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The ‘Succession’ Misery Index: Strategic Refocus

Succession/ HBO

Cast-Wide Misery Index: 1,000 (Panic! At The Royco)

Succession killed off Logan Roy last night, and in doing so aired a truly great episode of television. I've just never seen a TV show approximate what it's like to actually lose a loved one with such intensity and panic-inducing surreality. The episode begins how Succession typically does, and then all of a sudden the death comes and tilts everything off its axis. The decision to have Logan die off screen, with only glimpses of his suddenly lifeless body, makes you feel like somehow you're being tricked. You're stuck with the characters and their grief as the cameras linger closely on their faces and never let go. It's claustrophobic, and on the aftershow, director Mark Mylod described his desire to "not let the kids off the hook." It's anxiety-inducing to watch such intense grief mixed with the confusion that comes from trying to relay information back and forth over cell phones. The episode is a masterful bit of filmmaking that involved structuring the shot like a one-act play, going through 28 pages of script in one extended scene.

By the end of the episode, every character was manic and utterly hollowed out. One thing the show has always made is clear is that for as much as the Roy kids hated their dad, they also never imagined a world without him. That was kind of the problem—for as much as they wanted his kingdom, what they really wanted most of all was his approval.

Logan's death will certainly unleash all sorts of terrible impulses in his kids as the season progresses, but in the jolt of the moment they all reverted back to being little children. Still bitter and resentful (Shiv and Kendall not being able to forgive their father as he's dying), still unable to communicate their feelings in total (Roman not understanding how hugs work), and still clinging to the fantasy that their money can fix everything (Kendall demanding to speak to the "best airplane medicine expert in the world"). It's only Connor, on his wedding day, who comes close to achieving any kind of clarity. His immediate reaction to the news—"Oh man, he never even liked me"—was just as crushing as it was honest. Connor probably also did the best thing he could for himself by sticking with the wedding, even as his family and guests abandoned ship. Sure, he's marrying someone who only kinda likes him, but sometimes we gotta take what we can get.

Without Logan, we're left with the questions (and the will) that he left behind. Is Marcia still in it? Are his kids out of it? Did he really love his children? To that last one, it's easy to say no. They were certainly pawns to him, but just because your form of love is toxic doesn't mean that it isn't still love. In that final scene at the karaoke club last week, the kids wanted Logan to try and give a real apology for anything that has taken place between them. It likely wouldn't have fixed anything, but it would have at least said something. Logan refused to give anything genuine, though, mostly because he was also waiting for an apology, and that familial stubbornness was like a uncrossable gulf. It was a fitting death, then. He could've been at his son's wedding, but he died on a private jet, and the only people around to see it was a crew sycophants he never respected. Not even the audience, the only people who could have possibly liked this character, got to see him off.

Narratively speaking, this death injects some much-needed juice into the final season, and you can appreciate how the show is beginning to complete its cycle. Suddenly, everyone is right back where they were at the start of Season 1: trying to figure out how to use Logan's absence as a way to achieve the best standing for themselves. You could see the machinations already beginning with a few characters: Karl and Karolina going into business mode, Gerri being able to keep her job on a technicality and giving Roman the cold shoulder, (Damn hasn't he been through enough?), Tom wondering about his future, Kendall thinking about the markets' reaction and trying to make sure his siblings are back in the Royco mix (these people are such addicts), and Kerry, uh ... having a reaction, that's for sure. Succession has chopped off the head of its biggest beast, and now a thousand little ones are about to get back to the business of eating each other. At they very least, we're sure to be in store of the funniest funeral on television.

Honorable Mentions:

Marcia Roy:

Colin the security guy: There's probably no one I feel worse for in the whole show, to be honest.

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