Succession S4E9: Church and State

So, after destroying the world by giving Mencken (Trump but somehow worse) the position of Commander-in-Chief, what does this show do next? It’s time to have a rich bastard’s funeral while the world burns. it’s time to bury Logan Roy and for his friends and family to sing his praises.

We cannot escape Shakespeare on this damn show, so of course the funeral is indeed all about burying vs. praising a powerful man. Ewan (remember James Cromwell’s Ewan?), who bowls over his giraffe grandson on his way to the lectern, is of course there to bury him and most certainly not to praise him (mostly anyway). It’s actually quite a compelling speech, as he humanizes Logan before roasting his every life decision. That’ll do, Ewan. That’ll do.

Roman Roy is there to blindly praise, but a funny thing happens on the way to the eulogy that the youngest son so wants to perform. Roman finally grieves for his dad. At the funeral? So tacky! Seriously, it’s a good sign at first, a reminder of his humanity. Roman probably was the only one who truly loved his father. And one could argue Roman was the only boy child Logan actually almost liked. At least Roman was the only one who could still genuinely make him feel disappointment.

As the epitome of the sort of Republican for whom the cruelty is the point, Roman Roy should elicit zero sympathy. Yet there’s some sadness as we watch the absolute broken man. Even after all the grossness he’s displayed on the way to the funeral and his massive breakdown, it’s hard not to feel a little bad for him. Even the old guard blanche at his tearful display going viral. However, of course, being Roman Roy, instead of introspecting and getting better, he doubles down on the trollery, baiting protesters.

And oddly enough, it’s Logan’s #1 candy baby (as one parody put it) who is the only one who succeeds on the pulpit. Kendall again kinda kills it at public speaking. He is not really there to bury or praise; or maybe he’s there to do both. In any case, he’s mainly engaging in some expert PR. Kendall is Marc Anthony minus the moral compass. He repositions Logan’s morality in the wake of Ewan’s hit speech, while deflecting the memory of Roman’s tearful collapse.

Between his addiction, his ridiculous 40th birthday party, that time he rapped for his father, and so many other things, it’s easy to forget that, like Nick Kroll, he can be good at biznezz. However, Nate called it right when he said that he’s not his father. And that it’s a good thing he’s not. But he’s trying to be his father and that’s not going to end well. It does work for his speech, however. We’ll see how it works out for all the backroom deals he starts making after the ceremony.

One way he IS like his father is his propensity for petulant temper tantrums. Kendall throws two of these en route to his dad’s funeral. He storms at his ex(?) Rava as she wisely gets the kids out of the powder keg that is post-Mencken-call NYC. Kendall threatens to both get an injunction against her and lie down in front of her car Ford Prefect-style, but both were idle threats. He’s calm at first when assistant Jess reluctantly gives him her notice, but whines incessantly. At least he’s better than Roman in that while he gripes and guilt trips a bit, he does not lash out or instantly fire her.

Somewhere behind Kendall’s eyes there is a realization of what he’s wrought. You can see it as he rides in the back of the car with his sis and bro. Many times, he has struggled with his role in ATN supporting a tyrant. If Shiv hadn’t lied about her call with Nate, he likely wouldn’t have given the go-ahead to crown Mencken. However, he did and when he does start to hint at reversing it, it’s mostly about self-interest. There may be some good deep in Kendall’s soul, but it’s buried and it’s too late for any redemption arc.

The final speaker at the funeral is youngest child and only daughter Shiv. Her speech is… fine. However, it’s totally empty and meaningless. It’s fitting as we start to see that with Shiv, for all her smarts and for her initial reputation as the compassionate Roy, her morals are ultimately rudderless. Her fight last episode to prevent Mencken’s selection was clearly in earnest. Yet when the chips are down and she sees a chance for money, a legacy, and a chance to get back at her brothers, she’ll sell out the country as quick as any of them.

Shiv maneuvers Matsson into kowtowing before the president-elect they both despise by devising a plan that would keep the merger alive, while placing her in a seat of power. By appointing Siobhan Roy, an American, as CEO, Mencken can circumvent his xenophobic stances. He can let a foreign company take over a leading U.S. news organization while pointing to it still being headed by a native. In return, Shiv will soften his edges in ATN reports, completely selling out every progressive principal she supposedly held dear just four seasons ago. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

So, now, within the confines of one funeral episode, the polarity of the presidency — and the balance of power in the Roy family — has reversed. Now it’s Roman and Kendall who want to undo the impending Mencken Administration while Shiv, with Matsson, plans to ensure his inauguration happens. We have one more episode to see who wins the Succession Games. Will anyone win? Probably not. We’ll find out next week. One thing’s for sure, whatever happens, America loses.

Stray Acquisitions:

  • It would seem that, a la 2000, all the other networks called Wisconsin after ATN did. I don’t know if I believe that would really happen. Faulty ballots are one thing, but would MSNBC (Pierce?) truly call an election turned on a blatant terrorist act committed in order to sway said election? I’d love to be 100 on my feeling that it wouldn’t, but allegedly liberal CNN did also give oodles of free time to a mad man who would subsequently win the presidency. Given how careful networks were in 2020, I don’t buy it for the real world, but I’m surely being naive.
  • God, Roman Roy is a craven, spineless nincompoop. But Kieran Culkin needs to win all the Emmys for his performance this year. Well, at least the Best Supporting Actor one.
  • Roman Roy and self-affirmations: “I look good. I look good. I am the man. I am the man.” {Narrator: He was not! He was not!}
  • Roman Roy on power: “I selected the president. Do you see his pecker in my pocket?” {Narrator: It was not}
  • Shiv, arguably, is the worst of all of them. She’s the epitome of that liberal cliche of someone willing, almost eager, to throw away what they purport to believe in if it gets in the way of what they want. While Kendall was certainly petty in installing the Mencken monster as revenge for Shiv’s betrayal, he’s never claimed to have a political stance. When we saw Shiv about to burn everything down, I’m sure I was not alone in assuming her main mission was to stop Mencken. However, she sells that out pretty quick when Mencken proves open to keeping the Gojo deal afloat with Shiv as CEO. She’s now the one about to unleash a monster on the presidency for power.
  • HAHAHAHAHAHA. Roman thought that right-wing weasel Jerryd Mencken was going to keep his end of the deal. What a total rube.
  • Oh, and, once again, Lukas Matsson gets one big Logan Roy-esque feeeeeck off! Obvious Elon Musk is obvious. He absolutely knows Mencken sucks. But, hey, it’s not his country and he wants his Waystar toy.
  • Also, Matsson was particularly vague in his final talk to Shiv when he said he would install an “American CEO.” He did not say it would be her. He’s probably going to be just as loyal with his “word” as Mencken was to the Roy Boys.
  • Ebba joins the parade of double-/triple-crossers, letting the Roy Boys know about Mencken’s pact with Shivsson. She deserves revenge over her Eric Northman-wannabe boss for his Matt Lauer bullshit. She’ll probably get crushed, but, still, good for her. And take down Oskar while you’re at it.
  • Well, we do have one character with a hint of humanity left at least. Maybe. Good for Kendall Roy’s assistant Jess on standing up for what she belives in. She clearly was disturbed as she tried to delay messenger boy Cousin Greg’s message to call it for Mencken. We’ll see if she actually walks away from her cushy, if soul-crushing job.
  • Poor Darwin. ATN’s Decision Desk chief put up a good fight, but in the NY Times flowchart of who is to blame for the Mencken Conundrum, after the Roys, he is front and center. He gets the full Neville Chamberlain, with the Grey Lady labeling him the “Flailing Handmaiden to the Wisconsin Call.” The so-called liberal media may fail democracy over and over, but you can always count on them for a ripping turn of phrase.
  • It’s a little disappointing after last week’s ending to see Tom stripped of the scapegoat tag. In the same Times feature, he’s an afterthought on the same line as someone named Pam. Of course he’s mad about being robbed of credit while already being “tarred with the Mencken brush.” Tom needs to get some sleep.
  • Who’s Pam? Does she work under Mark? Who the fuck was Mark?! If nothing else, I demand closure on that next week.
  • It’s a small thing, but with every Roy compromised, Cousin Greg is still in the “game,” whatever that means at this point. He’s the only one of them who realizes that biking is the one way to get around the gridlocked, chaotic city.
  • Kendall’s dead waiter comeuppance has to be on the table in the endgame next week, no?
  • Wait, what did Roman mean when he said to Shiv “shall we bone again?” What did he mean “again.” Shudder. Ugh, even after his complete spiritual depantsing, it’s impossible to not see Roman as the absolute worst.
  • But so is Shiv… and Kendall… and Tom…. and Cousin Greg… and Connor and Willa and Gerri and Marcia and Kerry and Frank and Karl and Mattson and Oskar, well, everyone. They’re all worsts. The book’s out on Jess, Ebba and Rava, we suppose, and Shiv’s unborn baby, but it’s just a matter of time before they too disappoint. I hate all these people so much. And, man, am I going to miss them after next week.
  • And don’t get me started on that rat Hugo. He’s the sort of person who would knowingly wear brownface in a 1980s movie about a sentient robot. Five alive!