Succession creator finally answers one of the series’ biggest questions

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Succession creator Jesse Armstrong has cleared up an enduring mystery from the final season of the hit show: what a note found in Logan Roy’s safe showed about who the media tycoon really wanted to take over Waystar Royco.

In the episode Honeymoon States, when family and friends of the Roys gather to mourn Logan (Brian Cox), Frank (Peter Friedman) finds what he calls a “rather worrying piece of paper”.

The line that raised more questions than it answered in the final season.Credit: HBO

While it seemed to indicate Kendall (Jeremy Strong) was Logan’s anointed successor, a line beneath his name raised the question of whether it had been underlined or crossed out.

The old guard of Frank, Karl (David Rasche) and Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) mulled over what the paper meant with siblings Roman (Kieran Culkin), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Kendall.

Shiv thought it was ambiguous. Roman said the document was old and that Kendall had “tried to put him in jail, like, 12 times since then”.

It was also a talking point for viewers trying to work out who would win the unseemly scramble for power as the hit series wrapped up.

Appearing at a Financial Times event in London, Armstrong said he would have hated to answer the question while the show was still running but was clearly fine with it now.

“If you were gonna cross out, you wouldn’t start underneath, would you?” he said, pointing to his head as though to indicate this was the thinking. When someone in the audience called out “underlined”, Armstrong took a mock bow.

Mystery solved: Kendall was Logan’s preferred successor.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Armstrong also said that he subtly prepared Matthew Macfadyen for his character Tom Wambsgans emerging triumphantly at the end of the series after the media empire’s merger with GoJo.

“Occasionally, I would remind him to do a take where it was like – do remember, this was earlier on in the show – it could be you as well,” he said, “Just to make sure he had that thing about [how he’s] a suck-up who also had some steel that could be activated at a certain point.”

Meanwhile, Armstrong is taking his time coming up with a new series.

“I’ve got a few ideas, but I’m really trying to enjoy the feeling of living a more normal life where every set of emails isn’t a mad triage of what is going to immediately explode,” he told The Observer.

In any case, “we’re all on strike”.

While he is in elite company for reputedly coming to earn $US1 million an episode on Succession, Armstrong threw his support behind fellow Hollywood writers who have held firm in their strike since May.

Pondering the future: (from left): Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy, Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy and Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy.Credit: Foxtel/HBO

While well aware he was in a “lucky position” as a showrunner, “it’s about people making their way in the industry in the future,” he said “my fellow writers working on shows … where the median salary is going down”.

Armstrong accepted that streaming companies had taken a hit recently but maintained they were still highly profitable, and those profits should be more favourably shared with the people who created their content and that writers should be protected from the threat of AI.

Succession creator Jesse Armstrong (blue shirt) with director Mark Mylod and cast on set. Credit: Foxtel/HBO

Back on Succession, Armstrong admitted his method of refining and rewriting until the last moment caused tensions with the cast, who were eager to learn their lines. This was particularly true for Strong, who is a method actor, but the whole cast found it difficult.

“We fought each other to a draw rather than ever settling on something that was entirely satisfactory,” Armstrong said.

Email Garry Maddox at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @gmaddox.

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