The end of “Succession” is upon us. So how to end this bitter masterpiece?
Do they shoot forward in time, stealing a page from the legendary “Six Feet Under” finale? Perhaps offer a glimpse of the future with that handsome sociopath and would-be president they’ve put in power? Or just cut to black before someone murders Kendall? (I’m someone who really liked the ending of “The Sopranos..”)
Possible but not likely. Neither of those options feels quite right.
That’s the thing with a good ending: it has to be both ineffable and organic. And unfortunately, a poorly done ending can virtually ruin a brilliant work of art. The awesome greatness of “Game of Thrones” was severely undermined by too many missteps in its final episodes. Jaime returns to Cersei and a house falls on them? Does the sublime and beloved Daenerys go mad and burn down King’s Landing? Bran gets the throne? What we want from an ending is a big “amen,” like we got from “Breaking Bad.”.” But “Game of Thrones” was more of a “huh?”
I’ve thought a lot about endings because I have to write them. Although I usually have a vague idea of an ending when I start writing a play, I don’t want everything set in stone. If you don’t plot the story too ruthlessly, it will reveal itself to you in the writing, and often there is a secret theme, something surprising and inevitable that your mind was clinging to, that finally presents itself. Something perfect, like an angel walking through the ceiling. Or “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Or the fact that there really is a cabal of devil worshipers living in Dakota on the Upper West Side. Those are great endings.
The end must emerge from all that came before, but it must also be different from all that came before. A grand finale might be about transformation, in which our central character escapes, or finds true love, or discovers a deep truth and attains inner wisdom (like in “Mad Men,” except the deep truth was about Coke). Line). Or it could be about justice, which rains down on those who deserve it and ruins those who don’t. (See all superhero movies.) Or its opposite, the idea that justice has abandoned everyone. (See “The Godfather.”) A good ending can imply a bland, sad loss of hope. (See Chekhov.) You can celebrate the restored and renewed order that a marriage can bring to a disordered world. (See Shakespeare.) Or it can be resolved with the notion that marriage isn’t really going to solve anything. (Again, see Shakespeare.)
At best, a sublimely written ending will elevate all that came before into the realm of timeless wisdom: “So we sail, ships against the current, endlessly dragged back into the past,” as the narrator of “The Great One” concludes. Gatsby”. .
Television offers different challenges, and not just because viewers will sit and worry for a week (or more) obsessing over how it could all end. Television is built differently than other types of drama, so naturally it ends differently as well.
You start with a pilot episode, which may or may not air, and then you worm through a first season. At that point, the end is so far away that it’s hard to take the idea seriously. After all, if no one watches, it will be canceled anyway. So you’re not trying to imagine the ending, you’re trying to avoid it.
That’s why truly great endings are especially hard to come by on TV. TV shows are not about the end; they are in the middle. It’s about how long you can keep that show on the air. When you have a hit, no one is usually in much of a hurry to get to the end, which is why phrases like “jumping the shark” have entered the lexicon. The medium is where television thrives.
For me, the season 2 finale of “Succession,” when Kendall betrayed her father, Logan, to the world and threatened to bring the entire house of cards down on everyone’s heads, was perhaps the show’s most spectacular moment. That whisper of Logan’s smile as he watched the catastrophe was mysterious and glorious and human. Did he secretly want Kendall to take the reins? Maybe. Without a doubt, it was great television. Then Logan went ahead and destroyed Kendall again in season 3. And the show went back to the starting gate. There is a kind of circularity in television that is inherent in the form. That’s why so many shows end in what can only be called “the group hug.” “Mary Tyler Moore” did it; “The Office” did it; “Seinfeld” did an incarcerated version.
I suspect we’re not getting a group hug from “Succession”.
As far as endings go, “Succession” is a special case, and not just because creator Jesse Armstrong chose not only how the show ended, but also when. (He is saying has “been present” in his mind from the beginning). With “Succession”, the The ending has always been built right into the title.
My bold prediction? i can tell you what No happen: Logan will not come back to life. Children will not sell the company to someone who suddenly appears from China with a better offer. Won’t ignite a deus ex machina that shows up because no one knew how to land the damn plane so they brought something out of nowhere and that’s the end of it.
as to what willpower happen, I am confident in promising this: the ending of “Succession” will fulfill the story and not betray the spirit of what came before. Its creators have shown for four seasons that they are better than that.
That’s why I’ll be tuning in. I can’t wait to see how it ends.
Theresa Rebeck is a playwright, television writer, and novelist. Her most recent Broadway play was “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” and she is the creator of the TV show “Smash.”