‘Succession’ Creator Jesse Armstrong Says Everyone Debated Season 4 Ending
HBO’s Emmy-winning series Succession is back for a fourth and final season, and though news that the series would wrap after one last 10-episode run came as somewhat of a shock to fans, creator Jesse Armstrong stands by the decision. But that doesn’t mean it was easy…
Armstrong and Executive Producer Frank Rich joined journalist Kara Swisher on HBO Max’s official Succession companion podcast to chat all about the Season 4 premiere, “The Munsters,” and the show’s final season.
In the podcast, which streamed immediately after Sunday’s episode of the show, Armstrong explained how and why the Succession team reached the decision to end with Season 4. “So it wasn’t a declaration. The way we operate is often that I’ll go in with a bit of a proposition and talk to my fellow writers about it, so it was always offered as an, ‘I think this is it. What do you think?’ So it was a joint decision,” he explained. “It was my suspicion and my pitch that this should be it, but it wasn’t like, ‘This is it. We’re all getting the hell out of dodge.’ It was a debate. And we all had different feelings. And I even I remember late on, looking at some shapes of the season on the wall and someone saying, ‘Huh, there could be this whole other shape where we did this” and just having a wobble on the last day. But I think we all feel really satisfied with the shape of the season. So, sad, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”
When asked if he was worried about the show sticking around too long, Armstrong said yes, but admitted there were definitely other storylines that could have been explored beyond the final 10 episodes. Though everyone was tempted to keep the show going, Armstrong ultimately feared Succession would start to feel like “a bit of a zombie.”
“Yeah. [I was] worried about going on too long. Not in a theoretical sense. I don’t think there’s like a perfect number of seasons for a show. It’s bespoke, right? It’s weird,” Armstrong told Swisher. “This show has a bunch of things that I think the dynamics could just go on and on and on and we’d enjoy writing them, but there is a business, cultural, political part to it — which, although it’s not necessarily everyone’s favorite element of the show — is the sort of heartbeat of it. But if we try to extend the Succession business stuff beyond its natural length I think people would start feeling like we were a bit of a zombie; that the body lived on but the heart had gone.”
Succession EP Frank Rich shared that he’s heard “a real sentimental swelling about losing these characters as an ongoing part of their lives” from fans since the final season was announced, but he believes in Armstrong’s vision. “…I realize there’s a little bit of misconception about how this works. Like people say, ‘Oh you decided it was the end, so you changed the ending of the season. And I say, ‘No. If you look at the previous three seasons of the show, all of them could have been the ending of the show. It’s not like now — spoiler alert, we’re not killing everyone off in an earthquake in the final episode,” he said. “I’m also feeling while people are sort of sad about it, they respect the storytelling, they respect what Jesse has done, and they know that we’re unlikely to do something stupid or silly or gimmicky.”
Rich cited a previous interview quote from Armstrong, explaining, “It is called Succession. At some point there has to be some kind of resolution to that and I think a lot of viewers understand that.”
New episodes of Succession air on HBO and HBO Max Sundays at 9 p.m. ET. And you can hear more behind-the-scenes tidbits from Succession‘s writers, producers, and directors when new episodes of the companion podcast drop after each episode.