Spoilers below for Season 4, Episode 3 of Succession
A destabilizing, powerful, and breathless hour of television, “Connor’s Wedding” will go down as not just one of the finest episodes of Succession but one of the finest episodes of television, period, ranking up with episodes such as Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias” with its palpable panic and disarray. Putting aside the fact that the episode shakes the foundation of the series by taking away one of the stories key figure points who every other character orbited, this weeks output also reinforced that the HBO series has one of the finest casts on television, and at the heart of Succession is a story of children trying, often failing, to either step out of an abusive fathers shadow to stand beside him, escape him, or huddle in the warmth of his gaze. Cathartic the loss of Logan Roy may be in the near future for the Roy siblings, but in “Connor’s Wedding” we simply watch as the air is sucked out of the room.
“Connor’s Wedding” gets to the heart of anyone who has lost anybody but especially those who have suffered the abrupt death of a loved one. It’s never clean. You don’t always get to say goodbye and what you’re left with is disembodied voices who are receiving the news, a recounting of the deceased’s final moments, and echoes of platitudes. You grip sleeves, cradle faces, reach for an open palm and just will for things to be okay. In Shiv’s case, she begs for the plane to circle the skies, Kendall seeks control, and Roman denies it all. It’s a masterclass in writing and acting in particular, as we standby, an omnipresent figure living this moment in real time with siblings, as they’re source of information, their grasp on reality, comes in and out of focus.
Grief is something like being underwater, everything is muted aside from your heartbeat and the constriction of your lungs. Directed by Mark Mylod and written by creator Jesse Armstrong, one of the smartest decisions is to have the kids all learning of Logan’s death secondhand, and at a point where it’s inevitable. Logan had chosen business over his family one last time, having boarded a plane for a deal instead of en route to Connor’s wedding, and he died in a bathroom surrounded by employees who began to draft a business statement regarding his passing with his body still warm only a room away. This clinical precision works in tandem with the chaotic nature of Tom’s call to Roman, Kendall, and Shiv to let them know.
By keeping them separate, the siblings adrift on a boat, Logan’s body hovering above them like his stature and prominence in their lives has always seated him, the grief is compounded by the anxiety-ridden loss of control. No money or influence can reverse death. Matthew Macfadyen is wonderful in these moments, his voice wavering in just the right moments as to crack the veneer or professionalism, twinged with just enough compassion and reticence in relaying the news which reminds us that, often, Tom has been an impossibly human character. Rotten like the rest, but undeniably a person swimming amongst sharks.
The level of introspection we get into the minds of these characters this episode is especially grim and telling. Sarah Snook is heartbreaking when she is able to finally speak on the phone to her father, despite believing he’s already dead and she’s speaking to a corpse, childlike and confused, hurt at being the last to know. Jeremy Strong too is phenomenal, especially in his words to his father as he tells him he can’t forgive him, but he loves him. So often the heinous acts of vicious family members are erased or smoothed over with death but Kendall’s reaction is both believable and fair, perhaps even more so than what Logan Roy deserved.
This is shown especially true with Connor and Roman. Alan Ruck hasn’t always gotten the same chances to deliver as the other Roy siblings but he’s been particularly tragic these past few episodes, his line “my father’s dead, and I feel old” to Willa an absolute emotional gut punch. That said, Kieran Culkin’s whiplash level of grief processing, from his absolute terror that he didn’t tell Logan he loved him, to his bullheaded denial in the face of reality at the end, needing to see his fathers actual body before believing the truth, is crushing. The episode had already leveled us before even stepping foot inside the interior of the boat with Roman’s deserved, if minor, push back in voice message to his dad, calling him on his manipulative cruelty. Culkin’s physicality is tremendous, as Roman remains an embodiment of someone who suffered abuse but still craved love from the monster, with the death of Logan taking the cause but not the effect of the monster’s actions.
Paced with precise disorder as the siblings try to catch up to what’s happening, the viewers themselves only ever getting to see the top of Logan’s head as chest compressions are performed on him, Succession’s “Connor’s Wedding” refuses to relent. It’s a grueling hour of television, one that will see very real ramifications on the characters and the series as a whole. Logan’s health has always loomed overhead, his loss a what if scenario. Now that Armstrong and co., have physically removed him from the picture, we’re going to finally see how Roman, Kendall, and Shiv handle the business, his loss, and what it means to be a Roy without the patriarch growling for their groveling from above. It’s an absolute shift of narrative and, in the final season of the series, is a perfect pivot for the remaining episodes as they scramble for purchase.
Succession is available now on HBO / HBO Max. Watch the midseason trailer below.
Featured Image Courtesy of HBO