(This story contains major spoilers from the penultimate episode of Succession“Church and state.”)
The last season of Succession takes place over consecutive days and the penultimate episode of the HBO series brings with it the day of Logan Roy’s funeral.
Brian Cox had previously spoken about how he showed up on set the day they filmed his character’s grand finale to distract the media from the major death spoiler that came earlier in season four of the Emmy-winning drama: “They invented this scene that I would play in this church Uptown, very fancy, big Catholic (church). … as soon as I got out of the car,[the paparazzi]started clicking away. So I could immediately postpone that it was my funeral.”
The funeral of celebrities was the focus of “Church and State,” written by creator Jesse Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod. The most important day in the Roy family legacy brought together nearly every character in Waystar Royco’s orbit (including all of Logan’s ex-wives and lovers), and it was also a global event that not only lured the media elite, but also GoJo’s Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) and president-elect Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), with the latter present offering the chance to the three Roy kids, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv (Sarah Snook). to keep stabbing each other in the back and strategize about the impending Gojo-Waystar deal and who will eventually come out on top, amid their palpable grief.
As Mylod explained in his HBO interview after the episode, Roman started the episode at the top in sibling rivalry due to his connection to Mencken and getting the political bogeyman to agree to block the GoJo-Waystar deal, which Roman and Kendall want. . However, he ended the episode at the bottom after collapsing during his eulogy; After Kendall tells him he screwed up in public, Kendall takes over the mantle and Roman masochistically ends the episode heading into a sea of protesters and causes a punch to the face. Shiv, meanwhile, is on the rise again as she gets a promise from Matsson to become his US CEO, a move that could appease Mencken not to block the deal, which she wants.
Speak on the Succession podcast after the episode, Strong unpacked Kendall’s effective eulogy, which the co-CEO unexpectedly delivered in place of Roman and after Logan’s brother, Ewan (James Cromwell), painted a rather unpleasant picture of their late father.
“It’s a great time for Kendall, I think, to come to what he sees as speaking the truth. We’ve seen him in episode six, in the Living+ presentation, there’s a kind of grandeur to his public speaking and he rises to the occasion sometimes, in a character we’ve seen so many times that he missed the mark,’ Strong told journalist and host Kara Swisher. “But this one, because he hadn’t prepared for it and he hadn’t planned to do it – which he probably would have agonized over, and the prepared version, like all of us, might not have been that good – there was something about the gauntlet thrown down by Ewan belittling (Logan’s) memory.
He continued, “But it’s also a wonderful piece of writing from Jesse that I had very little time to learn (smiling), but that Kendall acknowledges that his father was a brute. That much of what Ewan said is true and that he said it himself; he called him an evil presence at the end of season two. But I think through Kendall’s eyes you see his reverence for his father. And I think it’s so important that we see that it’s not about market capitalization, it’s about the vitality of the man and the things he’s made.”
Strong said that Kendall talking about Logan’s estate as money is the unspoken “dirty secret” and the real reason everyone even attended the funeral. “Money is something that makes the world go round,” he said, adding, “It’s a brilliant speech.”
Swisher pointed out the chess moves Kendall makes in this episode that shift his alliances: his old assistant Jess (Juliana Canfield) quits because of the Mencken election call and the civil unrest of the penultimate episode (“a real mortal wound”); he recruits both his father’s driver and confidante, Colin (Scott Nicholson), and communications chief Hugo (Fisher Stevens) to further shape his media narrative (“he’s getting ready to do battle”); and having already made it clear that he ultimately intends to take out co-CEO Roman, forces Roman to stand by him as they prepare to face Shiv in the board of the GoJo deal (“a profound transformation”).
So, what does Kendall Roy’s endgame look like in the series finale?
“It’s kind of a Dracarys moment for Kendall,” he said with a laugh, referring to Game of Thrones. “From the end of episode six, I really think he can see the end game. A lot of things happen in the ninth episode. He feels guilty for the election and his guilt in making this kind of Faustian bargain, really, he’s totally compromised himself, and he knows it. I think he’s confused. The real moral hazard we saw in the previous episode.”
He continued, “But (his ex-wife) Rava (Natalie Gold) then called him and took the kids out of town, and then Jess defected too. In a way, his assistant Jess, I mean she’s such a fantastic character and Juliana Canfield is a brilliant actor, and I love that they gave her this great scene. But she is, in a way, one of the few people Kendall has left. Everyone else is gone. Shiv is in a relationship with Tom (Matthew Macfadyen); other characters that we see in relation to people. And Jess is pretty much the only place Kendall feels safe, so to get out of there is a real mortal wound for Kendall. He keeps pushing, but I think that really puts him a bit out of place, which only sharpens his need to get what he wants. So I think he’s just doubling down.”
Strong then explains how Roman’s eulogy mishap opened the door wide for Kendall when it comes to the looming issue of Succession and who will ultimately be Logan Roy’s successor.
“The hinge of the episode is actually Roman shitting in bed in his speech and Kendall taking over the mantle and it’s another triumph. He goes from strength to strength in a sense, and the room feels it. And he feels (it). They joke about the coronation demolition derby, but it’s his father’s funeral and Kendall’s coronation at the same time. I’m leaving that church, there has been a profound transformation from the way I walked into that church to the way I left that church. And the kind of hatching plots with Hugo, there’s just a determination in the character. I think we’re seeing more and more that he’s Logan Roy’s son and that Logan is his middle name.”
The series finale of Succession will appear on HBO and Max on Sunday, May 28 at 9 p.m. Follow along THR‘s Succession coverage of the last season.