Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the series finale of Succession.The series finale of HBO’s hit Succession had a lot of plot twists, with Shiv betrayed by Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) and even by Tom ((Matthew Macfadyen) himself, who accepted the Swede mogul’s offer fully aware it had been promised to Shiv (Sarah Snook) before. She was understandably livid with the whole situation and cut a deal with her brothers to crown Kendall as CEO as her response. The entire thing resulted in a rare moment of harmony between the Roy siblings at their mother’s house, the opposite of what they usually shared when Logan (Brian Cox) was around. Everything was all set. People were happy. Right?
What Was Shiv Thinking When She Left the Boardroom?
What’s most shocking about it isn’t really the result itself, but rather how it happened. Shiv votes against her brothers and is in favor of selling the family business to a selfish and treacherous tech mogul. The result, for her, wasn’t even all that negative, as it was her husband Tom who ends up taking over as the American CEO of Waystar Royco. She did promise Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) to vote with them, not against them, though, and took everyone, including viewers, by surprise. There was no reason for Shiv to throw it all away, right? Unless, maybe there was?
When Shiv walked out of the board meeting room at the Waystar headquarters, no one understood what was going on. The whole scene is so perfectly written and directed, we felt like the characters themselves, barely able to digest what was happening. Was she sick? Did she know something we didn’t? What was going on? Well, none of the above (or, all of the above, actually). Not even Shiv herself may have a concrete answer, but her vote is in line with Shiv being the most diabolical Roy. In fact, it’s safe to say that, from now on, she will be defined by her choice, for better or worse.
The moment itself is the culmination of her character in Succession and has actually been years in the making. Shiv fumbled her last few steps by thinking her position was secure first with her brothers, then with Matsson. She ended up exposed in the first case and betrayed in the second, which is not a good sequence for someone who prides herself in being a strategist. Despite her brothers’ support before the board meeting, she was in a very vulnerable position, one she isn’t used to and never knew how to deal with. And people under pressure usually take steps without thinking them through, so she opts to leave the room on what seems to be a whim.
We might have seen Shiv plot with her brothers to take back the company, but she was still deeply frustrated for losing her only shot at being Logan’s successor. She may have been promised the position at one point, but so were her brothers. Perhaps, she was unfortunately viewed differently for being a woman. Adding another layer to that is that she was pregnant, something that Matsson expressed concern about when the two of them talked at Logan’s funeral. Her actual chances of taking over as CEO were little from the start, even when she had her first meeting with Matsson in Norway. His reveal about harassing Ebba (Eili Harboe) was really him admitting to throwing people away as he pleases, and she failed to see that. She had also learned that her own husband betrayed her by taking a position he knew as promised to her. All that, combined with the fact that she had just agreed to hand her dream job on a platter to her brother, is enough to make someone erupt, and that’s what happened with Shiv.
What’s Really Behind Shiv’s Decision?
Every step we take in life is influenced by two factors: context and history. While Shiv’s context at the moment of the board meeting wasn’t at all in her favor, her history is what ultimately justifies her position. She was never truly considered for anything at Waystar, being always in the thick of it, but holding no official power whatsoever. Tom was always the one with the titles. But Shiv could’ve been the one to lead Waystar. She’s always been the only solid contender in the race against her brothers, and she knew it.
Actually, the dynamics between the Roy siblings played a big part in making Shiv who she is at the end of Succession. Her relationship with Kendall is often antagonistic, even when they were together against Logan because she had always known he was the one most likely to inherit the throne. She agreed to crown him earlier in the finale because she was still numb after being betrayed, but they have always been on opposite sides when it was time to take a stand, whatever it was. And it always went Kendall’s way. As petty as it may seem, everything about the Roy kids boils down to their childish ways, and that was one of the drivers behind Shiv’s decision to vote in favor of selling out to GoJo, something like “If I can’t have it, no one can.” She was hurt, so she had to hurt everyone else and burn everything to the ground, knowing full well she would still have to live in the ruins with Tom.
A lifetime of being left out leaves scars on people, and, while Shiv had tried to make a life for herself outside the family business, her eyes were always on Logan’s throne. At his funeral, she talked about all the powerful people she saw her father meet with when she was a child, and it left an impression on her. She didn’t want to be close to power, she wanted power itself. Even her marriage with Tom is defined by her being above him, and they finally started confronting the nature of their relationship in Season 4. That’s also something important to her because they are going to have a child together, whether they want to or not. Maybe being by Tom’s side is more important than being by her brothers’ because that’s who her family is going to be now, and, despite her always seeing herself as superior to Tom, he’s always been the one with the titles, so her choice is merely continuing that. Being the wife of Waystar’s CEO is what power looks like for her now.
There’s no use in trying to pinpoint the sole reason for Shiv betraying her brothers because there’s just too much behind it. Ultimately, her decision wasn’t really about betraying them, actually, but about siding with Tom, because that’s the only way she could continue to play the game. She’s always been out of the running, so maybe it’s time she understood it. It’s sad and tragic, but that’s her reality, and it’s still a better position than the one Kendall and Roman are in.