(spoilers for episode 3, season 4)
In the world of Succession, it was mere months ago that industry titan Logan Roy, in response to his second-born son’s ambitious takedown, threatened to “grind his f*cking bones to make my bread.” It’s the sort of line few could successfully deliver, but in the hands of Brian Cox sounds as natural as can be. Who other than Logan better personifies that fabled fearsome giant in the sky, eager to rage at the scrawny have-not who dares touch his gold? What’s easily forgotten is what happens at the end of Jack and the Beanstalk, when the giant comes crashing down to earth, meeting his end. Despite his age, and the medical emergency that kicked off this entire saga, envisioning a world without him seemed impossible or, at the very least, something that wouldn’t be dealt with until the finale, a tidy end for the dramatic series.
It was this week that saw the impossible made possible. In an absolutely daring narrative upheaval, showrunner Jesse Armstrong saw fit to not only kill off the patriarch at the center of this drama but to do it less than a third of the way through the season. Speaking for myself, I admit I spent a significant amount of time believing it to be a terrible ruse. Once reality began to set in, I eagerly awaited the medical miracle that would bring him back to life. Much like the kids, discovering that Logan Roy was no more was a stunning realization. The only thing that could possibly be more shocking than this development is how heartbreakingly sad the whole thing played out.
Death is typically not in the business of being convenient, but to have tragedy strike on the day of Connor’s wedding feels like an especially cruel twist of fate, made more so by Kendall, Shiv, and Roman subconsciously maintaining their lifelong habit of excluding their elder half-brother. Poor Connor. Less than twenty-four hours after that painful acknowledgment that his family has taught him how to subsist on a life without love, and once again Connor is forced to reconcile with the fact that he will forever be on the margins of this family—at the news of Logan’s death (as well as a strong contender for the saddest line in the episode), the first thing he says is, “Oh, man. He never even liked me.” Though it would look untoward to anyone on the outside, Connor moving forward with his nuptials is probably the best thing he could have done for himself. Kendall, Shiv, and Roman will do whatever it is they’re going to do.
The kids are ill-equipped to deal with any of this, but unlike their previous screw ups, there’s no training to prepare for the loss of a parent, especially when it’s sudden. They’re easy to mock on any given day, but panic is a perfectly normal response to hearing word that your father, whom you had just seen the previous evening, has had his heart suddenly come to a stop. For all the many ways these three have conspired to screw over, get revenge, cut out, and so forth on Logan, the idea of him no longer being a presence in their lives is one that never crossed their minds.
For Roman, his ability to comprehend the crisis at hand is nearly overshadowed by the hysteria threatening to creep in, an emotion that gains ground when he’s offered the chance to speak to his father: “Uh, you’re okay. You’re—you’re going to be okay … uh, because you’re a monster. And you’re gonna win.” A darkly funny moment even for a show known for such humor, but even then, the few laughs sprinkled throughout the episode are permeated with sadness, including when a panic-stricken Roman later remembers that the last words his father may have heard from him were “Are you a c*nt?” via voicemail.
When presented with impending death, some people opt for kind lies while others use the remaining time to speak their truth. The claim that Logan is a good man and a good father is a lie so blatant it would invite laughter on any other occasion, but here at his deathbed (in this case, a private jet), it’s a flash of the small boy Roman once was, one who almost certainly desperate for the approval of the enormous (figuratively) parental figure his small world orbited around. It’s dishonest, but it’s of the soft-hearted variety, a falsehood that lets the dying let go easier and allows those who survive them the ability to live with the memory of those final moments.
Kendall is obliged to take a different route. After some hemming and hawing, an emotional Kendall finally blurts out, “I can’t forgive you,” into the phone as a flight attendant continues performing chest compressions on his father. But his frankness bears no hint of anger or ill will. It’s all from a place of honest acceptance, including the words that immediately follow: “But, uh, yeah, it’s okay, and I love you.” It’s a testament to life’s complexity, and that very little of it is simple, least of all the opposing (but equally valid) means with which two people cope with their abusive father’s demise.
Then there is the all-too-common scenario of being too late to say goodbye. When Kendall finally does track down Shiv, her disbelief is heart-wrenching to witness (Roman: “They think Dad died. I’m sorry.” Shiv: “No! No, I can’t have that!”). When she does try talking to him, her feigned, almost manic, cheer quickly gives in to the realization that she’s speaking into a phone with no conscious recipient on the other end of the line. In an additional poetic flair, it’s Tom who’s been the one providing the kids with the closest thing to closure they can get. “Are you just being nice to me?” Shiv asks when he repeatedly avoids answering affirming whether or not Logan is dead. Tom Wambsgans is many things, including a coward and a sycophant, but he’s also capable of empathy, which is what keeps him holding a phone to a (for all intents and purposes) dead man’s ear, rather than, say, merely setting it down and putting it on speaker phone. Suddenly forced to try to process a lifetime of emotions into a few brief seconds, Shiv is hardly able to get out a full sentence (“I love you, you f*cking…God, I don’t…um, there’s no excuses for the…”) before finally pushing the phone away as though it’s a torture device of some sort.
For a while at least, the kids are broken. They take turns comforting one another, holding hands throughout and talking down Roman, who spends much of the time fervently clinging to denial. But at the news that Logan’s inner circle, Tom, Frank, and Karolina, are preparing to craft a statement, the game is once again afoot. Because as sad as the Roy children are, there’s still an entire media empire sitting there for the taking. With Logan gone, pre-established alliances, already so fragile, can shift at a moment’s notice. The kids may present a united front for a while, if only because few other options are available to them—Shiv and Tom seem unlikely to reconcile and Roman and Gerri…oof—but as we’ve seen on countless occasions now, it won’t take much for the trio to drift apart, at least until the next tragedy strikes. For now, though, everyone must deal with the immediate aftermath of a titan’s death, and wait to see how far the reverberations of that crash landing can be registered.
Tom: “Look, Greg, it’s not your fault, but he just finds you visually aggravating right now.”
Connor: “Mr. Scrooge happened to be a huge wealth creator. They don’t mention that in Mr. Dickens’ books, do they?”
Tom: “Judging by her grin, it looks like she caught a foul ball at Yankee Stadium.”
Roman: “Okay, so we gonna go see him [Logan]?”
Kendall: “Do you want to?”
Roman: “Shouldn’t we?”
Shiv: “I mean, he’s not gonna get angry if we don’t.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t rooting for Gerri to win it all, she can be found on Twitter here.