This article contains spoilers for the series finale of Succession.
Backstabbing and betrayal are the cornerstones of Succession, and the series finale has no shortage of either. After learning from Greg (Nicholas Braun) that GoJo CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) is not planning to name her as the US CEO in the Waystar Royco merger after all, Shiv (Sarah Snook) appears to side with her brothers and agrees to vote against moving the deal forward and name Kendall (Jeremy Strong) as CEO. However, when the day of the vote arrives, Shiv has a change of heart, voting to push the deal through after all. Considering all that it took to finally get the Roy siblings on the same side again, many have been left wondering what moment made Shiv change her mind?
One option is that Shiv made her decision after seeing Kendall sit in their father’s desk chair at Waystar Royco before the vote. This moment could have reminded her how woefully unprepared Kendall is to fill their father’s shoes and that it may be better to put the company in someone else’s hands if it can’t be hers. Could Shiv have also done this to protect Kendall from becoming their father? Possibly, but not likely considering that Shiv’s actions up until this point have been almost entirely about her own personal gain. This isn’t to say that Shiv doesn’t care about her brothers, but as with most characters in this show, she cares most about herself.
Another moment that could have swayed Shiv is her brief aside with Karolina (Dagmara Dominczyk) where the latter asks about firing Hugo (Fisher Stevens) to try and change the culture of the company. This could have reminded Shiv how much of a boys club Waystar is and that Kendall would be less likely to keep Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) around than Tom would, but this also isn’t entirely likely considering that Shiv isn’t necessarily up for feminist of the year. Don’t forget, she essentially blackmailed a sexual assault survivor to help the company during the cruises scandal.
What this conversation with Karolina could indicate instead, is that Shiv made her decision before the board meeting even began. Even though she was clearly angry that Matsson chose Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) over her for the US CEO position when she first found out, she clearly felt like aligning herself with him over Kendall would be better in the long run. After the deal goes through, Tom asks for Karolina specifically, indicating that the three of them could have been in conversation the night before. Shiv’s conversation with Tom earlier in the episode also seems to hint at Shiv wanting some kind of reconciliation in their relationship even though Tom seems to (rightfully) not want anything to do with her anymore. Tom asking Shiv to then take a car home with him after the deal goes through could just be a power move on his part, but it could also be further proof that they had some sort of talk about Shiv changing her vote in his favor.
Though if you truly want to give Shiv the benefit of the doubt, it could be argued that she didn’t fully change her mind until the sibling’s fight outside of the boardroom when Kendall yells “I’m the eldest boy” to try and convince Shiv that running Waystar is his birthright. If her mind wasn’t already made up by this point, seeing her older brother once again prove his immaturity could have easily changed her vote.
In an interview with Variety, finale director Mark Mylod seems to argue that there’s not necessarily one specific moment that causes Shiv’s vote to change, but rather a cascade of moments that push her to this choice. Mylod says:
“Once they get back to New York, and the closer it comes to that moment where she has to raise her hand, Sarah knows instinctively to feel those layers — shedding those defenses those delusions. When they’re in Logan’s office, she sees how Stewy and Kendall are a couple of cronies together, and she sees how sidelined she could be by that relationship. When Kendall puts his feet up on Logan’s desk, there’s that visceral appalled reaction we see from Sarah. As she walks down the hallway into the boardroom, in the moment we might interpret it as determination and focus. But on a second view, we might see it as doubt. As Kendall struts around the board meeting as if he owns the place, we cut to Shiv to see the erosion of that lie she is telling herself. By the time she actually has to raise her hand, it’s as impossible as it is for Roman in Season 1.”
Personally, I think Shiv went into the vote with her mind made up, and everything else that happened before just confirmed for her that she made the right choice. She hesitated to vote because she wanted her choice to appear more spontaneous than it actually was because she does care about her brothers and doesn’t want them to totally hate her. But regardless of when or why Shiv made this decision, it seems to have been inevitable. Shiv was always going to do what’s best for her (and maybe her child), and it’s hard to fault her when her motives have been consistently self-serving across all four seasons.