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Imagine Tony Soprano getting murdered in “The Sopranos” with seven episodes left instead of in the last one – or so many believe – on June 10, 2007.
Spoiler Alert! But by now, you are very late to the Roys’ party on the yacht in New York Harbor for Connor Roy’s “fairytale” wedding to a former prostitute in Episode 3 of the fourth and final season of “Succession” on HBO. Yes, a match made in therapy heaven. And they didn’t need a bigger boat for the final scene of “Connor’s Wedding” last Sunday night. Only a few stayed after what happened, but he did kiss the bride.
Connor’s dad Logan Roy, an 84-year-old mega business tycoon with humble beginnings in Scotland, built a global, media and entertainment empire headquartered in Manhattan. But he missed this boat, so to speak. He “said” he planned to drop by his son’s wedding later after a major business deal in Sweden. But he died of an apparent heart attack on the plane.
So, now what?
In a way, we will get to see how Carmela Soprano, their equally bratty and spoiled children Meadow and A.J., and partners Silv and Paulie might have coped with the death of a patriarch with such enormous heft and gravitational force. Only, there is a lot more money at stake in this captivating and darkly humorous series – legally earned and otherwise.
“I think they’re going to find it tough,” said Brian Cox, who played Logan Roy since the series premier on June 3, 2018. “Because they lived with Logan so long, they’re going to miss him.”
And this is no plot gimmick. This show that has won Golden Globe and Emmy awards is far too masterful for that crap. No “Cousin Oliver” as in the last season of “The Brady Bunch” to boost falling ratings. No new baby for Jay and Gloria as in the later years of “Modern Family,” which was one of the greatest sitcoms until the last few seasons. And this show has not just grown wacky to draw viewers in as LA Law did or, more recently, “The Affair” on Showtime or even “Yellowstone” on Paramount.
Succession Is Yellowstone With Skyscrapers Over Mountains
Funny, Yellowstone, which began less than three weeks after Succession in the summer of 2018, basically is Succession, but with a bunch of beautiful scenery. Although, the Roys’ helicopters negotiating the Manhattan skyline could be horses through mountains.
Remember, the name of this show is “Succession,” which is something all families must deal with, albeit it is more taxing for the rich and close to it when a patriarch perishes.
Logan Roy has battled health issues since the opening scene of the series when he wakes up disoriented in a new home with his wife and mistakes the bedroom carpet for the toilet. At the end of the episode, he has a stroke, but gradually recovers and returns to normal. He was 84 in season four. It was going to happen, but just not until the last or second-to-last episode as many figured.
This may be the most captivating American series shocker since the “Who Shot J.R.?” craze when oil tycoon J.R. Ewing got shot on “Dallas” in 1980 on CBS. But again, that was the last episode of a blockbuster series’ season.
Succession boldly decided not to string viewers along on a mediocre ride with the promise of big final episode. No, it may have a seven satisfying episodes to go with another shock to the system at the end.
But more important than that is how Succession portrayed a family death so accurately and non-Hollywood. There was no bedside, sappy death scene with Logan uttering dramatic final words as we’ve seen a hundred times in other shows and movies. Those rarely happen in real death. A counselor told my family that when our father was near death in 2014. So have that conversation before it’s too late.
We are reminded of this advice as Logan’s youngest son Roman (played by Home Alone’s Macaulay Culkin’s brother Kieran) laments, “Did I say I loved him?”
Logan’s last words as we see them were not intended to be his last words.
“Clean out the stalls, strategic refocus,” he tells son-in-law Tom Wambsgans to detail some upper level firings about to happen. “A bit more (f-ing) aggressive.”
And we don’t see him again. And, interestingly, those comments by Roy do sum up his magnetic, magnate lifestyle.
“Just give her the word today. Thank you,” were his last words to Roman. It was about firing a longtime employee, Gerri Kellman, whom Roman was close to and felt uncomfortable doing.
That was a red herring that happened in the opening moments of the episode and threw many people. The title of the episode was also a brilliant red herring – “Connor’s Wedding.” It was about that, but so much more, and not your typical wedding day. It went from the expected “Runaway Bride” to “Death of the Father” in minutes.
What we saw from Logan’s fabulous failsons Roman and Kendall and a successful and smarter daughter Siobhan (aka Shiv), who is more like dad than the boys, was combinations of shock, panic, clarity, confusion, anger, denial, realization, acceptance and child-like grief. This all happens in real death, not necessarily in that order, even though they knew it was coming at some point.
“No. No. I can’t have that,” Shiv says in a rare show of vulnerability.
“Daddy, I love you,” she says on a cell phone connection to Logan, who was likely already dead. “Don’t go please, not now.”
This from a woman who in recent episodes has directed other four-letter words about love making toward her “daddy,” and deservedly so. We see Roman, who has been too cool and hip to show much emotion throughout the series, hug Shiv. We see all three of Logan’s children in their 30s and 40s (yet still called kids by the adults in the company) in a poignant, vertical group hug.
This is heart wrenching, even though you may not like and love to make fun of these people. In this episode, they’re like any adult children losing daddy.
But as usual in this series, there is wicked humor. You really have to pay attention for it at times. Or watch it again. As Roy’s non-related key staffers on the plane with Roy begin to smartly make plans for a news announcement of his death, one asks if Logan’s new girlfriend, an “assistant” and want-to-be anchor, should be involved. But she is obviously out of sorts at the news.
“Chuckles the Clown? I think not,” barks Karl Muller, chief financial officer for Roy’s Waystar company.
Remember, Succession Is Also A Comedy
That’s a reference to what has been called one of the greatest episodes in television history – “Chuckles Bites The Dust” from the Mary Tyler Moore Show that aired Oct. 25, 1975. Mary Richards, a TV producer at Minneapolis TV station played by Moore, can’t stop laughing at the funeral of the clown from the station’s kids’ show.
Quick comic relief, then back to the boat. The Roy children on the yacht were filmed in a continuous, enthralling, 27-minute scene over six days in real time.
“It was a 28-page scene, which is very, very, very long,” Jeremy Strong, who plays Kendall Roy, said in an HBO interview. “On a movie, you’ll shoot like a two-page scene in a day. This is a one-act play on a boat.”
And it’s riveting.
“This is the best episode of the whole series,” my wife kept saying before it was even halfway through.
“The camera had to be almost sadistically voyeuristic,” executive producer/director Mark Mylod said on HBO. “It had to stay really close. So it’s unflinching.”
And it felt so real.
“These things happen in all our lives,” said Alan Ruck of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” fame, who plays Connor Roy. “Something happens, and they’re just gone.”
We never see Logan after the first few minutes. But surely there will be flashbacks over the next seven episodes, right?
Succession Went Against The Typical Death Scene
“We didn’t have a death scene for Logan, and that was obviously intentional,” Succession creator Jesse Armstrong said. “We wanted to capture a feeling of death that people experience in the modern era of separation and communication over phone and email.”
Not everyone is there when someone dies, and often because they can’t be.
“We wanted to see how a death of someone significant can rebound around a family,” Armstrong said.
And we’ll be watching that reverberation through the final episode on Sunday, May 28.
“When you’ve removed that one element, well where’s the conflict?” Cox asked.
I’m sure they came up with something if they came up with this with seven to go.
Kendall Roy perhaps let us know what’s coming and may have emerged as the leader amid the chaos post-Logan. For now, at least, as the succession process can be bloody.
“Look, this is very surreal,” he told his brothers and sister. “Every single thing we do and say today is going in the memoirs, going in the congressional records, SEC filings. We are highly liable to misinterpretation. What we do today will always be what we did the day our father died. So, let’s grieve and whatever, and not do anything that restricts our future freedom of movement.”