‘Succession’ fans brace for series finale of Emmy-winning hit drama

This combination of three separate photos shows Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy, left, Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy, center, and Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy, from the HBO series "Succession." (HBO via AP)
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By SUMAN NAISHADHAM Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.”

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.

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.