If you have not yet watched Sunday night’s instalment of Succession, the third episode in the series’ fourth and final season, then I am asking – begging – you to stop reading this right now. Unlike members of the show’s central Roy clan, I do not get off on public scorn.
Okay, that is sufficient enough of a spoiler warning to prevent hate mail. Now we can get into the messy business of paying respects to the late, not exactly dearly departed soul of Logan Roy. Or, as his favourite fail-son Kendall Roy might say: RIP, L to the OG.
Perhaps there are savvy Succession fans who might have seen Logan’s passing in the distance – the show is, after all, all about figuring out who will take over the Roy family’s media business once its founding titan retired or died. And Logan, as show-runner Jesse Armstrong has made clear since the show’s very beginning, is not one to step down willingly. No one should be shocked that all roads lead to Logan’s death. The series’ conceit, with its explicit promise of inevitable death, is right there in the title!
Still, killing off a character is one thing. Doing so in a way that delivers suspense and surprise is another. So, congratulations are in order for Armstrong and his team, as they’ve crafted a television death like no other.
Eschewing expectations has always been one of Succession’s strengths, and Logan’s passing is no exception. There is no grand speech before the bellicose brayer croaks, no neat and tidy resolution for a corporate bloodhound who has alienated anyone who could stand to love him. The man simply and suddenly drops dead on the toilet while flying aboard his private jet, en route to seal a deal to screw over his family.
Actor Brian Cox isn’t even on screen for the big moment – the audience is only informed of the development by characters who happen to be in Logan’s periphery. There are panicked but conciliatory calls from Tom (Matthew Macfadyen, wonderfully playing the moment), the worried glances of Karl (David Rasche) and Frank (Peter Friedman), the background chest-compression actions of an anonymous flight attendant. It’s all white noise to a black moment of life’s cruel comedy.
Logan dies as he lived – literally and metaphorically thousands of miles from getting what he truly wants, all the while completely isolated from the world, from the rest of his family.
On one hand, I wonder how Cox feels about being robbed of the scene – the last vulgar roar of a lion in winter. Yet I can’t help but assume that the actor is pleased as punch about the turn. Logan was a magnificent monster who believed that the world should cater to his every whim. If the job of a performer is to serve the character, then what better way to watch a creation that you helped usher into life become extinguished in such a fateful, satisfying fashion? Remember that sneaky quarter-smile that Logan offers in the final seconds of the second-season finale, when he realizes that Kendall has betrayed, but also backwardly roused, him? I imagine Cox flashing the same mini-grin when he first read the script for this episode, begrudgingly impressed with how Armstrong and company managed to twist the screws just so.
Yet it is the action on the ground where Sunday’s episode, titled “Connor’s Wedding,” finds its greatest strengths. Up until the moment they receive Tom’s phone call, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and siblings Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) were hungrily plotting their own father’s existential demise. By scheming to jack up the acquisition price that Swedish company GoJo was going to pay for Waystar Royco – the windfall of which would help the kids fund their own competing media giant – Logan’s children were content to bury their dead ol’ dad alive. Or at least cover him with enough corporate dirt to ensure he’d struggle to breath six feet under.
But when reality comes crashing down to Earth – arriving via a jet that quickly turns into a sky-high tomb – the Roy children are gutted, their complicated emotions and attachments messily splayed across the floor. Given that they were all attending the nuptials of eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), it felt like a perfectly 2023-era Red Wedding. What is Succession, after all, but Game of Thrones updated for the C-suite crowd?
Watching Strong, Snook, Culkin and, eventually, Ruck come to terms with the development their characters must process was a wry and wrenching exercise – a gut punch that was also a punchline. And while lesser performers could have turned on the big, bright “For Your Emmys Consideration” lights, each actor here walked the thinnest of tightropes, navigating the news their characters have been dreading-slash-eagerly-awaiting their entire lives with just the right kind of destabilizing internal implosion.
What kind of series will Succession be without Logan Roy? There are only seven episodes left to air, but given how skilfully Armstrong and his team have navigated the series thus far, I feel confident in pronouncing that Logan’s death doesn’t mark the end of a cold and cruel era but the beginning of a darker one. If cowards die many times before their deaths, then the Roy family is only getting started.