Shiv’s Ozymandias invocation works on multiple levels. In one fell swoop she has referenced a powerful Egyptian pharaoh, a classic Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, and maybe even an all-time great episode of television. Allow us to explain all of the connections.

First of all: the pharaoh. Ozymandias is the Greek name for the Egyptian ruler Ramesses II or Ramesses the Great. Ramesses II is remembered for being the most powerful ruler of ancient Egypt’s most powerful period. But perhaps even more than that, Rameses/Ozymandias is now remembered for an incredible poem that bears his name.

You can read Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandians” in its entirety here but the general gist of it is the following. The poem’s narrator recounts meeting a “traveller from an antique land.” That traveller regales him with the details of a ruined statue he came across. The statue is that of Ozymandias. Though the structure once clearly once beautiful and imposing, it now lies wrecked and fractured in endless sand. The inscription on the statue reads “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; / Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” But, of course, the works that Ozymandias has commanded the traveler to look upon is nothing but empty desert.

The lesson here is that things fall apart. Nothing lasts. Time claims all – even the most productive reigns of powerful kingdoms that feel like they’ll never end. If it can happen to Ozymandias then it can certainly happen to Logan Roy. And that’s what Shiv is ultimately commenting on. Sure, Logan’s empire is in a relatively stable state for now but does it even matter if Logan isn’t around to see it? One day, Logan’s opulent sepulcher will overlook the ruins of Waystar Royco and ATN just like Rameses II’s fallen empire.

If you weren’t able to tell already, this poem freaking rules. It goes hard, as the kids might say. In only 14 lines and 113 words, it captures the fragility of human excellence and the awe-inspiring destruction of time itself. It’s no surprise then that Shelley’s poem is a frequent reference point for many high-minded bits of popular culture. The most famous use of the poem, however, comes in the form of a Breaking Bad episode of the same name.

The third-to-last episode of Breaking Bad is titled “Ozymandias” and the moniker is more than fitting. We won’t go into full spoilers but suffice it to say, “Ozymandias” is the episode where it all falls apart for lead character Walter White (Bryan Cranston). While Shelley’s poem is almost impossibly epic and evocative, the Breaking Bad episode named after it improbably rises to the occasion to be every bit as devastating.


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