"All the Bells Say"
Succession episode
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 9
Directed byMark Mylod
Written byJesse Armstrong
Original air dateDecember 12, 2021
Running time66 minutes
Guest appearances
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"All the Bells Say" is the ninth and final episode of the third season of the HBO satirical comedy-drama television series Succession, and the 29th overall. It was written by series creator Jesse Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod, and aired on December 12, 2021.

Set in Tuscany during Caroline's wedding, the episode follows the Roy children grappling with their futures amidst Logan's negotiations with GoJo, which stand to determine the fate of Waystar RoyCo.

With four Primetime Emmy Award nominations at the 74th ceremony, including Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, "All the Bells Say" is the most nominated episode of the third season.

Plot

Kendall is nursed back to his health after nearly drowning in his pool, having been discovered by Comfry. Gerri reports that GoJo's market capitalization has exceeded Waystar's, resulting from heavy fines from the Department of Justice. Logan and Roman travel to Lukas Matsson's Lake Como villa to meet with him in person; Matsson proposes that GoJo buy out Waystar with him as CEO – giving Matsson the power to choose a new board – while Logan exits with a settlement along with continued control of key assets. Logan stays to negotiate further while sending Roman back to Tuscany to attend his mother's wedding.

In Tuscany, Roman, Shiv and Connor sit down with Kendall to assess his mental state, believing him to have attempted suicide, but Kendall dismisses their intervention, insisting that his near-drowning was a drunken accident. Upon learning of Logan's merger plans with GoJo – which could jeopardize his presidential campaign – and hearing Kendall refer to himself as Logan's "eldest son," Connor lashes out at his siblings for the consistent disregard they have shown him, but regains his spirits when Willa agrees to marry him. Karl and Frank arrive in Italy to aid Logan in dealmaking procedures. Greg romantically pursues an Italian contessa Roman has brought along as a wedding date, learning she has blood ties to the monarchy of Luxembourg.

During the wedding reception, Roman – noticing odd behavior from Gerri, Kerry and others amid apparent concerns over the GoJo deal – reveals Matsson's buyout proposal to an irate Shiv. The two inform Kendall, realizing that giving Matsson control of the company's board severely endangers their prospects of ever taking over as CEO. Kendall, overwhelmed, breaks down in tears over his failure as both a father to his children and as a whistleblower against the company, and finally admits his involvement in the waiter's death at Shiv's wedding. Shiv and Roman comfort him, and Roman suggests that Kendall does not deserve to be fully blamed for the accident.

The three siblings recall a clause in Logan and Caroline's divorce agreement granting the children a vote over any change in company control, and decide to band together as an opposing majority against Logan. On the road, Shiv relays their plans to Tom, who realizes that Shiv has not considered where he will fall under this alliance. Tom vaguely asks Greg for a pledge of loyalty amidst the upcoming changes at Waystar and promises to bring him into the upper echelons of the company. Greg, reluctant at first, happily accepts.

The children arrive at Logan's villa to confront their father. The three hold firm against Logan's attempts to divide them; Logan argues that the siblings losing company control will be a teachable moment for them, and reacts with contempt when Shiv attempts to invoke the supermajority clause. He puts Caroline on the phone, revealing the two renegotiated their divorce agreement to deprive the children of their voting power, effectively leaving them powerless within the company. Roman despondently begs his father to reconsider, but Logan declares that the deal is settled because it ultimately works in his own favor. Roman then pleads with Gerri to oppose Logan and help the siblings remove him but she declines, declaring the buyout to be in her best interest financially. Tom arrives and receives a warm greeting from Logan, leading Shiv to realize it was he who informed Logan of the children's revolt.

Production

"All the Bells Say" was written by Succession creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod in his twelfth episode for the series. Like the previous two season finales, the episode's title derives from a line in John Berryman's "Dream Song 29".[1]

Writing

Mylod characterized the episode's climax – which sees Kendall, Roman and Shiv take a stand against Logan – as a bookend to the "chaos at the end of episode two" (which sees the Roy siblings disbanded), stating, "the siblings, however damaged, found their way back together for the first time [...] since their teenage years, I think." Armstrong described Roman's decision to stand up to his father in the episode as a progression from his refusal to do so in the episode "Which Side Are You On?" from the first season. He remarked, "Some people would see growth... I'm on the fence about human beings, and people certainly change what they do, but in my view, people's essential selves don't change. In a way that's what makes drama and choices interesting."[2]

Brian Lowry of CNN compared Logan's decision to sell the company to the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney, writing: "Although series creator Jesse Armstrong has stressed that Rupert Murdoch and his clan aren't the sole inspiration for the series, it's worth noting that Murdoch made his own stunning deal in 2019 to sell major assets to Disney, retaining control of others. Given that Matsson floated the possibility of leaving Logan a few key baubles, there's little to fear of him being idle in the seasons to come, however many that might be."[3] Armstrong himself cited AT&T's 2018 acquisition of HBO's parent company WarnerMedia – as well as the preceding AOL Time Warner merger of 2001 – as inspirations for the storyline, while also admitting to the Disney-Murdoch comparison.[4]

Filming

Villa Cetinale in Sovicille, Tuscany served as the venue for Caroline's wedding in the episode.
Villa Cetinale in Sovicille, Tuscany served as the venue for Caroline's wedding in the episode.

The series filmed on location in Italy from June to August 2021 for the final two episodes of the season, primarily in the Tuscan region of Val d'Orcia, as well as several surrounding comuni in the province of Siena. For the finale, Villa Cetinale in Sovicille was used as Caroline's wedding venue, while the four Roy siblings' "intervention" discussion at the beginning of the episode was filmed at the restaurant La Terrazza del Chiostro in Pienza. The winery Argiano in Montalcino stood in for Logan's villa where the episode's climactic showdown between Logan and his children takes place.[5][6][7] The crew shot several variations of the ending, including takes where Shiv does not notice Tom's betrayal.[8] Mylod recounted how the process of filming the scene was instrumental in determining the end of the season:

For a long time, I couldn't find the ending. And then we did a take where we gave Sarah's character time to process that moment. And when Tom walked over and said, "you okay?", despite that absolutely extraordinary betrayal, [Shiv] put a game face on and said "yep." (...) It was such a perfect kind of Succession moment. That she would still somehow find the strength to put that Teflon coat on and be in denial of that pain was so powerful to me, that I knew we had the end of the season.

Actor Brian Cox recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that several scenes were cut from the episode due to time constraints, including "a brilliant scene with Peter Friedman [who plays Frank Vernon] where he tells Roman what's what" during the episode's final sequence. He remarked, "I think they could have gone to an hour and a half with that [episode], but they had to edit it. And they might have even got a 10th episode, I don't know. There was certainly a lot of material that we sadly lost."[9]

Reception

Ratings

Upon airing, the episode was watched by 0.634 million viewers, with an 18-49 rating of 0.13.[10] Including viewership across all platforms, the episode received 1.7 million viewers.[11]

Critical reception

The performances of (top, L to R) Jeremy Strong, Brian Cox, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin were widely praised by critics.

"All the Bells Say" was universally acclaimed by critics, who praised the episode's script, dramatic tension, performances (particularly Jeremy Strong's), and conclusion to the season's narrative. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the episode has an approval rating of 100% with an average score of 9.80 out of 10, based on 14 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads: "All the Bells Say" wraps up Succession's third season with a brilliantly written, powerfully acted bang – and leaves fans on the edge of their seats waiting for Season Four.[12]

Ashley Ray-Harris of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A, stating that it "feature[d] Emmy-worthy moments for Jeremy Strong, Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook". She also praised Mark Mylod's direction, suggesting that the episode was the series' "most beautiful" to date, and called the episode's climax a "masterclass".[13] Noel Murray of The New York Times felt the episode gained much of its quality from depicting the Roy siblings "in the same space, talking out their problems in person". He wrote that "the energy crackles among these actors, as their characters swing between being playfully mean and unforgivably cruel". Murray also praised Cox's "terrific" performance throughout the episode, particularly in the scene where he negotiates with Matsson.[14] Ben Travers of IndieWire particularly praised the episode's twist involving Tom – feeling it a satisfying culmination of his character arc throughout the season – and likened Kendall's confession scene to "watching the three parts of Succession negotiate for space". He gave the episode an A.[1]

Several critics singled out Strong's performance for praise, specifically during the scene where Kendall confesses his role in the fatal car accident from the first season to his siblings. Giving the episode 5 out of 5 stars, Scott Tobias of Vulture wrote of Strong's performance in the confession scene: "It all comes out in a torrent of raw emotion, courtesy of a serious actor who does not believe himself to be the star of a comedy." He also highlighted the episode's ending, calling it "as gripping a sequence of events as the show has ever staged". He declared the episode overall a "masterfully orchestrated finale".[15] Jen Chaney, also writing for Vulture, called the episode "fantastically tense" and reserved similar praise for Strong, writing: "His performance here just punches you right in the heart."[16] Emily Yahr of The Washington Post also advocated for Strong to win an Emmy Award for his performance in the episode.[17]

Other critics focused on how the episode excelled despite being emblematic of the third season's repetitive structure. Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic, who had previously criticized the first seven episodes of the season for feeling "stuck" in the same character dynamics,[18] declared that the finale was "both brilliant television and a patchwork of things the show has already done". She wrote: "The show's cyclical nature feels, at this point, like a kind of nihilist acceptance: Late capitalism will always insulate the extraordinarily privileged from real consequences, and so the best we can do is voyeuristically enjoy their misery along the way. But with acting like this, does it matter?"[19] Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone wrote that despite the season ending "with a minor variation on an old theme," the episode "was everything Succession does well — much of it done better than the series ever has before". Sepinwall highlighted the episode's balance of comedy and drama, describing the first half as "one delightful comic vignette after another" and praising Nicholas Braun's "sparkling" line delivery, while calling attention to Culkin and Snook's performances opposite Strong during Kendall's confession scene.[20] Travers wrote: "Therein lies the beauty of Succession Season 3: For all the complaints about it being repetitive... its emotional arcs are incredibly precise, pointed, and harrowing."[1]

Accolades

At the 74th Directors Guild of America Awards, Mark Mylod won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series for his work on the episode.[21]

Furthermore, at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, Matthew Macfadyen won the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and Jesse Armstrong won Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for the episode. "All the Bells Say" also received nominations Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for Alexander Skarsgård's performance, and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series. Brian Cox submitted this episode to support his Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series nomination.

References

  1. ^ a b c Travers, Ben (December 13, 2021). "'Succession' Review: Episode 9 Upends Expectations in a Finale That Crowns a 'Winner' — Spoilers".
  2. ^ a b "Succession: Season 3 | Controlling The Narrative: The Alliance | HBO" – via YouTube.
  3. ^ Lowry, Brian. "'Succession' saves the best for last with its riveting season 3 finale". CNN.
  4. ^ "'Succession' Creator Jesse Armstrong on the Explosive Season 3 Finale: Tom's Betrayal, Kendall's Confession and More". 13 December 2021.
  5. ^ Harris, Hunter (August 20, 2021). "HBO's 'Succession': On Location With the Cast in Italy". Vulture. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  6. ^ Mead, Rebecca (August 23, 2021). "The Real C.E.O. of "Succession"". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  7. ^ Medd, James (September 17, 2021). "Where was Succession filmed?". CN Traveller. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  8. ^ Harris, Hunter (December 13, 2021). "The Succession Cast Processes the Astonishing Season-Three Finale". Vulture.
  9. ^ Kilkenny, Katie (December 13, 2021). "Brian Cox Talks 'Succession' Season 3 Finale Twist and How the Show Stays Unpredictable". The Hollywood Reporter.
  10. ^ Metcalf, Mitch (December 14, 2021). "ShowBuzzDaily's Sunday 12.12.2021 Top 150 Cable Originals & Network Finals Updated". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  11. ^ Schneider, Michael (December 13, 2021). "'Succession' Season 3 Finale Has Attracted the Series' Highest Viewership Yet, According to HBO". Variety.
  12. ^ "All the Bells Say". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  13. ^ Ray-Harris, Ashley (December 13, 2021). "Everything comes together in Succession's excellent season 3 finale". The A.V. Club.
  14. ^ Murray, Noel (December 13, 2021). "'Succession' Season Finale Recap: Do Not Pass Go". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Tobias, Scott (December 13, 2021). "Succession Season-Finale Recap: Killer Instinct". Vulture.
  16. ^ Chaney, Jen (December 13, 2021). "Succession Finally Gave Kendall What He's Been Wanting". Vulture.
  17. ^ Yahr, Emily (December 13, 2021). "'Succession' Season 3 finale: The 5 most shocking moments from a much-anticipated episode". The Washington Post.
  18. ^ Gilbert, Sophie (October 15, 2021). "The Best Show on TV Is Stuck". The Atlantic.
  19. ^ Gilbert, Sophie (December 13, 2021). "A Perfect—And Cyclical—Succession Finale". The Atlantic.
  20. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (December 13, 2021). "'Succession' Season 3 Finale Recap: The Verdict Is Love, Your Honor". Rolling Stone.
  21. ^ Hill, Libby (March 13, 2022). "DGA Awards for TV Settle the 'Succession' Direction Question". IndieWire. Retrieved May 1, 2022.