'Succession' Season 4, Episode 9 Recap: Roman’s Breakdown
As Roman Roy haughtily rehearses his eulogy the morning of Logan Roy’s funeral, you can already feel something is going to go awry. After all, if Succession’s past special occasions taught us anything (Shiv’s wedding, Connor’s wedding, last week’s election), the bigger the event, the bigger the disaster. And with Roman feeling mighty at the top after a win with future President Jeryd Mencken, the only way to go is down.
Kendall, however, is already there, betrayed by the closest people to him: his ex-wife Rava is taking their children upstate rather than to the funeral because she deems it “unsafe,” and his trusted assistant Jess thinks it’s time for her to move on to a new position. (Good for you, Jess!) Add that to his recent discovery that Shiv has been planning to push through the GoJo deal with Lukas Matsson behind his back. As the three siblings ride to the funeral together, Shiv reveals to her brothers that she’s pregnant (and it’s Tom's) after they form a “funeral truce” to make nice just for this day—we’ll see how long that lasts. Meanwhile, demonstrators start lining the streets following Mencken’s election; some even bang on the windows of the Roys’ car.
Now, a funeral isn’t enough to stop the Roys and their cohorts from doing business. Tom is still at work because the post-election news cycle is in overdrive. Roman tries to recruit Frank for his “posse” in the event that Kendall steps down and lets him helm the company solo. Shiv, after facing her mother with the most awkward pregnancy reveal ever, pitches Matsson an idea to circumvent her brothers’ regulatory roadblock: appoint her as the U.S. CEO and keep the new, xenophobic President happy. And, it’s not technically business, but it’s worth noting that Caroline has all of Logan’s ex-lovers (herself, Kerry, Marcia, and hello, Sally-Anne) sit together in the front row as a final F you.
During the service, the speeches mark a turning point. Before Roman can make it to the pulpit, Logan’s brother and Greg’s grandfather Ewan wedges in to say a few words about his brother. It was perhaps expected that the more liberal sibling would air grievances about Logan (“He has wrought the most terrible things.”) but he also revealed telling anecdotes from their childhood that led his children to see him in a new light. The first is that when they were boys, aged four and five and a half years old, traveling to America by boat during the war, they were stranded by their ship and spent three days in dead silence for fear that they’d be discovered by U-boats and killed. The second is that when Logan was older, he came home sick from boarding school and their baby sister fell ill with polio and died. Logan blamed himself for her death, and their aunt and uncle, who took care of them at the time, made no effort to relieve him of that guilt.
Roman is shattered by this revelation. When it’s his turn to speak, he can barely whisper that his father “was a great man” before he calls his siblings forward in a panic and breaks down in their arms. In an especially gutting moment in Kieran Culkin’s performance, he asks, “Is he in there?” sobbing and pointing to Logan's casket. “Can we get him out?” Shiv and Connor comfort him while Kendall steps up to speak “the other side” of their father’s legacy following Ewan's remarks.
While Kendall, who has viciously tried to take down his father in the past, agrees with some of his uncle’s criticisms, he also takes this moment to glorify his “brute” of a father and the empire he built. “He made life happen,” he says, and later adds: “If we can’t match his vim, then God knows the future will be sluggish and gray.” Cue the applause.
Shiv comes next with her own speech, showing yet another side of her father—one that terrified her and her siblings when they were children, also saying he was “hard on women.” (Here, the camera pans to Gerri and Karolina, and then to Kendall, who was harsh to Rava and Jess earlier that morning.) One can’t help but think that Shiv is also campaigning for that CEO position with this moving public address; she so desperately wants it she told Matsson she’d only take 36 hours of maternity leave and neglect her firstborn for the gig. Sarah Snook captures Shiv’s pain and complexity as she says goodbye to her “dear, dear world of a father.”
But word spreads quickly. At the end of the service, Hugo fills Kendall in on what he just learned from Ebba, Matsson’s head of communications: Shiv and Matsson are planning for a U.S. CEO to bring Mencken to their side.
When they bury Logan at his grand mausoleum (which he won at auction from a “dot com pet supply guy,” Connor says), Kendall tells Hugo his plans for retaliation: leak to the media that Matsson’s acquisition doesn’t have support of key family members and the board is souring on the deal. He lets Hugo in on his scheme to screw the deal over and take the Waystar crown solo, which he told Frank about in episode 7. Hugo can be part of his new regime, though not as a collaborator—as his dog—but he’ll still make millions. “Woof, woof,” Hugo obliges. At the reception afterwards, Kendall also recruits Colin, his father’s fixer and security guard.
At the reception, everyone wants a piece of Mencken. Kendall asks when the President-elect will say something about regulating big foreign tech to block GoJo's Waystar acquisition, since Roman and ATN helped get him elected. But Mencken only says he’ll “try to help,” meaning his agreement with Roman isn’t as sturdy as it seemed. Greg butts in to give himself and Tom credit for calling Mencken’s victory; then Connor interrupts to discuss his potential ambassadorship to Slovenia. Shiv rescues Mencken from the swarm for some face time with Matsson.
The Swede talks up the deal and throws in Shiv’s “American CEO” card to appease the President-elect. The far-right Mencken is surprised Shiv wants to work with him. “I thought you hated me,” he tells her. She replies, “My dad was flexible. I’m flexible.” Mencken seems hooked.
It’s at this moment when Tom finally rolls up, sleep deprived. He asks Shiv, who’s defiantly drinking champagne in front of him, why she didn’t tell him about her pregnancy sooner. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep it,” she says. “Then I wasn’t sure that it was okay. But it turns out, by all accounts, it is.” As for why she hid it, Shiv sighs that “it seemed so sad” following her and Tom's post-separation honeymoon phase. Tom apologizes for not being at the funeral, but he makes sure to mention that he was the first one to see Logan on the plane after he died. “So I did say goodbye to him...I did,” he says, his and Shiv’s eyes watering. As he begins to cry, Shiv suggests he go back to their apartment to catch up on sleep, showing a brief moment of kindness. After he leaves, Matsson calls Shiv to say Mencken is interested in their proposal, and her wish to become the U.S. CEO just might come true.
Roman can sense his sister gloating from across the room. Kendall comes over to tell him that they’ve lost their leverage with Mencken “because you fucked it.” Now, they have to work together to fight Shiv with the board of directors. Roman, who’s already reeling from everything today, doesn’t have the stomach for the finger-pointing and scheming, but Kendall barrels on. “You fucked it. But it’s alright.”
Hitting a new low, Roman leaves the party to face the protestors outside, alone. Ever the masochist, he hops the fence and throws himself among the demonstrators, exchanging insults with them and getting roughed up in his suit as they stampede away from the police.
In the wake of his father’s death, Roman coped by trying to emulate him, firing people left and right in a desperate display of power and aligning with the far-right for his own self-interest. But that approach has exploded in his face, much like the rocket launch he oversaw in season 1. So where will he go from here? Next week’s finale is shaping up to be a volatile face-off between Kendall and Shiv. What role will Roman play in the final showdown?
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