‘Succession’ Season 4, Episode 3 Recap: ‘Connor’s Wedding’

The HBO hit drama uses the most melodramatic incident imaginable to expose a wealth of new facets to key characters’ personalities


Note: This story contains spoilers from “Succession” Season 4 Episode 3

TV shows get accused of jumping the shark — i.e., writing in over-the-top stunts or plot twists — when they run out of organic ideas.

The third episode of “Succession’s” fourth and final season just jumped the Statue of Liberty with the surprise death of Waystar patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox). But with trademark aplomb, HBO’s best-written, -acted and -directed series uses the most melodramatic incident imaginable to expose a wealth of new facets to key characters’ personalities, and to bring out whatever empathy these selfish, nasty folks may possess.

The Roys and their lackeys may not have been as much fun to watch Sunday as they have in the past, but they’ve never been more mesmerizing. Showrunner Jesse Armstrong and his team took a big leap with this one. In retrospect, we should have had the faith to know that they’d pay it off like few other writers rooms could.

Who — or What — Do You Love?

Titled “Connor’s Wedding,” the episode is a marvel of misdirection before the big switcheroo transpires. The season’s first two entries led us to expect a cringe-o-rama of rich folk idiocy as Alan Ruck’s eldest Roy sibling turns his nuptials to former escort Willa (Justine Lupe) into a media carnival for his pathetic presidential campaign.

The hour begins by dashing any hope the naive Connor had of his unloving father Logan attending the ceremony. Logan’s gathered most of his Waystar Royco executives for a chartered plane trip to Sweden, where he intends to hammer out the final details of the conglomerate’s sale to tech billionaire Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). Logan wants Roman (Kieran Culkin) — who at the end of the previous episode began prying away from the triad of Logan’s children fighting his every move — to accompany him, since Roman and Matsson go back a ways.

Roman reminds his father that it’s half-brother Connor’s wedding day, and he plans to attend; this foreshadows the most cynical Roy kid’s capacity for sensitivity to others that emerges throughout the hour. Logan asks Roman to fire Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) — the Waystar general counsel who was specifically not invited on the Scandinavia trip. Aware that his son sends d—k pics to the accommodating older woman, this is yet another test of loyalty that Logan’s dumping on people he plans to retain at his ATN network, after Matsson acquires the rest of his Waystar assets; see also Episode 2’s Tom-to-Greg assignment of breaking the bad news about her anchor audition to Kerry (Zoe Winters).

“Clean out the stalls,” Logan says to describe the initiative.

The wedding pregame is underway in New York Harbor, and the dock is indeed bedecked with bunting while a brass band blows away. Shiv (Sarah Snook), Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and their brother Roman are there. So is Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), who’s being told by his boss/tormenter/best “friend” Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) from Teterboro Airport that Logan doesn’t want him going to Sweden.

“He finds you visually aggravating right now,” Tom relishes telling his favorite punching bag.

“He’s so petty,” Greg sniffs, perhaps not realizing that Logan’s assistant-with-benefits Kerry (Zoe Winters), who threatened to take Greg apart like string cheese the last time they met, is on the plane.

J Smith-Cameron and Kieran Culkin in a still from the final season of “Succession.”

Gerri’s also at the wedding. When Roman tries to arrange a meeting after the ceremony, she immediately perceives what’s going on and puts the usually, cruelly confident bad boy in an apologetic place similar to where Kerry left Greg.

Connor, meanwhile, is having a fit over the wedding cake. Is he just being his usual silly self? We soon learn that it’s made of Victorian sponge, which as a child was all he ate for a week after Logan had his mother committed.

Despite that tragic memory jog, Connor still longs for and expects his Dad to show up. To avoid confrontation when he arrives, the groom asks his younger siblings to wait in an upper cabin of the triple-decker party boat. Greg, still under the illusion that he’s “like a kid” in the family’s eyes, is rejected when he tries to come along.

The Real Show Begins

Tom calls Kendall from the plane. Logan is sick, Non-responsive. A flight attendant is doing CPR.

“How bad is it?” gets asked and unsatisfactorily answered multiple times. Ken orders a phone brought to the ear of his father, who’s lying semi-obscured on the floor in a separate part of the cabin. Ken delivers a final message —awkward, angry but heartfelt and loving in the odd way that only he can — to the unconscious Logan. Ken then leaves the room to find Shiv, who’s out networking in a crowded part of the boat. Excellent Steadicam work enhances the disorientation and urgency as he searches for his sister, finds her, and walks her in startled disbelief back to the private cabin.

If you thought Sarah Snook’s performance at the end of this season’s first episode was devastating, well, it was. But the old saying “You ain’t seen nothing yet” could have been coined for the gamut of emotions that play across Shiv’s face, and tone of voice, as she reacts to the news she’s hearing. As usual, Shiv is the child who, in crisis, reveals the most love for Logan — now with nuanced hints of guilt after she tore into him the last time they met and chuckled about it afterward.

Jeremy Strong and Sarah Snook in a still from the final season of “Succession.”

In their most fraternal moments yet, Kendall, Shiv and Roman try to reassure one another while grasping at typical, second generation Roy straws about what to do.
“Get the best airplane medical expert in the world!” Ken yells through the phone as he’s informed the plane is turning back to Teterboro.

It’s decided that Connor needs to be informed.

“Oh man, he never even liked me,” is his predictably egocentric response. He’s unable to speak with anybody on the plane.

The Waystar braintrust — Tom, P.R. head Karolina (Dagmara Domińczyk), COO Frank (Peter Friedman) and CFO Karl (David Rasche) — convene in the air to strategize the order of people to contact, how to spin a statement that won’t crash the stock price and other preparations. Kerry comes through the curtain from the part of the plane where Logan’s laying, her eyes wild and her mouth a disturbing rictus.

Alan Ruck and Justine Lupe in a still from the final season of “Succession.”

“F—g crazy, right?” she says to no one’s approval. She wants to help craft the announcement, the execs aren’t having it and she’s moved on to another part of the plane, perhaps a harbinger of her ultimate fate.

Tom then slips into a bed cabin, calls Greg and tells him to get to ATN and delete files ASAP. But the boat’s leaving the dock.

Another Waystar public relations person, Hugo (Fisher Stevens), is on board to serve as liaison between the executives in the air and the estranged family on the Hudson River.

“We’re not estranged,” Kendall corrects, incorrectly. But he’s atypically lucid as Gerri joins the kids to help craft a statement.

“We are highly liable to misinterpretation,” Ken realizes. “So let’s grieve or whatever, but not do anything that restricts our future freedom of movement.”

Elsewhere, Connor and Willa appear to conclude that circumstances dictate they postpone the wedding. But then he confesses that he’s always scared she’s going to walk away. They share a rare, reassuring laugh.

The other three kids confer on an outside deck while the towers of Lower Manhattan loom in the background. There’s shock and apparently genuine concern for their father’s life, but they too are starting to prioritize how to deal with Waystar’s board of directors, markets and drafting a statement Frank will sign off on. Logan’s ultimate fate remains unknown.

Back in the cabin with Gerri, Roman tries to wheedle one of his charges out of Gerri. She’s not having it this time — nor, with any luck, for the rest of the season — and leaves him alone in the cabin.

The three younger Roys then take a water taxi to a waiting helicopter.

We Each Grieve in Our Own Ways

With ominous orchestral strings sawing away on the soundtrack, the plane lands at the airport. Cops and the kids are on the tarmac, shutterbugs crowd the runway perimeters.

A press conference is arranged inside the terminal. Shiv reads a statement: Logan Roy was pronounced dead at Teterboro.

Jeremy Strong in a still from the final season of “Succession.”

Tom is there and embraces his estranged wife. Shiv walks away. The three kids group hug; they seem genuinely devastated.

Shiv then walks out of the terminal to “see him.” Halfway to the plane, she stops, turns and calls for Tom. Ken watches from the terminal as Roman becomes the only Roy kid to get on the plane.

A body in a bag is taken out to a waiting ambulance.

On an island in New York Harbor, Connor and Willa wed.

Best One-Liner:

After Kerry is successfully encouraged to leave the Waystar executives on the plane alone, Karolina says “I think she’s freaking out, Tom,” trying to be sympathetic.

“Oh yeah?” responds Shiv’s husband, always attuned to the best in humanity. “Judging by her grin, it looks like she caught a foul ball at Yankee Stadium.”

Stray Observations:

The Waystar suits on the plane generally display unusual professionalism, as much as the Roys on the boat unveil their capacity for commiseration and empathy with one another. They seem very matter-of-fact and focused on what needs to be done for the company should Logan die, while acknowledging just enough that a man’s life is hanging by a thread. Except of course for Tom, but even though he’s weaselly as ever, he still steps up to being the best source of information he can for the folks on the other end of the phone. Maybe they’re all just relieved that the man they hate and fear won’t be hassling them anymore.

After Logan collapses, events on the plane and boat play out in a semblance of real time that brings added immediacy to what is arguably the series’ most intense half hour. The ticking clock element — Will the plane land in time for Logan to get the medical help he needs? — adds to the pressure, while the Roys’ reactions strike a near perfect balance of revelation and anchoring familiarity. It’s masterful direction from Mark Mylod, one of the show’s executive producers. Mylod also helmed the recent, dark culinary comedy “The Menu.”

So, is Logan really dead? After all, this is the Easter episode, and Logan has indicated he thinks he knows more than God. There are visual clues on the plane, most of them not conclusive. But every partial shot of the unconscious man on the floor is in the background of other business going on in another section of the cabin. The one “full” shot is angled from the top of his prone head; we see more of Logan’s hair than we do his face. And we never see Roman inside the plane in New Jersey; being that he’s the sibling most likely in cahoots with Dad, how reliable can his reports be?

Playing dead could conceivably be Logan’s endgame move. If that turns out to be the case, it’ll be the plotting equivalent of jumping the Empire State Building. But if any show can pull it off, it’s “Succession.”