It turns out for months I knew exactly what was going to happen on tonight’s Succession – I just didn’t know I knew it.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Going into this episode, titled “Connor’s Wedding,” the big question was really whether Logan (Brian Cox) would show up for, well, Connor’s wedding. A couple early threads took center stage and seemed poised to become the focus of the episode. One was what was going to come from the chartered plane trip to Sweden, a sojourn that included most of the executives, to finalize the remaining details of the conglomerate’s sale to tech billionaire Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård).
Logan wants Roman (Kieran Culkin) to accompany him, since Roman and Matsson already share a connection, and he seems to want to pry his favorite child away from his siblings. Roman reminds his father that he plans to attend Connor’s wedding; this leads to what seems like a new test for his Romulus. Or perhaps a combination of a test and humiliation. Logan asks Roman to fire Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), the Waystar general counsel who is at the wedding and was specifically not invited on the Scandinavia trip. “Clean out the stalls,” Logan says to describe the initiative. In predictable awkward yet hilarious fashion, Roman trips up the assignment and leaves his father a voicemail message letting him know how much he hated doing it.
Connor, meanwhile, is starting to, well, be Connor. He’s spinning out about the wedding cake – although we learn that it’s made of Victorian sponge, which as a child was all he ate for a week after Logan had his mother committed. Fair enough.
It’s at this point that Shiv (Sarah Snook) starts receiving and declining calls from her soon-to-be-ex, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), who is on the Sweden-bound flight. Tom calls Kendall, who is alone with Roman while Shiv mingles, and delivers the confusing news that Logan has collapsed on the flight. It’s unclear what has happened at first – is it a ruse so Logan has an excuse for bailing on his first-born son’s wedding? And why aren’t we seeing much of Cox as we watch a flight attendant administer CPR?
Show runner and episode writer Jesse Armstrong and director Mark Mylod maintain a sense of disorientation through the episode, since all of this unexpected, tragic information is uncharted territory for all involved. “How bad is it?” Kendall and Roman keep asking. Ken orders a phone brought to Logan’s ear and stumbles through a final message – heartbreakingly real in its forced ineptitude. Roman starts out by trying to reassure his father that he was a good dad; then he cuts himself off, says, “I don’t know how to do this,” and passes the phone like a hot potato. Kendall then grabs Shiv, who has even less time to acclimate to the news, and feels additional pangs of guilt and anger for not having been brought to the phone earlier. The Steadicam work here only increases the tension of the moment, the push-ull of “It can’t be true” and “Yes, of course it must be true.” About Logan’s death, Roman keeps repeating, “We don’t know.” At last, as Shiv delivers her own moot parting words to her father, do we see Brian Cox’s face, it quickly becomes clear that Armstrong isn’t messing around: Logan is dead.
A few months back, I was walking around my neighborhood and saw a large portrait of Logan Roy in an art gallery. I figured it would play a role in the season, but only tonight, in watching this episode, did I realize we would likely see it at a memorial in the next week.
In a sense, Armstrong prepared us viewers all along viewers for Logan’s demise. Two episodes earlier, in the season premiere, Logan had spoken to Colin, his righthand man, about death, and what might or might not come after. “We don’t know,” he says. “We can’t know. But I’ve got my suspicions.” He may think that nothing comes after death, but the show certainly gave his family an unexpected goodbye for his final flight. That karaoke conversation in which he took it upon himself to find them and speak to them, even though they had (yet again) rebelled against him ended with him saying, “I love you all, but you’re not serious people.” Last week, it was easy enough to focus on the second half of this sentence. With Logan now gone and not having had the ability to find closure in person, the first half of that sentence is a gift in its own right.
But yes, Logan Roy is dead. Long live the king.
After hemming and hawing, the children finally agree to loop Connor (Alan Ruck) in on the news. “Oh man, he never even liked me,” is his predictably egocentric response. Connor and Willa (Justine Lupe) appear to take this as a sign that the wedding should not only be postponed, but perhaps called off altogether. Connor confesses that he’s always scared she’s going to walk away and only wants him for his money, which gets a real and reasoned response from Willa: she does like the money, but she also likes him. (The two end up tying the knot, after most of the guests and family members are long gone.)
People breathe instinctively, and even in a time of tragedy, all the main characters do what comes naturally: they start angling for themselves. Roman worries that his voicemail might have been responsible for whatever killed his father. (Culkin, as usual, underplays Roman’s guilt and insecurity). Tom, having been humane enough to get the Roy children to their father’s ear in his final moments, is also mercenary enough to start getting Cousin Greg to help with mythmaking. “I have lost my protector,” he says, “Sing my song” and spread the word that he was by Logan’s side. “What we do today will always be what we did the day our father died,” Kendall tells Shiv and Roman. “So let’s grieve and whatever, but not do anything that restricts our future freedom of movement.”
The rest of “Connor’s Wedding” covers the logistics – corporate and familial – involved with trying to figure out what to do when a loved one dies unexpectedly, in the air, away from medical help. And of who to tell and avoid telling. Up in the air over the Atlantic, the Waystar brain trust comprised of Tom, P.R. head Karolina (Dagmara Domińczyk), COO Frank (Peter Friedman), and CFO Karl (David Rasche), start working on a statement that won’t force the stock price to plummet. and other preparations. Kerry (Zoe Winters), seems to come apart at the seams at what she’s seen. (In a sense, Logan has actually died surrounded by his chosen family.)
The Waystar execs then allow the three children to draft a press statement, which should assuage market confidenceand not say too much – but should mentions Frank, Gerri, and Karl by name, However, Shiv ignores their advice and makes no mention of any of them. And although she said she would not take any questions, she lets it slip on the way out that she and her brothers plan to be involved with Waystar going forward. This, no doubt, will cause trouble in the weeks ahead. (The stock does indeed plummet.)
What’s great about this episode is that, as always, Armstrong pulled off this major plot milestone with no telegraphing and no melodrama. Logan’s death happened as it would in life – with little advance warning, and at great inconvenience to all involved.
This episode also takes us right back to where we were at the beginning of the series, with all the major players scrambling and striving to advance within the world of Waystar Royco. We just know more about them all now than we did three seasons ago. (It’s also, believe it or not, the series’ most accessible episode, with little to no boardroom jargon or family subtext to untangle.) What happens next? Is Gerri still fired, or will she pull a George Costanza and return to work? Do the kids have any control over what transpires next? Being the cipher that he was, it’s unclear what Logan’s ultimate intentions were for either his family or his business.
Where will Succession take us now? We’ve done the work. Now let’s just enjoy what’s left of the ride.