There’s a third reading of Roman Roy in the finale, though, which is that he was the real winner all along. What looks at first like a man defeated is, on closer inspection, one who has reached the nirvana of acceptance. In the moments before the siblings’ warped-but-touching “meal for a King” scene when they’re debating for the zillionth time who should be anointed CEO, Kendall calls it, asking: “Do you even really want it, man?” Roman’s silence speaks so loudly, even his brother can hear it. He can’t say the word, but they all know the answer.
After the vote and the climatic implosion in the meeting room, when Shiv reveals she has changed her mind and Kendall screams “But I am the eldest boy!” at her (who sounds like a child now?), the brothers wrestle to the ground then sit apart panting. Roman then goes on what is probably the least articulate, but most honest and insightful, rant in Succession’s history: “Stop it,” he tells Kendall. “We are bullshit. You are bullshit. I am bullshit. We’re nothing. I know this.”
Unlike Kendall, Roman has come to understand what their father told them the last time they were together: They are not serious people. The final shot of Roman shows him ordering a martini and savoring it alongside the taste of something else—freedom, perhaps, not just financial (does that even still occur to any of them?) but from the burden of pretending to be and want something he does not. In psychology, this state is sometimes called “individuation,” when a person matures beyond their persona and the identities of others (often, family) that are holding them back and becomes a fully realized human with a clear sense of their place in the world. You can’t really get there without processing your past. Roman’s little boy T-shirt, then, was symbolic of him confronting his childhood and becoming at peace with it, undertaking the painful growth required to approach something like happiness.
Either that, or he just stole it from the pool boy.
This story originally ran on British GQ with the title “Reading slightly too much into Roman Roy’s Walmart t-shirt”