How ‘Succession’ Director Mark Mylod Captured the Most Important Scene of the Series

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It was the boardroom scene to end all boardroom scenes. In the series finale of HBO’s Succession, Roman (Kieran Culkin), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) chew each other to pieces in a literal knock-down, drag-out fight which spells the end of the Roy family empire as well as the Roy siblings.

“The whole structure of the series is the cruelty of hope, isn’t it?” says frequent Succession director Mark Mylod, who helmed the finale and three other episodes this season. “When I’m reading it, even though I know where it’s going, I’m still thinking, Oh, actually, they could be happy. There is a life where they can escape the gravitational pull of Waystar and actually live free and independent lives and have healthy Relationships. Of course, all of which is totally futile.”

To capture this futility, Mylod and Succession cinematographer Patrick Capone leaned into the voyeurism of the Roy siblings’ final showdown, captured through the glass walls of a boardroom. After Shiv hurriedly exits the boardroom with the final vote for control of Waystar Royco still hanging in the balance, the three siblings convene to hash out whether she should vote for Kendall to take over as CEO or sell the company to Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). Their conversation quickly devolves into a wrestling match between Roman and “eldest boy” Kendall, as Shiv ultimately decides to sell the company to Matsson rather than let Kendall take over as CEO.

“We wanted to use the reflections and the glass bowl within the glass bowl within the glass building,” says Capone. The result is the Roy children on full display, putting on a show of their worst qualities and deepest insecurities in front of both board members and their employees. “With camera placement and the actors blocking, we were able to make their fight kind of on a little bit of a stage where the board members can see it and yet they can’t hear it,” continues Capone. “Only we can hear it until it really gets vocal toward the end.”

“It was probably the most important scene of the entire series,” says Mylod. “It’s hard [for the actors] to wake up in the morning and think, This is what we’re going to explore today. There’s a dread that goes with that and a fear, but also, coming home from work after those days, a sense of almost elation when one has a feeling that we’ve captured the essence and the intention of the writing and the intensity of it and done it justice, hopefully.”

Both Mylod and Capone tried not to get in the way of the action that unspools, letting it unfold as naturally as possible. “That’s the beauty of our style,” says Capone, “It’s just so subjective and the camera has the ability to really point the audience where we feel they should go to get what’s being told, like a fly on the wall.”

THE SCRIPT

Mylod reacted with “wonder and awe” when he finally received the script for the series finale which lays waste to the Roy siblings. “The actual final scripts come in very late and then there’s a number of drafts that come in,” Mylod says. “So it’s not like, bam, there’s your script and go.”

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