The Shocking ‘Succession’ Death Is a Brilliant Game-Changer

The Shocking ‘Succession’ Death Is a Brilliant Game-Changer

This post contains spoilers for Succession Season 4, Episode 3.

True to form, Succession’s jaw-dropping death scene takes place not in a hospital, but as a flurry of frantic phone calls.

In Sunday’s Season 4 show-stopper, Succession creator Jesse Armstrong made good on the ending he’s teased since the beginning—killing off the once indestructible Logan Roy. A corporate titan in his professional life and abusive tyrant in his personal life, Logan has spent what little we’ve seen of this season quietly wondering what awaits him on the other side while simultaneously plotting out his ninth (or tenth, or twentieth) life. It’s understandable that Logan’s not convinced there’s anything after this life he’s so thoroughly conquered; as he put it last season, “Life is not knights on horseback. It’s a number on a piece of paper. It’s a fight for a knife in the mud.”

… And oh, the muck Logan Roy has left behind. If he’d just sucked it up, done the fatherly thing, and showed up for his son Connor’s wedding, maybe none of this would have happened. Then again, we all knew he’d never bother. And so, Logan Roy—billionaire, media mogul, and sadistic game designer—spent his final minutes in the air, miles away from his family, with a handful of hired staff by his side. Would he have wanted it any other way?

The kids are all on a yacht en route to Ellis Island for the wedding when Kendall and Roman pick up the call from Tom, who tells them that their father is gravely ill and receiving chest compressions. Their father has skipped the ceremony with no notice for a business meeting.

You can see the abusive dynamic Logan has fostered among his kids by how they respond to his death. Roman and Kendall, the two sons Logan has taunted throughout their lives with the promise of one day replacing him, hand the cell phone back and forth, as they try to process the fact that their father is probably, almost definitely, but not certainly, dying. It takes them a while to bother getting Shiv, Logan’s only daughter, and the only child he ever ever addressed with a genuinely affectionate nickname: Pinky.

Logan might never have taken his only daughter seriously as a successor, but it’s her nonetheless whom the siblings choose to deliver the news of his death to the public.

Shiv would have been the one to receive Tom call first—had she not been ignoring her ex-husband’s calls because he, among many other things, conspired with Logan to squash her and her sibling’s bid to take over the family business at the end of last season. She’s the only Roy child to receive an affectionate nickname from their father: “Pinky.” That’s probably because Logan never took her seriously as a potential replacement for himself. He’d gestured toward handing his daughter the crown one day, but that seemed like an empty promise to a daughter he’d never actually choose over his sons.

And then there’s Connor, the forever rejected bastard child, who naturally receives the news last. None of his siblings bother to come get him so that he can say his last words to Logan. Instead, they tell him only after their father is already gone—at which point he decides to get married anyway after a refreshingly candid conversation with Willa. She admits she might like his money, but hey, she’s also happy in his orbit. After a lifetime with these emotionally stunted weirdos, it’s not hard to imagine how that might feel like validation.

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David M. Russell/HBO

The episode feels like a play on Succession’s Season 2 finale, in which Logan tried to sell Shiv and other family members on a “blood sacrifice” (Kendall), also while on a yacht. Throughout the episode, small details call back to the damage Logan has done to his kids. Connor, rejected and disempowered, can be seen torturing the catering staff during the episode, like he did during Logan’s birthday party. Forever the groomed successor, Kendall goes into full executive mode once it becomes clear their dad is dying, making phone calls to coordinate a response team even after Logan’s fate is clearly sealed. Roman just finished leaving Daddy a nasty voicemail after an(other) episode of serious emotional abuse, but he’s also terrified that he forgot to tell the father who beat him, “I love you.”

And Shiv? She returns to Tom, a husband whose manipulative streak matches her own, tearful and gutted. (For the record, Tom is not in a great place right now either; he’s spent years buttering Logan up, supervising his bathroom visits, and offering to go to prison for him. Now, as he mournfully tells Cousin Greg, he’s lost his “protector.”)

Killing off Logan in its final act might just be Succession’s most brilliant maneuver yet. Something needed to interrupt the Roys’ cyclical pattern of abuse, and Logan’s loss cuts even deeper into the show’s central question: Can his kids actually succeed, professionally and personally? Is there any future for them beyond and outside their father’s legacy, or has he successfully (sorry) convinced them they could never be “serious people?”

Given everything we know about Logan, it stands to reason that he wouldn’t worry too much about what his children might say after his death. It might shame him, however, to see how ill-equipped they seem to manage not only his loss but also the company he left behind. Previews for the remainder of this season tease a power squabble between the kids, Logan’s colleagues, and the countless corporate vultures standing in between them—all of whom probably hope to take over.

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By refusing to let his children grow powerful enough to rival his greatness, the Waystar Royco patriarch imperiled the one thing he truly values: his legacy. The empires everyone remembers, the ones Logan seeks to imitate, spanned generations. Will his last even a decade after his death?

As irredeemable as they all are, there’s reason to have hope in the Roy brood—at least, in a professional sense. Logan’s death hits them all like a livewire, but in the end, they come together to craft a statement before they’ve even fully accepted that he’s gone. (Well, minus Connor, who is taking a much-deserved reprieve to marry his sugar baby.) That is obviously not healthy grieving behavior, but In the absence of their father’s villainous meddling (plus, perhaps, many many billable hours) could these kids all just … get along? Logan would say “fuck off” at the thought.

In the end, Logan seems to have left this world on the exact terms he expected—that is to say, with numerical proof of his greatness. In a telling moment toward the end of the episode, after Shiv has delivered their statement to the public, Roman checks his phone and confirms that everyone now knows their dad is dead. As the kids look at a graph indicating that Waystar Royco’s stock has plummeted at the news, Roman murmurs, “And that is Dad.”

The Daily Beast

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