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‘Succession’ season 3, episode 9 review: All the Bells Say

Who will come out on top in the 'Succession' season 3 finale?

Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Brian Cox in the Succession Season 3 finale.
(Image: © Graeme Hunter/HBO)

Our Verdict

A blistering end to an excellent season that proves Succession is the best TV show of 2021.

For

  • *Awards voters will have a hard time picking a winner because everyone is on top of their game.
  • *Sibling team-up!
  • *Tension builds throughout.
  • *Costume designer Michelle Matland subtly ties the siblings together through what they wear.
  • *The final betrayal.
  • *Willa's response to her engagement.

Against

  • *How long until Season 4?

This post contains spoilers for Succession season 3 episode 9, "All the Bells Say." Read our season 3 episode 8 review here.

Logan Roy always wins. We have been playing the Succession game for three seasons now and the Roy family patriarch has dodged health scares, the DOJ, and multiple coups at the hands of his children. Or rather, at the hands of Kendall (Jeremy Strong) who always ends up on an island on his own with his siblings choosing dear old dad. The game of Monopoly keeps on playing, but the big difference in “All the Bells Say” is an alliance between Kendall, Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin). It doesn’t matter — Logan always has a get out of jail free card and he finds another family member he can count on to aid his victory.

After the dramatic end to the first Tuscan episode, it is quickly revealed that Kendall is okay — well, he’s alive but he's (still) a broken man. “All the Bells Say” begins the following day and Kendall's kids are being entertained at Logan's (Brian Cox) villa. Everyone else is playing their usual game of bluff/double bluff while doing a dance around what really happened in the pool. This is not a family that does well with emotional trauma and while some make jokes (Roman, obviously), others try to show their concern. The latter continues at a sibling intervention, which quickly descends into Connor’s (Alan Ruck) fury that they somehow forget he is the firstborn.  

Succession Season 3 finale

(Image credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO)

Roman treats everything with irreverence or, rather, he uses humor as a shield —this is the case with both Kendall’s near-drowning and another watery revelation. Joining forces only becomes an option after it becomes clear they are being frozen out of the GoJo negotiations and the very real possibility that Logan is going to sell the business. A scene down by the dumpster bins turns the entire season on its head and now Kendall is the reluctant participant in this suggested team-up.

First, Kendall has to get something off his chest and this confession about what he did at Shiv’s wedding is vital in strengthening the trust circle. Before Shiv got married, the trio got stoned together on a rowboat and this small scene showed a level of intimacy that is often lacking between the competitive trio. This is an entirely different circumstance but, in revealing this awful thing he did, Kendall is freeing himself from his father’s grip. The guilt is never going to go away (nor should it), however, it helps to have his brother and sister back in his corner. 

Roman reassures Kendall that he isn’t a killer (he blames the waiter, the road, and the water). “At worst you’re an irresponsible-er” is Roman’s assessment before he jokes about how long he had to wait for a gin and tonic because of the lack of wait staff. Whereas Logan emphasizes how little Kendall did to save the kid, Roman lets him tell his story, which includes the times he dived back under and tried to save him. Meanwhile, Shiv jokingly brings up how many different ways Kendall “f***ed my wedding.” Teasing of this kind is fundamental to this dynamic and it is the first step toward making peace.  

Jeremy Strong in the Succession Season 3 finale

(Image credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO)

When it comes to Succession, it is easy to toss out words like masterclass but then a scene like this comes along and it doubles down on this sentiment. The Jeremy Strong New Yorker profile dominated social media discourse over the last week and this episode is a reminder that whatever his method, it works like gangbusters. His hunched body, tears, an unglamorous snotty nose and delivery of dialogue like “It’s f***ing lonely” showcase why he is such a presence. This scene sings because of all three actors and there is something wonderfully poetic about the mirrored body language (both Strong and Culkin stand with their hands on their hips). The framing is even more powerful when you realize Kendall and Roman have switched positions in the final scene — big brother is now comforting the younger. It is also worth noting that costume designer Michelle Matland ties the trio together using the white and pink of Kendall and Roman’s shirts with Shiv’s dress design. 

Roman always crumbles when it comes to their father. He was going to vote with Kendall in Season 1 before his dad laid into him and at every other opportunity since, Roman has sided with their dad. Until now, that is. In the car on the way over to the temporary Waystar HQ, the reminder that he will never get the top position —because Logan thinks he is a pervert — helps solidify the coup club. It also helps that they have a pretty ironclad solution to what Logan is attempting, unfortunately, they don’t consider another interloper.

Matthew Macfadyen in Succession

(Image credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO)

When Logan realizes he can’t split Roman away from Shiv and Kendall using flattery, he goes for the jugular. Roman is no longer joking and tries to plead using the unusual tactic of love, which shows how desperate he is. To see Roman reduced to a begging teary mess is jarring and Emmy voters are going to have a tough time picking a best-supporting actor come September. “How does it serve my interests?” is how Gerri (J. Cameron Smith) responds to Roman’s anguish and she is only using the advice she gave him in “season 3, episode 4 — Lion in the Meadow.” It is another valuable lesson and one Roman won’t forget. 

My hunch is that you’re going to get f***ed because I have seen you get fucked a lot, and I have never seen Logan get f***ed once

Tom Wambsgans

Logan’s backup plan involves his ex-wife, showing that there is zero loyalty in this family. They are aghast about how Logan found out about the coup club. This is when Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) reveals who he gave his get-out-of-jail-free card to. 

Earlier this season (season 3, ep 6) Tom told Kendall “My hunch is that you’re going to get f***ed because I have seen you get fucked a lot, and I have never seen Logan get f***ed once.” This turned out to be a shrewd observation. Shiv has treated her husband as an afterthought for far too long and it has come back to bite her in the biggest way. The players have shifted places, the game continues and Logan Roy always wins.