Succession: In the End, No One Could Survive Logan Roy

TV Features Succession
Succession: In the End, No One Could Survive Logan Roy

This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but there’s really no such thing as a “post-Logan world.” Logan Roy, the late Waystar Royco patriarch and general monolith, spent his kids’ entire adult lives (and sometimes their childhood) making them think they were being set up to rule his media empire after his passing, but intentionally neglected to educate, prepare, or train them for any of the business or character responsibilities necessary to succeed. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was making his children think he’d hand over the keys to the kingdom.

Or maybe he did! Who knows what conflicted, ever-changing thoughts rocketed around that great, great mind of Logan Roy? But his children have spent too long trying to figure out what their abuser was really thinking, what his next move would be, if he respected them, if he loved them. The Conheads may be the true winners of Succession; the least-loved firstborn has gotten used to never needing love, content with the woman he bought, keeping his dad’s home but selling everything he owned.

But as Kendall, Shiv, and Roman crumble in the glass-walled rooms of some bare, bland meeting room, simultaneously turning on each other and also realizing that they will always, always turn on each other, forever and ever, you can practically hear Logan’s mirthless laugh echoing around the executive suites. Logan never gave his kids power—he gave them ambition, the promise that they deserved his power and would know what to do with it. But Logan was their only connection to, well, Logan—they only had a shot at his power while there was a living bond between father and child. He engineered a scenario where they wanted nothing more than to take over, but beyond their ambition were completely incapable of being anything more than, as Roman astutely comments, “bullshit.” 

In the end, Shiv’s hand rests on that the efficient automaton who rules Waystar and has fathered her child; Roman sits in a supposedly social but remarkably austere bar, drinking the cocktail of choice of the only person who made him feel valuable; Kendall looks to the water, the endless motion of the waves, with the unfocused silhouette of Colin, a Logan souvenir and Kendall’s permanent suicide prevention officer, watching over him—all of them realizing that Waystar’s power and Logan’s love were ultimately things they had been tricked into coveting, and were always meant to hold out on them.

Why did Logan do this? There are many explanations, none of them more convincing than those laid out by Uncle Ewan at his surprise eulogy. (Just think: because Greg didn’t stop Ewan’s speech, Roman couldn’t do his own, meaning he balked at going after Mattson, meaning he crumbled in the boardroom, meaning…) Logan was abused, mistreated, traumatized; he blamed himself for his grief, it cut him off from those who, “I suppose,” loved him. He doubted every show of affection ever offered to him, he mistrusted long-standing relationships and always philandered, he hated having to be cared for. Logan will always resent his kids because of his abusive past; he was an American immigrant, made to suffer incredibly, and considers his empire all self-built. His kids will never escape being, in his eyes, undeserving scroungers. They were set up to fail the minute they were born.

The scene where Kendall, Shiv, and Roman watch the phone footage of Logan has a complex emotional weight to it. Not just because my own mother pointed out the similarities between Brian Cox as Logan and my own white-haired, short-tempered Scottish grandfather, and not just because the tradition of everyone in a group performing a song or skit in turn has personal cultural resonance, but because we actually get to see Logan, dare we say it, happy? With the people he pays vast, enviable sums of money to, with the ingénue infatuated with him, with his grown-up son who will bend backwards trying to please him. You’d assume these people have less meaningful connections with the head honcho than his non-Connor children, but there’s a transparency in their relationships that, because of Logan’s abuse, just doesn’t exist with the others.

Succession finale on HBO

As expected, the saddest fate is reserved for the number one boy. Kendall is perfectly set up to detach himself from the self-abusive cycle he’s spent most of his life stuck in, severing all links to the cancerous conglomerate inside of which all of his father-son toxicity is kept. He has never been in a position more suited for him to move on and heal from his wounds. But he won’t, of course. Because the way he ended up here completely ruined his life, and he will never, ever get over it.

Or he might! Who knows. Succession ended not when the story stopped being interesting, but when the audience, like Logan’s children, were shut out from it. You are no longer welcome, we are told along with Kendall, Shiv, and Roman. Go somewhere you’re wanted. The grown-ups are talking now. To Logan’s kids, the grown-ups talked their whole lives, and they have always been forbidden to join in. It took them seven episodes to realize that Logan’s death didn’t open the door to them, it shut them out forever.

Of all the Taylor Swift fancam edits Succession has received, one particular lyric comes to mind: the title line from a song on Midnights. “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye / You were bigger than the whole sky.” It sums up, in a suitably childish and romantic fashion, that yearning to keep something in your life, something so grand and vast that you hadn’t even begun to wrap your head around what it means to you. What is it like when something huge and ungraspable slips away? Something you had no choice of understanding, of having an equal, healthy relationship with, but something that you desired nevertheless? 

But beneath those wistful, melancholic tones is, of course, the darkness they cover up. The act in Succession’s title wasn’t a promise, it was a taunt, something that was fated to elude rather than ever be realized. Logan Roy’s murder-suicide has finally been put to rest, and after a lifetime of keeping them at arm’s length, he chose to take his children down with him.

Rory Doherty is a screenwriter, playwright and culture writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. You can follow his thoughts about all things stories @roryhasopinions.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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