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But Seriously: What Would Logan Roy Do?

Photo: HBO

In “America Decides,” the Roy siblings again try to solve the puzzle they have spent their entire lives decoding: What would Logan Roy do? It’s a question they’ve asked themselves over and over throughout Succession’s four seasons and one they now return to with greater urgency in the wake of Logan’s death, as if knowing what Dad would do proves which child was closest to “Pop.”

The question emerges explicitly when Roman, Kendall, and Shiv find themselves positioned to call the entire presidential race for ATN. Do they crown Jeryd Mencken, the conservative Republican nightmare who promises to kill Waystar’s deal with GoJo? Or do they hold off on making a call in light of the 100,000 ballots burned at a voting center in Milwaukee that could throw Mencken’s win into doubt? While his kids may wonder how Logan would handle this scenario, he probably wouldn’t have found himself in this situation in the first place. For one, Logan established a relatively clear boundary between the business and journalism sides: No one from the executive suites was allowed on the newsroom floor on Election Night, a policy that exists in most newsrooms and that Tom refers to as one of Logan’s “Geneva conventions.” That’s not to say Logan wasn’t wielding some influence behind the scenes but certainly not this openly.

He was also very clear about wanting the GoJo deal to go through while retaining ownership of ATN. Assuming Logan and Matsson had been able to reach an agreement — an assumption but a reasonable one — the GoJo arrangement would not have been a factor in how ATN calls the election. For the Roy children, though, the uncertainty forces them to make a decision that affects not only their family business but the future of the country. Aware of those high stakes, the siblings default to citing their father’s hypothetical behavior as evidence of the proper course of action, each arguing that Logan’s choices would’ve aligned with their own desires. But who’s right? Let’s review the arguments made by this trio of Roy offspring, or, as Logan called them, the fucking morons.


Photo: HBO

Roman is certain Logan would have called the race in Mencken’s favor. “The guy in the pocket, the guy that’s gonna answer our calls, the fucking guy printing U.S. dollars” has agreed to play ball with ATN. This is great for Roman and, as he sees it, the network. Mencken already agreed to block the GoJo deal, which means ATN and all of Waystar Royco can remain under full Roy control. Considering the leverage their relationship gives him, Roman could even end up running the whole operation.

Roman has good reason to believe his dad would agree with him. Logan never seemed too concerned about his network leaning in a more fascist direction; when anchor Mark Ravenhead’s neo-Nazi ties surfaced back in season two, Logan was worried enough to ask for an investigation into his background but not enough to pull him off the air. (“We back the talent!”) Logan also did not shy away from using his network and clout to shape outcomes that would benefit him: As Connor points out in the season-two finale, his father once brought down a Canadian government over grain subsidies. More important, when he was worried about the DOJ investigation into the crimes and cover-up in the company’s cruise division, Logan had no problem putting pressure on the White House to go easier on Waystar. When the president, a.k.a. the Raisin, refused to play ball, Logan directed Shiv to persuade Ravenhead to question regularly on-air whether the commander-in-chief was “losing his grip.” The president decided not to pursue another term largely because of the narrative Logan helped create.

Roman also argues that Logan did “whatever the fuck he wanted,” and that is generally true: During that DOJ investigation, he kept investigators at bay as long as possible; when FBI agents were ready to conduct a raid, his initial response was to tell them to fuck off. But perhaps the strongest argument in favor of Roman’s assessment is the fact that, as Ken points out, Logan picked Mencken as his favored Republican nominee. However, if you go back to the scene in season three when Logan makes that decision, it’s clear Logan is choosing Roman more than Mencken. Roman is so energized, so fully persuasive in his reasons for Mencken being “box office” that Logan is won over. He even gives Kerry a look that, while open to interpretation, can be viewed as an endorsement of Roman’s instincts as much as one of Mencken. Logan said he wanted a Republican nominee who “gets it” — meaning someone who will have a mutually advantageous relationship with ATN — and who will “pop” on the air. Roman understands that better than any of Logan’s other children, and that’s why, shortly before his death, he asks Roman to run ATN.

Of course, Roman feels he has been empowered from beyond the grave to make decisions about how the network covers the election. But his father’s death has pushed him to fully embrace his nihilist tendencies. “We’ll be in the West Wing,” Roman argues when Kendall points out that, you know, no biggie, but Mencken may be hell-bent on destroying the country. “Nothing matters, Ken. Nothing fucking matters. Dad’s dead, and the country’s just a big pussy waiting to get fucked.”


Photo: HBO

Would Logan have agreed that literally nothing matters? Shiv says no, that even when he acted in his own self-interest, her dad still wanted overall economic and international stability — he “pushed, but he didn’t want shit to unravel.” Shiv also notes that if their calling the election becomes a legal matter, it could cast serious doubt on ATN’s credibility, which would be bad for the business in the long term. Roman has a much more cavalier attitude about all that: “We can pay for any damages,” he tells Kendall, another chilling echo of reality, specifically of the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News.

Logan was such a complicated, contradictory figure it’s easy for his children to cherry-pick aspects of his personality and use them to paint the full picture of the man. But one can see why Shiv is convinced that “even Dad, in this situation, would respect the process.” Logan was more of a traditionalist than Roman and usually less impetuous. He pushed to acquire local news stations and newspapers in the middle of a digital revolution, for God’s sake! The old man was old-school and had at least some respect for the way journalism and democracy work.

Back when Connor asked him to convince some of the company’s smaller papers to publish complimentary reviews of Willa’s disastrous play, Logan said he doesn’t like to “lean on his people.” What he really meant was that Willa’s play was too minor for him to care about, but the comment suggested his awareness that lines between business and news exist for a reason and that he would overstep them only when absolutely necessary. And while Logan might have initially wanted to tell the FBI to fuck off, he didn’t. Cooler heads prevailed, and by “cooler heads,” I mean Gerri, who explained all the reasons why flipping the proverbial bird at law enforcement would be a terrible idea. It’s notable that Gerri is absent from this episode and that several of Logan’s other usual senior advisers — Karl, Frank, Hugo — are watching the election results elsewhere. The people who used to talk sense into Logan have absolutely no contact with Shiv, Roman, or Kendall on this night.

It’s true that, in her grief, Shiv may need to see her father as a more reasonable man than he actually was. When a loved one dies, it’s natural to inflate that person’s positive attributes until they take up more of the picture than they should. Roman, who’s in an equally precarious psychological place, also needs to justify his recklessness by telling himself that his father would absolutely do the same thing. Neither of them is totally wrong about their dad, but neither is totally right either.


Photo: HBO

Ironically, Kendall is the Roy sibling who indisputably does exactly what Dad would do. Kendall, who says he honestly doesn’t know how his dad would act on this particularly fraught Election Night. Kendall, who is still wrestling with whether his name was underlined or crossed out. Kendall, who backs Roman’s decision to call the election for Mencken only after realizing Shiv has betrayed her brothers and formed an alliance with Matsson.

Kendall’s switch-up is fueled more by spite and anger than a belief that it’s the right call to make, which is the most Logan Roy decision of them all. Logan’s rearrangement of his divorce agreement with Caroline, which prevented his kids from having a supermajority that could stop the GoJo deal from happening, was made out of spite and anger too; when Roman asked Logan why he cut out his own kids, he responded, “Because it works. Because I fucking win.” These two sentences also explain why Kendall goes for Mencken: It works as a business move. And on this new battlefield where Shiv has just become the enemy, it means Kendall (and Roman) fucking win.

Logan could always be counted on to disregard his children’s feelings, and Kendall does that here. He knows Mencken supporters have already intimidated his daughter, Sophie, and she’ll likely be frightened as long as Mencken is president. But he helps to hand him the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue anyway, all while telling himself and his ex-wife, Rava, that his entire reason for being is his children. “Tell Sophie I love her, and that is why I do everything I do,” he says, echoing what Logan said repeatedly during that family-therapy session that went sideways back in season one: “Everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve done for my children.” It’s a lie that, when said out loud more than once, sounds true.

Before their rift, Kendall asks Shiv if he has been a good father. “Maybe,” Kendall posits, “the poison drips through.” He’s right. At the end of the night, Roman thinks he’s walking directly in his father’s footsteps by endorsing a fascist, and Shiv believes she’s doing the same by trying to undermine her brothers’ stubborn actions. But ultimately, Kendall is the one doing exactly what Dad would do. The poison — and the denial — does drip through. Kendall has finally proven he is his father’s son: exactly the kind of dad Logan always was.

But Seriously: What Would Logan Roy Do?