At the end of Succession’s season three finale, we see all of Shiv Roy’s missteps finally come around to bite her in her gorgeous ass. Her plan to use a clause in her parents’ divorce agreement to stop her father from selling Waystar Royco to tech CEO Lukas Mattson falls apart because her own husband finally turns against her — Tom warns Logan of his children’s scheme, giving him time to work out a deal with his ex-wife to get rid of the loophole they were planning to exploit. Shiv wanted to be a killer, but she and her siblings ended up getting killed.
But how did we get here? The untrained eye might have spent the last three seasons seeing Shiv as The Smart One, the Roy child who has it the most together. It isn’t a hard role to take up when one of your brothers is a self-destructive time bomb, one is a tricky little imp with an Oedipus complex, and the last one is a joke. Shiv has always seen herself as the sibling with her head above water, the one who can see the whole game. But the secret to Shiv is this: she has always been stupid.
Shiv likes to see herself as always being one step ahead of everyone, but what makes her a tragic character is that in reality she is always two steps behind. To take the most pertinent example, let’s examine her relationship with Tom, her husband and the Brutus to her would-be Caesar.
For the entirety of the show, the joke has been that he’s a social climbing cuck who stays with her because of the power and access she affords him. He is also deeply in love with her, despite the fact that she told him on their wedding night that she didn’t want to be monogamous, which broke his Midwestern heart. For the past season however, he’s been scheming in the background and she didn’t even notice. He offered to go to prison for Logan during the cruise scandal, winning the big man’s respect in a way that none of his children ever did. When Tom was reading the prison blogs everyday, talking about toilet wine and convincing that he was going to be sent off to Otisville, Shiv ignored him. She couldn’t see that her father had come to finally respect him, and that he might be a good ally for her to have.
When Tom arrives at the Tuscan war room Logan has set up, he receives the one thing all the Roy kids crave: a silent “good job” pat from Logan. Tom had warned him that the siblings were coming, and had finally won for himself what he thought Shiv would always help him achieve.
This is merely the culmination of Shiv’s many dumb bitch tendencies. In season one we see her as a democratic operative who doesn’t know how to pick a winner; in season two she basically blows up the deal with the Pearce family because she insists on telling everyone that she is going to be Logan’s successor; and now here she is, thinking that a good idea for dirty talk is telling Tom, “I’m way out of you’re fucking league… That’s why you love me, even though I don’t love you.”
An actual cunning person would have been able to see the forest for the trees. She would have seen that Tom had offered himself up to Logan and earned his actual respect, and that it might behoove her to hitch her wagon to his star. But here we are again at the core of Shiv’s identity as a character — she is stupid. She has never had to actually work a day in her life, and has no idea how to do anything that isn’t handed to her. Maybe next season she’ll learn a lesson from Tom blindsiding her and wise up. But I hope she doesn’t, because not every woman is Sheryl Sandberg, and us grade-A morons need representation on the screen too.