Succession season 4 makes its biggest move with just a phone call

[Ed. note: This post discusses the plot of “Connor’s Wedding,” season 4 episode 3 of Succession, in detail.]

In its fourth season, HBO’s Succession had a promise to keep. As the final season of the critically acclaimed drama, the current batch of episodes is tasked with delivering on the promise of the show’s title. Someone has to take over from Logan Roy (Brian Cox), the patriarch of the Roy family and conservative media mogul near the end of his life and career. Having decided more than once not to step down and name a successor among his feuding children, it has become clear that death is the only thing that will separate Logan from his company.

What makes “Connor’s Wedding” such a great episode of television is how Logan’s inevitable death still feels like a shock, making audiences invested in his children’s messy, complicated grief.

Logan’s passing is shocking in its sudden mundanity. In a show that likes to squeeze both heavy drama and laugh-out-loud comedy out of board meetings and happy hands, Logan’s final moments are remarkable in how little weight they carry. He only has a few brief moments in “Connor’s Wedding,” where he asks his younger son to notify a trusted associate that she is being suspended, choosing to skip his oldest son’s wedding to get a closing a business deal.

Photo: David M. Russell/HBO

This nonchalant insensitivity is Logan Roy’s signature, perfected over three seasons by Cox’s performance and Succession‘s writers. Then he gets on the plane. The next thing we hear from him is when his son-in-law Tom Wambsgams (Matthew Macfadyen), the only family member on the run full of cronies, gets on the phone with Roman (Kieran Culkin) to share the news that Logan had to go to the bathroom and go to bed. being dragged outside when the flight attendant began to administer chest compressions.

What follows is a showcase for the acting talents of Succession‘s cast, as Roman, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Connor (Alan Ruck) all process the shock of their father’s passing in ways that summarize in a few brief moments who each of the Roy brothers and sisters are beneath the personas they present to the world, and the complicated feelings of love and loathing that can come from a toxic family relationship.

“Connor’s Wedding” answers a frequently asked question from Successionopponents: Why would I want to watch a show about a bunch of rich white bastards? The answer, it turns out, is the result of any well-written story. Succession is a show about rich white bastards, yes. But those rich white bastards are people first. They have weaknesses and insecurities, richly suggested inner lives and different interpersonal dynamics with each other. The yachts, villas and galas they enjoy as 1 percent don’t matter if someone is on the phone telling them their dad isn’t breathing. Wealth only reinforces their worst tendencies, making them think that their fatal flaws are superpowers, or that some bills are never due to them.

The Roy siblings sit around a glass coffee table as Kendall holds a phone to his ear in the fourth season of HBO's Succession.

Photo: Macall B. Polyy/HBO

They are often right in thinking this. Kendall Roy caused a man’s death in Season 1, and all he had to do was go to a fancy rehab clinic and pay for it. Each of Roy’s siblings have spent the series failing, essentially starting and folding new business ventures on a whim. Succession is brutally honest in this regard: the rich play by different rules and break the world around them without a second thought.

But Logan’s death leaves them powerless. They learn through a phone call that their father passed out in a bathroom and may not get up again. They can’t say goodbye or use their vast resources to give him better care. Logan Roy is just a man, dating as many men his age do, and Roy’s siblings are just people too, with nothing to get them through except the mess of a family they have.

To the viewer clearly outside the 1%, the Roy family is fractured in a way that is both painfully relatable and hilariously strange. All the money in the world, and it doesn’t make it any easier to just tell your family what they mean to you. None of it helps you deal with a lifetime of abuse or toxicity. Everyone eventually has to stand in front of a mirror and think about what they’ve become.