‘Succession’ and the humiliation of Shiv Roy

Succession season three has not been a pleasant one for Shiv Roy. She’s been slowly sidelined and often torn down through eight episodes of familial maltreatment so far. But Shiv (played to perfection by Sarah Snook) hasn’t always been the family’s exquisitely suited punching bag. Originally a Waystar outsider before rising to corporate powerplayer, she was at one point ready to take over from her dad Logan as CEO. So what happened?

To chart her course, we must go back to season one. “Shiv ‘Fucking’ Roy” – as she confidently referred to herself – appeared the smartest of her siblings. A political strategist and media pundit, Shiv was cocky and cutthroat but still had some semblance of a moral compass. She was never as desperate for her father’s approval as the others.

In the show’s second season, Shiv changed. Persuaded into the family business by Logan, who dangled the top job, she was seduced by the promise of power. This was a chance to lord it over the boy’s club and her bros. In the end though, Logan took back his offer, pitting Shiv against Kendall and Roman once more.

Now, in season three, she’s fully integrated into the corporate structure. Crowned President of Domestic Operations in episode two, Shiv has been happily doing daddy’s dirty work to help cover up horrific accusations of of systemic sexual abuse. She is presented as the sensible, untarnished new face of Waystar – and Logan’s convenient favourite (“his only daughter”).

Encouraged by this, Shiv came into work head held high, with her girlboss power suits and straightened bob – and was promptly torn to shreds. In her big public debut, Kendall blasted Nirvana’s ‘Rape Me’ – in reference to the ongoing scandal – over loudspeaker as she tried to deliver her first official speech. It was a global, livestreamed humiliation. Even Connor, the First Pancake of the Family, went over her head when he didn’t get what he wanted, batting her authority off with an “I just don’t wanna deal with you”. Later, Logan mocked her, telling his assistant to “give her a medal” when she made a company-saving deal. Elsewhere, Roman refused to explain the details of an important negotiation to her.

Of course, Shiv’s abasement cannot be separated from her femaleness. The only daughter, and the only Roy kid who was not raised to work at Waystar, she is reprimanded when she fails – as well as when she succeeds. Shiv’s belittling often happens in front of her, to really remind her of her place. We’re not expected to sympathise with Shiv – she’s as unlikeable as the rest of the Roys – but the attacks she faces are designed to strip her of the very qualities that made her stand out from her brothers.

While the men of Succession are allowed to fail upwards – Roman becomes COO despite a botched space launch, Kendall co-COO after his attempted takeover and Cousin Greg, inexplicably, keeps on rising up the ranks – Shiv’s denigration feels more permanent. Everyone – even Connor – knows that her new position is a joke. Yet it’s taken Shiv almost the entire third season to realise she was set up to lose by her dad who, in true Logan fashion, is letting everyone around him chip away at her on his behalf. She does what he asks of her, and gets shut down, told she’s “another toothache”.

As we approach this week’s finale, the haughty, cocksure Shiv has been replaced with a needy, posturing try-hard. All this season, Shiv has been pretending that she’s important to Waystar but the truth is the opposite. Shiv can’t regain any power there because she never had any to begin with. She was never going to be CEO, Logan knew this from the start. She’s never going to be able to muscle her way to the top like Roman has. And her attempts to draw a moral line – by not supporting an openly fascist Presidential candidate or spying on Kendall’s children – push her even further away from Royco’s inner power circle. Is there any way back for Shiv ‘Fucking’ Roy? We’ll have to wait and see.

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