Before we go any further, it is important to note that this is absolutely your very last chance to avoid several major Succession spoilers. If you haven’t watched this week’s episode yet, go and do that now, and then come back and read this.
What you have to remember is that this was supposed to have happened years ago. When Jesse Armstrong was developing Succession, the plan was for Logan Roy – doddery old senile Logan Roy, a man clearly on his last legs – to die after just a few episodes. After all, this was a show entitled Succession, so it made sense that it would primarily involve a number of offspring and former business associates tearing at the man’s corpse for a bigger piece of the pie.
That isn’t what happened, of course. Brian Cox’s window-rattling performance was so elemental that Armstrong decided to keep Logan alive for much longer than intended, and Succession became a show about a number of offspring and former business associates licking their lips while they waited for an old man to keel over. That is, until now.
This week’s episode of Succession will go down as, if not the best, then certainly the most important of the series. When the time comes to look back on Succession as a whole, this will be the line that separates “before” and “after”. Logan Roy is dead. Let the games begin.
In hindsight, we should have seen this coming. The most consequential Succession episodes happen at family gatherings. There was the season one finale, the wedding-set Nobody is Ever Missing, in which Kendall accidentally killed a waiter and then fled the scene of the crime. Then there was the boat-set season two finale This is Not for Tears, in which Kendall finally turned on his father in spectacular fashion. This week’s episode was about a wedding set on a boat. Honestly, we should have been better prepared.
If nothing else, Logan’s death felt profoundly truthful. There were no signs that this was coming (indeed, Logan was his being his usual awful self just minutes before he died) so we felt the shock of it in tandem with the characters. A lesser show would have given us a smörgåsbord of hints. A greying of the face. A step lost on the tarmac. A lesser show would have let Cox do his thing in the aeroplane bathroom. Staggering around. Clutching his chest. Raging at God. It is miraculous that Succession had the restraint to let all that play out off-camera, and let us see his death secondhand through the eyes of his children. As such, little details – the phone call breaking up, the scramble for clarification, the mad flailing to regain some semblance of control over a matter already out of everybody’s hands – felt punishingly real.
Grief doesn’t hit immediately. The order of magnitude is too vast to instantly process. There are things that need to be done, people who need to be told, affairs that need to be put in order. It’s a horribly busy time, so the full weight of grief – the crushing absence of the most important person in your life – doesn’t come until all the pieces have stopped moving. And this is Logan Roy we’re talking about, so there are an awful lot of pieces. It might not happen in next episode, or even the episode after, but a heavy crash is coming for the Roy siblings.
That’s assuming that they’re human, of course, which might be too generous an assessment given everything we’ve seen. The trailer for the season’s second half suggests that the entire grieving process might be sidestepped altogether in favour of a mad race for Logan’s fortune and legacy. But then again, the trailer for this week’s episode made it look like it was going to be a lovely romp about a wedding, so who knows?
Speaking of mad races, the online coverage of Logan’s death has already been so comprehensive that we know this isn’t the last we’ll see of him. In one of his postmortem interviews, Cox revealed that he also filmed a handful of flashback scenes that have yet to be screened. Still, three seasons later than anticipated, Logan Roy is dead and there is no going back. Just seven episodes remain and, finally, Succession has begun.
Succession airs on Sky Atlantic and streams on NOW