“Succession” Episode 3 Recap

Yet isn’t that how death often enters our lives — unexpectedly, on a day that seems like any other day until it very abruptly, wrenchingly doesn’t?

While it is not unprecedented for a drama series to kill a character as major as Logan at this point in its run — most notably, Six Feet Under killed Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) halfway through its final season — it’s certainly rare. And even in the very small number of shows that have made a similar storytelling choice, Succession stands alone for capturing as well as any episode of television I’ve ever seen the messy, grimy reality of the immediate minutes and hours after someone’s death, particularly when it’s someone you had very complicated feelings about. 

Succession has always taken death seriously. The show debuted in 2018, at the tail end of an era when many TV shows, chasing the high ratings of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, luxuriated in cheap death, running up the body count to provide ever greater shocks and buzz. Succession is not above treating death as something farcical, as in a Season 2 episode where the funeral of a sex pest/Waystar board member is mainly an opportunity for the characters to insist they had no connection to the man, highlighting their complicity in any number of crimes in comedic fashion. 

Most of the time, though, the show treats death with the appropriate gravity. No matter how much money and power Logan Roy accumulates, he won’t be able to take it with him. The series opens with scenes highlighting how frail Logan’s aging body and mind have become, and in the first few episodes, he experiences a serious health crisis that leaves his kids reeling as to what will happen after his death. (Hence the show’s title.) His flagging health continues to be a major theme throughout the show’s run. In the final season premiere, no less, Logan has a conversation with his bodyguard — one of the few people still talking to him at that juncture — about whether there’s anything after this life. Logan doesn’t think there is, and that seems to motivate him to accumulate as much as he can while he’s still alive. His last line of dialogue on the show has him calling for his underlings to be “a bit more fucking aggressive!” in making business moves. Right up until his death, he’s trying to gobble up even more.

This treatment of death as a constant shadow on the characters’ lives extends beyond Logan. His depressive son, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), has seemed on the brink of dying by suicide multiple times throughout the show’s run, and the series always underscores the bleakness of those moments. Most memorably, in an episode late in Season 3, Kendall sticks his face into a swimming pool, as though he is on the brink of attempting to drown himself. In the next episode, it’s implied that he came very close to succeeding before being rescued. Though Kendall can be a ridiculous character, whose awful venality is subject to the same “these are not good people” treatment as all of the other Roys, the show is careful to take his moments of suicidal ideation seriously. Even when you’re as rich as a Roy, death is something that can’t be taken back.

All of this consideration of death lays the groundwork for “Connor’s Wedding.” The episode feints as a typical Succession installment for its first 15 minutes. Logan skips Connor’s (Alan Ruck) wedding, and asks youngest son Roman (Kieran Culkin) to let Waystar’s CEO know she’s about to be fired right as the festivities are getting underway. It’s easy to imagine a version of the episode that turns into a dark farce, with corporate skullduggery taking place under the surface of what’s outwardly a lovely party. That episode would surely be incredibly funny, with an added kernel of tragedy at the way the Roys’ abusive family dynamics, modeled on Logan’s behavior, don’t allow them to connect with each other, even at a big celebration. Indeed, both the Season 1 and Season 3 finales, which are set at family weddings, more or less fit that description.

Once Logan’s collapse is revealed, however, the episode takes on an entirely different tone, not just from its first 15 minutes but from the show as a whole. The show’s typical “nature documentary about the ultrarich” style eases back into something looser and more flowing. There are long shots that follow a single character, trapped in their grief, as they go to find some other person to bring the bad news, and their reactions show how profoundly they are affected. Where, for instance, Culkin usually brings an air of sarcastic insouciance to Roman, in this episode, Roman is reduced to a scared little boy, insisting that his dad can’t be dead until a doctor says so as he sits with his legs folded up underneath himself. 

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