Sunday, April 9, 2023

REVIEW: 'Succession' - The Roy Family Goes Numb When a Sudden Tragedy Disrupts All Their Plans in 'Connor's Wedding'

HBO's Succession - Episode 4.03 "Connor's Wedding"

While Logan doles out an unsavory task ahead of his trip to meet Matsson, Connor fixates on minutia at his wedding.

"Connor's Wedding" was written by Jesse Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod

The creation of a succession plan is an inherently morbid conversation. It's all about lining up the details for when someone in charge inevitably leaves. Death simply can't be avoided. That's a certainty. If the company they run can't manage the storm of that transition, then all that former greatness will be questioned. Was the company ever truly successful? Or was it simply driven by one person? That has always been at the heart of this series. Could any of Logan's children ever step up to take the reigns of Waystar Royco? Would he ever willingly let go of control? Logan wanted to dictate the terms of his legacy. He always had his eyes on the future. He was making big moves. He knew how to play this game more strategically than everyone else in his orbit. He continually manipulated people despite the constant betrayals in the past. Even now, his children are willing to profess their love for him. Kendall is thrown by the suggestion he and his siblings were estranged from their father. They were literally just together. In that meeting at the karaoke bar though, Logan referred to his children as unserious people. He loves them. They simply didn't inherit the killer instincts necessary for this business to thrive. They will always make mistakes because they are childish. They are guided by petty emotions. Roman carries tons of potential. That's why Logan always returns to him. He even asks him to fire Gerri. Roman still has the authority to do so. He remains a member of the board through his position in the family. And yet, Roman wanted to move on. He wanted to build something new. He didn't want to be preoccupied with screwing over his father because of his latest betrayal. Kendall and Shiv were much more tempted. They delighted in knowing they had the upper hand against their father. They could destroy the GoJo deal if they wanted. Some board members believe the financial details aren't good enough. For the family though, it's a proxy war for everything that has happened as of late. It's everyone flexing for control. That's unavoidable even if the siblings leave to start something new. They can never escape their father. But now, Logan Roy is dead. That tragedy occurs. It forces the siblings back to lead this company. They feel the urgency and responsibility to guide it through this turbulent time. The deal hasn't closed on the succession Logan wanted. He was content selling the majority of his assets to Matsson while retaining control over ATN. He became engaged in the media environment once more. He was planning on forcing Cyd out so Roman could take over. He had the specific skills to make these power moves. He simply didn't have the time to execute them fully.

It's absolutely devastating when Roman and Kendall get that call from Tom. Narratively, it makes sense. The show is about the succession of power at Waystar Royco. Logan would inevitably have to leave the role he has wielded power from for decades. It wasn't his choice to do so. His health was always a concern. Even at their most bitter, the family still cared about Logan's well-being. The siblings even feared Kerry was taking advantage of him. Logan never lost a step though. His heinous ways dominated every single decision. He wanted Gerri gone because she was sexually harassed by Roman. He lost trust in her because he believes she allowed that to happen. He enjoys the twisted irony of having Roman deliver the message. He wants it delivered without the baggage of having to do it himself. He also never had any intention of attending Connor and Willa's wedding. Connor still coordinated a plan so the members of his family could all be involved without having to interact with each other. Connor at least has more history and acceptance of being let down by his family. He knows not to have high expectations. He seeks out happiness and pleasure elsewhere. Logan still toys with the people under his influence. They are always left questioning what he will do next. He dies. That's the ultimate disruption. It knocks the entire family back. It traumatizes all of them. The show smartly plays it from their reactions. It's a phone call where Tom doesn't have all the answers. He's not a medical professional. Sure, one reasonably assumes the staff aboard the Roy family jet are equipped to handle any medical emergency. The siblings still question every action taken. They are confused. It's complete chaos. They are suddenly forced to deliver their final words to their father. It's a numbing action. At first, it's just Roman and Kendall isolated. They are motionless. They eventually realize Shiv and Connor must be included as well. That's traumatizing because they fear how much they have already missed out of this sudden turn of events. They question every move. Roman doesn't remember if he professed his love for his father. Kendall and Shiv are still burdened by betrayals. They don't know if they can forgive in an instant. Connor sees this as freedom to admit his father never really liked him. People are more vulnerable than ever before with their admissions. They don't know how to handle this. It's the rare instance in which the Roy family behaves like regular people. Sure, the events still play out on a luxury yacht and a private jet. The emotions are universal. The shock is deeply felt. Kendall, Roman and Shiv lean on each other to a certain extent. Even then, they have different priorities for what they need to do and say in this moment to be at peace with what has just happened.

Karolina isn't trying to wrestle control away from anyone when she drafts a statement announcing Logan's death. Kendall leads with authority. He knows the family needs to be at the center. It can't be a purely business response. Everyone wants to be mentioned in the statement to ensure the markets aren't spooked. Everyone fears the reaction this will cause. Meanwhile, Roman is still living in denial. He doesn't believe his father is dead until the plane lands and a trained medical team assesses his condition. It's clear to everyone aboard the plane what has just happened. They don't know how to convey that to people who need to know. It's a personal trauma for the family. Everyone who has worked for Logan had a complex relationship. He always threatened to fire people. He could ruin any of their lives based on his personal whims. He let a few people in at a time. It was enough for Tom to prepare for the future. He's left scrambling and calls Greg to delete the files for what was being proposed. This was meant to be a pivotal day. It's not for the celebration of Connor and Willa's love. That's an afterthought. It's something that only merits a gift from Logan. He ultimately dictates the fallout for the rest of the day. Some plans were known. Everything is disrupted. The siblings can never break free of their father's influence. Roman saw himself falling into the same routine once more. He spoke his mind. By then, it was too late. Everything was about to get worse. He reaches out and very few people are willing to indulge in that emotional support. Gerri is done coddling him. This is still a tragedy. One that must be carefully balanced. Shiv is ashamed she thought about having the plane circle the airport until the close of business. She wanted more time to handle the fallout for the company. These characters are each wired that way. They can't pretend otherwise. That's why Connor follows through with the wedding. It becomes a much more intimate ceremony. That's more fitting for what he needs of love and family. The others seek clarity elsewhere. The siblings will have a role in the company's immediate transition. They don't seek compassionate release from their responsibilities. That only opens the door for outsiders to take control. The siblings don't want that. They have these superiority complexes. That stands opposed to what Logan believed. Right now, they may not be making sense of anything. They have clarity on what they want. Now, they just have to handle things the right way. The siblings were already tested in their newfound unity. Logan's death will be the biggest challenge they will ever face. It determines the fate of their family as well as the influence they exert over the rest of the world. Logan dominated. His time is now over. Love defined those relationships. No one denies that. The sudden nature of death forces new perspective. It may not be full enlightenment. It's simply going through the motions. The stakes are high as everyone plots without the guiding force who has always kept things in check. They need that despite Logan's toxicity. They don't know how to handle life any other way even though death requires them to be more human with their emotions. It's jarring. It requires self-reflection that may not extend behind the immediate aftermath. This is a consequential time for all involved to further showcase their worth and importance. That was never in doubt with Logan, who always won no matter what. But now, everyone is tasked with figuring out how they are defined without him.