The 'Succession' Plot Point That Explained the Whole Series (2024)

This article contains spoilers through the Season 4 finale of Succession.

“The journey we went on with the amniocentesis after what the blood test showed us—everything looks healthy.” With these understated words uttered by a doctor over the phone, we learned in Episode 4 of Succession’s final season that Shiv Roy (played beautifully by Sarah Snook) was pregnant. But in the episodes that followed, the show hardly acknowledged her impending motherhood. When her husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), finally heard the news, sputtering, “Is that even true? Is that a new position or a tactic or what?,” his confusion mirrored my own. What was this pregnancy?

It’s a well-documented trope in television that female characters in late seasons become unexpectedly pregnant. Consider Hannah in Girls, or Rachel in Friends. Motherhood is the most dramatic endgame imaginable for a woman, these shows seem to say. Can a mother retain her sense of self? Will she grow out of her childishness? In Girls, Hannah is forced to surrender her flippancy about money and her promiscuity; she matures into someone who faces her problems head on. Yet Succession was never about the personal growth of its characters—if anything, it showcased the inevitable resurfacing of their worst qualities. I wondered whether Shiv’s development was a dramatic wrench to heighten the tension between her and Tom as their marriage faltered. Maybe it was just a simple way to accommodate Snook’s own pregnancy. But after the show’s finale aired on Sunday, I realized that it did so much more. Shiv’s imminent parenthood explained the series’ fundamental themes—and provided its final tragedy.

Toward the end of the last episode, the siblings Roman (Kieran Culkin), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), and Shiv argue one last time about who should lead Waystar Royco, the company their father founded. Kendall insists that he is the most qualified person to fulfill their father’s wish—which, according to Kendall, is that the family continues to own the firm. Roman responds by saying that Shiv is the true bearer of the family’s bloodline. He calls Kendall’s children—an adopted daughter and, Roman hints, a son possibly conceived via sperm donor—a “pair of randos.” Roman’s implication is that they aren’t real Roys. The only person who could keep the company in the family for the next generation is the recently pregnant Shiv.

In retrospect, it makes sense that the show would use Shiv to convey its final tragic note. Shiv’s experience as Logan’s daughter has always been different from that of Logan’s sons. When we are introduced to her in the first episode of Season 1, she hasn’t worked in the family firm: She knows she must find her career value elsewhere because the corporation’s misogyny means that no one inside it will see her as a potential heir. Because she’s a woman, she can never fully engage in her brothers’ shared delusions of being the next iteration of their father. But this same quality—her gender, her status as a mother-to-be who carries Logan’s grandchild—keeps her tethered to the company, even after her brothers have been cut out. In the finale, Tom is crowned the new CEO of Waystar Royco, and Shiv is carrying their baby.

Read: Succession ends how it began

This is the true function of Shiv’s pregnancy in Succession. Not to launch her into being a better version of herself—she is still hampered by her womanhood, ultimately discounted by Waystar Royco’s new owner Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) and her own brothers. Rather, her pregnancy signals that misery—the real birthright of the Roy children—will be inherited by the next generation.

You can see this in Shiv’s final scene, where she’s sitting next to Tom in a darkened car as he holds his hand out for hers. She stoically complies. Shiv might have facilitated Tom’s ascent, but she is—intentionally or not—repeating history, just as the child she’s carrying will. At its core, Succession is a tragedy. Each character ends their journey just as unhappy as they’ve always been. But the show is also about the legacy of tragedy. It is not enough for Logan’s kids to feel sorrow; they must also extend the family’s curse into the future.

Nina Li Coomes is a Japanese and American writer based in Chicago.

The 'Succession' Plot Point That Explained the Whole Series (2024)
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