'Succession' finale: Why did Shiv change her mind?

The most interesting theories from the show's fans, cast, and crew

Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook in 'Succession'
Shiv's decisive vote in Succession's season finale shocked viewers
(Image credit: Courtesy of HBO)

In the series finale of "Succession," Shiv Roy lived up to her first name.

For much of the HBO drama's final episode, Shiv appeared to be united with her brothers Kendall and Roman Roy to prevent Waystar RoyCo's acquisition by GoJo. But she flipped sides at the last minute, allowing Lukas Matsson to take over the company and install her estranged husband, Tom, as CEO.

Since the episode aired, there has been some disagreement among fans about why Shiv ultimately cast her vote against Kendall. What was it that convinced her to sabotage her brother's CEO ambitions?

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A strategic play for power

Shiv was irate when she learned that Matsson planned to betray her and pick Tom as CEO, and she subsequently seemed determined to block the GoJo deal and allow Kendall to take over. But just a few scenes later, she stormed out of the room during the moment of truth and revealed she was having second thoughts about her vote. What changed?

A key scene to examine is when Kendall sits in his father's office the morning of the vote. With Shiv and Roman in the room, Kendall floats the idea of making Stewy a non-executive chair without asking them first. This "cronyism with Stewy" made Shiv realize "how she might be sidelined" with Kendall as CEO, director Mark Mylod noted on HBO's official "Succession" podcast. Perhaps she determined she could have more power as the wife of the CEO and mother of his child. "She saw [a] better angle [with] Tom," one fan argued on Reddit, while another agreed she "realized she would have a strong position with Tom as CEO."

Mylod also suggested Shiv was aligned with Roman in thinking that "we're bullshit," so there was "a nihilistic, almost giddiness in just blowing it all up." It's certainly not a clear win for Shiv, though. She remains in a precarious position considering Matsson selected Tom largely to be his puppet and could replace him whenever he chooses.

She 'can't stomach' Kendall

Another important moment passes in the scene in the office. While he's talking with Stewy, Kendall arrogantly puts his feet up on his father's desk, and Shiv looks taken aback. Soon after, Kendall is noticeably cocky in the boardroom scene, so confident he has the votes.

Another interpretation is that this kind of behavior reminded Shiv that Kendall becoming CEO would destroy the company and turn him into a monster like their father. More importantly, perhaps Shiv simply couldn't bring herself to let her brother win and get the job over her, especially after seeing him behave so pompously and realizing she will be the deciding vote.

"I think they just can't tolerate seeing Kendall win, in a sense," Jeremy Strong, who plays Kendall, suggested on HBO's "Succession" podcast. "I think what they perceive as his grandiosity and self-importance, and putting his feet up on dad's desk, they can't stomach it." There is also some "payback happening, and maybe they think that Matsson is the lesser of two evils," Strong added. "Maybe they think I will be the mad king."

Shiv's decision wasn't "calculated" and doesn't have "anything to do with helping Tom," Matthew Macfadyen, who plays Tom, told Variety. Instead, "it's just that she can't stomach her brother," and the moment of truth comes when she sees Kendall deliver his speech to the board right before the vote. "There's something in her that snaps, or that sort of curdles, when she sees him stand up — her brother as CEO — and make that speech," Macfadyen said. "And she can't do it."

On top of realizing Kendall will sideline her, Shiv noticed the "insufferable way" he was sitting at his father's desk, and the "reality" of him becoming CEO sunk in, director Mark Mylod said on the "Succession" podcast. When Kendall began screaming at Shiv and claimed he made a false confession that he killed a waiter, this may have removed any doubts that she should vote against him.

Shiv may be "still in play," creator Jesse Armstrong said on HBO's "inside the episode" featurette, but it was a "kind of non-victory, non-defeat."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.