Succession Season 3 Power Rankings: All The Bells Say It's Time To Rip Off The Bandaid

(The bid for power has intensified in season 3 of "Succession," meaning now more than ever, anyone can come out on top. As the war rages on, we'll be tracking the rise and descent of the Roys, their allies and their never-ending list of enemies.)

Buried in the "Succession" discourse — which mostly alternates between endless praise and complaints about how endless the praise has become — fans began to wonder if the show was approaching a dangerous place: could the narrative of "Succession" be stuck? Is the series just spinning its wheels? After all, the stage has been set since the very beginning. One of these kids must rise to power, so prepare to watch them spend every waking hour desperately trying to seize control. 

The previous seasons end on major shakeups, sure, but simply moves some pieces around rather than breaking out a new board: circumstances may change, but they're always playing the same game. That's why Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are happy to turn their backs on Kendall (Jeremy Strong) over a box of donuts. They understand how this game works, they've been playing it all their lives. Why abandon the game for some chump who keeps losing?

As far as Shiv is concerned, the game is hers to win: the only other people on the board are Kendall (who tends to shoot himself in the foot) and Roman (who's "not a serious person"), so all she has to do is pen a scathing letter or two, get her brother on the record for sexual assault, and bada bing, the crown is hers. And round and round we go, because none of them ever actually win, too busy succumbing to the family "self-destruction" genes. They'll keep vying for the top spot and getting crushed beneath Logan's shoes, which is fine because "Succession" is so utterly impeccable that the same song and dance has never once felt boring.

Still, some stopped to entertain the possibility that it might. What happens if we're actually stuck in this loop? Where will the show go? But silly us, we failed to realize we've been corralled over to the kids' table, playing monopoly and ordering off the kids' menus. Meanwhile, over at the adults' table, Logan (Brian Cox) has realized that he too is exhausted with this little charade. So he does what beasts do — he flips the board and scatters the pieces.

The Verdict is Love, Your Honor

"Ghastly / with open eyes, he attends, blind. / All the bells say: too late." – John Berryman, "Dream Song 29"

No matter how inevitable a defeat, the pain remains potent. "Succession" was poised to strike our emotions after a shocking penultimate episode that genuinely had us considering the worst, then kicked off its finale by brushing our fears aside. Kendall Roy lives on, but only if you believe oxygen is enough to keep the Roy kids alive. The real ones know that the kids aren't alright, and their biggest loss yet has been looming over their necks like a guillotine. They've spent three seasons — which covers just a fraction of their lives — consistently disappointing their father and somehow continued to believe that his successor was amongst them. They got a taste of an alternate reality with the introduction of Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter), but Shiv neutralized that threat before the possibility could even set in. Then they made the unfortunate mistake of forgetting the feeling of losing to her.

In "All The Bells Say," they lose to yet another stranger. Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) has gone from a one-off tech trump card to the new king of the castle, with Logan opting to push all his chips into the interloper's corner. While their father abandons the sinking ship of his bloodline, the kids finally understand the importance of kinship. They band together — first for an intervention about their brother's potential suicide attempt, then for a good-old-fashioned trip to murder their father. 

Sadly, the long-awaited coming together is dampened by the tragedy of its timing: maybe if they'd done this back in episode 2 when Logan looked lost and Matsson wasn't a player, something could've come of it. Probably not, given they were so unrelenting about who would take the top job, but "All The Bells Say" finally grants them a reason to table the fight for another time: they can figure that out later, but if they lose this battle, then the question is no longer theirs to answer.

Their union is intoxicating. It's so easy to get swept away with them as they envision a bright future of taking down the beast then fighting one another to be CEO. But they're still playing monopoly, and Logan is in a war room turning their mother against them. For just a few scenes they understand that all they have is each other, and it feels like enough. Through his siblings, Kendall finds the strength to march into battle, Roman can face down his father, and Shiv has the support she needs to finally win. It would be nice if their team-up was enough to come out on top, but they lose before even entering the room.

14. The Inevitable Fall of Roman Roy

What kind of sick, twisted world must we live in that I feel the need to shed tears over Roman Roy? Not three episodes ago, this man was cozying up to a fascist, and a week later he was content to push his devastated brother to the floor whilst cackling gleefully in the background. And somehow that same man is capable of a voice cracking, hand trembling, heart-on-his-sleeve declaration of love to his father. This maniacal gremlin belongs in jail, but I'd much rather see him strike another body-contorting pose on a therapist couch because Jesus, he has a lot to unpack.

Roman makes a difficult decision in "All The Bells Say," perhaps the most difficult of all the Roy children. Shiv and Kendall are ready to charge in on their father, shotguns poised, but Roman follows timidly behind. He has to weigh matters of the heart, coupled with the fact that he's been on the rise: this has been Roman's season. He became a real player in the game, highlighted in the title sequence, at the forefront of major company deals, the only child in his father's good graces. Sure enough, when the siblings try to make their case, Logan puts his arms around Roman alone, "I've got you. Come on, let's discuss."

Roman is no stranger to this crossroads. He stood here earlier in the season, trying to decide whether to jump ship with Kendall or stay aboard the S.S. Dad. And ultimately, he retreated. Back in season 1, when the boardroom showdown came to head, he retreated then, too, unable to raise his hand with Logan just a few feet away. But this is different. "Dad is never going to choose you because he thinks there's something wrong with you," Shiv says, speaking aloud a fact we've long known to be true. This man who dubbed him a "sicko," who prods at his insecurities with disgust, would never crown him king of his precious castle. Whoever they believe to be the true heir apparent, Kendall and Shiv are at his side now, easing Roman away from his father. He looks to them and finds the strength to pull away from Logan's grasp — just barely. His body quakes, his words are unsure and he's more physically uncomfortable than ever, but Roman stays in line with his siblings. And what does he get for it?

However satisfying it feels to finally see Roman stand his ground against his father, all happiness is shattered by Kieran Culkin's tour-de-force performance. Their coup was over before it began. Sadly, that wasn't evident until Roman put it all on the line to both his father and, more painfully, to Gerri. He learns the hard way that there are things bigger than what he's feeling; the faith he had in them (and the sure-footed belief that they care for him too) isn't just naive. It's a weakness.

13. Siobhan Roy

The moment she learns the truth about the GoJo deal, a fire lights in Shiv's eyes. She becomes a powerhouse, guiding her brothers towards the light of the coup, ready to honor her name and drive a dagger through her father's heart. But as always, Shiv makes the mistake of thinking herself the smartest in the room. "You need all of us," she tells her father, so overconfident that she manages a dry laugh. "You need a supermajority, and we can kill it." The irony is sickly-sweet: Shiv talks a big game about other people needing her, forgetting how much she saddles on the backs of everyone else.

Every time Shiv has advanced — even before her season 2 turn as a real contender for the throne — every single time she's made a plan for the future, Tom would hear her out, voice his support, then, in his painfully unsure tone, say "Okay Shiv, but what about me?" And Shiv, sweetie, he shouldn't have to ask. But that's how much she's taken Tom for granted. She doesn't even think to inject him into the equation or secure a position for him. She doesn't even pitch him on the plan, just assumes he'll be onboard.

We hoped a lesson was learned and a corner turned after the season 2 finale when Tom let her in on his thoughts about their relationship. "I wonder if the sad I'd be without you would be less than the sad I get from being with you," he'd said, and his words held weight. For a time, she recognized the stark reality that Tom could hurt her by pulling away — but the power he held fizzled the second he assured her of his love in season 3. In an instant, she was back to brushing him off her shoulder, to searing him with words like "I'm way out of your f***ing league." As it turns out, Tom heard her loud and clear.

12. Kurt Cobain of the F***ing Floaties

If you too are bound by the shackles of Twitter conversation, then you're well aware of the fact that Jeremy Strong's acting process has been the talk of the town. And you're probably exhausted by the chatter of celebrity open letters and "Shrek" billboards and kazoo blowing, so I'll brush past all of that and get right to the meat of this discussion: Jeremy Strong's results. They kinda speak for themselves. "I'm all apart," Kendall tells his siblings, as though that fact hasn't been evident on his face for an entire season (or three) of TV. When he collapses in the dirt, it's the millionth time we've watched this man crumple, yet it's just as painful as the first. Kendall Roy has been the beating heart of this show for so long that the world of "Succession" seemed to falter last week when we were unsure of his continued presence. Where would the show go without its #1 boy?

It felt easy to accept the premise of Kendall's death, given his total descent into sadness. Even worse, it felt impossible to imagine his next move forward. It's almost laughable when Kendall finally emerges, fresh from a near-death experience via floatie mishap, and immediately starts talking Vanity Fair profiles and Insta reveals. Did "Chiantishire" offer that ending as a sort of jumpscare? Of course not. But Kendall wasn't simply reborn after a dip in the pool. Despite spending the better half of the season pretending to be a messiah, he's just a man. He awakes in the hospital the same man he was before, guilt-ridden, disconnected, and no closer to a win. And so he comes apart.

For the first time since we've known him, Kendall doesn't jump at an opportunity to kill his father, distracted instead by the sight of young staff members reminding him of the past. "I killed a boy," he tells his siblings, and the rest of the truth comes flowing. In wake of the revelation that their brother committed manslaughter, Shiv and Roman have a response that's equal parts disturbing and oddly heartwarming — they move past it. 

They pause with the weight of it: Roman keeps his distance from the overwhelming show of emotions and Shiv is rendered speechless. And then they pull him back from over the edge. With dark jokes, Roman turns Kendall's sobs into laughter. With a comforting hand, Shiv pulls him to his feet.

"Mog was tired," Logan read to Iverson at the start of the episode. "She was dead tired ... Mog thought, 'I want to sleep forever.' And so she did. But a little bit of her stayed awake to see what would happen next." This strange picture book about a dying dog easily doubles as the Kendall Roy life story. Kendall is out of the game, but when the cab to kill Dad arrives, he asks, "Can I stay with you guys?" When everything shakes out, Kendall handles it much better than his siblings. Hasn't he already lived this scene? Kendall has been waging this war for seasons and suffered so many defeats. This stings, but mostly on their behalf. When they discussed sharing the pieces of Waystar, Shiv didn't even put Ken up for CEO — she names him president of whatever and says she'll duke it out with Roman. And no one argues. Kendall is out, but he's sticking around for them.

11. Thing #1 and Thing #2

Frank (Peter Friedman) and Karl (David Rasche) are at the adults' table, living life on the edge. They've been playing this dangerous game for decades — we've known Frank for all of a few years, and he's been fired like three times. But they've survived this long for a reason: because they can sit quietly in the room whilst the boss emotionally decimates his children and show no emotion. Because they can play all the angles and decide when best to make themselves useful. Because they are quiet and calculating and watchful. They understand that they'll inevitably get burned a couple dozen more times along the way — this deal could be their death sentence, officially ousting them from the company in favor of whoever Matsson prefers on top. But if that fear lingers, they're smart enough to never wear it on their faces.

10. The Future Mrs. Connor Roy

Willa (Justine Lupe) says a lot of words while "accepting" Connor's (Alan Ruck) marriage proposal, but she never actually says "yes." She says "f*** it," and "how bad can it be," which isn't exactly how you want to feel about a potential life partnership, but her pity "yes" doesn't raise any red flags in Connor's eyes so let the wedding planning begin! 

Pay no attention to the instant regret that flashes across Willa's face upon entering the cab, only good thoughts and wedding bells are accepted here. It'll be fine — Connor is a nice guy and probably only has 10 more years to live! In Willa's defense, we all tend to forget our moral leanings when the Roys wear their sad faces. Puppy dog eyes probably aren't a great reason to marry someone but, ultimately, girl has a point: how bad can it be? Why the hell not? Roy family weddings are always such a cheerful event, why not plan another?

9. Connor Roy, The Eldest Son

Does Connor get shut out of yet another major move from his siblings? Yup. Does he get an invite to the kill Dad party? Nope. Do they routinely forget that he is in fact the eldest sibling? Of course. And is his Dad trying for yet another child, showing off his supreme disappointment in everyone that's come so far? The jury's out, but Connor certainly thinks so! In conclusion, Connor is having a rough time, but at least he has a dependable Willa bandaid to make all the ouchies go away. If all else fails, he can cast out the rage by scraping at another table with a butter knife like the unhinged lunatic he truly is. 

8. Lady Caroline Collingwood

Lady Caroline Collingwood (Dame Harriet Walter) is just trying to set her marriage up for success, lest it be as "happy, rewarding, and fulfilling" as Shiv's. Maybe that wedding speech and the perpetual look of despair on Tom's face helped Caroline realize that she can't go down that dark road. Best to salvage the relationship by giving her puppy dog husband everything he could possibly ask for. Now that he has the love and support of Logan Roy, Peter Munion (Pip Torrens) will love her forever! Her kids will never forgive her betrayal, but she only sees them once or twice a season anyway, so a small loss. 

7. What's His Face, The Seat Sniffer Guy

Blissfully unaware of how his ambitions have devastated viewers across the world, the Seat Sniffer gets the leg up he so desperately wanted. Now he can finally maneuver his way into the British monarchy or whatever it is he wants.  Plus, if he actually goes through with pushing Caroline down some stairs or tipping poison into her porridge, it's quite possible that her children will maintain their grudge long enough that they forget to investigate.

6. Gerri Kellman

In my heart of hearts, I always understood the truth behind the fan-favorite coupling of Roman and Gerri (J. Smith Cameron). Gerri's been with Waystar for years now. As she told Roman so constantly, one can only survive that long by "avoiding mess." She's been navigating these rocky waters longer than he's been alive so yeah, this woman has her wits about her. All of her moves were strategic, that much was always clear, but it's hard not to be convinced by the chemistry between Culkin and Cameron, by Roman's puppy dog eyes and growing obsession with her. It was nice to think that despite the toxicity in the air, Gerri was growing sentimental. And maybe she really did — maybe the look she exchanges with Roman, midway through the failing coup, is an open question. Maybe she was wondering if he could manage to scrape through with a win. Maybe she was even disappointed to see it fall apart for him. But that doesn't change her stone-cold approach to business: "How does it serve my interests?"

5. The Sporus to Tom's Nero (aka Cousin Greg)

Greg (Nicholas Braun) has graduated past his California Pizza Kitchen days; he now has the kind of palette that can only be satisfied by the monarchy. As he begins his ascent to the dormant throne of Italy, Greg is putting his transformation on full display. His status obsession draws him to a Contessa just moments after learning the worth of climbing the dating ladder, and he's more than happy to abandon Comfry for someone who makes him "a plane crash away from becoming Europe's weirdest king." Naturally, he's also happy to abandon his fellow LackeySlack compatriots when Tom offers to get him a Greg of his own (or 20, give or take). "What am I gonna do with a soul, anyways?" I can't begin to imagine an even taller, more bumbling version of Nicholas Braun stumbling alongside Greg while he hurls tentative insults his way. Is Greg's mouth even capable of forming insults? Can he use someone as a footstool on purpose? Will he flip a desk or pelt someone with water bottles? Tom was once a kindly midwestern fool, so when it comes to the damage of the corporate world, anything's possible.

4. Et tu, Wambsgans?

Nero just pushed his wife down the stairs. The painful paradox of the season finale is desperately wanting to see the siblings triumph, and feeling the full weight of their failure. But when Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) walks through those doors — the glow of a shoulder tap from Logan on his face and the realization of his betrayal slowly spreading across Shiv's — that vindication is ever so sweet. At every turn, this man has seemed moments away from a breakdown, so to see him finally take a stand for himself and claw his way back into the game is so deeply satisfying.

It's a guilt-free switch up, in the words of Greg. When it comes down to it, Tom chooses to move forward with Sporus, because the ol' ball-and-chain has done nothing nice for him lately. Importantly, this isn't about revenge for Tom. He doesn't actively want to hurt Shiv — despite all the pain she's caused him, he loves her. But this is about protection. Tom spent most of the season staring into prison binders and seeing the death pit up close. All the while, Shiv didn't so much as provide comfort, let alone help him out of his terrible situation. When she calls to get him on board with the coup, he asks where he fits in and all she can offer is "I don't know" but probably "high up." And he's expected to trust that? This isn't Shiv vs Kendall or Roman, this is the kids vs Logan. And he's been on the other end of her frantic phone calls for too long. He's been in the trenches for too long, and he knows better. As he told Kendall not so long ago, "I've never seen Logan get f***ed once."

3. Marcia ... And Kerry?

The queens spend the episode fluttering about — at Logan's side when they need to be and otherwise watching the other Roys scramble like the babies they are. I'm not sure I have the brain capacity to understand exactly how Kerry (Zoe Winters) and Marcia (Hiam Abbass) see one another, but there's nothing catty about the one interaction they share. Marcia is too smart not to know exactly what's going on, but she's emotionally checked out. This marriage is all about cashing a check and keeping up appearances now. Why should she be bothered by the Schrodingers pregnancy of Logan's assistant? He bores her. 

As for Kerry, giving Logan a baby means he'll be interested in her for at least another solid 10 minutes and she'll get a good chunk of change when his eyes begin to wander. That should help on her quest for world domination.

2. Logan "F*** Off" Roy

Logan Roy is selling his company to a stranger for a pile of cash. Granted, it's a sizable pile and comes with the guarantee of keeping his "prestige" (and a fair bit of control), but the family business will soon be no more. It's bittersweet, to say the least: Logan has little to say in response to Matsson's accusations that his company has no path forward — he has no viable successor, in his eyes, and the money's running out. His kids believe that his life's work is their birthright, and he knows how easily they would piss it all away. It might just be the paranoia speaking when they speculate about whether or not Logan's trying for another child, but it's not a hard reality to buy: they keep failing him. Why not scrap this bunch and try again?

In the big final moments, Logan's contempt for his children is through the roof. He already has them beat: they're so easy, charging in with their threats and whimpers when he's already won the fight. Why can't his children ever kill him properly? Why don't they share his grit? They blaze in for one big moment, and what do they throw at his feet? A pathetic play and love. Love. Out of sheer frustration, Logan Roy is cashing out. But I wouldn't count him out just yet — if we've learned anything in three seasons, it's that Roys never know when to quit.

1. Lukas Matsson

I can smell the ink on Alexander Skarsgård's season 4 contract: Lukas Matsson will no doubt return. Once upon a time, he was just a small upstart for Waystar Royco to gobble up in an attempt to stay relevant — now he's having them for lunch. His path forward isn't quite written in stone, though. "I can win any bout with a boxer f***, but I don't know how to knock out a clown," Logan said of Matsson. Having finally met the man for himself, he knows the truth: Matsson is no clown. A little unhinged, maybe, but sharp, hungry, and not unlike the dinosaur he's aiming to take down.