This review contains spoilers for Succession.
There are a few TV episodes that will never be forgotten: Game of Thrones‘ Red Wedding, Line of Duty‘s “H” reveal, Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias”. As of today, there is a new contender for the most nail-biting and game-changing hour of television of all time.
Monday 10 April 2023 will forever be remembered as the day Succession killed off Logan Roy.
The episode, simply titled “Connor’s Wedding” presumably to act as a red herring for the severity of what was about to transpire, started just like any other act in the Roy family melodrama. After Roman (Keiran Culkin) defected to his father’s side after of last week’s karaoke bar fiasco, Logan (Brian Cox) invited his youngest son to Stockholm to meet Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) to help close the long-awaited deal between GoJo and Waystar Royco.
The problem was that it the same day as Connor’s wedding, an all-American affair aboard a Hudson River boat. But when has Logan Roy ever let family get in the way of business? Not only was he set on clearing the GoJo deal, but he was also going to give general counsel Gerri “the push”. Connor’s big day was nothing compared to the plan Logan was about to execute.
But after those austere, iconic titles rolled, none of that mattered. Roman, Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) were discussing their — and their father’s — next moves when Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) interrupted with a slew of frantic phone calls. Logan had collapsed on the flight to Sweden and was nonresponsive. As the scene flipped between Roman and Kendall frantically trying to squeeze information from Tom and those aboard the plane, we could see glimpses of Succession’s powerful patriarch lying on the floor, receiving CPR from a flight attendant.
I don’t think I let out a breath for the rest of the episode. Not only was this a completely unexpected, radical twist in the story, but it was perfectly executed. It felt as though all three seasons had led up to this moment: the pilot episode back in 2018 saw the family in a similar crisis, crowding together in hospital, pondering the future of the company, after Logan suffered a brain aneurysm. Seeing them in this hyper-nervous state again was like stepping back in time — suddenly all the subterfuge and “f*** offs” didn’t matter, only the wellbeing of their father. Only this time, he wouldn’t recover and the idea of succession (in its most monarchical sense) is now all too real.
The script, performances, and foreboding music communicated the enormity of the event with unparalleled skill. Snook in particular was fantastic, playing Shiv with a rare desperation and emotion the buttoned-up character rarely lets her show off. We’re used to seeing the Roys with their guards up, hyper aware of their own actions and always in control. Here, Shiv, Kendall and Roman, were out at sea (almost literally), as panic set in and, like us, they had no choice but to take what was happening second by second. They were, for once, entirely human — and scared.
Succession is well known for its brutal one liners. The dramatic departure from the Roy siblings’ tit-for-tat squabbling with their father gave this episode a stark identity of its own, the fighting swapped out for professions of love and sniffling tears. There were few funny substories or witty wisecracks to undercut the tension — this was all-out, unrelenting anxiety.
The confusion over whether Logan had really died or not only added extra concern, grounding the episode in a reality that Succession can sometimes lose sight of among the billions of dollars at stake. That Logan’s death — an inevitability, given his age — was still so shocking is testament to the drama’s ability to keep even the most dedicated viewers guessing.
Aboard the plane, the Waystar execs — and Kerry (Zoe Winters), Logan’s girlfriend/assistant who was not handling the situation well — scrabbled to form a corporate response. Succession is all about the rock of business and the hard place of family crashing together, but never before has the dissonance between the two been so sharp. As the suits began drafting a statement to announce Logan’s death, Kendall, Shiv and Roman had barely processed the fact they had lost their father and were furious they weren’t in charge. “We were not estranged,” insisted Kendall indignantly, who last week told Logan to f*** off when he tried to make amends.
With Logan’s death, Succession suffers from the loss of the extraordinary Brian Cox, who has become inseparable from his steely media mogul over the years. But Logan will never truly die — Cox has made sure his legacy will live on in TV history forever, as well as loom over his children’s consciousness.
We’re heading into the last episodes of Succession, a show that is sure to be seen as Jesse Armstrong’s masterpiece once the dust has settled. “Connor’s Wedding” will almost certainly see Strong, Snook and Culkin pick up Emmys. The death of Logan Roy leaves the rest of the season wide open; anything could happen. The big seat is up for the taking, and we already know the Roys will do anything to be a top dog.
Any doubters of Succession‘s place in TV history should be silenced by this. A programme about hateful, arrogant, powerful people that can turn them into objects of pity in the space of one phone call is a marvel. It took the death of a loved one for the Roys to finally become relatable.
Succession is at its best when it strips back the business jargon and goes for the gut: this was its finest moment.