Jennifer Gould, an Oregon-based trusts and estates lawyer, thinks the premise of Succession – HBO’s hit series chronicling a billionaire media mogul and his children’s struggles to take over the family company – is a little flawed.
“The idea that they wouldn’t have a firm succession plan in place is ridiculous,” Gould said.
Still, she has set aside Monday for “crying and grieving” after watching the hotly anticipated series finale airing Sunday evening.
With the critically acclaimed drama’s fourth and final season ending, dedicated fans of Succession are locking in plans to watch the whopping 88-minute finale while turning online for emotional support, memes and endless theories about how the show could end and who will prevail.
“No one I know in real life watches the show,” Gould said, adding that the emotional toll of season four made her look for support online, which is how she landed on the social news website Reddit, where a chat dedicated to all things Succession has more than 456,000 members.
In preparation for Sunday, Gould also is rereading King Lear, among Shakespeare’s bleakest tragedies, about a declining monarch and his children’s battle for the crown. Gould thinks the play could offer clues to how the series will end.
“It’s fairly obvious that it’s a loose retelling of King Lear,” Gould said of Succession. “I watch it obsessively. I don’t think there’s another way to watch it.”
Succession always has been about the membership of its audience, not its size, and its popularity among the coastal media and agenda-setting groups that the show depicts and attracts means the finale should leave a cultural mark.
More recent prestige TV finales are a better analogue for Succession than those of the network behemoths of decades past. For example, The Sopranos suddenly cutting to black to the song Don’t Stop Believin’ in 2007 set the standard for both talkability and inscrutability.
Pamela Soin, a management consultant in New York City, said the end of the monumental New Jersey mob saga was the only finale generating more excitement than Succession for her “because that was after seven years of investment.”
Soin and a group of friends have watched every Succession episode this season with a serious ritual.
“We turn off all the lights, cinema style, put on the surround sound and watch in complete silence,” Soin said. “Then we have a debrief.”
But Soin said she’ll be alone for the final episode because of the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the U.S.
On social media platforms including Twitter, Reddit and the chatting app Discord, popular among gamers, Succession fans share countless memes and swirling theories about which of the Murdoch-esque Roy family members, corporate executives and hangers-on will prevail in the finale. Fans have searched for clues in past episodes, characters’ names, the show’s opening sequence and elsewhere.
Show creator Jesse Armstrong told The New Yorker earlier this year “there’s a promise in the title of Succession,” which some have taken as a sign that the show’s central question will be answered.
Soin thinks the finale will leave many unresolved plot lines and questions open to interpretation.
“I love how they handle a lot of things off-camera,” Soin said of the show’s writers, who throughout the series have peppered pivotal backstories of the main characters in later scenes and passing conversations.
“Just like in real life, you find out about things that happened when you weren’t there,” Soin said.
Conclusions to hit TV series can be hit-or-miss. The bloody 2013 ending of Walter White’s story on Breaking Bad, and Don Draper’s more zen ending on Mad Men in 2015, generally satisfied their finicky fans. The 2019 conclusion of Game of Thrones – the last big finish for an HBO show – generally did not. Endings are hard to pull off and disappointment tends to be the norm, to which the makers of Seinfeld and Lost can attest.
HBO has been able to ratchet up suspense ahead of Sunday’s Succession finale in part by airing only one episode per week, a decision that fans who grew up in the streaming age may be too young to remember was once the norm for TV series.
Suraj Nandy, a 20-year-old college student from Bengaluru, India, said he was counting down the hours until Sunday’s finale, which airs at 6:30 a.m. local time.
“I’m going to huddle, get a blanket and snacks and sit there in awe,” Nandy said.
An economics student at Canada’s University of Western Ontario, Nandy said he was disappointed by the Game of Thrones conclusion and had watched all of Breaking Bad, too, but considers Succession “easily, by far, my favourite show of the bunch.”
As for his finale plans, Nandy said he’ll join some friends online for a virtual watch party. But it won’t end there.
“I’ll probably cry for a couple of days and then watch it again,” Nandy said. “I’d like to reexperience the whole thing in one sitting.”