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Succession Did It in Episode Three

“Connor’s Wedding” is a triumph of anticlimax. Photo: HBO

Spoilers for season four, episode three, of Succession, “Connor’s Wedding.”

A familiar set of tropes tends to accompany a main character’s death on television, and it often involves enormous, overwrought hoopla. (Connor Roy might call it “razzmatazz.”) Protagonists collapse; a roaring ambulance arrives. There are last words, slo-mo montages, a close-up on the face as it falls to rest, a moment of solemnity with a final full-length shot of the body. An event as monumental as the death of Succession’s Logan Roy was always going to feel like a gut punch, but it’s hard to call it a surprise. He nearly dies in the first few episodes of season one, the threat of another health crisis appears in season three, and the first two episodes of season four dropped explicit hints, particularly in Logan’s devastating conversation with his security guy Colin about whether there’s anything after death. (Logan has his fucking doubts.) The title of the show — the whole premise! — is that at some point this exact thing would happen. But in making this massive event into something disconcertingly ordinary, “Connor’s Wedding,” the third episode of Succession’s fourth and final season, becomes a brilliant execution of inevitability.

If this season of Succession were following its usual pattern, episode one would’ve established where each character stands, episode two would lay the table for the season’s conflicts, then everyone would start to double-cross each other and make new alliances in episode three. The first couple episodes do exactly that: There’s a huge deal with GoJo that needs to get closed, Tom and Shiv’s marriage is falling apart, and the siblings are trying to outmaneuver their father for a deal on the Pierce news business. Episode three is when all the siblings are supposed to turn on one another, which starts to happen when Roman meets with Logan in the closing moments of episode two. Instead, the bottom drops out. Logan dies. It’s as though the person standing next to you has picked up a slingshot, identified a target, stretched the rubber band back as far as it can go, then just dropped the whole thing. Rather than hitting the target, the rock lands on your foot.

This misdirection plays out in miniature within the episode itself. An episode called “Connor’s Wedding” primes viewers for a glorious family blowout centered on that happy (?) event. (Episode one, after all, has Connor proposing everything from “bum fights” to “a brass band,” and within the first few minutes of episode three, a brass band has indeed appeared!) Then Logan, at his most manipulative, tells Roman he needs to fire Gerri, a devious, psychosexual nightmare of a task that sprinkles gasoline on a wedding-episode subplot. Logan has also told Connor he’ll be at the wedding, but he clearly will not because he’s actually flying to Stockholm to try to placate Matsson about the GoJo deal. There’s no specific hovering doom. There’s just plenty of momentum to carry everyone through this wedding.

When Roman gets the call that Logan is “very, very sick,” all that narrative momentum halts. It doesn’t register as something that’s been building for years; it feels like a sudden absence of forward motion, more palpable as something that’s stopped happening, rather than something that has happened.

“Connor’s Wedding”

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The key to “Connor’s Wedding” is how intensely, perversely ordinary it all feels. The Roys and viewers alike are stuck in a standard-issue episode of Succession full of all the most predictable features of this show: The Roys are at some high-powered event. There are stressful phone calls. Someone’s getting fired; someone else is maneuvering for more power. For an excruciatingly long time, the suggestion of Logan’s death feels like yet another typical Succession bluff: When Tom calls Roman (for the second time this episode), the siblings surf along in a bizarre limbo for what feels like forever, waiting to see if they’re being pranked, or if it’s another false alarm, or if somehow Logan will recover. Tom keeps telling them how bad it is, but they’re all caught in a loop that keeps circling between he’s almost definitely dead and we can’t be absolutely sure that he’s dead. By the time Roman, and then Kendall, and then finally Shiv all stutter their last words into a cell phone set to speaker, there is an enormous gulf between how huge it feels emotionally and how thoroughly regular everything still looks. The Roys are aching for certainty or at least for some external signal of how monumental this is. But they’re all in the stultifying private room of an unimpressive boat, standing around amid anonymous furniture upholstered in utilitarian fabrics.

It would be a relief to get some substantial death scene. The episode denies us the moment of stillness that that would help shift everything into “Holy shit, this is a huge fucking deal” mode. Logan, Tom, and the Waystar inner circle are all trapped on a claustrophobic plane, which means there can be no dire beeping hospital noises, no doctor can walk down a hallway looking gravely serious. The most Succession can give us is the background noise of a defibrillator at work. There are a few glimpses of someone administering CPR, and there is a short floor-height shot of Logan’s face, upside down, his body foreshortened into the background. There’s no drama or power to it, though. It doesn’t look like a death mask. It’s just a body now: confirmation, not commemoration.

And all around the margins, everything keeps chugging along. Connor, shaken and upset but not flattened, still decides to get married. Karolina, Karl, and Frank start talking about how to draft a statement, who to call, and when. Kerry cannot stop smiling and talking about how weird it all is. At one point, Shiv wonders if maybe they can keep the plane up in the air for a few minutes so they can figure out a business plan but also so they could have a pause to register what’s happened, to gather themselves, to create a space where they can all try to accept what’s going on. Of course they can’t. All the halted momentum starts to resume but without the part where anyone stops to really think about why it stopped in the first place. There are more phone calls, a press conference. We even get Tom calling and snapping at Greg to cover up some damaging digital trail, a moment of Succession bread and butter. Logan has loomed over every inch of this show. Without funeral pomp and circumstance, or death-glorifying cinematography, or a Greys Anatomy–style maudlin music cue, there’s nowhere to put all the surprise that Logan dies, nothing to absorb all that shock. So it stays with the viewer, and it reverberates throughout all the shaky phone calls and tentative gestures toward what might come next.

Finally, in the last moments of the episode, Kendall stands on a tarmac to watch emergency personnel remove Logan’s body from the airplane. It’s the closest “Connor’s Wedding” comes to a moment of grand ceremony, but even here, it’s minimized and underplayed. The corpse is completely concealed in an unremarkable black body bag, and the scene shot at a distance, far enough to seem small but just close enough to see the EMTs struggle as they maneuver down the steep stairs. There’s a point here — all of Logan’s wealth and exclusive elitism could not change the grim, ordinary, unexceptional circumstances of his death. But it’s also the final piece of Succession’s incredible narrative accomplishment. Like the Roy siblings, we’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. It’s extraordinary that when it finally comes, it can still feel like it has snuck up on us, unaware.

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Succession Did It in Episode Three