(spoilers for episode 9, season 3 ahead)
This is it, the final hurrah. In a season that has received some (not entirely unfounded) criticism that these characters have met little consequence or change, last night’s finale certainly brought the Sturm und Drang. “Upheaval” seems almost too mild of a word to describe the multiple bombs that went off, with few unaffected by it and even fewer better off than when the season started.
Let’s get the big question out of the way: Kendall is still alive (as I predicted). The details of the near-drowning incident are left purposefully hazy, though there isn’t much we need to know to fill in the blanks. All we know is Comfrey found Kendall and got him to the hospital before it was too late, and, what may be an even bigger priority to the Roys, she managed to keep it out of the press. Back in the same position he was in before his big party, Kendall is grasping the raggedy old life preserver of trying to be a thorn in Logan’s side, especially now that the two men are truly on the outs with one another. His siblings, terrible though they may be, are shaken by the ordeal, try as they might to hide it. They may abuse and mock one another’s pain, but killing oneself is not an option. The concern is great enough to warrant a luncheon intervention (is that a thing?), but when Kendall starts to air out his grievances, he’s self-involved enough to lament over how hard it is to watch his birthright as the eldest pass him by, all in front of Connor. Connor, who is the last person on Earth who would ever be willing to hear how tough it is to be what amounts to a genetic rough draft. Out of the ensemble, Alan Ruck has flown under the radar when it comes to the overall praise for the show’s performances, but I suspect that Connor feels so terribly believable that it’s sometimes hard to realize that Ruck is, indeed, acting. Unfortunately, it’s easy for steadfastness to be overlooked when surrounded by so much pizzazz. Thankfully, the finale offered him a great moment to flex his muscles to give us one last chance to admire his abilities. Connor may be the least formidable Roy, but I experienced a moment of genuine unease watching him wave that butter knife around.
As the episode opens, Logan seems to be in a place of relative calm, reading a book to his grandson in a moment that seems almost to be one of familial bliss, at least until one remembers that this is the same grandchild he used as a royal food tester last week. A phone call later, however, and it’s back to the battlefield. Meanwhile, the gang is sitting around playing a perverse game of Monopoly, as though they don’t sit around shuffling corporations and picking presidents on the average week (Tom: “Hey,’Get-Out-of-Jail-Free’ card. Another one!”). But when Logan announces his intention to visit Lukas Matsson to get a read on the merger (“Let’s go see Hans Christian Anderf-k and see if he’s been telling us f-king fairy tales”), one game is exchanged for another, as Roman desperately vies for a position alongside him, only to be shrugged off until Shiv unwisely offers to go, giving Logan the motivation he needs to allow Roman to come along after all. Poor Pinkie. While it’s true that Shiv is exceedingly selfish, it’s almost impossible not to sympathize with her, especially knowing that although Logan might be utterly disgusted with Roman at the moment, he’d rather take an “I don’t want to know” stance on his son’s deviancy rather than tolerate his not-quite-perfect daughter. There’s a whole gender examination to be made over the fact that Shiv’s inability to land the ideal lawyer back in the season premiere (along with some not inconsiderable missteps in the second season) is perceived as a greater transgression than Roman sexually harassing an employee, which really only garners disgust due to the age of the unwitting recipient of those pictures and not the actual harassment itself.
Logan wastes no time when it comes to trying to settle the deal. From the moment they step off the boat, Logan gets down to brass tacks: is the merger happening or not? The usually prescient Logan gets quite the shock when the merger is re-plated and served to him as a takeover, complete with Lukas sitting on the throne with the board in his control. It’s too high of a price, a scenario that Lukas is entirely prepared for. But in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, Lukas cuts his eyes to Roman and back to Logan; he only wants to talk to the man in charge from this point on, and picking up on it, Logan dismisses Roman, much to his son’s surprise. Now, deprived even of the ability to be a handler for Lukas, all the shine is off of Roman. All he can do is try to pretend that he’s got everything under control to his sister, who quickly figures out that he, too, has been put on ice.
With all of this hullabaloo, there’s still a wedding to attend. It’s the afternoon of Caroline’s nuptials to the “bowl of porridge,” and the Roy children are expected to attend, though no one’s presence is more desired than Logan’s (sorry, kids). Entirely unnecessary aside here, but Peter’s full name is “Peter Timothy Munga Munion?” Unreal. It’s a fitting name for a service that is treated with little deference, as Shiv mocks Roman for his Oedipus complex, and Greg doing everything he can to get with the contessa/princess/whatever. But it’s during the reception when things go absolutely haywire, starting first with Connor, considerably perked up since Willa’s oh-so romantic shrug of “f-k it” as acceptance to his proposal, and his revelation that Logan may be working on strengthening his fertility in one last desperate bid to have a worthy successor (Roman: “Dad’s scrambling the fighters”). Right on the heels of that discovery is the news that Lukas is lining up some major league financing, which seems odd to everyone but Roman, who has a sneaking suspicion as to exactly why he would need all that funding. The pieces of the puzzle quickly come together, with Greg offering up information he got from “LackeySlack” (an entity I’m absolutely convinced exists, someone get me a hard-hitting exposé immediately) and the realization that Karl and Frank are in the country, giving Roman no choice but to relay Lukas’ offer to buy out the company.
Out of desperation, Shiv conscripts a depressed Kendall into battle and that’s when the biggest reveal of the season happens: his admission that he’s responsible for the death of the caterer in Scotland. In a twisted display of heartfelt support, Roman does everything possible to laugh off the situation (“I’ve killed a kid, too. Big deal. Shiv? You’ve killed a kid, right?” “Uh, yeah”). It’s disturbing and unethical to the extreme, yet there is also a sweetness that’s impossible to deny. It may be horrible to listen to, but it’s an action motivated by love, a rarity on this show. Unfortunately, the issue of Kendall and his confession is pushed aside when Shiv receives confirmation that Logan is, indeed, selling Waystar. Although Kendall is still worse for wear, he’s buoyed by the closest thing he’s had to love and support all season long (that sniffled “Can I be with you guys?” is truly heartbreaking).
It’s time to confront the giant. Shiv is all in with Kendall. When it comes to her father versus securing her future, there’s no longer a question in her mind as to what needs to be done. It’s taken an awfully long time for Shiv to see the writing on the wall, but she’s ready now. Roman, however, is not quite as sure. For the first time ever, we get a genuine glimpse into how terrified Roman is of their father. He genuinely looks queasy on the car ride over, but he admirably rallies himself. Though most of it has to do with the potential loss of the company, there’s at least part of him that’s doing it in solidarity with his siblings. Even when Logan tries to pry their alliance apart several times, first by ejecting Kendall, then trying to isolate Roman from the other two. His promises of handling the deal together and coming out as the top child is the serpent tempting Eve with the apple. Even though Roman can hardly meet his eyes, he’s able to stand firm. Roman might be a broken human being, but he’s come quite a ways from the shrinking man who put his hand back down at that board table in season one. For the first time in probably ever, Logan’s tried and true method of pitting his kids against one another doesn’t work. They’ve finally learned that they’re stronger when united and with their controlling interest in the company, they can win against him and run the company amongst themselves.
Except they can’t. In the episode’s biggest bombshell, Logan reveals, with all the self-satisfied flair of a magician, that Caroline has allowed the terms of their divorce to be altered (this was first referenced last week at the bachelorette party). The most vital change is the kids losing out on their supermajority status, the only chance they had to stop Logan from moving forward with the deal. Is there anything as darkly horrible yet simultaneously as funny as Logan literally mocking Shiv? “I have you beat! You morons!” Logan crows. Meanwhile, Caroline, their awful, awful mother, avoids taking responsibility as usual, responding with an insulting “Peter’s so excited,” with little thought as to the fact that she sold out her children for a piece of property (Shiv: “Well, we just walked in on Mom and Dad f-king us”).
Roman is as emotionally distraught as we’ve ever seen him. His appeal to his father’s better nature is an absolute failure, because Logan doesn’t have any. All Roman can do is ask why, to which Logan responds with the inescapable truth: “Because it works. I f-king win.” As Logan walks away, Roman gives a plaintive “Dad?” followed by a swallowed groan that gets more painful to hear with each subsequent viewing. But as awful as it is to deal with their father betraying them, Roman is even more hurt by Gerri turning away from him. Gerri, who’s always made it quite clear that she will always look out for herself and has done an impressive job of surviving this long in an industry that happily makes mincemeat out of anyone who makes the wrong move (especially as a woman). Roman’s big mistake was assuming that his continuing affection for her, perverted as it may be, meant that she hadn’t moved on. She was already well on her way to doing so (including dating someone on what seems to be an exclusive basis) and even if she weren’t, publicly humiliating her was surely the final straw. At the top of the episode, Roman teases Gerri by yelling, “You jump on that grenade for us,” not realizing until now that not only will she not do anything of the sort, she’ll quietly toe it until it rests just beneath you right in time for it to go off.
It’s Shiv who asks the million-dollar question: “Who told him that we were coming?” Once the door opens, and we see Tom approaching the room, we quickly realize the answer. The moment Nero secured his Sporus, he promptly pushed his wife down the stairs, and so it is that Tom, once able to talk to Greg (who is now well on his way to becoming the next Tom), picked up the phone and told Logan of their plan. It’s the unexpected sight of Tom that makes Shiv realize what’s happened, and now it’s her turn to feel the icy shock of betrayal. She remains carefully neutral, but in the final, stunning shot of the season, her eyes flash with anger and probably more than just a little desire for revenge.
After all of the backstabbing, plotting, and sniping, who could have imagined that it would be Tom emerging triumphant? After a season of being completely shat on by so many people-none moreso than his wife-it’s the son-in-law who managed to get the coveted Kiss From Daddy. The seeds have been planted throughout the season, not only with Shiv’s horrible treatment of him. Offering to take the fall for the company, helping Logan to the bathroom, his observation that “I’ve never seen Logan get f-ked once.” This will likely go down as one of the greatest betrayals in television history. “Do you wanna come with me? Sporus?” Tom asked Greg at the reception, harkening back to the conversation from episode four when he first related the story of Nero. We may have had a good time with the “I’d castrate and marry you in a heartbeat” line, but the fact that it was actual foreshadowing has left many a viewer, myself included, shaken. How the Roy children will move on from this is a mystery. Shiv is in the best position, experience-wise, to advance forward, since she’s the only one with real-world work experience. What Kendall and Roman will do is up in the air, as all either one knows is Waystar, though with the corporate world being what it is, their nepotistic résumé is probably enough to secure them other opportunities. All anyone has to do is remember that even with the company being sold out from under them, they’re still going to be rich. It’s just a matter of their loss of power. How they handle it will undoubtedly make for great tv.
A Moment of Zen With Cousin Greg:
“What am I going to do with a soul anyways?”
The Biggest Lie:
“You can trust me.” -Logan
The Biggest Truth:
“If Roman marries her, he’ll invade France.” -Tom
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t researching exactly what gravlax is (answer: it’s a Nordic appetizer consisting of cured salmon served on bread, which sounds great to me), she can be found on Twitter here.
Image sources (in order of posting): HBO/YouTube, HBO/YouTube