Shiv & Kendall are still making deals while Roman falls apart as they bid their father a complicated farewell in the penultimate episode of Succession.
“Things do happen,” according to Shiv (Sarah Snook) in last week’s tremendous episode, “America Decides.” But do they? For the Roy siblings, the history of Succession tells us that no, nothing will happen to them. After rocket explosions, waiters drowning, and some serious animal abuse by ignoring poor Mondale, the Roys have faced zero consequences for their actions.
They may have waited till the penultimate episode, but “Church and State,” written by show creator Jesse Armstrong and directed by Succession all-star Mark Mylod, shows that sometimes things do actually happen. Even the rich and powerful can get a black eye if they push too hard.
I couldn’t help but have the Pete Seeger anthem “Which Side are You On?” (used to perfection in season one) playing in my head throughout the episode. The morning after the Roys spill their family drama all over American democracy by prematurely calling the election for fascist Jerryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), the lines are drawn. Protesters are running around starting fires and closing down major streets. The Roys live far above the fracas, but it’s getting harder to avoid the masses when they’re this pissed.
Kendall (Jeremy Strong) sees it firsthand when he rides in the back of his limo through the streets, now heightened with tension. Some are boarding up businesses. Others are casually passing cans of gasoline to each other on the sidewalk. Things are getting a bit heated, so Ken asks Roman (Kieran Culkin) to make Mencken lower the temperature. Roman pushes back because ratings are through the roof and “discord makes his dick hard.”
Ken then gets a call from Rava with some bad news: she’s taking their kids upstate to get away from the chaos instead of going to his father’s funeral that day. Ken doesn’t take this well and immediately tries to change her mind. Like the big baby he is, he tells her she’s “too online” and threatens to get a court order to stop them. Rava, always the best at calling out Ken’s bullshit, gives him a tired “Sure, go do that,” before driving away, possibly out of his life forever.
Meanwhile, over at ATN studios, Sleepy Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) is trying to pick up the pieces from last night and desperately needs a nap. As clips of angry skirmishes play on the TV behind them, he asks Greg to save him a seat for the funeral, preferably the second row.
The Roy kids hop from their own cars to one car (rich people…they hate walking!) and sit in complete silence until Shiv drops her pregnancy news to her brothers. Besides the excellent response of “Is it mine?” from Roman, they don’t seem too happy or excited for their sister. Before they can talk more about it, the real world crashes in on them again when protesters bang on the car windows, scaring Shiv.
As they walk to the church, we get an incredible scene between Ken and his long-suffering assistant, Jess, where the show finally lets Juliana Canfield cook. Ken notices a meeting she put on his calendar and instead of just being chill about it, he forces her to discuss what the meeting is about. She wants to quit, obviously because of Kendall’s deal with the devil (Mencken) but she tells him it’s to focus on her career. Ken doesn’t understand why anyone would want to leave his employment and calls her dumb.
Even the rich and powerful can get a black eye if they push too hard.
First his family, and now his loyal assistant leaving him? Perhaps Ken should have stopped that Wisconsin call.
Now to the main event. Logan’s funeral takes up the majority of the episode, and it’s a mini masterpiece of storytelling. It’s closer to the wedding that opens The Godfather than any of the actual weddings in this show, and Mylod shoots it like a documentary. The camera drifts around, catching quick bits of conversations. The focus puller deserves all the money after some of the incredible shots where characters appear in and out of focus in the same frame, like when the shot pulls from Matsson to Mencken looking at him from across the aisle at one point.
We also see the amazing bench of actors Succession has piled up over four seasons. Sandy and Sandi, two major characters earlier in this series, show up in the back of a few shots. They don’t even have lines. It’s the show running a victory lap, but even in its gloating, it still packs a punch.
After Hugo (Fisher Stevens) whispers to Ken that the GoJo numbers in India are bogus, Roman tries to get him to convince the other execs the Waystar acquisition shouldn’t happen.
Then the heavy hitters start arriving. Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) shows up with his weird Swedish crew, and Menken walks in looking very presidential and scary. There’s also perennial Mom of the Year, Caroline, who arrives after Shiv says “I thought I heard the sound of Dalmatians howling.” She approaches Shiv and immediately notices she’s pregnant. For the first time, she can’t come up with a biting insult. She’s hurt that Shiv didn’t tell her sooner, but Shiv didn’t want to give her mother information she could use against her. Like Matsson said, “Cool cool family.”
Matsson tells Shiv he’s worried about Mencken ruining the deal, so they come up with the idea to have an American CEO (AKA Shiv Roy) to help smooth the deal for a president who hates foreigners. Matsson has some doubts about a pregnant Shiv taking over, but she pulls the rope-a-dope on him by making him think he’s controlling her and can be used as her puppet (which he already is, pretty much).
Logan’s body arrives in the casket, and the mood shifts. The air gets heavy, and the emotional trauma from the Roy kids starts revealing itself. Before Roman can go up for his eulogy, Logan’s brother, Ewan (James Cromwell), goes first before Greg (Nicholas Braun) can stop him. You had one job, Greg!
Ewan proceeds to give an all-time “fuck you” eulogy to his evil Capitalist pig of a brother. He calls him selfish and exclaims, “He has wrought the most terrible things.” Ewan also does something the show hasn’t done yet: give us an insight into what made Logan tick. He tells a horrific story about their journey to America before sharing that Logan felt guilt over their little sister dying of polio after he came home sick from boarding school. Their aunt and uncle, who they were staying with, also blamed Logan for this, even though he didn’t actually have polio. Based on the looks from Logan’s kids in the front row, things are starting to click into place.
That’s a hard act to follow. So much so that Roman has a nervous breakdown when the weight of the moment hits him at the podium. He’s supposed to give the other side of the argument. Logan was a titan of industry, not someone who started wars (even though he did). Instead, Roman doesn’t get a word out. He looks at his father’s coffin a few feet away and loses it.
It’s an extraordinary moment for both the character, and Culkin as an actor. He takes Roman’s perverted troll exterior and melts it down until we see the scared child who misses his dad underneath. Roman is a monster who tears the fabric of the country apart for ratings, but hearing him pleading with his siblings to get their dad out of the coffin breaks my heart for the little shit.
Kendall sees his opportunity here and does the eulogy himself, praising his father and giving a proper sendoff for this media giant. He even has a little snot on his upper lip for the Emmy reel. Not to be outdone, Shiv gets up there too and talks about how Logan never let people close, but when they did, the “sun shone.”
It’s a fascinating breakdown on how and why all three children loved their dad. Kendall loved him for the power he wielded. He tellingly admits in the speech he wants to share “that magnificent, awful force in him.” Shiv loved him when he actually let her into his life, and Roman loved him because he was simply his dad.
They carry the casket back down the aisle with everyone looking at the king one final time. While leaving the church, Mencken shakes Ken’s hand (with a noticeable cut to Jess) but ignores Roman. Looks like he’s no longer the number one boy for the handsome racist.
Roman is a monster who tears the fabric of the country apart for ratings, but hearing him pleading with his siblings to get their dad out of the coffin breaks my heart for the little shit.
Things get lighter when they go to the graveyard to place Logan in an obscenely large mausoleum. Connor (Alan Ruck) gives the rest of the siblings a tour, saying a dotcom pet supply guy built it before selling it to Logan. “It was five mill all in, but it’s forever, you know?”
After the service, Ken starts to make his power moves. He tells the “droid at his service,” Hugo, to leak to the press that the family isn’t happy about the GoJo deal and may not go through with it. When Ken asks him to be his attack dog, Hugo happily barks back. He also invites his dad’s old right hand man, Colin (Scott Nicholson), to join him. Colin seems skeptical of this, so I hope he does what’s best for him and stays far away from the Roys and continues therapy.
Mencken shows up, and everyone in the Roy clan wants a bite at this xenophobic apple. Even Greg wants in, even though in season one he had reservations about working for him. Eventually, Shiv is able to get Mencken away to talk to Matsson. They pitch him the idea about the merger and having an American CEO. Mencken seems above all this wheeling and dealing and doesn’t commit. Kirk is so good at playing this creep. He somehow gives the character undeniable charm yet makes his eyes soulless (if you watch closely, the dude never blinks).
Tom finally makes it, still so tired. He and Shiv seem to come to a ceasefire from their explosive fight two episodes ago, but are still very much on shaky ground. He wants to know why she didn’t tell him about the baby (while she sips on champagne) but Caroline interrupts the “Happy Couple.” Shiv finally shows mercy to Tom and tells him to get some sleep. Hopefully he remembers to feed Mondale first.
Shiv then gets a call from Matsson letting her know that Mencken actually agreed to their proposal. If Mencken becomes president (pending several legal challenges) he’ll let the merger go through. Meanwhile, Ken sits down with Roman to plan their next move. He lets Roman know how much he screwed up, but, despite being a moron, his brother can still help.
After getting a very Logan-esque dressing down from his older brother, Roman punishes himself. His method of self-flagellating is to go to the streets and walk directly into the large, angry crowd of protesters whose fury he helped spark in the first place. He gets to taste some consequences of his own actions when a protester elbows him in the face, knocking him to the ground. The masses walk over him like the garbage he always saw them as.
So here we are. The tables are set for the final episode of the series. It’s “The Roy Boys vs. Shiv the Shiv.” We have Shiv and Matsson trying to make the GoJo deal happen in one corner, and Ken and Roman trying to keep Waystar in the other corner. I’m confident we won’t be able to predict how this all ends, because it’s honestly never been about the plot. Succession has always been about a broken family, surrounded by terrible people, trying to find power and love and always failing at both. I do predict that whatever happens, it won’t be a happy ending. Based on the previous 38 episodes, I don’t think the Roys are going to become “serious people” with one hour left to go, but it’s been a pleasure watching them try.
Boars on the Floor:
- “You’re my #1 (estranged older brother)!”: Round of applause for what may be the final appearance on this show from the great James Cromwell. He’s played crotchety old men for three decades, but Ewan may be his crowning achievement. He’s known Logan the longest out of everyone in the Roy orbit, and is the only one to know him before he “stopped trying.” So it’s perfect to have him give the eulogy that best reflects the man who Logan was and who he ultimately became.
- Mattson correctly points out America has only been a true democracy for 50 years since the passing of the Civil Rights Act. We’ve been a true democracy as long as Botswana!
- When the Roy kids are walking up to the church, Roman says, “Whoever cries the most wins the funeral.” Not quite, Roman.
- Greg riding the CitiBike to the funeral is an incredible image.
- The Waystar execs have no more fucks to give. At Logan’s funeral, Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) asks if they’re glad he’s dead. When Karl (David Rasche) can barely muster a “I miss him a little” Gerri says it’s Stockholm Syndrome.
- I love the jaunty music they play when they wheel Logan down the aisle
- Mencken calls Roman the “Grim Weeper.” Brutal.
- “Privacy, pussy, pasta”: Matsson’s political philosophy, and maybe title of his memoir?
- Great shot panning from the marching protesters on the street to the memorial service high above them in the penthouse.
- “Things are getting a bit Tianam-y out there.”- Tom, speaking about the protests.
- Also Tom, replying to Caroline’s congrats about the baby: “If it wasn’t such a total fucking disaster, it would be a dream come true.” I’m going to miss Wambsgans so much.