[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “Succession” Season 4, Episode 3, “Connor’s Wedding.”]
Just a week ago, Logan Roy was alive and screaming — more specifically, he was shouting at the ATN bullpen about killing their enemies to build a “faster, lighter, meaner, wilder” future. But now it’s Santa the hitman (Santassassin?) who’s nothing more than a “jam smear on the highway.” Typically, when a television character dies, that’s it. They’re out of the game. Ned Stark did not win the “Game of Thrones.” Richie Aprile never became a boss in “The Sopranos.” Mr. Heckles didn’t marry Rachel on “Friends.” (That’s how you won “Friends,” right? Getting married?) To some, death may be another beginning, but for anyone playing to win on TV, it’s a pretty definitive defeat.
Not so for Logan Roy. The business titan may not have preferred his death to take place while traveling (let alone in an airplane bathroom), and he’s certainly fuming over falling down dead before he could close the GoJo deal. (I like to imagine Logan outside the gates of hell, standing in a long line — the first line in 40 years he’s not allowed to cut — and demanding his immediate return to Earth, just for one more day, as a unbothered demon ignores him.) But Logan can still “win” when it comes to “Succession,” and there’s reason to believe his chances now are better than ever.
The most immediate victory would be seeing his last laid plans come to fruition. Logan wanted the GoJo deal to go through. He wanted it badly enough to let GoJo absorb Waystar, rather than the other way around. He wanted it badly enough to let Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) take over as top dog. He wanted it badly enough to carve out a richer divorce payout to Caroline (Harriet Walter). He wanted it badly enough to screw over his three children– OK, OK, that wasn’t really a concern, but he did want it badly enough that he was going to skip his first-born son’s wedding to ensure the deal went through. Just kidding. Sorry. He doesn’t care about Connor either.
What Logan cares about is serious people — working with them, sparring with them, and knowing they respect him. Back in the Season 3 finale, when he explains to Kendall, Shiv, and Roman why he has to make the deal with Matsson, Logan says, “This is the best moment to sell. If I don’t do the best deal at any given point, what’s the point of anything? I don’t get out, I leave $5 billion on the table.” When pressed to explain what $5 billion even means to a man of his wealth, Logan admits it’s just to make his “pile” bigger; to prove he’s a shrewd businessman and skilled negotiator; to ensure he’s always seen as a man of vision, who knows where the market is headed and how to make sure he’s on top of it. “Why [does it matter?” he says. “Because it fucking works. I fucking win.”
Logan wouldn’t want to give up that win, that perception, even in death. Sure, the history books may note that his kids tanked the GoJo deal (if they do), or otherwise absolve him of blame, but it’s much cleaner if the company Logan built lives on when he can’t. So if the GoJo deal goes through, that’s a win for Logan. Professionally, his legacy would likely be secure. But it may not be enough.
Deciding his successor was always, in one way or another, about choosing who Logan could trust to act in his stead, to do what he would do in any situation, and to act not just in the company’s best interests, but in Logan’s best interests. That’s why his kids always fell short. They may be as close to clones of their father as modern technology allows (though I wouldn’t put it past Logan to have invested in a top secret lab somewhere), but each Roy sibling regularly reminded dear ol’ dad that they weren’t exactly like him.
Connor is the most obvious aberration. He’s simply not serious about the things Logan needs a successor to take seriously. He’s the one child who’s always stayed out of the family business. Shiv did, too — for a while — and her outsider’s acumen served her well… again, for a while. Shiv is often the sharpest Roy sibling, both in intellect and mercilessness. (Never forget when she convinced a Waystar employee who was sexually assaulted to stay quiet.) But it was that same canniness that Logan disliked. In Season 2, after naming her his heir in private, he soured on Shiv as she tried to force his hand in public, and Logan also pushed her away when she tried to dissuade her papa from supporting an alt-right presidential candidate. Shiv’s reasoning isn’t wrong in either instance, but it’s not what Logan wants, and that’s what matters.
Roman, while often eager to hop on board his father’s plans, just can’t close. For as far removed as Roman felt from donning his dad’s shoes when “Succession” began, he’s made great strides when given a try-out, only to inevitably stumble. He watches the launch he’s in charge of explode. He sides with his siblings over the Matsson deal he helps set up. He can’t avoid sending a dick pic to his daddy. In the end, Roman just isn’t disciplined enough for Logan.
That leaves Kendall. Having been readied as a successor for years, if not decades, the eldest sib is very much like Logan. They both understand the ins and outs of their business. They both have shown the ability to lead. They both are, at times, disastrous human beings with little regard for (or awareness of) the public good. But, without unpacking four seasons of Kendall’s well-documented complexities, Kendall wants to be liked, not just respected. He wants to be cool, whereas his father settles for being cold. The one-time heir apparent too often shows a fragility that keeps him from entering full-on beast mode, which may be what Logan considered his most critical attribute for world domination. The closest Kendall ever came to earning his father’s admiration was when he stabbed him in the back, and that contradictory moment by itself outlines why Logan would never be 100 percent confidant in naming his son King Royco.
So without a successor in place at the time of his death, how can Logan still win the game of “Succession”? Simple: Just be like Ted Lasso and believe. While each of the Roy children may have been a degree or two away from Logan’s right angle, they’re all still perilously close to becoming exactly who their father raised them to be. (Not Connor. Never Connor.) Shiv doesn’t have to deal with her father’s suspicions or, let’s face it, sexism anymore. Roman may be motivated by his dad’s death to finish what he’s started (aka the GoJo deal) and maintain a more serious closer’s mindset thereafter. Kendall could shut down what little humanity he has left and embrace the cold embrace of absolute power. Who’s to say Logan’s death won’t push any one of his kids to turn into the successor of daddy’s dreams?
Doing so would likely mean betraying their siblings. It would mean sacrificing the people who loved you, as well as anything else you may love. It would require wanting the crown badly enough that no price was too high to pay. Death is not a defeat — not to Logan. Not yet, anyway. If Logan is to win “Succession,” it would mean one of his children becomes exactly like him. And that would be a tragedy, to everyone but the father who started this game in the first place.
“Succession” Season 4 airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.