Middle children are often caught between the responsible older siblings and the reckless younger ones, and are forced to prove themselves in the eyes of their parents. It wasn’t much different for Siobhan Roy (Sarah Snook), the middle daughter of media mogul Logan Roy, and she had to prove that she was capable of standing her ground in a man’s world in HBO’s “Succession.” Even though her character arc began as a very welcome change from the patriarchal hegemony, Siobhan became just as corrupt as her father and the other male members of her family. What’s more, she’s a massive narcissist and feeds on the affections of other people with very little regard for their feelings. This makes Siobhan one of the most polarizing characters in the series because of her selfish and corrupt nature. Here’s a detailed look into how the bright, democratic feminist Siobhan became a narcissistic and corrupted megalomaniac in “Succession.”
The Initial Flaws
In a world where the men make the decisions and hold the scepter that wields all the power, women are often considered an afterthought with little to no significance—such is the crushing nature of patriarchy. A family of billionaires in the world of men, where the head of the family created one of the biggest media empires in the globe and the eldest child is a man who hopes to inherit his father’s company, has slim chances for the daughter to make a name for herself. Nothing is handed to anyone in this cutthroat world where fathers weaponize their children’s love towards them, and siblings look for ways to eliminate the competition from their own families. However, Siobhan, the daughter of media mogul Logan Roy, is perhaps the closest to her father’s nature when it comes to forcing one’s authority on someone below their position. Siobhan, aka Shiv, spends most of “Succession” Season 1 presenting herself as the antithesis of the rest of her corrupted family members, as she has little interest in becoming a part of the Waystar Royco.
Shiv becomes a political advisor for Senator Gil Eavis, who’s a direct rival of her father, and her left-leaning ideals, where she hopes to bring change to the patriarchal world, present her as the kind of character people would like to root for. At the same time, she accepts her boyfriend Tom Wambsgans’ proposal for marriage, but curiously, she chooses to have a sexual escapade with her ex-boyfriend Nate because of her paper-thin logic that she greenlit Tom to follow his heart as well. In the “Succession” Season 1 finale, on their wedding night, Shiv tells Tom that she wants to have an open marriage and that monogamy isn’t really her thing. It feels cruel that she waited till Tom was her legally wedded husband to force her wishes upon him, and he had little to no choice but to accept her veiled demands. Shiv takes immense pride in who she is and in her family name, which she thinks gives her the right to bulldoze through other people’s wishes, with her husband being the first victim of this. This behavior only worsens as the seasons progress, finally portraying Shiv as a narcissist who doesn’t understand anything beyond her own interests.
The Avaricious Daughter
Although Shiv had maintained the stance that she wanted nothing to do with her father’s company, Logan—ever the shrewd businessman—entices her with the promise of making her the CEO of his company, and that’s all Shiv needs to let go of the façade she was wearing. The middle child immediately envisions herself as the next big thing for Waystar Royco and becomes increasingly obnoxious, the effects of which aren’t lost on her husband. She quickly brings Tom under her thumb with the promise of making him the head of ATN, a prestigious news company owned by her dad’s company. When Tom becomes excited about the possibilities that the new position might bring him, Shiv gradually stops reacting to him and tunes him out, as he has served his purpose. Meanwhile, she makes an offensive comment about a person who shook Sen. Eavis’s hand and is fired from her position—a calculated move to ensure she can fully focus on making her dad fulfill the promise he made her. This comment, where she asks if Eavis would like Purell to shake hands with an ordinary man, paints her as starkly different from the left-leaning ‘woke’ activist who was seen as the only saving grace of the Roy family. She quickly proves how fast the promise of power can corrupt someone and how they’ll let go of their basic morals if it means helping them advance their career.
Siobhan sends Tom to Hungary along with the rest of the Roy family on an errand of her own while she engages in casual sex with an actor from Connor Roy’s partner Willa’s theater group. While Tom is treated as subhuman by his cruel father-in-law, who makes Tom act like a boar grunting for sausage on the floor as part of his twisted Boar-on-the-Floor game, Shiv has little regard for how her husband is faring against her father, who’s been known to insult Tom before as well. Later, when Tom does confess to her how Logan has mistreated him, she barely takes into consideration the ill-treatment because her head is too full of dreams of becoming a CEO. Shiv is portrayed as the feminist icon, the voice of women in a company dominated mainly by white males like her father and brother, which is why she’s the first choice to talk to a potential whistleblower about all the crimes that happened on the Waystar cruises. However, when Shiv does go to meet the woman, who herself had been a victim of the wrongdoings, she manipulates the woman into not going public with her issues, telling her that the very people she’ll reveal the news to will destroy her peace. This is in no way directed at helping the woman find justice for the crimes she faced but an attempt to save her own position as CEO. Shiv appeals to the victim, saying she understands because she, too, is a woman, but in truth, she’s too far removed from the reality of common women to even grasp what ails the very women she claims to represent.
A Neglectful Partner
While constantly cutting corners to get rid of her competitors and trying to appease her father, Shiv completely neglects her husband, Tom, until it suits her and gives him just enough importance to make him stay infatuated with her. When she finds Tom talking to another woman, she later plays the scorned wife, saying she wanted to tell the woman that Tom is her man and she needs to back off, although she couldn’t care less what he did. Additionally, she’s a complete hypocrite because she indirectly asks Tom not to see other women, even though she’s suggested they’ve got an open marriage. Tom does say he’d have loved for Shiv to say that to the woman because he’s struggling for a little bit of emotional support from his wife and the slightest signal that she cares for him. On the familial side, when the three siblings go on stage to talk about the actions they’ll be taking in response to the allegations about the cruise mishaps, Shiv talks about “dinosaur culls,” which could refer to her father. However, when her father walks into the room, he doesn’t say anything to the one who made the comments and instead directs his anger toward his youngest son, Roman.
While Shiv doesn’t react to this, Tom is the one most surprised by the sudden violence because he can’t believe the family he has become a part of. When the family goes on a retreat on the family’s cruise ship, Tom finally reveals to his wife that he’s tired and in pain. All the hurt that Shiv had caused him and the pain her actions brought him made Tom wonder if he’d be happier if he wasn’t with her. He finally expresses his feelings of resentment over his wife’s decision to announce she wanted an open marriage on the night of their wedding and how she never made any attempt to help him. Tom was the family’s punching bag and the lightning rod that was made to absorb all the punishment that was hurled at him, but he expected at least his wife to stand by him, but she too chose to act aloof when everyone laid into him. Since that point, Tom has refused to show any affection or give any assurances to Shiv that he loves her. Denied the affection a narcissist like her survives on, she constantly badgers Tom, asking if he loves her or not.
The Cutthroat Businesswoman
Siobhan’s corruption reaches an ultimate high by “Succession” Season 3 when she pulls out all the stops in her pursuit to snatch what her father had promised at the beginning of Season 2. By this time, she’s willing to go to just about any extent to prove to her father that she’s capable of running Waystar Royco, even if it means destroying her siblings. She asks Connor and Roman to sign a letter in which she exposes Ken as a drug addict and a neglectful father with severe emotional issues, which would permanently destroy Ken’s reputation, but the two brothers refuse to participate in this mudslinging. Shiv seems to forget in her quest for power that Ken is her own brother, and defaming and destroying him doesn’t paint her family in any better light. She does the same again for Roman as well when his sexual desires for the interim CEO, Gerri Kellman, come out in the open. Shiv tries manipulating Gerri to take the matter to HR, thereby ensuring that Roman’s chances of securing a position as CEO are completely dashed. She presents herself as being concerned for Gerri, who might be facing sexual harassment at the workplace, but she’s actually just trying to get rid of completion—something that the elderly CEO doesn’t miss. It’s shameful how Shiv will do just about anything to secure her position, even though, in reality, she has zero experience in the real world and is hardly the manipulator she considers herself to be.
Logan declares Shiv to be the President of Waystar Royco, and she has an adulterated sense of power that makes her say or do things that really don’t help her image in any way. She tells the editor Mark Ravenhead to start posting rumors about the President of the USA, and when he threatens to go public for being strong-armed, she says her family doesn’t care about embarrassment. Drunk with power and having free rein to do whatever she pleases because she’s the daughter of the patriarch Logan Roy, Shiv becomes a loose cannon, something even her father notices. When it’s almost certain that someone has to be the fall guy yet again and be sent to prison, Tom is once again viewed as the easy target. Although he does offer himself up as the lamb for slaughter to his father-in-law, Tom is terrified of the prospect of having to spend at least a year in jail, and he wants some assurance from his wife that it’ll be alright, but Shiv is annoyed by his concerns. She’s irritated that the man who’ll be going to jail to protect her family is worried that his stay in prison won’t be enjoyable, to say the least, and pushes him away.
Before the hammer comes down on Tom and he’s sentenced, he wants to have a child with his wife, but she’s strictly opposed to the idea until her mother, Caroline, calls her out for being a horrible person and reminds her that Shiv would be a terrible mother, just like Caroline was. Shiv agrees to freeze their embryo just to prove her mother wrong, but she has no plans to get pregnant in the next 10 years, and she lords it over Tom, saying he should be thankful that she’s at least willing to have the conversation. Her true emotions about her husband come out when they finally decide to have a child, and she looks into Tom’s eyes and reveals her true feelings about him—how she’s way above his league, how he doesn’t deserve her, and how she doesn’t love him at all, even though he loves her. This breaks the poor man, who finally understands how his wife feels about him, and their shambolic marriage is all but over by then.
The Saving Grace
However, there are some parts about Shiv that show that she’s not too far gone, because she objects to Waystar backing the fascist Jeryd Mencken as the next US President because his victory will be a defeat for democracy. She also secures a deal with Sandi, the daughter of Logan’s rival Sandy Furness, that staves off the shareholder meeting that would most certainly kill Waystar. Shiv has to concede four board seats to ensure that their rivals stand down, and even though Logan doesn’t actually support the idea, he has no choice but to accept it. She also offers care and affection to Ken when he is at his most vulnerable in Season 3, Episode 10, as he admits that his actions have led to the death of a young waiter, and she stands by him as he weeps. From that point forward, the siblings unite against their father, but their attempts to veto her father’s plans are wrecked because the husband she used to treat like a meat puppet betrays their plans to Logan. He then proceeds to console Shiv, as she can’t believe how the manipulator has been manipulated to be utterly powerless while the punching bag has curried important favors from her father.
The Failed Marriage
When “Succession” Season 4 premiers, Shiv and Tom lie in the same bed as they discuss the terms of the divorce, and by this point, Tom has no misunderstandings about just who his wife is or how much of a narcissistic and selfish person Siobhan has been in their marriage. It breaks Tom’s heart, but he knows their marriage is over, and he can’t be with her anymore. It’s saddening how, in trying to be more like her father, Shiv became every bit as ruthless as Logan and ended up losing the one man who truly loved her.