[This story contains major spoilers for the April 9 episode of HBO’s Succession.]
It’s the last season of Succession, which means anything can happen. And something really big happened in the third episode, “Connor’s Wedding.”
A second warning, major spoiler ahead….
The patriarch of the Roy family met his end on the April 9 episode. Logan Roy, who has been played by Emmy winner Brian Cox for four seasons of the critically acclaimed drama, dropped dead on his private jet. As a final act, Logan chose business over family and chose to make the Waystar Royco-GoJo deal instead of attending eldest son Connor’s (Alan Ruck) wedding, a high-profile event where all his children are when they get the crushing news that their father has been found in the bathroom in bad shape and the outlook is tragic. (Read all about the episode with THR‘s deep dive into “Connor’s Wedding”.)
Speaking in HBO’s behind-the-episode featurette, creator Jesse Armstrong explained that his decision to make the monumental death so early in the final season (with seven episodes left) was to surprise audiences, but also to allow time to unwrap the aftermath. “We don’t want to see people cry, have a funeral and be done with the show,” he said. “We want to see how a death of someone important reverberates around a family.”
“Connor’s Wedding” was written by Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod. The two continued to talk together HBO official Succession podcastwhich was released after the episode where they dove into the creative decision and shared more behind-the-scenes details.
“He always died. It felt like that had to happen,” Armstrong told host and journalist Kara Swisher. “That was always coded into it once we decided this was going to be the last season. would be the end, I thought most tragedies end with death at the end and we go back and look at that as a form But it was really this feeling of wanting to see how they would manage after that that prevailed.
Mylod explained their decision to keep Logan’s death offscreen. “Big events don’t happen in a perfect way, do they? They sometimes happen in a boring way. And this idea of taking away all the TV clichés of the perfect TV death kind of thing I thought was really brilliant,” Mylod said of shooting the episode in a way that makes audiences feel “hijacked in exactly the same way the brothers and sisters are when they hear the news, so we’re immediately parachuted into their emotional experience.
Mylod and the cameras accomplished that by filming an unbroken shot of nearly 30 minutes on the boat, which served as Connor’s wedding venue. A 10-minute sequence follows the siblings as they receive the shocking news and say goodbye to Logan in individual phone calls. “It felt like every time you cut to the front of the character or jumped forward in time, you took your foot off the gas. It felt to me like the camera had to be really sadistic, it had to be fearless and keep looking at the pain,” Mylod said of the film performance. “It felt like we were going live on national television. We only did it once and the results were electric in my opinion.
The director also explained the decision to only briefly display Patriarch Roy’s body. “When we started shooting those sequences on the plane, I felt strangely squeamish… to show the character at all,” he said. “We chose to show him very specifically for once. And parts of his torso at certain points with the shock treatment. It somehow felt oddly disrespectful.
Armstrong said he felt “terrified” when he broke the news to Cox, which he did over a personal luncheon, and that the “feeling of losing our No. 1 on the call sheet” made the table for this episode just as emotional was like on for the series finale.
Ultimately, though, he felt that Logan Roy’s character would consider “Connor’s Wedding” a lucky episode. “I think this is actually how he would like to go,” Armstrong said. “He’s on a private jet to make the biggest deal, he leaves at just the right time, and he leaves pretty quickly and painlessly, and his kids are whispering in his ear that they love him.” I think it’s a very happy episode.”
For his part, Cox said on HBO’s featurette that he was surprised to see Logan die at this point in the season and predicted of the audience, “I think they’re going to find it hard. They’ve been living with Logan for so long. They’re going to miss him.”
He expanded on that in a separate conversation with Swisher for the post-show podcast. “I knew something had to be done to complete the show. And I knew he was probably going to have to die,” Cox said, referring to Logan’s health being a focus since the very first episode, while also praising Armstrong and his decision to end the show on his terms. “I didn’t quite expect it to happen this early, but then we were stuck with each episode being one day, which we haven’t done in the previous seasons. So he dies on day three. I was fine as long as I got paid (laughs).”
Cox also came out of the picture with his own conspiracy theory about death. “I have a secret fantasy that we don’t actually see Logan die. We know about it, we hear about it. We don’t actually see it. We don’t even know if that body at the end is Logan’s body,’ he said. “So there’s a mystery of sorts: is Logan a father? Or did he just go somewhere else? Or is he just testing his family to see how they’ll react when he’s dead? I am much more resourceful than people think.”
Cox also shared some of the backstory he created with Armstrong for Logan, revealing that he was born in Scotland, transported to Canada during the war, then returned to Scotland where he began his career in journalism, and that he didn’t start out as a right-wing media titan. “Life is taken from him before anything is accomplished. He’s not achieving what he wanted to achieve and he doesn’t know where it’s going because he’s gone. And that’s life. We try to be in control and no one is in control,” he said. “He’s a tragic character. Jesse has created one of the great television roles.”
Cox envisioned an alternate ending for Logan, saying he would return to Scotland with people who love him, like assistant Kerry (Zoë Winters) and bodyguard Colin (Scott Nicholson). asked to come back, he offered his autograph: “Fuck off.”
Logan Roy’s death this early in the final season is sure to have a propulsive effect as the battle over who will succeed him is sure to be resolved with seven episodes left to tell. When announcing that the fourth season would be the final season, Armstrong had given the biggest hint about Logan’s fate when he said “there’s promise in the title of Succession.”
Now that we know how Logan’s story ends (and will continue in flashback form), more can be gathered by looking back at the first two episodes. When discussing previous episodes of HBO’s Succession podcastArmstrong explained that answering the show’s biggest question effectively ends the series.
“This show has a lot of things that I think the dynamic could just go on and on and we’d love to write them, but there’s a business, cultural and political heart to it,” he said. “If we tried to extend the succession business beyond natural length, I think people would feel like we were a bit of a zombie. That the body lived on, but the heart was gone.”
He also unwrapped Logan’s greatest tragedy: his isolation, as evidenced by his birthday party, where none of his kids were present, and in dinner with Colin, where Logan offered the most self-reflection of the character: “That Sumner Redstone-, [Rupert] Murdoch style deal makers, I don’t think they love anything as much as the deal and the thrill of that chase. I think that seeps through all parts of his life. He’s getting a gold star in terms of the billions he’s going to make, but he’s selling out, and that kind of feels like an end.”
Perhaps nothing sums up Roy’s father-child relationship better than Logan’s message to those who betrayed him in business, Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong), during the karaoke scene in episode two: Rehearsal,” when he tells them he loves them, but they’re “not serious people.”
Speaking to Swisher after Logan’s death, Cox called his character’s love for his children his Achilles heel. “He would be much better off not loving his children. He would be a happier man. But he loves his children and it’s a conflict,” he said. “He can’t take the pain. The fact that he loves his children and they don’t honor him. All they want is justice, greed. That’s all they represent.”
How Logan’s descendants will turn that out as they grieve (including for Connor, who’s now newlywed) will surely be explored once the shock wears off in upcoming episodes. When speaking to THR Matthew Macfadyen, whose Tom was present during Logan’s death and broke the news to the children, offered this insight when speaking about the breakdown of Tom and Shiv’s marriage: “The siblings lack real trust because they don’t have the certainty of love that comes from their parents it is implied that Logan had a very traumatic upbringing and he is clearly unable to express love for his children in a healthy way so you have three siblings who are unable to settle down or feel good.
The last season of Succession appears Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.