something so viscerally.

This season, and especially that episode, are linked in my mind. The Roy kids and I went through something at the same time, and it was powerful. I'll miss the show, but it's already given me the episode I'll forever associate it with it.