This article contains major spoilers for Season 4 Episode 3 of Succession, as well as the entire series leading up to the episode.
Never trust an HBO wedding.
On Sunday, fans eagerly tuned in to “Connor’s Wedding,” the third episode of Season 4 of HBO’s “Succession” that seemed to promise hilarity and levity, as it covered the wedding of Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) doing what he does best — obsessively micromanaging obscene displays of wealth and generally making a big deal out of minutiae — in his extravagant yacht wedding with his fiancée Willa (Justine Lupe).
But after only 16 minutes of festivities, “Succession”’s latest episode screeches to a halt with a phone call. Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) informs the Roy siblings that their father Logan (Brian Cox) is now lying incapacitated on the floor of his private jet, receiving CPR as he flies to what was supposed to be his next critical business meeting.
The scene that follows is 27 minutes long, as the camera relentlessly captures the Roy siblings’ somber congregation on a private deck of Connor’s wedding yacht, listening to their father receive futile chest compressions through the limited signal of their cell phones, with an ocean and the sky between them. Long, uninterrupted shots follow the siblings, the camerawork imbued with “sadistically voyeuristic” movement, as executive producer and director Mark Mylod described in his post-episode interview. The camera doesn’t let the siblings off the hook, capturing every aspect of their grief-stricken reactions throughout this lengthy scene.
Attentive viewers of the show may appreciate the parallel between this scene and Logan’s Season 1 medical collapse on his private jet — except now he is surrounded by only Waystar Royco employees, rather than the family members he’s repeatedly pushed away since the show began. In one of many examples of the show’s excellent storyline planning, the writers deliver a clear message; had Logan not consistently deceived and betrayed his children, or even had he merely chosen to attend his eldest son’s wedding, he wouldn’t have died so mercilessly alone.
The acting in this episode is simply unparalleled. In one portion of the prolonged phone call scene, Tom holds his phone to Logan’s ear and instructs the Roy kids that these will be the last words they say to their father. In a series of raw, stumbling half-sentences, the siblings verbalize the dissonance that has plagued their relationships with their father throughout the series.
Roman (Kieran Culkin) stutters, “you’re gonna win, because you just win” followed by an unconvincing “Uh, you’re a good dad.” “I can’t forgive you. Um, but it’s ok. And I love you,” Kendall (Jeremy Strong) admits. “Don’t go please, not now,” Shiv (Sarah Snook) There’s no excuses but… it's ok Daddy. I love you.”
Their words serve as unpolished yet consummate summaries of the tragedy of the Roy family; they have simply hurt and been hurt by their father more than apologies or forgiveness could ever resolve, even in death. The delivery of these lines is what makes this tragedy so heart-wrenching, with Culkin, Strong, and Snook each remarkably displaying some of the best acting to come out of this already well-awarded show.
There is an overall somber sincerity to the entire episode, an honest portrayal of death that steers clear of the typical deathbed clichés that could never suit the ruthless Logan Roy. This restraint is what cements “Connor’s Wedding” in the hall of fame of modern television. The writers could have easily given us a series finale depiction of the Roy patriarch drawing his last breath at the end of this season. But death doesn’t follow a neat four-season arc, and “Succession” makes the commendable decision to give both the Roys and the viewer the realistic shock of an unexpected death.
We don’t even get to see Logan die, leaving a lingering sense of hope — or dread — that this could all be just another elaborate strategic ploy to manipulate the world to Logan’s bidding. It is not until the final shot of his tarp-covered body being carried off the private jet like cargo does the reality of Logan’s mortality truly set in. This decision to evade the definitive, to let the viewer and the characters linger in doubt until the last second, humanizes the Roys, letting the audience empathize with the billionaires as they’re reminded that immortality is the one thing even the wealthy cannot purchase.
Somehow, the show still deftly injects small moments of humor in the tragedy, for instance with the introduction of the phrase “Greglets” as Tom taunts Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) about his ability to be replaced. There are other resonant lines as well, such as a thought-provoking callback to Logan’s season premiere musings about people being merely economic markets, where Roman holds up a chart showing Waystar Royco’s newly tanking stock price and says, “There he is. That is Dad.” The skillfully-incorporated levity makes the tragedy feel almost more concrete; each fleeting Roman quip is met with the stark contrast of his solemn siblings, and accompanied grimly by his own tear-stained eyes.
Ultimately, this week’s episode of “Succession” will be remembered as the one where Chekhov’s gun went off. The obvious and yet impossible outcome, the outcome foreshadowed by the show’s own title, came true. Logan Roy finally died. With seven episodes remaining in the season, “Connor’s Wedding” has elevated the final season to new heights.
— Staff writer Stella A. Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.