The penultimate episode of Succession is in the books. The promise made in the beginning of the series—that one of the Roy siblings would replace their father—is where we’re at here at the end of the series. Succession S4E9, titled “Church and State,” saw us likely say goodbye to many, possibly shed a few tears, and made us squirm and laugh inappropriately, like the show often does. If you haven’t seen “Church and State,” we’re about to enter heavy spoiler territory. You’ve been warned.
The King is Dead
This season has really only spanned a few days, which feels incredible. The Roy siblings are still heavily grieving the loss of their father. The pain is still very real. And here in Succession S4E9, we finally laid the patriarch to rest, all while the streets of New York City were filled with riots and protests over the controversial election results the brothers Roy had a hand in tipping.
The service felt like one for a President or King. Jesse Armstrong and team really made us feel how important Logan Roy was here. The (presumed) President of the United States was there. The church was filled with the oldest of money. The difference makers in this world gathered to say goodbye to Logan in a majestic ceremony that is reserved for the rarest of rare people.
Part of the power of “Church and State” was how authentic the grief felt. Roman, who has been riding the high of being “King Maker” in the Presidential election, was set to give the eulogy. He’s been overbearing lately, crazed to a degree we haven’t seen from him. He wants to fill his father’s shoes and has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s “pre-grieved,” but it all hit him at the service. Roman was childlike, unable to speak to give the eulogy, his siblings putting aside their issues to hold their little brother as he asked “Is he in there?” pointing at the casket, and then saying “Get him out of there.”
This is who Roman is. Emotionally stunted from a childhood void of love. He’s still a little boy. His masochist tendencies all stem from wanting to please someone, anyone, but not knowing how. So he harms himself because that’s the only way he knows how to process these painful feelings. At the end of Succession S4E9, we saw Roman enter the angry mob in the streets of NYC, protesting the presidential election results as called by ATN. Roman wanted to get hurt and he did. He was knocked down, kicked and stepped on in a sea of bodies. He helped cause this mess and he knew that. He wanted to feel pain because he knew that he made the wrong decision. He isn’t his dad, no matter how much he wants to be.
While Roman started the episode on a high note and ended it on a low note, Kendall was the opposite. Kendall melted down on his ex-wife Rava when she said she was taking the kids upstate and skipping the funeral out of fear of the violence in the streets. Kendall melted down when his assistant said she was leaving for a new job. He could barely hold himself together in the car ride with his siblings to the funeral, but once he was there, faced with his father’s large looming legacy, Kendall pulled it together.
When Roman melted down, it was Kendall who the siblings looked to, to step in and save the day with the eulogy. And he did. His words were touching yet true. He acknowledged his father’s flaws. He acknowledged how hard it was to be his son, and said he meant everything he ever said about him. But then he talked about what his father had built and the light came on in Kendall’s eyes. He wants to build. He wants to be able to walk into any room, filled with anyone regardless of stature, and feel like he should be there. Maybe he doesn’t want to be like his father, but he wants to feel like his father. He wants to live the type of life his father lived.
The confidence gained from the eulogy set something off in Ken. He was suddenly alive, smooth, shrewd and the embodiment of many of his dad’s best characteristics. He moved from person to person after the funeral, gathering allies. Making his push to be the one with the crown. In the most surprising moment of all, he saw his dad’s bodyguard in tears, this mountain of a man distraught. This is the same man who cleaned up the accidental death Kendall was responsible for in Season 1. The same man who held that over Ken’s head. Kendall hated this man. Yet here, Kendall came to him and said, “Work for me now. Talk to me now”. It was the ultimate power move to finally put that ghost behind him, and also to secure one of the best allies he could have.
But of course, Kendall’s plans to rise to the throne solo are being threatened by his sister. Shiv, who finally told everyone she is pregnant, made her pitch. Matsson names an American based CEO (her) and that will be enough for the new President to back out of his deal with the brothers Roy and allow the sale to happen. To Shiv’s credit, it appeared to work. Heading into the series finale, we have a knife fight on our hands, with Shiv backing Matsson and Kendall (with possibly Roman behind him) trying to prevent Matsson from taking over their birthright.
The service before the funeral likely served as a goodbye to many characters who won’t organically fit into the series finale in a meaningful way. While I’m sure that Greg will have adequate screen time next week, his arc perhaps truly ended here. Greg getting to stand in for Tom and help carry Logan’s casket signified acceptance for the cousin from the less desirable part of the family. In that moment, he was finally one of them.
Ewan, played by the brilliant James Cromwell, typically steals scenes whenever he’s there, but perhaps never more so than here in Succession S4E9. He wasn’t supposed to speak at his brother’s funeral, but everyone knew he would try. Ewan started off by telling these tales that humanized Logan is ways that nobody saw coming. That he and Logan, as small children, were stashed at the bottom of a ship, forbidden to speak, sneeze or breathe too loudly, en route to America so they could escape the Nazi invasion of their home. Then, as a teenager, Logan returned home from school and his sister came down with polio. His aunt and uncle led him to believe that he brought it home and was responsible for the death of his sister.
These parts of Logan’s story felt true to life. When someone dies, things we never knew have a way of coming out. Here, everyone, audience included, gained a deeper understanding of why Logan was the man that he was. He had endured pain, deep-rooted suffering from a young age, and it shaped him. Ewan spoke of how he loved his brother but he didn’t like the things he did in his adult life. That cut deep. We can understand someone’s feelings and motivations but that doesn’t mean we have to excuse their behavior.
We also (likely) got to say goodbye to the siblings’ mother, as well as Logan’s current wife Marsha and last mistress, Kerri. In one of the most touching moments of the show, Logan’s ex-wife, wife and the two mistresses from both of those marriages sat together in the front row of the church service, taking one another by the hand, absolving themselves of all hard feelings and grieving together, laughing at how much he would’ve hated it. But it wasn’t about him, it was about these four women grieving and letting go of hard feelings.
Of course, we would be remiss to not discuss Tom here. Tom, much like Roman, has been “cranked up a few notches” the last few episodes. Here, he skipped the service and funeral, claiming that due to the riots he needed to be at ATN headquarters. When he arrived at the after party, he had this moment with Shiv where he recounted being the one with Logan as he passed, where everything just clicked. Tom has been grieving hard. He’s been acting out of character and this is the reason why. It’s very easy to think about everyone else’s grief but Tom can be pushed to the side at times and this was him saying “I’m hurting.” A powerful moment that makes you wonder if he and Shiv can try to talk things through again.
So, how does this story end? Does Kendall win, with the help of Roman? Does Roman surprise everyone with an out of left field plan? Can Shiv and Matsson pull off the coup of a lifetime? Does Matsson get to buy the company, not keep his promise to Shiv, and leave all of the siblings out in the cold, together? Who knows?
Heading into the series finale, I find myself caring less about the outcome and more about the path taken to get there. Will there be any more healing? Can any of these featured relationships see steps towards mending fences? Will these siblings quit trying to live up to their father’s legacy?
I don’t know. Succession has never been about the twists, despite the fact that the twists are quite good. It’s not about the money or the power. It’s about this group of damaged people who may or may not be better off emotionally than the generation that came before them. That’s what I care about in the finale. Sure, I’d like to see Kendall and Roman cost Mencken the election, but will they? It doesn’t matter.
Give me a scene with Kendall hugging his kids and I’m happy. You can do it Ken.