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‘Succession’ Death Ushers in the HBO Hit’s Endgame

[This story contains spoilers for Succession season four episode three, “Connor’s Wedding.”]

Seriously, folks. These spoilers are as major as they come. Proceed with the utmost caution.

Still here? Okay! Three spoiler warnings later, here we go…

In announcing the final season, Succession creator Jesse Armstrong said there’s “a promise in the title” of the series — namely, that someone will someday succeed the larger-than-life Logan Roy.

From day one, the entire series has revolved around which of Logan’s large adult children will win the proverbial Iron Throne. We still don’t have the answer — we still don’t know who will fulfill the “promise in the title” — but at the very least, the position is officially open.

That’s right: the king is dead. Logan Roy is no more.

Here’s how Logan finally “fucked off” this mortal coil, what this seismic shift means for the show moving forward, and some parting words from Brian Cox about his stunning exit from the series with seven episodes still remaining.

Brian Cox in Succession

Brian Cox in the final season of Succession. Courtesy of HBO

What Happened

Heading into the misleadingly titled “Connor’s Wedding,” the stakes felt clear enough: Logan would lead a cadre of his colleagues, plus youngest son Roman (Kieran Culkin), on a mission to save the sale of Waystar Royco to GoJo. In so doing, Logan would all but certainly miss out on his eldest son Connor’s (Alan Ruck) titular wedding.

It was a perfect recipe for another classic entry in the pantheon of Succession wedding episodes. Still, stacked against Kendall Roy’s (Jeremy Strong) fateful car accident at Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) wedding, and the Roy siblings’ resounding defeat against their dad at their mom’s wedding, “Connor’s Wedding” would have to kill a main character in order to live up to its disastrous predecessors.

Of course, that’s exactly what happened.

The episode begins the morning after Logan and Roman’s meeting. Roman isn’t joining Logan on the trip to Sweden to meet with Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård) and repair the deal, opting instead to attend his brother’s wedding. As a punishment, or perhaps a test of loyalty, Logan tasks Roman with firing Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron). Roman initiates that conversation, then leaves an angry, wounded voicemail for his father.

For his part, Logan’s already on the plane when the voicemail comes through, and we never see if he hears it. Before the opening credits roll, Logan hops on his private jet, offering up these final words: “Clean out the stalls, strategic refocus. A bit more fucking aggressive.” We never see him alive again.

As the Roy siblings mix and mingle at Connor’s nautical wedding, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) calls in to Shiv at first, and then Roman when she doesn’t pick up, to deliver the news: Logan was found in the jet’s bathroom in bad condition, chest compressions have begun, and it does not look good. Tom holds the phone to Logan’s ear as Rome and Kendall say what could very well be (and turn out to be) their final words to their father. They eventually find Shiv who gets to say her complicated goodbyes, too, but Connor isn’t found in time to offer up a farewell. Yet another way in which Connor’s father abandons him, even on his special day.

The remainder of the episode plays out between air and sea, as Logan’s colleagues strategize next moves, while Logan’s children do the same, all of them navigating the complex emotions. (For his part, Roman doesn’t initially believe their father’s dead, and at worst, fears he may have killed him with his voicemail.) The hour ends with Shiv leading her siblings in a public statement, the authorities removing Logan’s body from the jet, and Kendall tearfully watching them take his dad away.

Crafting Logan’s Death

HBO’s behind-the-episode featurette details the filming of “Connor’s Wedding,” an arduous task for the actors who had to dig deep into their emotional reserves.

“When Jesse told me that was going to happen, I wasn’t totally surprised. I thought it made sense dramaturgically. And then when I read the script, I found it shocking and emotionally devastating,” Strong says in the post-episode interview. “Time and time again I’m given something where I think it’s the limit of what I’m capable of as an actor. Here’s my wall. And then you have no choice but to go through that. And this episode was one of those.”

According to Culkin, much of the episode was shot in a nearly-unbroken take, even if not presented that way. Director Mark Mylod reveals in the behind-the-episode feature that since the series shoots on film and can only shoot for 10 minutes at a time, production had to hide reels of film throughout the set for quick changes. The result was something akin to a one-act play, according to the actors.

Looking past production, Armstrong, who wrote the episode, clarifies the reason for killing Logan so early in the final season: “There’s a couple of factors in where Logan’s death falls in our narrative trajectory. One is a sort of base one, that maybe it will surprise people. I am not immune from such thoughts as wanting to keep the show exciting and fresh. I think much more prominent was the feeling that if we do this, we don’t want to see people crying, have a funeral, and be done with the show. We want to see how a death of someone significant rebounds around a family.”

For his part, Cox was surprised and disappointed to see Logan die at this juncture, and thinks the audience will struggle with the twist: “I feel they’re gonna find it tough. They’ve lived with Logan for so long. They’re going to miss him.”

According to Cox, we may not have seen the last of Logan after all, based on what he tells Vulture: “I do pop back and I have a couple scenes later on, which is flashback stuff.” But flashbacks are certainly no substitute for an actively volatile Logan Roy.

Life After Death

Logan Roy dying with seven episodes left in Succession’s final season… yeah, it’s an HBO death, alright. One that fits comfortably alongside the grand tradition of shocking, out-of-nowhere HBO deaths, from your unexpected protagonist beheadings to other main characters placed six feet under with multiple final season episodes remaining. Logan’s death comes out of nowhere, just as the Sunday night viewing faithful should expect at this point.

In the immediate aftermath of the episode, it’s difficult to imagine Succession continuing without Logan Roy. In some ways, we don’t have to. Even in death, Logan stands to loom large over Kendall, Shiv, Roman, Connor and the rest of the extended Roy universe in the following ways: 

• Kendall’s rollercoaster relationship with his father hit its height in season two, and came crashing down swiftly in season three. The last time they interacted one-on-one, Logan viciously mocked Kendall over a plate of potentially poisonous mozzarella. “I’ll be broken when you die,” Kendall told his father in that scene. More recently, Kendall highlighted the thin line between teacher and tormentor for Logan Roy. If the past three seasons and change were the story of Kendall becoming “a killer,” then Logan’s death may finally be the thing that gives him permission to become more like his father. Whatever’s ahead for Ken, it’s going to be bleak, based on what Strong recently told THR: “Just when I thought I couldn’t go any lower, enter season four.”

• Tom was Logan’s closest confidant right up until his death, granting him unique insight into the late Waystar king’s dealings in his final days. Whether he can wield that information is another question entirely. One also wonders how this impacts Tom and Shiv’s relationship. Given Tom’s proximity to Logan, will Shiv reconsider a reunion in order to secure her own power base, should she want to make a run at the crumbling empire? 

• Logan spent at least some of his last night on Earth with Roman, telling him, “You’re not Pearce,” and making it clear that he needed Romulus for his vision of ATN’s future. Rome was the last of the Roy kids to talk to Logan, both in real-time, and in the form of a final voicemail — one that Roman fears may have killed his father. A hard notion to carry forward through the rest of the series.

• For presidential hopeful and grieving groom Connor, who has been so worried about holding onto the one percent of the voting public’s support, the death of his father will grant him exactly that: a seat at the table, if not a reasonable chance at election. Still, taking out a greater slice of political pie could sway the election one way or the other. “President Connor” still feels like an unlikely outcome, and yet, Logan’s death makes it feel just a little likelier.

• Those paths forward for the Roy children don’t even address the other characters impacted by Logan’s death, from Gerri to Karl to Hugo and everyone else in the inner circle, now likely to make their mad dash for power without fear of reprisal from the Mad King Roy. Other secret-keepers will come calling with skeleton keys in hand, too, from Kerry to Marcia and far beyond.

• There’s still so much back story about Logan we don’t know, including the story of his literal back, and how he got those scars. Even in death, Logan’s life stands ready for further examination, with surviving brother Ewan still around to shed some light on their childhood. Whatever happened to their sister Rose? We can still get those answers, even with Logan gone.

• And is Logan even really gone if his ghost will hang so heavily over the remaining cast? And what are his children if not the man’s living legacy? And, what about the possibility of a fifth child? Theories surrounding Logan pursuing another successor date back at least to the season three finale, what with his fertility-enhancing smoothies. Don’t lose that Baby Logan theory’s number just yet. 

In any event, with seven hours of Succession still remaining, it’s clear that Armstrong and the team wanted plenty of room to explore the core characters without Logan literally looming over everything. Spiritually looming, on the other hand? That’s another matter.

Regardless of what comes next, Logan’s death feels like an act of karma within the Succession universe, at least to an extent. In the first episode of the whole series, Logan suffered a catastrophic stroke while on a helicopter. Here, he doesn’t make it out of a second airborne medical crisis alive. In fact, the very first scene of the series is Logan suffering from a bathroom-related malfunction, which is where his life ends. Further, Logan’s last year was marked by a company cruise scandal. In the end, he dies the same day as Connor’s nautical wedding, his children helpless on a boat. Death and water have long been companions on Succession, and here, they meet again under the harshest circumstances.

Brian Cox in Succession

Brian Cox in Succession. Courtesy of HBO

“All Fathers Are Mythical”

In the wake of his character’s death, many of Cox’s comments about Logan Roy’s endgame take on new meaning. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the final season premiere, Cox remarked on many facets of Logan’s interiority his surviving circle will be left wondering about for the rest of their lives, let alone the rest of the series.

“He just wants one of these children to be good and step up to the plate and take on the business, a very simple thing,” Cox told THR. “He’s just looking for a successor.”

According to Cox, the actor believes Logan authentically wanted to select Shiv as his successor back in season two, but ultimately couldn’t pull the trigger: “Siobhan [couldn’t] get away from who she is, because of her insecurities.” Cox thinks Logan never felt Kendall was up for the job, either: “He’s quite a sad figure, Kendall is, because he’s sort of like a walking disappointment, and that’s very galling to have somebody who walks into the room and is immediately disappointed and brings disappointment with them.”

These are harsh assessments from Cox toward his fictional children, but what about Logan’s own role in raising them? Did he understand his responsibility for molding Kendall, Shiv, Roman and Connor into the broken figures viewers have known for the past four seasons? Cox believes the late Logan Roy was “sensible enough to realize that he has to have a hand in their development as a father,” but that his own absences due to work kept him from seeing the full impact of his neglect.

“All fathers are mythical,” said Cox. “It’s very hard to live up to a mythical father, you know? That’s tough. It’s tough for anybody. Logan’s got that problem himself, and the kids have got it in big numbers.”

Beyond leaving them with the question of succession, Logan leaves his kids with an even heavier doubt: did he ever love them? For Cox, at least, the answer is “yes,” even if it’s not a clear yes: “That’s Logan’s problem: He loves his kids. It’d be a lot happier if he didn’t love these kids. … It’s not something he understands. It’s something that is very private to him. He’s not an emotional man in that way. He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve or anything like that. He might actually be a lot healthier if he did wear his heart on his sleeve a bit. But he doesn’t.”

How will the surviving Roys move forward in the wake of their father’s death? It’s a question the seven remaining episodes will answer as we bid farewell to the mythical father of Succession. Rest in peace, Logan Roy — or, as Kendall might eulogize: “R to the IP.”

Rick Porter contributed to this story.



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