Jun 3, 2023 - Economy

What money can't buy, according to "Succession"

Logan Roy

The rich and powerful Logan Roy (Brian Cox). Photo: Courtesy of HBO

At the heart of the final season of "Succession," which ended its four-season run on Sunday, was an examination of the interrelationship of money and power.

Why it matters: Logan Roy, the fearsome media magnate at the center of the show, amassed power — owning a massively popular right-wing cable news channel will do that — and turned it into money.

  • His billionaire children, on the other hand, spend four seasons trying to turn money into power, and fail at every turn. At the end (spoiler alert!) they're richer than ever — and miserably powerless.

Between the lines: As befits a show about money, the subject itself is rarely tackled head-on. In Season 4, however, we get to see the Roy kids' relationship to money more clearly than before.

  • While they are happy to spend lavishly on huge houses and private jets, it turns out that nine-figure sums are big enough to give them pause. In the season premiere, for instance, eldest son Connor Roy concedes that spending an extra $100 million on TV ads in the final days of his quixotic presidential campaign would be "kind of a lot."
  • Youngest son Roman Roy is briefly worried about upping his bid for the rival Pierce media empire by a mere $0.5 billion: "You do know what half a billion dollars is, right? Five hundred million dollars? A million is a thousand thousand. You do know that. So five hundred times a thousand thousand dollars of actual money."

The big picture view is given to middle son Kendall, talking about his father's money: "The lifeblood, the oxygen of this wonderful civilization we have built from the mud. The money. The corpuscules of life gushing around this nation, this world, filling men and women all around with desire."

  • The irony is that Kendall himself — along with his siblings — evinces no such desire for money. "We're already rich," he tells Swedish tech billionaire Lukas Matsson.
  • When faced with a choice between money and power, the siblings choose power — and then, tragically, fail to maintain their unity for long enough to actually get what they think they want.

The bottom line: In the end, the character who is most open about his desire for money ends up with more power than any of the Roy siblings. Money can be inherited, but successful ambition often skips a generation or two.

Go deeper