SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE. WE MEAN IT. UNLESS YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT SORT OF THING! OK, DO WHAT YOU WANT, WE’RE NOT THE BOSS OF YOU.
We generally avoid major spoilers in these write-up/reviews, but there is truly zero way to talk about this third episode of the final season of Succession without talking about the Topsy in the room. And it happens just 10 minutes or so into the chapter. It should not be such a surprise that a stressed out octogenarian would suddenly die. Heck, the original premise of the show was Logan Roy is about to die and what would that mean for his empire. That said, when it happens, it’s absolutely stunning.
And gotta hand it to the show that when it kills off its central character, it does not milk the moment. Even The Godfather gave us the visual of Marlon Brando toppling over with the orange peel in his mouth. Vito Corleone’s last act is at least innocently entertaining his granchild. Logan Roy’s last act is fucking up his youngest for one last time. We won’t find out anything is wrong until when a few scenes later, a stunned and utterly defeated Tom Wambsganss whispers to Roman on the phone as a body receives endless chest compressions in the background.
Could there be a crueler last act against Roman that Logan could have peaced out on the world on? Asking Roman to fire Gerri is an act of manipulation that would make Machiavelli blush. And then to add the whole “are you with me?” angle. Between their weird… romance(?) (I’m not even sure what we call it) and the knowledge that theoretically it was his misdelivered dick pic that landed the ultimate company woman in Logan’s crosshairs, Roman is totally screwed. Of course, Roman manages to fit that awkward interaction in the brief time between getting on the boat and finding out his father was dead. As it turns out, he would not have had to lower the axe anyway. Figures!
To add to Roman’s neuroses and future therapy bills, he also finds time to leave a nasty message on Logan’s answering machine. He’ll never know if his dad heard his message left in existential confusion will be the last thing the man heard. He called him a “cunt” by the way. Well, more asked him if he was being a “cunt.” Either way, “cunt”-y speculation is not really the last words you want out in the universe to your dad. It’s yet another blow to a character whose humanity has been struggling against all odds to wiggle out.
In Logan Roy’s actual last words on Succession, he messes, possibly unintentionally, with his erstwhile son-in-law/adoptive son. He tells Tom that in addition to firing the undeserving Gerri, today will be the day the hammer comes down on Tom’s rival Cyd, who despises him. For a nepo-kid-in-law about to divorce Logan’s daughter, this is a relief. Logan has repeatedly given Tom the vague “if we’re good, we’re good,” when Tom has fretted his place in the Roy-iverse. Firing Cyd would give him a shred of security.
Then Logan dies. And everyone feels. Well, except Connor, and can you blame him. To Connor’s credit, his first reaction is not to fret about himself or how it impacts his wedding. He will eventually, but in a tender way that mirrors the Tom and Shiv bedside convo in the season’s first episode. He’s just genuinely at a loss as to what he should be feeling as the Roy family’s eternal afterthought. You can’t even blame him for his great brittle cake off breakdown when you hear his connection
Genuine moments like that are a key reason why this may just be the best episode of this program to date. Even if Logan Roy was a titan of industry and famous monster within this universe, he’s still an important figure — THE important figure — in the lives of everyone on this show. Yes, he treated his children cruelly, but he’s still their father. In fact, of course, it’s the longing for their daddy’s love that has always driven the trio (plus Connor). Logan’s sudden death has sucked all the sarcasm out of those in his close circle. When Tom puts the phone next to Logan’s ears, all of Roman and Kendall’s artifice flickers out in an instant. They still love their awful, awful dad, although they obviously still have to acknowledge some of the awfulness. A few stray grievances inevitably sneak in, but it’s far from Festivus.
Even when the Roy siblings get angry at the plane crew (Tom, Frank, Karl, Katarina), their usual stream of sarcastic jabs are mostly absent. They do lash out at Hugo a bit, but then can you blame them. He wore brownface and befriended a robot in the 1980s. You don’t forget a thing like that. They don’t even find their usual sardonic fire when disgusted to hear that said plane crew is already inevitably digging into the crass planning of what to say to the press and how to proceed with Mattson and the Gojo deal.
It’s a bit unseemly on the surface, but it’s arguably what the tycoon and consummate businessman would have wanted. However, Kendall, Shiv, and Roy are still cycling through the stages of grief. As is their way, they’re not doing it in any particular order, shuffling the deck so that acceptance, anger, denial, et al, pop up at random intervals.
While it may seem like a Succession episode mostly devoid of petty bickering, bitter wordplay, and pop culture referential insults would be too dry, it’s a relief. The best moments of the series (see Tom and Shiv’s bed talk in the season opener) often happen when our characters are stripped of their defenses, their artifice. Logan Roy has inflicted a lifetime tornado of dysfunction upon this clan. But he was still their father and his death before they were able to reconcile is unfair. And so it goes. Everything is not beautiful and most of it hurt.
- For the second time this year in a recap, I have to go to the Bojack Horseman “Free Churro” paraphrasing well. Logan Roy is dead and everything is worse.
- “I got like three, four people Gregging for me. I roped in a few mini-Gregs from the pigpen, a few Greglings” “Don’t turn me into a word, I’m a person.” But are you Cousin Greg? Are you really?
- Speaking of: Cousin Greg is clearly trying to hit on a reporter. Tom tells him on the phone about Logan’s state. A few scenes later a reporter leaks the story. Cousin Greg is so damn messy!
- Cousin Greg will also rule them all by season’s end! Both can be true.
- Through it all, Gerri remains the ultimate company (wo)man, putting her best Lindsey Naegle face on and popping into action to do everything she can to mitigate corporate disaster. Sure, she might just be revived by her deus ex Logan-death-ica. However, it’s Gerri. We know she does everything for the good of the shareholders. Whatever happens with Cousin Greg’s ascendance, Gerri will be left standing when the Succession Games are done.
- Five alive! Fisher Stevens really did wear brownface and pretended to be an Indian man (with that accent). In the 1980s. The latter half of the 1980s. That’s a thing that happened in a lot of our lifetimes. And he did it again in Short Circuit 2.
- I posited above that it’s arguable that Logan Roy would want them all to continue with business after his death. And while that word can be a weasel word, and I’m admittedly not immune from using weasel words (it’s what separates us from the animals… except the weasel), I chose that word carefully. Given how hurt Logan was when the sibs snubbed his birthday, combined with how low his opinion is of his kids and acolytes, it’s quite likely he would at best not care whether they carried on with Waystar biz.
- One of the standard knocks on/observations about this show is how there is absolutely no one likeable, zero redeeming figures. Can I nominate Willa as an exception? For all of her facade as a golddigger, she appears to truly get and care about Connor. She even has the level of honesty that allows her to admit to him that the money is “part of it.” However, despite his absolute ridiculousness, she’s with him for the long haul. And her faithfulness to him is for as right the reasons can be in a show like this.
- In all the ink spilled so far about how this is the show’s version of Game of Thrones “Red Wedding” (actually titled “The Rains of Castamere”… play it again, Sam, indeed), I’ve yet to see someone notice that the wedding planner herself lampshaded the comparison. “We’ll start with the red invites.”
- And of course Brian Cox’s last line would contain the f-word in it. We wouldn’t have it any other way.