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“If I Was a Man, Then I’d Be the Man”: Why I Still Love Shiv Roy

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

Content Warning: This article contains spoilers for the HBO show Succession.

HBO’s Succession may have ended in May of 2023, but I still love Shiv Roy. Daughter of media giant Logan Roy (Brian Cox), wife to Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), and sister to Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), and Roman (Kieran Culkin), she is constantly in competition for a seat at the table, despite her overt nepotism, because she’s a woman. It’s no secret that the show is male-dominated; many of the other female characters are side characters, like general council member Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron), head of public relations Karolina Novotney (Dagmara Domińczyk), and Connor’s wife, Willa Ferreya (Justine Lupe). Following the recent awards season success of Sarah Snook, who grabbed the character of Shiv Roy by the horns, I’m going to share why her performance was so award-worthy, and how she has managed to be the least problematic child of the Roy family. I am in no way, shape, or form defending the actions of these characters, as they are all extraordinarily flawed and made mistakes of great measure throughout the series, including, but not limited to, infidelity, fraud, betrayal, and murder. 

When someone asks who my favorite Succession character is, I say Shiv. And I lie. It’s Roman, but I’ve always felt more connected to Shiv than any other character. As a feminist, I feel as though I owe it to her to side with her. My older sister, who introduced me to the show, claimed that they’re all messed up in one way or another, but she “will always defend Shiv.” Through Snook’s captivating performance, which won her an Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama Series as well as two Golden Globes, her experiences as a member of this powerful family that tries to silence her and undermine her authority make her the complex female character that she is. Yes, she’s had a few missteps along the way; we see throughout all four seasons that she’s not exactly a “girl’s girl.” But can you blame her?

While Connor is the known oldest and Kendall is the self-proclaimed “eldest boy,” it is theorized that Shiv is the youngest of them, despite Roman’s childlike demeanor. Even though the show does not reveal the siblings’ ages, HBO released a Roy family tree video (narrated by Brian Cox) and indicates Shiv is the youngest. In the show, Logan frequently refers to his daughter as “Pinky,” possibly referencing the fourth and final finger on his hand. When he grasps onto something, he is able to rule with an iron fist and his children at his command. As the youngest child, she’s already at a disadvantage to her brothers, who will always be older than her. Growing into womanhood as a child of divorce, under a mother who believes she should’ve never had children and an emotionally abusive father, she strives for accomplishment that promises the most favorable outcome for both herself, her family, and the company. Despite her efforts to achieve what she thinks is best for Waystar, she is overshadowed and constantly silenced by her brothers, father, and husband. With their marriage on the rocks, the gut-wrenching fight on the balcony in season four explains why Shiv and Tom were doomed from the start, for better or worse. He states, “I have given you endless approval, and it doesn’t fill you up because you are broken,” while dramatically miming snapping something as brittle as their relationship in half. 

In episode seven of season four, Tom gifts Shiv a scorpion encased in resin, a direct reflection of where she stands in power. A scorpion, capable of stinging with the intention to kill, forever trapped in the hands of her betrothed,  the man gifting it to her as what he believes is a joke. It’s symbolic of how Shiv will never escape her family, and how caught up she has become in the fight for CEO, now on display for all to see, and protected by those she tried so desperately to disassociate from. But at the end of the day, she is her father’s daughter, and bears his name, too. Regardless of her marital status, she is still a Roy, not a Wambsgans. And here is her husband, with a name so foolish it’s almost uncomfortable coming out of your mouth, staring at the tip of the iceberg. “I love you, but you kill me, and I kill you,” he states as he hands her the scorpion. His wife is cold and killer, with so much going on beneath the surface, and he is the Titanic. From the first episode when we meet Tom, he is seen as an extension of Shiv. He’s the guy trying to marry into one of the most powerful families in America, with not much to his name. As he rises in ranks through Waystar and his connections with Logan, taking sidekick Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) with him, it turns out it was all worth it. Tom becomes the top dog after dodging prison, covering up fraud, and essentially outrunning his in-laws. Having lost essentially everything Shiv was working towards after the company was sold to Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), as well as Tom taking over as CEO, their dynamic as a married couple has shifted. She is now the extension of him, forever cursed as the wife of the CEO, instead of owning the title herself. 

Shiv was always the catalyst of the conversation when it came to how the title of CEO can destroy a person, yet she still wanted it so badly because she’d been coming up short of her brothers her whole life. This is why fans may find themselves turning away from Shiv: her hypocrisy. However, she couldn’t step back and see the bigger picture when she flew too close to the sun. It was never going to be Shiv. During her father’s eulogy, she claims, “But it was hard to be his daughter…He was hard on women. He couldn’t fit a whole woman in his head.” Maybe Logan had always known he would never bestow the power upon one of his children and messed with them their whole lives because that’s the kind of person he was, but even if he had, it’s hard to conclude he would’ve picked Shiv despite promising her the title in season two. He also promised it to Kendall when he was seven. This sheds light on her resiliency as a woman in an industry constantly dominated by men.

I feel the worst for Shiv regarding her pregnancy at the end of season four. At first, she keeps it a secret; something only she gets to know for once. After Tom exclaims that she is broken, he continues on to say, “I think you are incapable of love. And I think you are maybe not a good person to have children,” all while Shiv lets it wound her, silently, while carrying his child. When she does reveal this to him, he questions if she is being serious or pulling a strategic move on him, because he knows he is so easily manipulated by her. I can’t imagine what that must feel like from either perspective. No one congratulates Shiv on her pregnancy, and her announcement gets swept under the rug, like many of her past professional accomplishments. These experiences of neglect and avoidance are not new for her or her siblings. Connor anguishes the audience with this statement that just about sums up the Roy family experience: “The good thing about having a family that doesn’t love you is you learn to live without it.”

Shiv’s damaged relationship with her mother is reflected in her choices at this stage in her life. Her mother, Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter), divorced from Logan, claims that she “has never won a battle in her whole life,” and should have had dogs instead of children. Like her daughter, she’s been cursed to be the estranged wife to the Waystar CEO. Dancing with the idea of divorce, Shiv and Tom ultimately stay together. We see the final shot of them after four seasons, side by side in the car, leaving Waystar after signing with Mattson. Silently, he extends his hand to her as if to say, “I’m sorry.” Reluctantly, she takes his hand, succumbing to her fate.

Ultimately, I could argue that Tom was the best pick for CEO, but it doesn’t change the fact that it hurt Shiv the most personally. I consider Succession to be one of the greatest shows of all time, with “Connor’s Wedding” and “With Open Eyes” being some of the best television episodes in history. Shiv Roy will always be a favorite character of mine. Sarah Snook, you will always be famous to me.

Ella Rodriguez is a member of Her Campus at Pace University in New York City. She enjoys writing about different elements of the world of entertainment, specifically music and movies. She looks forward to working and collaborating with the members of Her Campus at Pace! Ella is a Freshman this year and studying Communications and Media Studies. She is originally from Worcester, Massachusetts. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hanging out with friends, and watching movies. Her favorites include La La Land, Little Women (2019), Bohemian Rhapsody, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. If you find her with her on campus, she's probably on her way to Bagel Market with her Her Campus besties, Cassidy and Sierra. Ella is also an avid enjoyer of tap dance after competing in dance competitions for 12 years. She is excited to live in and explore the city for the next few years and grow as a writer!