'Succession' Recap: Logan Roy's Messy, Devastating Funeral

'Succession' Recap: Logan Roy's Messy, Devastating Funeral

This post contains spoilers for this week's episode of Succession, "Church and State."

"Church and State" wants nothing kept apart. It is epic and intimate at once. It brings back most of the show's major recurring characters to say goodbye to Logan: longtime rivals like Logan's brother Ewan, ex-wives and ex-lovers like Caroline and Kerry, would-be partners like Matsson and Mencken who only got to know him briefly. It gathers them all under the awe-inspiring stone masonry and stained glass of the church, and surrounds them with the chaos and tension of all the people protesting the election results. Yet in the midst of all these people, and all this spectacle, it is a tale of the three main Roy siblings once again trying desperately to connect and have each other's backs, only to once again fail. Logan's legacy is out there in the streets, in the burning rage of a nation he helped destroy, and it's there in the church, in these children who instinctively resort to battling one another for supremacy. The son of a bitch would probably be very pleased to witness it all. (And not just because it would mean he wasn't actually dead.)

Editor's picks

The 50 Worst Decisions in Music History

The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time

The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

The 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time

The plan, as we've seen, has been for Roman to be the only member of the family speaking at the funeral. Connor tries and fails to get Shiv's approval to deliver a "formally inventive" and perhaps legally actionable eulogy that Willa clearly wrote for him. But ultimately, four members of Logan's family get up to speak, even if only three of them make it through their remarks, be they planned or made up on the spot. Those three-and-a-half speeches provide a sweeping and mostly accurate portrait of the man -- why so many wealthy and powerful people are in that church, why his death is being cheered at least as much as it is being mourned, and why, even near the end of this long, strange, sad day, the depths of Logan's sins remain so unknowable that Shiv Roy feels compelled to ask her father's two closest employees, "How bad was Dad?" (Frank and Karl insist he was OK, all things considered, but after Shiv walks away, it's clear they are lying to themselves at least as much as they are to her.)


Did We Upset You Abel? The Weeknd Responds to Rolling Stone&'s Expose on &'The Idol&'

'Barry' Recap: Is This the End of the Line for Barry Berkman?

'Succession' Makes Us Relive Trump's Presidential Election

But Ewan has come not to praise his brother, but to bury him, in a literal and figurative sense. After working many of the mourners to tears, Ewan finally says the words we know he has always believed: That Logan has "wrought the most terrible things," done so much to make the world smaller and uglier. "He made a mean estimation of the world," Ewan suggests. "He fed a certain kind of meagerness in men. Perhaps he had to, because he had a meagerness about him. And maybe I do about me, too. I don't know. I try. I try. I don't know when, but some time, he decided not to try anymore. And it was a terrible shame." It is at once an attack and a lament, though of course Kendall and the others can only recognize the first part of that, because even after Logan is just a lifeless body in a wooden box, they remain victims who have been conditioned to protect their abuser.

It's the presence of that box that brings Roman to his knees. Earlier, we see him practicing his eulogy in his obscenely expensive palace in the skies above Manhattan. He has it down so cold that he can toggle between the prepared remarks and juvenile self-flattery, like when he brags, "Bow down to me. I selected the president." But as the saying goes, great rehearsal, bad show. As Shiv likes to joke about regarding other areas of her brother's life, when the moment comes for Roman Roy to perform, he can't get up to do the job. He stands at the lectern, his voice shrill and halting, fumbling through his pink note cards, incapable of coherent speech, or thought, or anything beyond staring at the casket. He is finally grieving his father, but also still afraid of him, pleading for someone, anyone, to take Logan's body out of the room. If it wasn't for his full-throated endorsement of fascism on election night, this would be among the saddest moments in Succession history. Instead, it reveals Roman once again as someone capable of being overwhelmed by his own feelings, even as he so rarely considers those of others. As another infamously abusive HBO parent once liked to say, poor you!

(*) Well, almost everyone. Rava very smartly decides to pack up the kids and get the hell out of town to avoid the collateral damage of the post-election riots. Kendall, still in denial over the implications of choosing control of Waystar over the physical and emotional well-being of his daughter, is predictably outraged over this, and assumes this will give him the leverage he needs to get full custody -- presumably right before he outsources all care of Sophie and Iverson to the hired help.

The second is that the substance of Kendall's extemporaneous remarks says so much about both the man in the casket and the man at the podium, and about all of the people assembled to see them both. Kendall alludes to what a brute Logan could be, but when it comes time to highlight the legacy that Ewan tried to throw dirt on, where does he spend most of his time and energy? On the money. Because the answer to every question with these people is money. Kendall calls it Logan's lifeblood and oxygen, and insists that this money made the world a better place, even though we know that it only made Logan's own world more comfortable -- if still never happy in any discernible way. All Kendall sees are the dollars that his father earned, and the things built with them, and considers that enough -- and most of the people in the church would agree with him. But give Kendall credit for at least ultimately recognizing that Logan's greatest strength wasn't his intelligence, but simply his willpower -- "that magnificent, awful force of his" -- which allowed Logan to dominate anyone who wasn't willing to take matters as far as he always was. Logan did unspeakable things to Kendall, and Kendall's ultimate response is not to take offense that a father would treat his son this way, but to wish that he could be strong enough to do the same. As he acknowledged last week, the poison drips through.

Because ultimately, Logan Roy was all those things: The frightened, grief-stricken child. The builder of an empire. The shatterer of worlds. The monster in the box. The figure to aspire to be, but also to fear. The dad who never knew how to be a dad. All of his multitudes are on display in those speeches, and on the faces of the people in the cathedral.

Armstrong and director Mark Mylod take great advantage of the episode's super-sized running time, giving grace notes to nearly every significant character, some of whom we likely saw for the last time here. There is, for instance, that startlingly lovely sequence where Marcia, Caroline, Kerry, and Sally Ann ("My Kerry, so to speak," as Caroline puts it) all assemble in a front-row pew, the four of them sharing an unmistakable bond that they can only properly appreciate in this context. And there is Jess finally deciding she wants off the Kendall Roy Express, and the way that it is so clearly because of Mencken, even if she won't outright say it. Or there is Gerri openly asking the rest of the inner circle how glad they secretly are that Logan is gone, and accusing Karl of Stockholm Syndrome when he claims to miss him. Though the focus was always ultimately the Roys, Succession built such a huge and indelible ensemble, and this felt like a send-off for many of them at least as much as it was for Logan.

But "Church and State" has quite a ways to go after the ceremony ends, and the funeral truce right along with it. Kendall, still feeling his oats from the speech -- and, just as much, from seeing Roman so humbled -- channels his father more than ever before when he tells Hugo, "Life isn't nice. It's contingent. People who say they love you also fuck you." Logan used to rule the world, and now Kendall wants to, and will make Hugo his well-paid dog in that fight. (Hugo, a realistic man with no pretensions of dignity: "Woof. Woof.") Even when Kendall is at the reception at the St. Regis, and realizes that Mencken feels no loyalty to him and Roman whatsoever(*), and sees that Shiv and Matsson for the moment have gained the upper hand, he is not shaken. He makes like Logan and recognizes that the best way to motivate Roman is to make him feel bad about himself, playing up the humiliation of the failed eulogy until his brother is yet another obedient dog to sic on Shiv, Matsson, and the board. Like Logan, Kendall has driven his own family away in pursuit of corporate glory, and perhaps Succession will end with him attaining it, oblivious to how empty it is and how much it has cost him.

(*) See the lesson on scorpions and frogs from two weeks ago.

(*) At one point, Tom refers to being the first one in with Logan when he died. The phrasing leaves some ambiguity as to what happened on the plane: either Tom means he said his goodbyes right away, and knew that Logan was already dead before he put the kids on the phone; or that he waited until after the compressions stopped to say it.



'Succession' Recap: Logan Roy's Messy, Devastating Funeral

Foo Fighters Reveal Josh Freese as Their New Drummer

The &'Beverly Hills Insurrectionist&' and the Big Myth About Jan. 6

Taylor Swift Weathered Another Eras Tour Rain Show -- But Her Piano Didn&'t Survive the Downpour

And that is perhaps the best news for Roman, who otherwise has himself a real fiasco of a day, going from King Dong in the morning to ding-dong by nightfall -- and thus putting himself in position for one last surprise reversal of fortune in the series finale. Mortified by his failure at the funeral -- both for his own reputation and as the last thing he felt he could do for the dad he could never quit -- and belittled by Kendall at the reception, all Roman has left to take pleasure in is drinking the tears of all the liberals rioting in the streets over the election whose results he largely ensured. If he can't be happy, at least he can assure himself that others are more miserable, right? The cruelty is the point. Or maybe the point is for Roman to be cruel to himself -- to inflict the pain that Logan used to cause for him -- by climbing over a police barricade to get caught up with all the fleeing protesters. The episode has offered glimpses of the uprising in the background of scenes, or on ATN TV screens, with Tom at one point describing the situation as "a little bit Tianneman out there." Now, though, Roman is in the middle of it, and so are we. At first, it is a chance for him to taunt the peasants more directly, but soon he is being shoved and hit and pushed to the ground, so angry at himself and the world that he shoves away the hand of a person trying to keep him from getting trampled. When last we see him, he is disappearing into this panicked, frenzied crowd, lost in his own pain even as he looks indistinguishable to all these people he hurt because he wanted to win at all costs.

Today is never just about today. But what an amazing job "Church and State" does of dramatizing this historic day in the world of Succession.