Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Stages of Grief

Spoiler Alert: If, for whatever reason, you have not yet watched last Sunday's episode of Succession (season 4, episode 3, "Connor's Wedding"), read no farther!

The inevitable moment which we have all been expecting since the series' pilot episode several years ago has finally come. The moment Logan's children have been anticipating, in part perhaps dreading, in part perhaps eagerly expecting, has come - and come as a surprise, somewhat blindsiding them. A show all about succession to the capitalist version of a throne must at some point vacate the throne, if the succession is going to occur. 

So Logan Roy has died. He died, however, not (as we might have expected) as a series finale scene but in the third episode of the final season. He died not at center stage surrounded by his children, but very offstage in his private plane, far away from his family, surrounded only by his sycophantic company flunkies and far away from his children. Of course had he been a better father, he would have been on that extravagant boat in New York Harbor attending his son Connor's wedding and would have died surrounded by his children, not on a plane flying to finalize one more business deal. Instead, like Stalin, he died, in effect, alone. Even Stalin at least died at his own dacha. Logan died in his plane, in effect nowhere.

The episode is deceivingly titled "Connor's Wedding." We should have known by now that some of the show's more powerful moments happen at (or at least in connection with) weddings. Connor does indeed get married. Damaged like all his siblings, he is nonetheless proving to be the one who is most level-headed and is seemingly not in mourning for someone he feels never loved him, but is ready to move on with his life with Willa. But, while this may prove to be the most successful marriage of the lot, Connor's wedding is not the heart of the episode. The previous episode had indeed prepared us for the wedding. But, as always with poor Connor, his big moment was overshadowed by the perennial drama that is his family. 

The focus, as usual, is on the other kids and their complex mix of reactions. Kendal wants to impose order and control on what has no order and cannot be controlled. Shiv just seems to fall apart (although she will pull herself together to make the business-necessary statement on behalf of the family/firm). Roman is in complete denial and remains effectively in denial until he actually sees his father's body being offloaded from the plane at Teterboro Airport. The emotionally tumultuous scenes of the three of them trying to say some suitable final words (loving but also ambivalent) over the phone to their dying father (who probably can no longer hear them) are among the series' best. Logan's final words to his children the night before had also been ambivalent. He told them he loved them but also that they were not serious people, both of which were probably true.

Part of the appeal of Succession, I suppose, is the obscene opulence in which these characters live - their boats, their private jets, their travels, their complete insulation from any of the tasks and struggles of ordinary life. But death cannot be cheated, even by the narcissistic super rich. Another part of Succession's appeal, I suppose, is the flagrant amorality of the characters. Their complete insulation from life's ordinary tasks and struggles seems also to free them from any sense of moral accountability for their actions or for being the terrible people they are - something the rest of us can watch with self-righteous disdain (and maybe a certain element of envy). But, in this moment of ordinary universal human experience, from which they cannot escape despite all their wealth (as reflected in the absurd if poignantly revealing conversation between Kendal and Frank), the three siblings just seem to go to pieces, much as ordinary people might

Weddings also tend to bring the siblings (at least Kendal, Roman, and Shiv) together. (Think of the almost tender boat house scene at Shiv's wedding in season 1.) But Logan had skipped this latest wedding, as he had in the end skipped Caroline's and as he had almost skipped Shiv's. He died as he lived - sacrificing his family for business machinations - to be, as Roman said, a monster.

There is so much in this powerful episode. Inevitably, however, attention will now shift to the new form the succession struggle must take now that the throne is finally actually vacant. Can the kids remain united? They may have to, if only to keep the sycophantic business staff from taking over, or long-serving, long-suffering Gerri (whom Logan commanded Roman to fire as one of his last acts), or the people on the Board, or who knows who else? And what about the minor relations? Greg? Tom? (One wonders if Tom may now regret having chosen Logan over his wife!)

The future of the family/firm promises more twists and turns. For now, however, Logan's completely un-extraordinary death and the psychic toll it takes on those around him offer enough to rivet our attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment