Succession Finally Did It
Notes on a jaw-dropping development
This article contains spoilers through the third episode of Succession Season 4.
He is … not risen?
I think? For three-plus seasons, Logan Roy has ducked and weaved his way past near fatalities—a hemorrhagic stroke, multiple corporate coup attempts, a congressional investigation, a troublesome UTI, a collapse in the Hamptons—like a hirsute, cashmere-clad Road Runner. Hostile board meeting? Meep meep. Attempted patricidal veto under the Tuscan sun? Fuck off. You could be forgiven, after all this, for thinking him immortal. Which is why it was so unsettling to realize, as the Roy children did, via a phone call from Tom, that Logan’s revels might now finally have ended. That Logan actually was, despite all evidence to the contrary, human.
There was something perfect, too, about the way Logan’s end was presented, after so much time spent anticipating it: It happened off camera. As his three youngest children arrived in New York for Connor’s wedding, Logan boarded a plane for impromptu crisis negotiations with the tech mogul Lukas Matsson. Early in the episode, Logan had instructed his youngest son, Roman, to metaphorically knife Gerri, the interim CEO of the Roys’ company and Roman’s surrogate mother-lover, whom Logan had decided to arbitrarily fire. (“You two are … close,” as Logan brutally put it.) Just a few minutes later, he had collapsed on the floor of the airplane, his face not visible. Succession is always meticulous about blocking: In virtually any scene Logan is in, he’s the focal point, the black hole drawing everything else into his gravitational vortex. He doesn’t typically share space with other characters the way that, say, the Roy siblings do. Other people might be shot slightly askew, but Logan is usually right in the center of the frame. In his final moments, though, he was so diminished in status that we could see only fragments of the man: his chest as a flight attendant performed CPR, the side of his head as a phone was placed next to it for his children to say goodbye.
Whether or not the timing of this episode, airing on Easter Sunday, was intentional, the show’s seeming reluctance to concede that Logan was really dead was grimly funny—and more than a touch reminiscent of The Death of Stalin. The episode, matter-of-factly titled “Connor’s Wedding,” was indeed set at a wedding, usually a harbinger of doom on a series where love never goes unpunished and marriage is just one more contract that can ruin a person. But it also seemed only natural to expect Logan to gasp, clutch his chest, viciously shove away the woman working to save his life, and ream out his CFO, Karl, for drinking his whiskey. Instead, he just lay there, while his kids sparred among themselves over what was reasonable to deduce about their father’s condition. Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, and Sarah Snook were all extraordinary in these scenes of chaotic shock. Kendall veered back and forth between adult mode (“I can’t forgive you. But it’s okay, and I love you,” on the phone to his father) and heartbroken child (“Get the best heart doctor in the world, and the best airplane medical expert in the world … and I would like that in the next two minutes,” to his long-suffering assistant, Jess). Roman made himself uncharacteristically quiet and small. But Snook, in particular, was devastating: the pitch of Shiv’s voice shooting up an octave as she realized what was happening, the way her composure seemed to physically disassemble on-screen.
And Connor! The eldest of Logan’s children—first pancake, political laughingstock, collector of gruesome Napoleonic memorabilia, defender of Ebenezer Scrooge as an unappreciated “wealth creator”—hasn’t always been afforded the breadth of humanity that his younger siblings are intermittently allowed. But last week’s episode, “Rehearsal,” gave us the gift of seeing Connor’s naked, prickly, unwatered soul. Compared with the other Roy scions, “needy love sponges” all, Connor declared himself to be invulnerable, “a plant that grows on rocks and lives off insects that die inside of me.” At his wedding, which his father didn’t even plan to attend in person, we learn more about how Connor got to be this way: The wedding cake, a Victoria sponge, inadvertently triggered the groom because it was the only thing he ate after his mother was institutionalized at his father’s behest.
Knowing all this, there was something oddly touching about Connor’s fiancée, Willa, admitting to him that yes, the money and safety he represents to her are a substantial part of why she’s with him, but she’s also basically happy by his side. Their relationship is the only intimate partnership on Succession that’s actually strengthened over the course of the show, possibly because everyone’s expectations were so very low to begin with. (And, let’s face it, Willa has no future in theater.)
And so Connor and Willa were married with almost no one in attendance. Meanwhile, Logan’s body was carried off a plane, with Kendall watching from afar. In some ways, we’re right back where we started in the show’s first-ever episode. Logan is done, and the people he tormented for much of his life are vying to succeed him. There are a few new dynamics in the mix: What will become of his assistant/friend/adviser, Kerry, grinning “like she caught a foul ball at Yankee Stadium,” as someone puts it? And what of Tom, seemingly weeping not over Logan’s death but because he may have sacrificed his marriage to Shiv for a losing bet on a deceased man’s loyalty? Essentially, though, we’re about to see what Succession does in a new mode, without Logan’s contaminating physical presence. The prospect of what could come next feels huge, and filled with foreboding. Can his children reconstruct their lives to have meaning and ambitions of their own despite decades of conditioning and trauma? Can they move past Logan’s final pronouncement of them all, in last week’s episode, as “not serious people”? Will anyone be allowed a happy ending? To paraphrase the late Logan Roy: We don’t know. We can’t know. But I’ve got my fucking suspicions.