Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
This week, Logan Roy’s family and associates gather for his funeral, pausing all grudges so they can pay conflicted respects to the man.
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have10 gift articlesto give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
‘Succession’ Season 4, Episode 9: ‘Church and State’
When people talk about TV or movies as visual medium, they’re usually referring to pretty pictures or striking compositions. But you know what’s also an important part of visual storytelling? The simple reaction shot.
It wouldn’t take much retooling to turn any given “Succession” episode into a radio play, since most of the show’s “action,” so to speak, is in the dialogue. But boy would we ever miss those reaction shots. What these actors can do just with their faces — and what the directors and the editors can do with how and where they use them — is sublime.
This week, Logan Roy’s family and associates gather for his funeral, temporarily putting aside all grudges so they can pay their respects to a giant of a man. Kendall insists, “Today is just about today” (a phrase that should be etched into the family crest for the eternally capricious and opportunistic Roys). Throughout the day, these folks talk a lot — especially during the service, as one Roy after another rises to say a few words. And again, a lot of what’s really happening in the story is in the reactions.
Before the funeral even begins, the whole vibe surrounding the event is unsettled because of the postelection unrest in the New York streets (described by Tom as “a bit Tiananmen-y”). Kendall is furious when his ex-wife Rava (Natalie Gold) takes their kids out of the city for their safety. He is nearly as irritated when he learns his assistant Jess (Juliana Canfield) intends to resign, because of the potential violence that Jeryd Mencken and ATN have unleashed. “You have no idea how things will turn out and it’s very juvenile,” Kendall grumbles.
But once everyone’s inside the church, the mood softens. The tone is set by the Roy siblings’ mother, Lady Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter), who takes it upon herself to ask Kerry — who brought an attorney, just in case anyone tried to bar her from the funeral — to sit with her, Marcia, andthe fabled Sally Ann. (Caroline introduces Sally Ann as “my Kerry.”) These ladies share the bond of having loved a very difficult man; and when Marcia reaches out for Kerry’s hand, Kerry sobs.
Then the service begins, with a surprise. Logan’s fiery liberal brother, Ewan (James Cromwell), ignores his grandson Greg’s attempt to stop him from taking the pulpit. Ewan first shares some touching stories about Logan: about how they comforted each other as boys when they crossed the Atlantic during World War II; and about how Logan blamed himself for their sister dying of polio, which he was convinced he brought home from the boarding school he hated. With that out of the way, Ewan finishes by torching Logan’s legacy, saying his brother fed “a certain kind of meagerness in men.” (The ever-sycophantic Greg, after his grandfather sits back down: “That was a good hard take that you gave.”)
Here is where the reaction shots really start to become a factor. During Ewan’s takedown, we see Roman looking stricken. He came into this day feeling creepily upbeat, planning to follow his election night coup with a real grown-up eulogy for his father, in front of some of America’s most important people. But Ewan’s commanding, authoritative words shake him. Roman has never had this kind of spotlight; and now his siblings expect him to “say the other side” of the Logan Roy story.
He can’t. Roman starts to give his generic “great, great man” speech, but then freezes and asks his family to bail him out. He breaks down in front of everyone, gesturing at the coffin containing his father and whimpering, “Get him out.” It’s another shattering performance from Kieran Culkin. (The face to watch during Roman’s meltdown is Gerri’s. She looks genuinely pained for her former protégé.)
So Kendall fills in; and because he has lots of experience with throwing together sentences that his social peers can understand, he does a fine job. He acknowledges the pain his father could cause but he also celebrates how Logan made “bloody, complicated life” happen. “If we can’t match his vim, then God knows the future will be sluggish and gray,” he says, as both Mencken and Lukas Matsson look on with what appears to be grudging admiration. For all the gossip about how Jeremy Strong’s intensity on-set can frustrate his castmates, the results are on the screen in scenes like this one, so riveting and real.
Shiv follows with her own impromptu eulogy, mostly focused on how terrifying Logan could be when she and her siblings were little kids. Like Culkin and Strong, Sarah Snook nails her big moment, playing this speech so that it sits right between “here’s a funny story about a grumpy old man” and an accusation of abuse. Shiv calls her father “hard on women” — and the shot of Kendall that follows is a reminder of his own issues with Rava and Jess.
It is interesting to hear Shiv give such a harsh assessment of Logan’s parenting after what she had said to Matsson before the funeral. Readjusting their strategy for a looming Mencken presidency, they have decided to show they can play ball with a neo-fascist. Step 1: Promise that GoJo-Waystar will have an American CEO … like maybe Shiv. But when Matsson mentions that he heard a rumor about her being pregnant, she concocts a version of motherhood where she is “emailing through her vanity cesarean” and her kid “will never see her.” It’s positively Logan-esque.
After the funeral, the scramble for Waystar begins. Kendall capitalizes on his eulogy momentum by authorizing Hugo to start leaking to the media about Matsson’s shaky standing with the Waystar board. (“You’ll be my dog, but the scraps from the table will be millions,” he tells Hugo about the state of their business relationship. “Woof woof,” Hugo replies.) He also coaxes his father’s former bodyguard/confessor Colin to come work for him. He too is becoming more Logan-y by the minute.
But as it turns out, Shiv’s play has juice. Kendall realizes he may have miscalculated when he corners Mencken at the post-funeral reception and the presumptive President-elect intimates that ATN may need him more than vice versa. “I thought you were the sound system,” Mencken says to Kendall. “Now you want to choose the track?” It doesn’t help that Kendall is interrupted by a succession of embarrassing family members: first Greg, then Roman (Mencken: “It’s the Grim Weeper!”), then Connor.
It’s no wonder that Mencken seems relieved to talk with Shiv and Matsson, who seem … well, cooler. They both encourage him to broaden his thinking, with Shiv reminding him that Logan was more about “money, winning and gossip” than ideological purity and Matsson talking up the potential advantages (including “fun”) of allying with a “thought leader” tech bro. So as we head into the “Succession” finale next week, Kendall and Shiv both, seen in the right light, seem to have an edge in the fight to become the new Waystar CEO.
So where does that leave Roman? Still reeling from his funeral disaster. As Kendall asks for his brother’s help in the coming board battle against Shiv, he chastises Roman bluntly for screwing everything up. Roman then leaves the reception to crash one of the protest marches happening outside, where he yells at and gets smacked around by the angry leftists.
This suits him just fine. When it comes to reactions, Roman would always rather people look at him with anger than with pity — or, worse, with indifference.
Here’s another one for the “Kendall can’t stand to see his family get bullied” file: When Mencken makes fun of Roman’s crying jag, Kendall immediately shuts that joke down.
And here’s another brilliant reaction shot: When Kendall speaks at the funeral about how Logan “made” him and his siblings, the editors cut to Lady Caroline, looking a bit peeved.
There is not a lot of gut-busting comedy this week, though the Roy kids do get in some good riffs while gawking at Logan’s tomb, an ornate shrine he bought from a dot-com pet supply guy. Shiv calls the seller “cat food Ozymandias,” asks whether her dad was “in a bidding war with Stalin and Liberace,” then suggests the grave could be a tax write-off because, “It’s technically a residence.”
The tomb has plenty of room for more family members, should any of Logan’s children want to spend eternity with their problematic patriarch. Connor pipes up and says he wouldn’t mind a top bunk. Kendall hesitates, saying, “I had trouble finishing a scotch with him.” And Roman? “He made me breathe funny,” he says.
Shiv, bothered by how little she really knew — or perhaps wanted to know — about her father’s character, asks Frank and Karl, “How bad was Dad?” They reassure her that he was “a salty dog but a good egg,” adding, “What you saw was what you got.” Then after she leaves, Karl half-shrugs, looks at Frank and asks, “Right?” Frank, halfheartedly: “Right.”
Shiv, as the funeral ends and the cemetery prepares to inter her father: “I’m intrigued to see how he gets out of this one.”
Continue reading the main story