Contains spoilers for “Succession” season four, episode three.
Never trust an HBO wedding. “Loganus Maximus, slayer of Vikings,” is not, in fact, immortal, though the Earth’s orbit seems to have shifted in his absence. “Connor’s Wedding,” the third episode in the fourth and final season of “Succession,” is a deceptively innocent title for the most emotionally devastating hour of “Succession” yet. Writer Jesse Armstrong delivers a shocking punch to the gut not 20 minutes in to what seems like a typical Roy family function.
Logan (Brian Cox) is en route to Stockholm for final negotiations with Lukas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård), the mercurial tech mogul planning to buy out Waystar Royco, when he falls gravely ill. Back in New York, the three younger siblings worry about receiving their piece of the pie when he ultimately closes the deal, while Connor (Alan Ruck) is fixated on the “internal qualities” of the cake, trying to hide his anxieties that his father won’t make it to the extravagant wedding at sea.
But when death comes knocking in the form of a phone call from Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), it’s not unreasonable to assume that this is a carefully calculated move in Logan’s grand chess game. Could it be an elaborate loyalty test for the kids, some kind of sick bluff in furtherance of the GoJo deal? Or perhaps it’s just another health scare: This isn’t the first time Logan has faced an untimely medical emergency while in transit — his sudden stroke in a helicopter during the pilot established his creeping march toward mortality.
During the mandatory 30 minutes of chest compressions, Logan Roy is in limbo. It’s Schrödinger’s billionaire: His children are trapped on a boat, while his fate is quite literally up in the air. The scene unfolds in real time like an agonizing one-act play.
Director Mark Mylod called the camera “sadistically voyeuristic,” never pausing to give them an ounce of privacy as they rapidly cycle through the stages of grief. Kendall, Shiv and Roman are helpless little kids again, playing hot potato with the phone and stumbling over their words as they try to eke out a few words of comfort in Logan’s possibly already dead ear. But his offscreen demise means no monumental last words, no sentimental goodbyes and, worst of all, no resolution with his estranged wife and children.
Shiv (Sarah Snook), in a subtle stroke of foreshadowing, arrived at the wedding already dressed for a funeral in a black pantsuit and hasty ponytail. She could have been the first to know, had she not silenced Tom’s repeated calls; instead, Kendall must deliver the news among the mingling guests. Shiv fleetingly hopes it was their mom who died instead, before erupting into a puddle of tears. In the end, she pulls herself together in time to give a brief but heartbreaking statement to the press at the airport.
Kendall (Jeremy Strong), however, delivers the most gutting line of all: “I can’t forgive you. But it’s okay. I love you.” His first instinct is to react with anger, demanding to speak to the pilot and frantically making calls to find “the best heart doctor in the world.” Reality sets in when Frank (Peter Friedman) gently tells him he’s probably already gone, and Kendall rightly reminds his siblings that everything they say and do on this day will be on the record forever.
Roman (Kieran Culkin), though is firmly stuck in denial until the very end, obsessing over his parting voicemail in which he confronts his father for sending him in to do his dirty work time and again. Earlier that day, Logan asks him to fire Gerri (J. Smith Cameron), his longtime legal counsel, and the confrontation goes terribly. Roman practically begs Gerri for an ounce of comfort, but she is no longer willing to be his de facto mother-lover figure. While Shiv and Kendall decline to see his body depart the plane, guilt-ridden Roman returns like a kicked puppy to his father’s side.
As usual, Connor is the last to know. He takes the news with numb acceptance and a cold stoicism fitting for an eldest son who “never got the chance to make (his father) proud.” In last week’s episode, he proclaimed his ability to live without love as a superpower, but that facade falters during a fraught conversation with bride-to-be Willa (Justine Lupe). Fearing that she might walk away if they postpone the nuptials, Connor chooses to say his vows anyway — in a small, intimate ceremony that Willa wanted all along.
Meanwhile, Karolina, Frank and Karl are busy brainstorming a way to reassure the markets. In typical Logan fashion, he chose business over family one last time, and died alone amid a pack of hyenas eager to feast on his corpse. The final seven episodes of “Succession” will determine who will sit on the throne next, and at this point, it’s anyone’s game.