Three Euronews Culture writers (and fans of the hit show Succession) weigh in on why the gamechanging Episode 3 of the final season may be the best TV you see all year.
Spoiler alert: This article contains major spoilers for Season 4, Episode 3 of Succession
Well, there that was.
Long-time viewers of Succession probably predicted that this final season of Jesse Armstrong’s award-winning show would include the death of manipulative and surly patriarch Logan Roy.
But it was still shocking, and led to one of the show’s best episodes: "Connor’s Wedding."
Three of Euronews Culture ’s writers (and fans of Succession) have taken Logan’s famous last words – “Today’s the day” – and decided to share their takes on this game-changing episode, which we’ll be talking about for quite some time.
THE KIDS ARE NOT OK
The LA Times spoiled it for me.
It’s my own fault, really. When watching HBO shows that air at 2am UK time on Mondays (as all the big ones usually do), you’ve got a choice: either stay up or spend the entirety of the day dodging Roy-related memes and desperately resisting the urge to click on the #Succession Twitter trend.
Unfortunately, episode 3 of season 4’s HUGE development couldn’t be contained, and if you were online at all earlier this week, there’s a good chance you, too, were faced with a fake LA Times obituary for Logan Roy, floating forebodingly at the top of your social media timelines.
I quickly closed my eyes, manically scrolled away and told myself it was a joke, because, like the Roy kids, I lie to myself when hit with gut-punching news - and spoilers.
Having now seen the episode, I can confidently say it’s my favourite so far, along with the ending to season 3, where a similar vulnerability to the main characters is exposed as they break down, band together and connect in a moment of extreme adversity.
The genius of "Connor’s Wedding" is the way such a major plot twist is made so raw and realistic, guiding us through the scenario from Kendall, Roman and Shiv’s perspectives in real time. From Tom’s initial phone call telling them that their dad is sick, “very sick”, to the gravity of the situation unravelling in a toss and tumble of misunderstanding, shock, hope, disbelief, sadness and eventual crushing acceptance.
The camera never gives a moment’s reprieve, lingering almost sadistically on every character as they try to say their final words to their dying (or already dead, nobody knows for sure) father while he receives chest compressions on a plane. They fumble and struggle to speak, and we see the hardened layers peeling away to reveal a softness, like Kendall’s “I love you, dad”, and the close-up of Shiv and Kendall holding hands as they go to break the news to Connor.
It’s the most relatable the Roy’s have ever been, with all of the material wealth, business buzzwords and superficial snark rendered meaningless in the face of death. It’s a point that’s furthered by the symbolism of Logan dying alone on a plane, surrounded by scheming business partners instead of at his son’s wedding, with those that - despite all his awfulness - loved him. Meanwhile, the kids are drifting out to sea on a boat, perhaps another metaphor for the displacement of grief - or just me reading too much into it.
Some people had predicted Logan would die this way as soon as they saw the poster for season 4, which contains an easter egg (revealed over the Easter weekend! We see what you did there, Jesse Armstrong) in the form of a plane’s reflection, flying ominously above Kendall in the glass pane of a skyscraper.
Logan was old and horrible. We knew this event was coming, but to hit us with it in the middle of the season was a masterful decision that will move the focus away from the kids versus their dad and bring to light the motives of more side characters (Kerry’s response to Logan’s death was very suspicious, a slighted Gerri was serving vengeful looks, and Tom is just a devious little devil.)
But I’m mostly sad for Connor. Not only was his wedding day ruined (wasn’t the "Looney Cake" sponge saga enough), but he was also the last to know that his father had died; always on the sidelines and feeling unloved.
"He never even liked me," is Connor’s initial response, before turning to Kendall and Shiv, saying, “You know what, I’m sorry. He did, he did,” to offer some comfort.
While he’s become a favourite of Succession fans for his comic relief, providing a humanness to a show about inhumane people, Connor is also a connection to a world outside of Logan Roy’s suffocating competitiveness and control. It’s a lonely, less purposeful world for Connor, and one that his siblings are now closer to than ever before. Amber Bryce
AIN'T NO PARTY LIKE A SUCCESSION GRIEF PARTY
Just like Amber, I also had the shock of the episode spoiled by the fake obituary in the LA Times. Well, I say spoiled. Just because I knew going into the episode that it was likely Logan’s last, doesn’t mean the experience was spoiled in any way.
While spoilers are a serious factor for some people, I’ve always stood by the premise that you can’t spoil something by knowing the plot, as the enjoyment always comes from the performances and the emotions as they are presented, not the content of those emotions’ setting. In the case of this Succession episode, that held true.
Watching the siblings slowly come to the realisation they’re not being pranked over the phone by Tom and that their father is actually dying was far more shocking than just the fact Logan was dying. The show demonstrated with pinpoint precision that strange confusion people feel when they’re given news that someone has died.
As Roman initially panics then slides into denial, as Kendall attempts to stay remarkably stoic while the cracks form in his face, as Shiv’s annoyance crumbles into despair, and as Connor’s true feelings burst out; the cast and writers captured the disorientating feeling of world-shifting news.
Knowing the news was coming made no difference to the impact. What sold the episode was Shiv’s small voice uttering “Daddy” down a one-way phone line. Sarah Snook’s casting was never in doubt, but her ability to sell the small child underneath the strong woman persona was on top form throughout this episode. She projected waves of grief, shock, anger, and confusion in a way I’ve not seen anyone capture on screen before.
The setting of Logan’s death also couldn’t have been more perfect. On a plane away with colleagues as his whole family celebrates together, the patchy phone signal from Tom, the imprecise information as to whether Logan was dead or not... All of it came together to transcend a staid season finale around a grand character’s death. Instead, writer Jesse Armstrong opted for something far more startling. An untimely, inconvenient, and truly shocking death that blindsides everyone.
The fact that this show could achieve this with a character who is in his 80s, started the very first episode with an almost fatal stroke, and then spends the entire rest of the show working out who will replace him when he’s gone, is also a remarkable statement of the force of Brian Cox’s performance. It’s hard to imagine Succession without Logan Roy in it. But as with real life losses, we will have to go on. Jonny Walfisz
THE HBO EPISODE THREE CONSPIRACY & THE JOYS OF DRIP-FED SHOWS
Even if you couldn’t call it a complete surprise, Episode 3 of Season 4 delivered a game-changing twist that could’ve been predicted in the long run, but which nonetheless hit hard. Jesse Armstrong’s acclaimed HBO drama has always been likened to Shakespeare’s 'King Lear', with Brian Cox’s Logan Roy fitting the bill when it comes to the titular character at the heart of a family story about inheritance, love and a metric shit-ton of betrayal. And his death – brilliantly dealt with off-screen in what has to be one of the show’s canniest pieces of direction and staging – is the perfect way to further things narratively as we slowly edge towards a final resolution.
But for me, this already legendary episode – without a doubt one of the show’s finest – got me thinking about three specific things.
First: Did Jesse Armstrong know that this episode would air during Easter weekend? If so, my X Files-addled brain went into full-blown conspiracy mode, thinking that if the timing was pre-planned, then could this all be another machination on Logan’s behalf… A trick far too cheap for the show, but nevertheless, nice timing, as I certainly had resurrection on the mind (on top of chocolate).
Second: What is it with HBO and brain-melting third episodes?
We all remember where we were for the third (and best) episode of The Last of Us earlier this year, and how much of an emotionally-bruising narrative pivot that was. And come to think of it, most of the third episodes of other HBO series like True Detective, Band of Brothers, The White Lotus, Veep, Chernobyl and The Wire have all been absolute doozies. Are they saving the best episodes for third chapters? Take season 1 of True Detective, for instance. Episode 3 – “The Locked Room” may be the season’s greatest. It certainly ends on one of the most terrifying still-frames I’ve ever encountered in TV – a haunting slow zoom towards “the monster at the end of it”, in which we see a machete-wielding, gasmask-wearing scary bastard which is the perfect way to end an episode on a tantalizing and terrifying high.
White Lotus’ season 2 episode 3 (“Bull Elephants”) had the whole Cameron-Lucia / Ethan-Mia fourway… Episode 3 of Chernobyl saw the beginning of the nuclear meltdown and that harrowing ending where a wife watches her husband and several other deceased victims lowered into a mass grave that is then sealed into zinc caskets and buried in concrete…
The HBO trend repeats itself – and I see your game, Home Box Office… Third episodes are where you destroy us. Succession confirms your evil scheme. And I’m there for it.
Third and finally: How fantastic are drip-fed shows?
Nothing beats them, and Succession is once again further proof. The narrative accomplishments of this show are a celebration of event television. Every week, we tune in and the watercooler conversations that follow during the week ensure that the series remains on everyone’s lips longer. It certainly beats binge-watching, which is the enemy of true cultural conversation. The tactic of releasing one episode a week entices audiences, sparks conversation and theories, and brings me back to the good old days of the aforementioned X Files or Lost after it, when everyone was on the same schedule and could genuinely get into deeper chats about the latest developments. Had HBO’s Succession or The Last of Us been inelegantly dumped in one go for mindless audience feeding, the impact would have been significantly diluted.
This way, we can fully appreciate how Succession was building up to this moment since the series premiere, how gloriously staged the gutpunch big reveal of "Connor’s Wedding" was, how Nicholas Britell’s elegiac score continues to be a thing of true beauty, and how everyone involved should start buying polish to shine those upcoming 2024 Emmys.
New episodes of Succession continue air every week on HBO. And it’s better that way. David Mouriquand