‘Succession’ Star Brian Cox on Finale’s ‘Blood Sacrifice’ Twist, Logan’s Smirk and the Chicken Thief

Plus: The HBO star tells TheWrap why being on that giant yacht was “bit of a mindf—” for him

Brian Cox Succession Season 2 Finale

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale of “Succession.”)

The Roy Family upped their backstabbing ante with the second season finale of HBO’s “Succession” on Sunday night, moving from bear hugs to blood sacrifices in a twist that family psychologists might be analyzing for years to come: Kendall (Jeremy Strong), the first — er, second-born son of Logan Roy (Brian Cox) — decided to disobey his father’s order to take responsibility for the Waystar Royco cruise division coverup and instead threw his dad under the bus during a press conference designed to bring the whole ordeal to an end.

While watching his son do this on TV — from his lavish yacht in the Mediterranean — Logan couldn’t help but smile. Was it because he was proud of Kendall — who Logan told earlier in the episode that he’s just not enough of a “killer” to take over the family business — or because he’s just excited for a fight in Season 3?

“It’s a combination of both,” Cox told TheWrap. “It’s a combination of, ‘Finally my son has come of age’ and ‘Now I’m in for a real fight’ — but at least it’s gonna be a fight within the family (laughs). So I’m gonna have to deal with shareholders, but ultimately it’s back to us, it’s back to where we are. So it’s a kind of combination.”

Though Kendall gave his father what appeared to be a very sincere response when he was asked to take the hit, Cox says the wool wasn’t entirely pulled over Logan’s eyes before Kendall’s defection.

“No, I think Logan kind of secretly– I think Logan knows about it,” Cox said. “It’s not for the audience to know what Logan knows, but I think that Logan certainly felt that his son was in a very vulnerable position, and the drugs and the incident and the relationship with the Pierce girl. So he felt that he was in quite a fragile position and he really needed to come of age in some way. The acts that had been done had been relatively cowardly — the bear hug from Season 1, the death of the boy, which is a tragedy, and how that’s affected Kendall. And he’s very protective of Kendall, but he knows in order to maintain succession and to maintain the family, Logan feels that Kendall has to be able to step up to the plate.”

“If you look at it, you see there is this sort of method in the craziness of the whole thing when he gets the call at the beginning from the shareholders,” he continued, noting at the top of the episode, titled “This Is Not for Tears,” that Logan is told the shareholders think he’s the one who should take the hit.

“He already says there’s gonna be a blood sacrifice, and when it comes back on him, he realizes. And he’s honest about it, because he said before, ‘It could be me.’”

The Season 2 closer, didn’t immediately land on Kendall as the “blood sacrifice” that the Roys would give up to save the company — or Logan as the one they actually gave up, thanks to Kendall — with Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) being suggested as a solid option by even his wife, Shiv (Sarah Snook). This led to a weird moment where Tom grabbed a hunk of chicken off his father-in-law’s plate, took a huge bite out of it, thanked him for it and put it back. That particular scene had even Cox breaking with laughter.

“It was very funny, we kept laughing. I kept breaking up. It was tricky. I think we shot it, in the end, about four times, not many, but it was very funny,” Cox said. “I’m glad they cut on Matthew– you didn’t see it, but Matthew when he walks away he goes, ‘Is he looking? Is he looking at me? What do you think he’s feeling?’ But they cut that which I think actually made sense.”

In the end, Logan didn’t pick Tom because his daughter, Shiv, asked him not to. And Cox told us why Logan — who has broken many a promise to his children — respected her request.

“He has a thing about Tom, he’s not sure about Tom, he’s never been sure about Tom. But then Tom can be surprising,” Cox said. “And Tom, he’s not as bright as Logan, but he has a sort of moral sense, in terms of puritanical tendencies. When Tom says he’s ‘not a hippie’ to Shiv [when they are talking about their open marriage, which she requested on their wedding night]. And Logan has no knowledge of this, but it’s very interesting when Logan refers to how he can’t take his undershirt off in front of his wife because he’s quite puritanical. So in a way, there’s an element of Tom that is in Logan. Other than that they’re not at all alike, but there is this funny puritan element in both of them.

“And in a way, he kind of intuits that he needs to protect his daughter and that she is very vulnerable. I mean, Tom is ridiculously and stupidly ambitious, but at the same time, he’s learning a lot. And the challenge of eating the chicken is the kind of wonderful thing of Tom suddenly standing up for himself. And of course, his daughter is his favorite child. We all love our daughters. And he’s very protective of her and he knows that she’s been through a lot in this series. In the fact that he wanted her to step up to the plate, but she wasn’t ready. There are parts of her that are very underdeveloped. There’s some growing up she hasn’t quite done. And she’s spoiled. But her great qualities are her liberal thinking.”

While he went easy on Shiv, because of Kendall’s turn, he’s going to need to go even harder on his son than he has before in an effort to save himself. And that could mean revealing the role Kendall played in the accidental death of that young British boy on the Season 1 finale, which Logan has been helping to cover-up ever since.

“I mean, he could do that. And we’ll see, he might do that, he might be forced to do that,” Cox said. “If it comes to saving himself, he might have to do that. I think that he’ll try and avoid doing that if it’s possible because I feel we’ve covered that territory. Because Logan went to the boy’s family, so if Logan knows about it, he’s also guilty of something because he’s guilty of not coming clean on it, so that would not serve Logan at all. Now, he’s gonna have to find other means to stay alive next season.”

Oh, if you were wondering where the heck HBO got that giant yacht that the Roys spent most of the episode snarking at each other on, so is Cox.

“I have no idea where the boat came from,” he told us. “I don’t even bother. That’s not my department. The boat, it’s a little garish. It looked a lot better on screen than it did in reality. In reality, it’s a bit of a culture shock. You go on that boat and you go, ‘People really live like this? Come on! Get out of here!’ For a poor, humble Scott like me, it’s a bit of a mindf— (laughs). I have no idea where that boat comes from and quite frankly I don’t even want to know.”