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Where Do the Roy Children Go From Here?

With Logan Roy finally gone, ‘Succession’ is starting to build on the promise of its name. And Kendall, Roman, Shiv, and Connor have a lot to learn about living in a world that no longer includes their father.

HBO/Ringer illustration

When viewers first meet the grown-but-not children of the greedy, grumpy Logan Roy in the 2018 premiere of Succession, the four Roy siblings are assembling for the first time in a while—and making the small talk to prove it.

“Hey, sis,” Roman says to Shiv in the pilot. “Politics still boring the living shit out of you?” “Yeah,” she replies. “You know, I’m burying the bodies, counting the cash.” Roman, meanwhile, has semi-recently returned from languishing for a spell at the family company’s Los Angeles outpost. The “banana cabana,” he jokes to Kendall—whose own path has meandered from rehab to Shanghai to back in his no. 1 boy hot seat in New York. Then there is Connor, who has largely been out West at his ranch, where “the light pollution is practically zero,” he remarks to Logan, hoping, and failing, to impress him.

The event that brought all the kids back together was Logan’s “surprise” 80th birthday party, a muted affair that kicked off nearly everything Succession has been about in its three-plus seasons: so many paranoid huddles, so much parental neglect! Since then, Logan Roy’s offspring have squabbled and shoulder-squeezed; they have acquiesced and been assholes; they have finagled and gotten fucked. They have put their heads together, and they have splintered apart.

And this past Sunday night, in the third episode of the series’ fourth and final season, the Roy children again wound up in one place on the day of a milestone—though I’m not talking about Connor and Willa’s nuptials.

This event was an actual surprise: the death of their dad, an occasion that leaves everyone abruptly bereft and sets up the one thing the series had always sought (but had yet) to fully explore. “You know, there’s a promise in the title of Succession,” showrunner Jesse Armstrong told The New Yorker in a February interview. And on Sunday night, Succession demonstrated that it intends to honor that vow.

While I don’t know for certain what went down in that plane, Logan Roy appears to have died as he lived: punctuating his power plays with increasingly concerning visits to the pisser while leaving his heirs in second-guessing disarray. His death was simultaneously uniquely extravagant (on a private jumbo jet that could fit hundreds, en route to Scandinavia to close a deal worth billions and billions) and wholly unexceptional (no time for farewells, broadcast via Wi-Fi, a toilet involved—this has to be just some sick joke, right? RIGHT?).

But a joke it was not. And now, with seven episodes of the series remaining, Logan’s death introduces a whole holdco portfolio’s worth of emotional/legal/financial/global/logistical issues for his investors, his cronies, and his competitors—and especially for the people who were born into the intersection of all three categories: his children. (It doesn’t matter that the Roys range roughly from ages 35 to 50—when you’re descended from a multibillionaire, you’re “the children” for life.) As the clock ticks and the market reacts and the tears flow and the future of the company hangs in the balance, each of Logan’s kids has markedly different incentives and regrets that are likely to shape their behavior going forward.

Let’s start with Roman, the last Roy sibling to speak to his dad, and also the last one to truly accept the fact that he’d died. “It’s not a very nice thing to say, is it?” he says in a panic when someone dares utter the word “dead.” So “fucking stop!” It’s unclear whether Roman and Logan’s final transmission was the phone conversation in which Logan cruelly assigned his son to fire Gerri as a loyalty test or whether Logan heard Roman’s angry follow-up voice mail in which he asked his dad: “Are you a cunt?” Either way, none of it was a very nice thing to say, but there’s no taking it back now.

Had Roman procrastinated just a little bit longer in breaking the bad news to Gerri, he’d be in a far less precarious position. “I’m sad,” he could have told her, and she probably would have consoled him. They could have strategized and shared information—the glorious return of the Rock Star and the Mole Woman!—as the GoJo deal was navigated and Logan’s sure-to-be-complicated estate was settled and doled out. Instead, his display of emotion was met by Gerri leaving him all by his lonesome. And now, if she wants to drive a wedge between Roman and his siblings, she could simply let them know that he had Logan as a sidepiece.

“You’re not gonna be OK,” Roman says to Kendall as they wait to face the press, and also the rest of their weird new lives. “Well, you’re not gonna be OK either,” Kendall responds. “You’re fucked,” one brother says to the other. “You are fucked,” the other responds. Both are right.

While Roman exhibited signs of denial in the wake of the news, Kendall’s knee-jerk grief response was to take executive action, however blustering and pointless it may be. Through the phone, he tells his probably-already-dead father that he loves him and also that he can’t forgive him and also, again, that he loves him. Then, he tries to show that love the only way he knows how.

“Put me through to the pilot,” Kendall commands Frank. “Get the best heart doctor in the world and the best airplane medicine expert in the world, and get them conferenced in,” he demands of his assistant, Jess. When neither of those things happens, Kendall can’t say the one thing he probably really wants to say—the thing he has spent his whole life thinking, and then resisting, and then saying anyway: Call my dad.

Instead, he channels Logan. “We are highly liable to misinterpretation,” he says as he lectures his siblings. “So, what we do today will always be what we did the day our father died. So, let’s ... you know, let’s ... grieve and whatever, but ... not do anything that restricts our future freedom of movement.”

For now, Kendall appears to be holding himself together, though it’s hard not to remember what he told his father during their one-on-one dinner in Season 3: “I’ll be broken when you die.” Perhaps that sentiment is a premonition of what’s to come. (Whether such breakage would be self-inflicted or a result of external smears remains to be seen.) Or maybe the simple fact that he had the opportunity to look Logan in the eye and say that, and really mean it, will help him rebuild piece by piece.

It’s not so clear what memory Shiv might have to fall back on. Her relationship with her father is as sour as it has ever been. He has toyed with her career aspirations. (“Remember this, this slant of light,” he instructed her in Season 2 when he told her, disingenuously, that she was going to take over the company soon.) He has meddled in her personal life, helping Tom preempt contact with all the good divorce lawyers in town.

This is why, in Episode 2 of this season, sitting among her three brothers, Shiv righteously rebuffed Logan’s (shitty) attempt at a karaoke bar apology. And it’s (in part) why, in this episode, Shiv righteously rebuffs a phone call from Tom and then kind of less righteously also ignores a second attempt.

As we come to find out, Tom had been trying to reach her from the plane as Logan lay dying. In the end, Logan’s last words to the Roy kids as a group came in his supreme neg from the night before: “I love you, but you’re not serious people.” In terms of dismissiveness, it might as well have been a “No real persons involved.”

There was a time, early in Succession’s development, when Logan Roy was more premise than preeminent character; before the show began, his death was meant to take place sooner rather than later. (Brian Cox’s manager initially told him the role of Logan would be a single-season gig.) And indeed, at the end of the Succession pilot, not long after that 80th birthday, Logan is rushed to the hospital with what seems like a potentially fatal brain hemorrhage. In the following episode, as the siblings fear the worst, Kendall switches into king-of-the-hospital mode, talking about who will step up into the vacuum of power in the event of Logan’s demise.

Shiv is disgusted. “If dad dies …” she says, trailing off. “I don’t want to be talking about this shit when he dies.”

Instead, Logan lives for another three seasons, entangling each of the kids even further in his world and making his eventual death even harder to find any words for. “Daddy?” Shiv says too late, when she finally gets the phone. “I, uh, I love you, you fucking … God! I don’t, um, there’s no excuses for the, but, I … fuck! I don’t know! I do love you. And it’s OK.” It’s the biggest small talk imaginable.

“He never even liked me,” Connor reflects when he learns the grim news. Then he snaps out of it. “He did, he did. I just, I never got the chance to make him proud of me.” Of all the siblings on the boat, Connor seems to take the news with the most even of keels. But as we’ve seen in earlier episodes, that’s in large part because Connor knew the connection between him and his father was DOA.

It still had to hurt to realize that Logan never planned to swing by for a dockside visit, but Connor seems to have better priorities: When Willa says she doesn’t plan to walk out on him—“not today, anyway”—he takes her to the altar. (Dare I say there even seems to be a skip in his step?) It’s possible that, out of all of the siblings, he’ll be the one who feels most unencumbered—most himself—in a post-Logan world. With a big election coming up to determine who will succeed the California Raisin, every decimal in the polls is currency. But of course, every dollar of cold, hard cash is currency also.

With Logan’s death, the big question now is about how much money stands to change hands between Logan’s various surviving entities and minions and Greglets, oh my! There are so many stakeholders, all of whom have vulnerabilities and advantages. The Gerri-Frank-Karl “old guard” have decades-old legal wiles, a command of the Waystar Royco apparatus, and probably some sort of actual insight into Logan’s trust and estate situation. (Maybe he’ll leave it all to his pal Colin.) The Roy children have the last name, their bloc of voting shares in the family trust, and, depending on when you encounter them, their solidarity. Tom and Greg feature shamelessness, an understanding of “logistics,” and, presumably, the most disgusting divorce lawyers in town.

The list of possible friends and/or foes goes on and on, from Sandi and Stewy to the various high-maintenance members of the Waystar Royco board to Caroline (shoulda been you, ma!) to, pleaseohplease, that seat-sniffer Peter Munion. The Roys will almost certainly have to grieve while scheming, or scheme while grieving, or risk getting outmaneuvered by the more “serious people” who are already circling them like vultures.

With the Waystar stock plummeting because of the news and the GoJo deal already wavering, it seems likely that Lukas Matsson will seek to change the terms of the sale—if he still wants to pursue it at all. “Make your own fucking pile,” Logan once sneered at his children. Now, with the Pierce deal contingent on GoJo, their attempts to construct pretty sandcastles might all come crumbling down. A trio of Roy kids had, for a time, enjoyed being a rebel alliance, but now they’re all just easy targets. As Marcia once told Shiv: “[Logan] made you a playground, and you think it’s the world.” When the walls fall, you see just how rude of a universe it is out there.

Speaking of which: Marcia?! One of the last things we heard from Logan’s still-wife (?) before she went shopping in Milan forever was a demand that Logan get her those voting shares in the trust. If he lived up to his word, she could arrive for quite a costly family reunion with a whole bunch of kids.

But really, what better way to honor Logan Roy’s legacy than to squabble over his gloomy plunder? Logan might have been an unforgivable father and a lousy husband and a real piece of shit. But you have to hand it to him: In death, as in life, that guy had a real knack for getting his people to show up and fight.