succession roman finale t-shirt


Roman Roy’s $14 Walmart T-shirt has a depressing symbolic meaning in the ‘Succession’ finale

His boyish outfits tie into the last few episodes' depiction of his childhood trauma.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on May 30, 2023   Updated on May 30, 2023, 10:47 am CDT

Frequently namechecked in trend pieces about “quiet luxury” and “stealth wealth,” Succession is full of wildly expensive fashion choices that nevertheless look kind of… dull. Yet in a setting dominated by bland businesswear, each of the Roy siblings still display their own distinctive sense of style, from Roman’s skin-tight tailoring to Shiv’s beige color palette to the way Kendall flipflops between conservative suits and slightly-too-cool casualwear.

This made Roman’s main costume in the finale particularly interesting, because at first glance it seems noticeably out-of-character.

After being beaten by protesters following his father’s funeral, Roman retreats to his mother’s Barbados beach house to lick his wounds, donning a pair of peach-colored shorts, a blue T-shirt with green and yellow accents, and a couple of beaded bracelets.

A Succession fan account quickly identified the shirt as a Walmart product retailing in the boys’ section for $13.96. It’s reportedly sold out already, as people plan ahead for their Depressed Roman Roy Halloween costumes.

The cheapness of this item is notable in itself, but on a purely visual level, it sends a more impactful message. It is, in a word, childish. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Roman is wearing an outfit from his own teen years.

Flying to his mother’s beach house in the midst of an emotional breakdown, we can envision him arriving with just the clothes on his back: a bloodstained funeral suit. So his mother digs out some old clothes he left behind more than a decade ago.

Played by 40-year-old Kieran Culkin, Roman is meant to be somewhere in his mid-thirties, and this costume screams “teenage boy in the 2000s.” The most interesting detail may actually be the bracelets. On its own, the T-shirt and shorts are a fairly unremarkable outfit put together from what was available. But those bracelets are a look. There’s a real sense of intention behind choosing an accessory that neither fits his typically razor-sharp style, nor expresses any obvious sign of wealth. They feel like they belong to an earlier era of Roman Roy.

(We’ve seen him wear at least one more subtle and chic bracelet in the past, but this is a lot closer to Kieran Culkin’s IRL habit of wearing a ton of beaded jewelry at once.)

In Body Image

In turn, this costume overlaps with how these last few episodes have excavated Roman’s childhood trauma. Shaped by his father’s emotional and physical abuse, Roman has a masochistic attraction to violence and cruelty—hence why he’s so compelled by Mencken, and why he provoked those protesters to attack him last week. He’s hypersexual yet impotent, compulsively making sleazy jokes and sexually harassing women, ultimately sabotaging his flirtatious allegiance with Gerri. In the finale, he freaks out at the mere act of seeing her at a distance.

Roman is also the most immature of the Roy siblings. And over the last few episodes, his father’s death triggered a breakdown that he largely navigates alone because everyone else is focusing on the Gojo deal.

By visiting his mother and donning a childhood outfit, Roman may well be recreating old behavior, when he’d flee his father’s abuse and retreat to a place of safety. The problem is, while Caroline is nominally looking after Roman, she isn’t very good at it. She was always a distant parent, and when she asks her other children to visit, it’s with the dual intention of having them deal with Roman… and listen to a scammy business pitch from one of her husband’s associates.

Earlier episodes hinted that Kendall sometimes shielded Roman from Logan’s abuse, but that era of their relationship is over. In addition to the Roy siblings’ inability to give each other real emotional support, Kendall is growing more and more like his father by the day—most explicitly when he assaults Roman near the end of the episode.

Throughout the show, we see glimpses of how the Roy kids could potentially escape their father’s toxic legacy. In theory, they could just walk away and enjoy a life of leisure. But that can never happen because they all crave power and paternal approval, even after Logan’s death. Kendall in particular never stood a chance. His only two plausible routes were to “succeed” by becoming his father, or fail and experience total ego death. (You could argue that he ends up doing both.)

The finale hints at how Roman’s regression to childhood might have led to… well, not a happy ending, but maybe a different one. But then his siblings arrive in Barbados, and after some characteristic infighting, they emerge as a united front to battle Lucas Mattson over the GoJo deal. Roman changes out of his retro-2000s teen boy casualwear into a tight, black business outfit; a sleek aesthetic that offers a very thin shell over his emotional turmoil.

After the past few days of grief and stress, Roman can no longer summon his typical brash persona. Instead, he winds up crying as his brother literally digs into one of his open wounds, and when the time comes for him to sign away his father’s company, he has to be dragged in front of the cameras. If you’re an optimist, you might say he now has a chance to be free. But what does that look like? He can’t just magically erase his lifelong desire to impress his father. He’s lost his confident facade. And between his toxic relationship with Kendall, Caroline’s distant parenting, and Shiv’s continuing attachment to Royco, there’s nowhere Roman can seek comfort by behaving like a child.

We crawl the web so you don’t have to.
Sign up for the Daily Dot newsletter to get the best and worst of the internet in your inbox every day.
Share this article
*First Published: May 30, 2023, 10:15 am CDT