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Succession season 4 sets the board for life after Logan

How did the show get so many to care so much about a real rat bastard?

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) hugs Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) Image: HBO

[Ed. note: This post discusses the plot of “Connor’s Wedding,” season 4 episode 3 of Succession, in detail.]

In its fourth season, HBO’s Succession had a promise to keep. As the final season of the acclaimed drama, the current stretch of episodes has the burden of fulfilling the promise of the show’s title. Someone has to take over for Logan Roy (Brian Cox), the patriarch of the Roy family and a conservative media tycoon near the end of his life and career. After deciding against stepping down and naming a successor among his squabbling children more than once, it has become apparent that the only thing that will separate Logan from his company is death.

What makes “Connor’s Wedding” a terrific episode of television is how it makes Logan’s inevitable death still feel like a shock, thereby getting the audience invested in his children’s messy, complicated grief.

Logan’s passing is arresting in its sudden mundanity. In a show that likes to wring both heavy drama and laugh-out-loud comedy out of board meetings and glad-handing, Logan’s final moments are remarkable in how little weight they carry. He only has a few brief moments in “Connor’s Wedding,” asking his youngest son to let a trusted associate know she’s getting axed, and choosing to skip his eldest son’s wedding in order to secure a business deal.

Logan Roy and Tom Wambsgams talk in front of a black car parked in front of a waiting private jet in the fourth season of HBO’s Succession. Photo: David M. Russell/HBO

This casual callousness is signature Logan Roy, perfected across three seasons by Cox’s performance and Succession’s writers. He then gets on a plane. The next we hear from him is when his son-in-law Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), the only family member on the flight full of cronies, gets on the phone with Roman (Kieran Culkin) to share the news that Logan went to the bathroom and had to be dragged out as a flight attendant started administering chest compressions.

What follows is a showcase for the acting talents of Succession’s cast, as Roman, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Connor (Alan Ruck) all process the shock of their father’s passing in ways that, in a few brief moments, sum up who each of the Roy siblings are under the personas they present to the world, and the complicated feelings of love and loathing that can come from a toxic family relationship.

“Connor’s Wedding” poses an answer to a question frequently asked by Succession’s detractors: Why would I want to watch a show about a bunch of rich white assholes? The answer, it turns out, is the result of any well-written story. Succession is a show about rich white assholes, yes. But those rich white assholes are people first. They have foibles and insecurities, richly suggested inner lives and distinct interpersonal dynamics with each other. The yachts, villas, and galas they enjoy as 1 percenters don’t matter when there’s someone on the phone telling them their father isn’t breathing. Wealth merely amplifies their worst tendencies, making them think their fatal flaws are superpowers, or that some bills will never come due to them.

The Roy siblings sit around a glass coffee table while Kendall holds a phone to his hear in the fourth season of HBO’s Succession. Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO

They’re often right to think this. Kendall Roy caused a man’s death in season 1, and all he had to do was go to a fancy rehab retreat to pay for it. Every single one of the Roy siblings has spent the series failing up, starting and folding new business ventures essentially on a whim. Succession is brutally honest in this regard: The rich play by different rules, breaking the world around them without a second thought.

But Logan’s death renders them powerless. They learn via a phone call that their father passed out in a bathroom and might not get up again. They can’t say goodbye, or leverage their vast resources to get him better care. Logan Roy is just a man, going out like many men his age do, and the Roy siblings are also just people, with nothing to help them wade through but the mess of a family they have.

For the viewer firmly outside of the 1%, the Roy family is broken in ways both painfully recognizable and hilariously foreign. All the money in the world, and it does not make it any easier to just tell your family what they mean to you. None of it helps you cope with a lifetime of abuse or toxicity. Everyone eventually has to stand in front of a mirror and contemplate what they’ve become.

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