Rare is the time that Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) hasn’t fallen short of some task or gotten shooed away from the table by Kendall, Shiv, Roman, Tom, and (when he was alive) Logan on Succession. And yet, he has always persisted, a happy-go-lucky-schmucky who’d finger-bang an electrical outlet just to feel that much closer to power. CEO material, though? Not as wild as it seems.
Persistence is Greg’s lone skill. Well, that and being so glaringly tall and awkward that it’s impossible to not always spot him in every room amongst the dealmakers, mistaking his attendance as a sign that he’s worthy of ascendance. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe Greg is the puppet Waystar Royco CEO Lukas Mattson wants and the one show creator Jesse Armstrong needs to thread the needle in Sunday’s series finale. Let me explain.
Succession is, above all else, an incredibly interesting television show matched perfectly to thoroughly interesting times, specifically when it comes to the cross-section of the show and the topics of power, money, and the media. Most of the characters at the center are villains and training wheel-clad tyrants. Hateworthy, or, at least love-to-hateworthy. Look at what Roman and Kendall have done in their time as co-bro-CEOs in the last few episodes without adult supervision. Stifling a multi-billion dollar deal, power trip tantrums, stock manipulation, and a choke slam on democracy. It’s been like a week, a week and a half? Do we really want to see them get everything they want?
Shiv Roy is the lesser of the three evils, but she’s prone to backing bad horses whenever they gallop by. No patience, no eye, no loyalty, which means she’s also objectively bad. I’d love for her to get the CEO job if it was the only way we could avoid seeing Kendall and Roman feeling themselves again with their little self-pep-talks and swagger. But it’s not the only way.
We can dismiss some other candidates with blazing speed. Connor, dear(?), sweet(?), Connor. The saddest, most human moment of this season might have been ultra-damaged Connor shrugging off possible rejection and counting his ability to do so as a superpower. None of the kids got to tell their father that they loved him in the end. He was already gone, but you know Connor knows Logan wouldn’t have actually heard him even if he was still alive and alert. Let’s get Con a nice ambassadorship as a parting gift because he’s so sad, huh?
Frank and Karl, a tag team for the ages. Love em, but no chance. Like Gerri, the choice might make sense on paper in the real world, but what’s the message: establishment elders bring stability? That headline isn’t sexy. A Greg CEO appointment is sexy because it’s chaotic, which is more on-brand for this show. More importantly, it may be inevitable with Armstrong tipping his hand slightly (unless he’s fucking with all of us).
Credit to my editor for suggesting these connections. I am but a conduit, but they make enough sense to quiet the part of the brain that’s crying out about Greg being unworthy or unfathomable, or both.
First, the most definitely-gonna-happen aspect: Mattson is going to screw over Shiv at the behest of incoming President Menkyn to keep regulators from spoiling his king-size deal to buy Logan Roy’s vast empire. She clearly scares one and annoys the other, pushing Mattson to release his bullshit numbers and refusing to adequately kiss the President-elect’s ring. Shiv is deploying a little unearned Roy swagger of her own. But she’s overplaying her hand and overestimating what she brings to the deal. It isn’t going to be her.
Greg, on the other hand, is molecularly constructed to tell people in power what they want to hear without slowing to assess moral peril. Remember “Boo souls” last season? Tom was being theatrical. I think Greg may have actually sold his soul. If not in that moment then when he sort of shrugged and helped enable the insertion of a fascist in the White House.
Was Greg’s face time with Menkyn (where he boasted about helping to get him the W) enough to endear him to the new leader of the free world? Was his role coldly laying off employees by mass Zoom and his moldable, corruptible clay routine enough to endear Mattson? How about if Greg let slip that Shiv is pregnant while doing everything he can to glom onto his new alpha daddy?
There has to be a reason Armstrong had Greg usurp Tom in the pecking order to become a substitute pallbearer, right? It’s enough to make you fantasize about Greg’s actual uselessness and unimportance fading into the smoke and him emerging as not just the boss, but Tom’s boss.
In addition to that bit of deliciousness, Greg’s ascent would also allow for a comment on the way useful idiots with lots of ambition have a tendency of failing upward and finding success. (As you may recall, when we first meet Greg in the show’s pilot episode — he’s the third character introduced — he’s working as a bumbling mascot vomiting inside his costume at one of the Waystar-Royko theme parks.) It would also allow Armstrong to boop the kids on the nose a little.
To me, the biggest question Armstrong has to answer with the finale is do you walk away from this story with the most cynical possible take? Which is to say he could let these rich, powerful, monsters get everything they want. Or he could cut the cynicism with a dose of irony, make Greg the idiot King, and allow Kendall, Roman, and Shiv a pot full of money to try and drown out the devastation of knowing they got played (by Greg, by Mattson, by their own failed impulse controls when it came to greed and family infighting) and that they’ll never live up to their father’s legacy or disprove his damning final assessment of them as unserious people.
We’ll find out on Sunday night which direction this all goes, but yeah, Greg, that doe-eyed vampire, could really pull this off.
The ‘Succession’ series finale drops Sunday at 9PM ET on HBO.