Currently in its fourth and final season, HBO’s Succession follows the avaricious and power-hungry members of the Roy family. They own Waystar Royco, a legacy media company entangled in a tense proxy battle, sexual abuse scandals and corporate coverups, and the never-ending search for its next CEO.
What makes Succession such an addicting satirical drama is its core characters. Though bonded by blood and billions in wealth, the Roy children—Connor, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv—are constantly struggling for the approval of their father, Logan, while trying to protect their own selfish interests.
And with that familial and corporate competition comes a lot of betrayal and manipulation, usually initiated by the family patriarch himself. It’s a searing portrait of wealth and dysfunction hidden underneath layers of repartee and power moves — just like the real families the show is based on.
With such greed-driven characters, Succession is full of awful human beings that we still somehow root for. Just look at Kendall Roy. Here’s our roundup of the worst things every main character has done on Succession.
Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) is Logan’s eldest son from his first marriage and is probably the least despicable Roy. That’s only because he’s the most disconnected from his kin and Waystar Royco’s corporate dealings, but he benefits from the family’s wealth and status all the same. In particular, Connor wields his family name to launch a presidential campaign that no one takes seriously. His platform? Abolish taxes in America.
The eldest Roy might be the most likable character in all of Succession, so much so that he has a legion of fans who call themselves the Conheads. However, he’s also the most ignorant. Connor is what rich people become when they pretend to be down to earth but are actually just out of touch with how the world works. He doesn’t understand where taxes go and why they matter simply because he’s never had to worry about paying them.
When cousin Greg says he’ll inherit 5 million from his grandfather, he scoffs at the amount. “$5 million is a nightmare. Can’t retire, not worth it to work. Five will drive you un poco loco, my fine-feathered friend,” says Connor, who’s never had to work a day in his life.
Opting out of the family’s activities may be the wisest choice he’s done on Succession, psychologically. But the fact that he continues to enjoy the perks of being a Roy without doing any of the work doesn’t make him morally upstanding.
His lanky frame and social awkwardness might give him an innocent appearance, but cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) is just as ambitious as the others. Logan’s great nephew, through his estranged brother Ewan (James Cromwell), Greg moves to New York to weasel himself into the family business. He forms a bond with Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), Shiv Roy’s husband-to-be, as the two outsiders to the central family in Succession.
It’s very obvious from the outset that Greg is neither a good nor a bad person. But he’s easily influenced into breaking his own moral compass. Case in point: Greg shredded the documentation of sexual abuse in the firm’s cruise division. Though he did it under Tom’s instruction, Greg was fully aware of what evidence he was getting rid of. He set aside what he believed to be right in order to appease Waystar’s higher-ups.
Greg’s character arc in Succession is a tragic one. He’s introduced as a likable outsider but is gradually corrupted by the promise of wealth and power. He cuts ties with Ewan (and says goodbye to a $250 million inheritance) to please Logan, whom he believes can offer him a bigger piece of the pie. The worst part about Greg is that he isn’t really loyal to anyone—only to the person he believes currently has the upper hand.
While Tom’s affection for Shiv has always felt genuine, Succession viewers can’t help but wonder if he’s also using her for connections. He’s never been shy to admit his desire to get into Logan’s inner circle and rise up the ranks of Waystar, even prodding Shiv to ask favors from her father.
Making the cruise division abuse go away is a defining moment for Tom. When the issue broke out, he even considered volunteering himself to be the scapegoat if it would make Logan happy.
But that wasn’t the worst thing Tom has done in Succession. It was the Season 3 finale that brought Tom’s allegiance to Logan to the fore. Amidst marital problems with Shiv, he revealed the siblings’ plan to take control of Waystar from their ailing father and potentially save the company. Tom’s unexpected power move earned him a point with the family patriarch but also delivered the final nail in the coffin of his marriage to the youngest Roy.
Behind Roman Roy’s (Kieran Culkin) vulgar and sarcastic nature hides a vulnerability that Succession rarely addresses. He has deep-seated insecurities about sex that often get in the way of his romantic relationships. In Season 2, he discovers that he can only get aroused by being berated and gets into a clandestine entanglement with Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron). That Gerri is his father’s general counsel and that they have a sizeable age gap only drives home how disturbed Roman is as a person.
Sexual hangups aside, he may just be the most business-savvy among Logan’s children. If not for his immaturity, the current COO might have long been promoted to the CEO of the company.
It’s also unclear where Roman’s true loyalties lie. His desperate need for Logan’s love and acceptance often drives him to betray his siblings. Remember that in Season 1 of Succession, Kendall staged a vote of no confidence against Logan, who had just suffered a brain hemorrhage. Roman actually helped Kendall rally the board to support the move to protect the company’s interests, but he pulled out at the eleventh hour and let Kendall take the brunt of his father’s fury.
The dissolution of Shiv’s marriage is not entirely her husband’s fault. In fact, it was Shiv that drove a wedge between them by proposing an open relationship—and on their wedding night, no less. She’s as remorseless and as manipulative as her father.
Her left-leaning politics and tough approach initially made Shiv appear to be the coolest one. But her entire character arc on Succession is based on coming to terms with her desire to be her father’s chosen one. When Logan does inform her confidentially that she is to be Waystar’s next CEO, she does everything in her power to fulfill that promise.
Thus far, the worst thing Shiv has done on Succession is intimidating a cruise division victim out of testifying at the hearing. Her testimony could nail Waystar, and Shiv, who hated being referred to as the token woman in the family business, used emotional and mental manipulation to get her to back out. It was her way of protecting the company and her bid for the CEO position.
No season of Succession is complete without a betrayal from Kendall Roy. Among the siblings, he is the most open about wanting to ascend to the throne and has the most experience in running the company. But Kendall’s power moves are always undermined by his father or his own poor judgment.
While Kendall is the closest to a protagonist (or is anti-hero more appropriate?) Succession has, he is also the most flawed and the only one that could have an actual rap sheet. He’s a neglectful father, a drug addict, and is involved in the death of a young man. On the night of Shiv’s wedding, a drug-addled Kendall accidentally drove a waiter’s car over a bridge, causing the man to drown.
The worst thing? Kendall fled the scene of the crime and pretended that nothing happened. This event gave Logan a leg up over Kendall, who was leading a hostile takeover of the firm.
Anyone who watches Succession and isn’t embroiled in a tense family saga will easily get confused by Logan’s (Brian Cox) relationship with his children. Does he love them? Perhaps, perhaps not—constantly hearing him threaten to hurt his kids certainly puts that into question. What I can be sure of is that he feels ownership toward Connor, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv as assets that can ultimately serve his needs. Before the events of Season 4, it was always his goal to keep Waystar Royco a family business so he can, in essence, retain control of his actual baby.
At any point in time, the patriarchal figure in Succession is stringing one of his children along (well, maybe not Connor). Season 2 was the clearest example of that, with how Logan used Kendall’s trauma from the accident to quiet him into submission. Meanwhile, he promised Shiv the CEO seat she coveted with no real intention of naming her as his successor. And Roman’s issues with sex are rooted in his father’s lack of affection towards him and, possibly, the abuse he suffered as a child. The worst thing Logan has done is psychologically break his kids and pit them against each other.
All the terrible things the Roy children have done are nothing compared to the sins of their father. We’ll never really know what skeletons hide in his closet, but it’s very clear how abusive, at least emotionally, he is towards his children and the people who work for him. He’s a sociopath who has perfected emotional manipulation to get what he wants.