Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Succession Holds A Funeral Party

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One of the coldest aspects of Succession is how the wealth and power of its characters has largely made it impossible for them to just show basic human emotion and vulnerability. They live in a world that always watches them for signs of weakness to exploit. Every setting functions as an opportunity to gain or lose power. As morbid as the thought is, Logan’s funeral was always going to be a prime connection opportunity, a morbid mixer for the rich and powerful to rub elbows and make moves.

So who emerged from this latest episode of Succession with more and less power? Let’s talk about it.

Shiv and Mattson speak attending Logan's funeral

Naturally, everyone seemed to view Logan’s funeral as a chance to climb ladders, rather than a moment to mourn the man who had passed away. Kendall, Shiv, and Roman all saw it as a chance to move towards either stopping or completing Mattson’s deal. Mattson attended for the same reason. Connor kept schmoozing up to Mencken. Mencken saw this as a victory lap. Greg was typical Greg.

For most of this episode, Succession positioned Kendall was emerging as the big winner. Roman’s emotional breakdown led to Mencken favoring Kendall. Ken’s own eulogy made him look great, and was a PR success much like the Living+ presentation. Mencken’s (still uncertain) election meant Mattson couldn’t buy ATN. Everything seemed to be favoring Kendall Roy, and he certainly seemed to recognize the opportunity, judging by his increasingly Logan-like behavior.

Then, nearer to the end of the episode, Shiv’s machinations began to bear fruit. Mattson hit it off with Mencken, and the two began negotiating over Shiv’s idea about an American CEO (her) to make Gojo’s buyout of Waystar more palatable to Mencken’s political base. Just like that, she was in the driver’s seat and Kendall was scrambling to catch up.

However, by the end, it looked like all the Roy siblings may ultimately lose, and are lost. Mattson’s pointed wording about Mencken accepting an American CEO, but not naming Shiv specifically, likely means that Mencken will accept the deal so long as he can pick said CEO, and Shiv will definitely be stabbed in the back. Kendall is now going to try and fight against a towering political tide crashing over him. Roman is literally being trampled beneath the feet of protesters while everyone mocks him for crying at the funeral.

And you know what the worst part of all this is? None of it should have mattered at all. This was a day for Logan Roy to be mourned, and no one was allowed to actually do so.

Roman’s sudden, crushing sadness when finally facing the reality of his father’s death was not something to shame. It was the first time since they first heard that Logan was dying on his plane where Roman showed a normal reaction to all of this. His father was dead, and Roman needed to cry. He needed to mourn. That he was instead punished and humiliated for it is exactly what’s wrong with the people of Succession, and why they are so emotionally unhealthy. He finally had a healthy expression of grief over his father, and it has ruined him among the people who saw him.

On the flip side, Kendall spends the episode increasingly embracing his inner Logan Roy. He threatens a custody battle over he and Rava’s children because he refuses to accept his guilt over Mencken’s election. He readily capitalizes on Roman’s grief, and later fuels his insecurities, causing Roman’s ill-considered march into the midst of the protesters. In his own guilt and sorrow over everything that has occurred this season, he has chosen to bury it and be the exact kind of terrible, powerful man his father was.

Ewan’s eulogy, while a pointed attack at his brother in its own way, was also a way to relay to both the mourners and Succession’s audience that Logan was not always a bad person. No one is born the kind of person Logan Roy was by the time Succession began. Once upon a time, he was a child wracked with guilt over possibly giving his sister polio. He was a brother Ewan was proud to have. His ascent to power and descent into cruelty was a process began at childhood by hardship and abuse. His journey was one of many decisions made over a lifetime that shaped him into a certain type of person.

Over the course of this show, we have seen this play out with Kendall. What we saw in this episode was just the latest of many choices which are shaping him into the same person his father was. It could not be more explicit; we know that Logan sued to take custody of his children from Caroline, and this episode saw Kendall preparing to sue for custody over he and Rava’s children. Him attacking Roman over Mencken’s backtracking was pure Logan, and probably a speech that Roman has heard from Logan countless times.

This has been a journey we’ve watched for 4 season. There have been times where Kendall seemed like he would escape the cycle of toxicity and abuse his father imposed on him, but here at the end, he seems trapped.

All of the Roy children have wanted to be Logan, and shaped their behavior in some way to emulate him. Roman went completely out of his way to act like Logan in Succession’s recent episodes, even if this episode showed how he cannot keep it up. Shiv’s eulogy revolved around those few moments where her father let her in close to his warmth. They all wanted something their father could/would not give them, and this funeral brought those needs sharply into focus.

You could even see the cycle of Logan’s behavior’s in the women he has been involved with. One of the best scenes in this episode was when Caroline, Logan’s first wife and the mother of his children, gathered all of Logan’s love interests to seat themselves in the front row, including Kerry. Marcia clasping Kerry’s hand, that brief, warm understanding that they had all at some point felt the same way for Logan, was one of the most genuine moments of the funeral, and certainly the healthiest expression of the grief they all felt.

Yes, Logan’s funeral served little purpose towards mourning him, but in the end the episode was still a send-off to the life he had built and the legacy he is leaving behind. It’s all there, the good and the bad, enduring through his children and the influence his media empire has built over decades. I could easily argue that everyone using his death as a chance to make connections and build their own power base is the purest expression of what Logan’s life was truly about. It was the truest way to honor the man Logan Roy was.

And that makes it kind of funny that Logan’s legacy is very much at risk now.

Every awful decision or action he took in his life was justified as “doing it for his family.” He excused his abuse and neglect with the claim that he was making their lives easier. Much like we see Kendall doing now.

Where has that left his children now? Kendall and Roman’s plot to elect a fascist just to stop Mattson is on the brink of failure because the fascist (what a surprise!) isn’t a man of his word. Shiv’s plan to grab control through Mattson is also on the brink of failure because, as usual, she overplays her hand without any real assurances. There is a very good chance Succession ends with ATN out of the hands of the Roy family.

So I guess, in a way, Logan’s funeral was Succession’s perfect distillation of his life and legacy. The good and the bad, the successes and the failures, and the future he has built for his family and the world. I can’t help but wonder what he would have thought of it.

Images Courtesy of HBO

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  • Bo

    Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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