Succession Season 4 Welcomes Us Into a Post-Logan World

TV Features Succession
Succession Season 4 Welcomes Us Into a Post-Logan World

In legal speak, there’s such a thing as “corporate personhood.” It’s the idea that a body or organization, like a corporation, can be regarded as a legal, natural person, distinguishing it from individuals like managers, boards, shareholders, or CEOs. This means they’re afforded certain rights enjoyed by citizens—corporations in the US argue, for example, that political spending is simply an extension of their First Amendment privileges. On the flip side, there’s such a thing as “piercing the corporate veil;” when corporate personhood offers companies the chance to hide individual human vices and crimes behind their constructed, corporate facade, individual shareholders and employees can be shuffled around internally to avoid liability. The tension between these ideas, Succession has argued, makes for great drama, but is it possible to regard a corporation with the same empathy we offer human beings?

The simple and correct answer is no, of course not. The existence of a corporation, the consolidation and pursuit of wealth, is definitively non-compassionate, and corporate personhood is regularly exploited to redirect blame away from guilty parties towards impenetrable and therefore legally untouchable organizations. But for four seasons, Succession has offered an opportunity to tear open the veil to reveal the buffoons, sycophants, and narcissists who are motivated by recognizable (if not sympathetic) keenly felt emotions. It’s why we care about super wealthy people who probably regard us with disgust or derision—we are given access to the only qualities that we share with them.

After Logan’s sudden death, we watch characters in the throes of grief be pushed to action after willingly grafting their identity with that of Waystar Royco, the fictional media empire that represents all power and riches. Have we all until now conflated the company’s identity with that of its founder, Logan Roy? What does it look like now that he’s passed on? Logan’s demise in “Connor’s Wedding” was both preempted and out-of-the-blue; both characters and audience knew this was an eventuality, but few saw it coming this soon. What’s more, everyone thought about it in terms of how their power would be consolidated rather than how they would be affected emotionally.

We saw family and affiliates up against the wall, children displaced from a parent dying in a cramped airplane aisle, pleading over the phone for him to recover, clasping each other’s arms, hands, bodies in helplessness. They were utterly wounded, but in Connor, we got to see the first hints at a potential ending for the Roy children. It seemed like a weight had been lifted, and through the bluntly honest conversation he had with Willa, he got his first taste of liberation. It’s telling that he rearranged his entire wedding for election purposes, but in the end it was watched by no more than a dozen onlookers—a first step into a world where there is no Logan Roy.

If Waystar’s personhood has become head-to-toe infected with that of Logan, it would explain why characters deliberating the company’s future keep acting as if Logan is still alive. The hushed tones, the scurrying from room to room, the delicately-phrased manner in which they tear each other a new one—it’s all very in-keeping with how they acted around Santa-if-he-was-a-hitman. Now that they’re not all brown-nosing Logan, it’s refreshing to see an Old Guard in crisis, with Tom, Karl, Gerri, Karolina, and Frank getting a deeper opportunity to showcase the snarky, saber-toothed venom they direct at each other, which can very easily coagulate into a wall of corporate defense if any rivals (or inheritors) come for their power. Even the moments we see of Karl, Gerri, and Frank alone together recall the dynamics of the central trio of siblings, something that resonates now that these suits don’t have a father-figure of their own to lead them.

Logan’s own flesh and blood start operating with a defter sense of confidence now that the force they have assembled against doesn’t know how to attack them as emotionally as Logan did when he was alive—although not initially. When we begin, Roman seems to be all fine (even though it might be the numbness he mentioned in the last episode), but Kendall’s back to his early-series malaise, and Shiv is more than a bit discombobulated when discussing the fact that she is pregnant. They move around their dad’s luxury apartment as if Logan himself is still walking the halls like he did in Season 4’s premiere, the generations separated by time and doomed to never find each other.

But upon learning that Waystar’s power shift could possibly favor them, Kendall’s tremendous appetite is whetted once again. His name being underlined or crossed out will undoubtedly excite fans for weeks to come, but its precise ambiguity about whether or not Logan actually favored Kendall to take over is perhaps the last laugh for him. Logan knows his son is an addict, and can’t control how he responds to the tantalizing promise of taking over Waystar. It makes him behave cruelly (a mean-spirited jibe at Shiv), with frustration (snapping at his siblings), and with calculated malice (placing Hugo snugly into his pocket). Remind you of anyone? Tom may have been Logan’s new son, but only if he was still alive—after his passing, Kendall has proved he’s still daddy’s number one boy.

There’s still a long way to go yet, but it looks like family does mean everything in Succession. Rather than taking a backseat to grieve, Waystar’s suits eventually bow to Kendall, Roy, and (pending) Shiv’s authority, with Tom and Greg relegated to cloying, pleading abscesses now that Logan isn’t there to orbit around. But the final scenes, where Hugo and Karolina suggest a smear campaign at the sins of Logan Roy (something that Roman rejects but Kendall covertly endorses), it’s unclear what will become of Logan’s legacy. 

But, as Kendall points out to Hugo, only the body is dead, the ethos endures. Disgracing and disowning his character is exactly what Logan would have done, it honors him in a much more honest way than the pathetic obituaries and tributes the kids mock at his wake. We certainly wouldn’t have expected Logan to rise above his reprehensible playbook, and so with his malicious, self-centered, and uneasy back-stabbing-beyond-the-grave, Kendall doesn’t just optimize his position in his father’s absence—he resurrects him. Grieving doesn’t yield much profit, so what’s the use of it? Logan Roy is dead, long live Logan Roy.

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

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