Succession Season 4, Episode 3: One Final Fuck Off

Spoilers ahead on this gut-punch of an episode.

Succession episode 3
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Episode three of Succession’s final season started off like any other. As the Roy siblings embarked on the celebration for Connor’s “sham” marriage, all of the pieces were in place for a classic episode featuring a wedding gone awry. Succession wedding pretense called for chaos, and even a dead body, yes, but “Connor’s Wedding” left us feeling more like we just rewatched the Red Wedding than Shiv’s season one nuptials.

“Connor’s Wedding” is the kind of piece of art that takes hours to internalize. You wake up the next morning with a sudden realization: “Shiv should have answered those calls from Tom.” You need to go on Twitter and see that the plane in the season’s promo photos told us everything we needed to know. You must watch the post-episode “Controlling the Narrative” interviews to understand why Jesse Armstrong forgoing a true “death scene” for Logan works so well. Even after doing all that, I personally still feel like Kerry when she debarked that plane—frazzled, unsure of whether to laugh or cry, nervous about the prospect of a Logan Roy-less existence. So, let’s start at the beginning, when we were all so much younger, getting comfortable and ready to watch an episode about a silly little wedding. Would Willa get cold feet? Would Logan make an appearance? Would Shiv and Kendall find out about Roman’s duplicitous dealings with the devil? God, were we ever so naive?

Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

I, personally, had my pen and paper ready for another week of recapping the episode through the best quotes. I chuckled to myself as Greg quipped, “Journalism...taking quotes and kicking ass,” imaging that the line was already blowing up on media Twitter. Connor was triggered by a looney cake (a moment that in any other context would be the most emotionally jarring bit of the episode), the trio squabbled about next steps, and Logan prepared once again to woo the Swede into sticking around for another go. Everything was set up for a classic Succession episode.

Then Shiv gets the call. She ignores it, as she does most of Tom’s correspondence these days. They keep coming in and she keeps ignoring them, delaying what is, at that point, inevitable. Because when Roman finally picks up the phone, all the action around them freezes. The world becomes the room on that boat and the plane in the sky. There are so many ways to look at what unfolds next, especially when it comes to the siblings’ reactions to the news, from Shiv’s spoiled little girl, “No, I can’t have that,” to Connor’s impressively self-aware yet poorly timed, “He never even liked me.” For a moment, they’re a family grieving a complicated man who, despite everything, is their father. But he’s not just their father. In this fictional world, he’s one of the most powerful men on the planet, and his death can only remain a private moment for so long.

Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Shiv, Roy, and Kendall don’t get the closure of saying goodbye to their father, just as we don’t get the opportunity for one final scene with Logan. Another show would depict the bathroom incident, the fall, the drama—Succession gave us a bungled retelling, a few shots of an ear. The kids get to say some words they likely know he won’t hear. Because in the end, Logan is just a man, and men die. It’s easy to forget that, of course. He held POTUS in one hand and the American media in another. He had all the money, privilege, and power in the world. He had the biggest presence in an impressive ensemble show. For those reasons and so many more, Tom’s words were likely not believed at first (by Roman and Kendall, nor by the audience). It’s a test, or they’ll save him, the Roy siblings and the audience practically recited in unison. But then, at least for us voyeurs, the realizations came in. He’s an octogenarian who had a health crisis in the show’s pilot (and another in season 3). The show is called Succession, an action that cannot take place until Logan is out of the picture. It’s the final season, and this has never been the kind of show to end on a funeral. Logan really is dead.

It isn’t long before the Waystar Royco team kicks into action, proving just how unprepared they are for the passing of this very powerful 84-year-old man (seriously, you would think they had a plan in place for this inevitable event). The Roys can no longer deny that their father is not the omnipotent god he painted himself to be. “What we do today will always be what we did the day our father died,” Kendall says, reminding us that despite his internal struggles, his raps, his child’s play feminism, he is the most competent of them all.

From that moment, the death is seen in a different light. Grief is combined with logistics. Who will issue the statement? Will the wedding go on? And likely, for all of them, what the fuck are we supposed to do now? In these moments, you see how truly vulnerable these people are to face a world without their father. Connor gave up on him a long time ago, and his ability to get married despite the world spinning around him proves the detachment he felt from his dad and his family. The trio, meanwhile, for all their preaching about how they’re done with Logan, cannot handle being done with Logan. But now, they don’t have a choice.

Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

The episode ends with a sad parade of empty gestures—Tom and Shiv finding solace with each other, a hug between the siblings, Roman seeing his father off the plane. The only person I found myself truly feeling bad for was Colin, who will likely never shake the thought of “I should have been on that plane with him.” The black cars drive off to the next adventure, one that will likely break the weak bond of the trio before the pile of Kleenex is even cleared from the boat. The mid-season trailer that plays after the episode is a whiplash of a tone shift. Logan is out of the way—let the fight for the throne begin.