Shiv’s Eulogy In Succession Has Brought Its Most Powerful Theme Full Circle

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"He couldn't fit a whole woman in his head," a tear-stricken Siohban "Shiv" Roy (Sarah Snook) divulges to hundreds of her father's mourners. As the only daughter of the ruthless and scheming media CEO Logan Roy (Brian Cox), an octogenarian who met his end with cardiac arrest, Shiv had it tough under the thumb of her domineering father. Like her brothers, she has to straddle the line between "King Lear"-levels of groveling and disobedience to acquire control of their father's company, Waystar Royco.

After four seasons, the penultimate funeral episode "Church and State" shoves the "Succession" opening into a gutwrenching full circle. Up on the mourning pulpit, Shiv's eulogy serves as a poetic distillation of the show's opening montages. The "Church and State" post-credits discussion also hammers the point by splicing the footage of the young Roys, including the wistful younger Shiv, with the finale previews. When examining where Shiv started and where she ended, it makes melancholic sense.

Anti-Nostalgic Childhood

The opening of "Succession" has always launched with an air of alienation. Throughout the last three seasons, the openings have displayed the four Roy children poised for a photo. You can make out Shiv, the sullen girl in the cream-white frock, an image of conforming femininity, sticking out like an ornament among her uniformly suited brothers. Within a blink of a cut, we see young Shiv all alone, glancing around as if wondering where the boys went. She's left behind and directionless, underlining her indecisiveness in her adulthood, marriage, career choices, and (ultimately compromised, then buried) progressive principles. 

The opening has evolved from season 1, which began with a young Kendall (Jeremy Strong) standing alongside his stern father as the latter's heir apparent, then ending with Kendall observing his father walk off camera before a brief flash of all four children with the frame not including their heads (as if denying them any identity). The latest openers choose to emphasize the isolated Shiv at the beginning and then conclude on all four kids (this time with their heads not cut off). Since season 2, the opening has closed with the image of the four Roy children glancing curiously off-camera as if glimpsing a ghost as their father vanishes in a blink.

It's an iconic opening for a host of reasons, especially owing a debt to composer Nicholas Britell's soundscape. A classical-contemporary cocktail of the frosty detuned piano and hip-hop beats, the music does its duty to amplify the wealthy grandeur of the Roy family and the scope of their media influence symbolized by enthralling shots of skyscrapers and helicopters. It also conveys a passionless and unfeeling ambiance, thus underscoring that forlorn old-timey snippet of a young Shiv staring at her blurry father from the distance. An older Shiv will especially reflect on the inaccessible patriarch behind a closed door.

The Light That Never Lasts

In the season 2 premiere, Shiv is summoned into Logan's home office, which may remind you of the opening's imagery of Logan clutching paperwork and disappearing behind a door. This time, Shiv is allowed into the room where it happens. To her surprise, Logan clandestinely crowns his daughter as his Waystar successor, bequeathing her the love and validation she pined for. "Is this real?" she wonders. Sure enough, the stars don't align for her for very long. Her father also repudiates her a step further when he seizes her and her brothers' voting power in the season 3 finale.

The opening is particularly notable for the brittleness of the (anti-)nostalgia-grained picturesque childhood. Despite the sun-soaked memories of tennis matches and elephant rides, the ever-elusive Logan doesn't gaze upon his children with warmth. These fleeting extravagances (such as a little Shiv walking alongside a pony) come off as indulgences and distractions from the coldness of their father. This ambivalence bleeds into the present funeral where Shiv allows herself to speak ill of her deceased patriarch. She does not gloss over the complication of being his sole daughter and his toughness on women (saying this in front of Logan's exes sitting in ironic and iconic solidarity in the front pew).

This contrasts — or complements — Kendall's eulogy, which recognizes their father's brutal personality while building toward a hagiographic portrait that rationalizes Logan's "terrible force" as a "human thing." Kendall is no stranger to his father's rejection but he can't fathom the specific misogyny, blatant and latent, that Shiv suffered. She loves her father, but she had to work harder for his approval. "We used to play near his office because we wanted him to hear" just to lure out the sight of his scolding figure. "When he let you in ... it was warm in the light." Only she knows too well that warmth can be blown out like a candle. She can convince herself and the mourners that "he did okay" in the end.

I Got Mom-Ed

But Shiv is anything but okay. Her loyalties to her father and ambition for Waystar have incentivized a drain on her morals. When the company was targeted during the cruises scandals, she intimidated a sexual assault survivor from testifying against Waystar. Although Shiv warned her brothers of the incalculable consequence of ATN news prematurely calling the election for a fascist candidate, she's willing to negotiate with said fascist for her own gains.

Just to add another plus, a pregnant Shiv seems primed to repeat the cold parent cycle with her future child (since she appears more set on carrying the pregnancy to term). As she relays to Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård), the tech mogul who may grant her a long-coveted CEO position if she plays her cards right, she's plotting to be a hands-off parent. "Poor kid will never see [me]," she jests. She may as well be embellishing an impenetrable girlboss front to appear useful and functional (a capitalist ideal of grind-culture functional) to Mattson, but this blueprint of parenting makes sense in the scheme of her ladder-climbing and reputational maintenance.

Before, Shiv conspired to have a child to spite her vinegary mother (Harriet Walter) who advised her against parenthood ("I should have had dogs" her mother laments in season 3 "Chiantishire"). Perhaps Shiv fantasizes about raising a legacy that can diverge from the Roy's nasty ways. Considering that she needs great control over her progeny, it's more uncertain if and how she'll invite the biological father, her estranged husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), into the parental picture. However, though she wants to prove that she isn't like her mother, she ends up telling her mother "I'm not going to see it. I'm going to do it the family way." She's mocking her own mother's neglect. But factor in her embitterments, she's self-prophesizing. Much as she hates to admit it, she picked up on her father's teachings to act more like a "world" than a human being. Be that shadowy parent that disappears behind the office door. The Roy Way.

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The post Shiv's Eulogy in Succession Has Brought Its Most Powerful Theme Full Circle appeared first on /Film.

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