Despite all the plot movement and emotional outpour of Succession’s third season finale, the heart of the episode was the Monopoly game.
The episode showed the Roy family at their most human. Waiting for Kendall to bounce back from his maybe on-purpose near-drowning, they looked like a family. A grandfather read a story to his grandchild as adults played a board game. In this scene, they treated each other with concern, familiarity and warmth—well, at least more warmth than usual.
They left the Monopoly game unfinished. Putting away the play money, they uncovered evidence that Shiv cheated, but no one cared. It was all play money. Then the real plot kicked in, with the Roys displaying more emotion than ever before, as the siblings worked together to confront their dad who was selling the company. But despite the sturm und drang, they were still cheating in a low stakes game they could afford to lose.
Succession will always be a show about loathsome people. That’s critical to its impact as art. But this is not the same as saying it's impossible to empathize with the Roy family. It’s easy to see why critics fret over the “tragedy” of Shiv and Tom’s marriage, feel disappointed by Cousin Greg’s lack of a moral compass, or hope that Roman has grown and matured as a character. The Roys are charming, quick-witted, good looking, and well-dressed. They are vulnerable. We see them hurt and struggle over the course of 30-plus hours of serialized narrative, so perhaps Stockholm Syndrome-style sympathies are inevitable.
With the third season now over, Roundtable reviews each member of the Roy family, ranked from least to most loathsome, even if it’s pretty close to a group tie.
Midway through the third season, an AV Club article suggested that Roman had grown as a character throughout the show. Scant episodes later, Roman was caught texting a dick pic during a board meeting. He’s a broken automaton with clockwork insides spurred on by self-loathing, self-doubt and a deranged, rattling lust for power. He started the show mocking domestic workers for cruel sport, but put on a more respectable skin when he decided his father’s opinion mattered to him. He offered his father his love as a last-ditch negotiation ploy in one of the most sociopathic moments in television history and his father was correct to reject him.
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In the first season of Succession, Marcia tells Siobhan that her father made her a playground that she thought was the whole world. For all of the show’s brutal invective, that’s probably the line that cuts the deepest. Shiv thinks she’s more moral than the family’s business and was smart enough to escape it. She doesn’t realize she’d be nothing without it. When her morality and business savvy is tested, she fails time and time again and resorts to begging her dad for help.
Until he melts down in the last episode, Kendall spends the third season of the series driven by his belief that he’s a good person. Making this entitled narcissist believe he has a moral core is one of the best and often overlooked jokes on the show. While he’s inherently repellent, his favorite conversation tactic is telling people he likes them, also grimly hilarious. His pain and moments of self-reflection make him fleetingly sympathetic but at his core he’s a bad guy who thinks he’s good.
Connor’s loathsomeness is different from the rest of his family’s. He lacks the family’s caustic wit. He doesn’t want to control the family empire. He’s enthralled to a former escort who seethes with contempt for him. But underneath that sunny disposition is cold reptilian blood. In a first season throwaway line, he brags that he owns southwestern farm property with a huge natural aquifer, and that “someday water's gonna be more precious than gold and people are gonna kill each other to try to get that water.” The recent news that Rupert Murdorch bought a $200 million Montana ranch from the Koch brothers is probably just a coincidence.