church and state

Succession Power Rankings: Sob Story

Photo: Macall Polay/HBO

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to see our emotional-support billionaires put their father to rest — not in the ground, because Pop wasn’t really hot on that idea, but in an absolutely massive mausoleum he got an amazing deal on. Meanwhile, online is peaking, Jess is resigning (or trying to), and Americans are rioting in the streets over the whole situation wherein arsonists destroyed 100,000 ballots and ATN just decided those ballots don’t count so now a neofascist is president-elect. The throne left vacant by Logan is beckoning! Everyone is coming for the crown. Let’s see who gets the closest in “Church and State.”



Kendall starts the episode at a low point and ends it on the come up — a microcosm of his journey through the whole series. The day dawns with his wife and children peeling out of town (Kendall’s totally chill and cool reaction, paraphrasing only slightly: “These children I never talk to and Logan probably would not recognize in a lineup cannot miss their sweet grandpa’s funeral! I am going to get an emergency court order and will lie in front of your fucking car!”) and his put-upon assistant, Jess, giving her notice. (Very funny that he forces Jess to tell him what her scheduled meeting is about, then blames her for choosing the day of Logan’s funeral to deliver the news.)

But Kendall knows how to rise to the occasion, especially when that occasion requires borderline-delusional positivity in the form of a public address. I was hoping for an encore performance of “L to the OG,” but instead we get a pretty impressive, allegedly off-the-cuff eulogy. (There’s no way he didn’t have something planned for exactly this moment, right?) “I’m gonna just try to stand in for my brother,” Kendall says before going onstage and stomping his brother to bits. Kendall is a shark who is electrified by Roman’s weakness — he ends the episode by telling Roman, “You fucked it, but it’s all right” — and his paean to his father’s ability to make “bloody, complicated life happen” clearly plays in the room. (Mencken calls him “perfect.”) Everything Roman hoped people might see in him, people are seeing in Kendall, who has that gleam in his eye again. The plan: “Me rule the world.”

Perhaps once you kill a guy and get away with it, you become a truly insane person who feels like you can do anything? Kendall fears no man. He fears no god. He has not been appropriately humbled by this confrontation with the finite nature of life and mortality of even the mightiest of men. He has learned the most important lesson his father could ever teach him, which is that people who say they love you also fuck you. Maybe that’s why he never says “I love you” to his kids?



“I thought you were a sound system. Now you want to choose the track?” is a pretty great dig, though if I were Mencken, I would be more cautious about making enemies at ATN while the election results are still technically pending and people are rioting in the streets. He’s already backpedaling on his deal with the Roy boys, because Mencken, who was not democratically elected and probably believes he has no one to thank for his victory but himself, will not be held back by his pinky swears with billionaires.



I’m shocked that there wasn’t better security in place to prevent people who weren’t on the program from rushing the lectern, especially given what you could generously call a “heated climate” outside, but I loved finally learning the parents-murdered-at-the-opera moments that made Logan Roy the monster we all knew and feared. Ewan is an extremely compelling public speaker and a very tough act to follow. It’s not surprising that Roman was reduced to a human puddle in his wake.



Matsson is still seeking Shiv’s counsel and actually listening to her, which is more than Roman and Kendall can say about their man, Mencken. Amid the unrest around Mencken’s victory, Shiv wisely tells Matsson to get his funky India numbers out (“A good day to bury bad news” is an interesting way to describe the day of your dad’s funeral), which Matsson does. In her play to be the U.S. CEO that makes Matsson’s acquisition more appealing to the Mencken administration, she has finally figured out how to use her shortcomings as assets, describing herself (accurately, though she means it ironically) as “very inexperienced” and “Matsson’s total puppet” whose pregnancy is a nonfactor, because she plans to be “emailing through” her “vanity C-section.” She smoothly makes a friend of Mencken by saving him from an annoying conversation (honestly, the best way to win an ally at a party) and reassures him that she can be as ethically flexible as her father was. The one thing really working against her at press time is that she doesn’t know that her brothers know what she’s up to — or that Ebba’s playing both sides.



He and Shiv are almost tied here, but she edges him out with her bloodline: As Tom has said to her before, no matter what happens, she’ll always be a Roy. New money is a less stable currency. Points for his harsh but fair assessment of the U.S. (“You’ve been a democracy for 50 years — unless you don’t count Black people, which is kind of a bad habit”) and his hilarious comments about Mencken being a Nazi, which are especially funny coming from, as he notes, a tall, blond man.


Caroline and Marcia

Caroline is the only person with the power to elevate Kerry from persona non grata to best seat in the house. Marcia wisely chooses to be gracious about this “sister wives and mistresses” solidarity situation, plus she gives great widow in that veil. They both outlived a man who probably thought he’d outlive everybody. Unlike the Roy children, they seem like they’ll genuinely be able to move on without being obsessed with Logan forever.



After her humiliation at the wake, Kerry gets a triumph at the funeral: protected by Caroline, comforted by Marcia (!), and seated at the front. I am very intrigued by the fact that Caroline, who has never done anything kind for even one of her own children, has a soft, squishy corner of her icy, hard heart for Kerry of all people. Is she moved that Kerry is the only person here who is genuinely sad that Logan died? Or is she just enjoying an opportunity to fuck with Marcia?



I don’t think he made the impression he’d hoped on Mencken or the funeral-goers despite scoring that front-right casket spot in Tom’s stead. But Greg is wily, has crossed over to the dark side completely, and will serve whatever master serves him. Whichever Roy comes out on top will find Greg at their feet and ready to Greg on their behalf.



The graphic in the paper makes Darwin look more responsible for the ATN call than Tom, which is good for Tom’s PR, though of course, he wants Mencken to know who to thank for calling the election in his favor. This means that, theoretically, Tom is covered either way — if he’s “blamed” for the call in the press, he would be rewarded for it by Mencken — but it seems more likely that he is screwed either way, because Mencken is a totally unreliable ally and Darwin’s rumored resignation doesn’t portend well for Tom’s future at ATN. Meanwhile, Tom is too busy at work to even claim his prominent spot carrying Logan’s casket. He barely manages to pop by the reception for yet another heart-wrenching confab with Shiv. (“Because it seemed so sad, Tom.”) As is becoming a theme with Tom, he is so tired, but this time, Shiv tells him he can go back to the apartment (!) to rest for a couple of hours, which is … a sincere and affectionate thing to do? Maybe?



Connor is mostly a nonfactor at the funeral he basically planned by himself because of a eulogy Shiv will not allow him to deliver, as it “makes no sense” and will “leave us open to legal action.” (Willa: “Well, its formally inventive — that’s one of the things we like most about it.”) But I’m giving him points for, as usual, being the only Roy child who hasn’t been so completely caught up in the petty dramas of his own life that he couldn’t know some basic facts about his own father. For instance, Con is the only one who knew about this tacky mausoleum. It’s still hard to tell the status of his diplomatic appointment, but again, Mencken is slippery and doesn’t care about angering the Conheads, so I’ll believe it when I see these two settled into their Slovenian lodgings.


The Ghost of Logan Roy

Logan’s send-off into the afterlife is overshadowed by the news of how, as Tom put it, “Tiananmen-y” things are getting in the streets. His own brother snags stage time to talk shit about him. His exes and mistresses are all hanging out without him. His youngest son embarrasses himself in front of all of the big, important people. Even Tom can’t be bothered to make an appearance at his funeral. As Tom tells Shiv, “Your dad’s lost quite a lot of influence over these past few days.”


Hugo and Jess

Woof, woof. Hugo’s tapping in with Kendall, Jess is tapping out, and I wish them both the very best in their future endeavors!



Do we think Kendall will follow through on his play for custody just to spite Rava? Or will he forget about his late-onset desire to actually parent the children he cannot be bothered to call in his ongoing quest to take over Waystar? I’m glad Rava got out of the city, but I can’t say she’s out of the woods yet.



When Shiv got up to the lectern and started talking about how her father was hard on women, I wrote in my notes, “You guys all need to be in therapy. This is not the place for these realizations!!But later, Kendall earns another lackey by sort of blackmail-demanding that Colin stop seeing a “headshrinker” and “come talk to me instead.” Guys, even Tony Soprano got something out of therapy! Stop white-knuckling it through life. It’s not like you can’t afford it.



An inverse of Kendall, baby brother starts the episode on a near-manic high — fantasizing about being “Roman the showman” who will “light up the sky” and remind everyone of Logan and making incest jokes with his pregnant sister like it’s just a normal day in the Roy household. But oof, does he plummet from that perch. His snarky line about Kendall wearing sunglasses so he can “cry in private and emerge as the winner of the funeral” turns out to be a prophecy.

When Logan died, Roman was the one who could not accept that reality — remember, he shouted at Shiv for referring to Logan as dead when that hadn’t been confirmed to his satisfaction — and it takes seeing the casket in the church for the undeniability of Logan’s death to punch Roman in the gut, leaving him a sputtering, whimpering mess. If these rankings were about emotional vulnerability, Roman might fare better, but these are power rankings, and Roman not only performs the role of Kid Who Cracks Under Pressure before all of the people he needed to impress, he sets his brother up to play the savior swooping in and steering the funeral back on course. The one thing Roman thought he had going for him, Mencken in his pocket, is jeopardized by his funereal fumble and Shiv’s maneuvering — not that it was ever solid to begin with, given that Mencken cannot be trusted.

Although he is coming in at the bottom here, Roman is actually back in his comfort zone. His push to be CEO never made sense to me, because Roman doesn’t like being the boss. He wants to be able to sit in the back of the class and shoot spitballs at everybody. He’d rather be the class clown than school president, and on some level, he probably knows it. Now, he is basically back in the place he spent his life with his dad — with an only somewhat more benevolent overlord. Kendall will emotionally abuse him (“You thought you were Dad. You tried to Dad it”), but won’t hit him, and will at least engage in the performance of being a team. You know, for now, while the battle is the Roy boys versus Shiv the shiv.

I really thought this episode was going to end with Roman getting killed in the street — in a fight he instigated himself, because he got recognized by livid and rowdy protestors, or crushed in a violent mob. That fade to black felt pretty ominous. What are the odds he survives the finale?

Succession Power Rankings: Sob Story