When Kendall (Jeremy Strong) gets up to speak at his father’s funeral in “Church and State,” there’s a sense that he could say anything. The relationship between Kendall and Logan has been perhaps the most important conflict in Succession, and just because one of the people in that relationship is dead doesn’t mean it’s still not central. He could acknowledge that he loved Logan but still had his issues, like Logan’s brother Ewan (James Cromwell) did minutes before. He could tear into the man who haunted him and his siblings their entire life. This is the moment where Kendall finally gets to air out his thoughts, and everyone who was ever even remotely important to Logan will hear it.
Kendall spends much of his eulogy elevating Logan to an almost godlike status.
“He made life happen,” he insists when recounting all of the things his father created. “And now people might want to tend and prune the memory of him to denigrate that force. That magnificent, awful force of him,” he says of his father’s power and ambition, “but my god, I hope it’s in me.”
The thing about Kendall is that it’s not. It’s not in him. And it’s not in his brother Roman (Kieran Culkin), or his sister Shiv (Sarah Snook), or really anyone in the Waystar Royco inner circle. Logan had the fortitude, the power, and the ruthlessness to run Waystar. As Ewan mentions in his (phenomenal) monologue about his brother, when they were children, they endured days at sea where they could be blown to bits at any moment while emigrating to the States. The message is clear: Logan had that force in him since he was very young, and he had it until he died.
“Church and State” is a deceptively straightforward episode. After last week’s hectic political war zone that ended with Roman and Kendall picking Republican Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) as President-elect after learning of Shiv’s backdoor dealings with potential Waystar acquirer Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), I was fully expecting another barn-burner hour. But before the funeral, Kendall gets the siblings to agree to a truce, moments between them playing out as almost tender. They quietly mock the less desirable funeral attendees together, and Shiv’s brothers react with well wishes when she tells them of her pregnancy. (Although Roman predictably ruins the moment by immediately asking, “Is it mine?”)
Shiv speaks after Kendall, and her speech reveals her own feelings on Logan in the same way Kendall’s revealed his.
“It was hard to be his daughter. He was hard on women,” she says as she recounts how the rare moments of true appreciation she received from Logan were like “when the sun shone.”
Her speech is significantly shorter, but she ends it by tearfully promising Logan’s casket that “we’re doing okay.” The majority of Shiv’s actions across the series have been driven by a desire for Logan’s approval, and now, she can’t get it anymore. Maybe she doesn’t need it either, because she spends the rest of the episode dealing with Matsson and Mencken to hopefully place her at the head of Waystar—Mencken doesn’t want a European running the company, so Shiv, in her own eyes, is the perfect candidate.
Shockingly, Roman is the emotional core of “Church and State.” Kieran Culkin has always played him as an impenetrable shell of general disgustingness, but we watch as he takes the podium to eulogize his father, trip over his first few words, and immediately step down in tears as his siblings try to calm him. (“Can we get him out?” he blubbers to his siblings regarding Logan resting in his coffin, a childish request that perfectly illustrates where his head is right now.) Despite his insistence that he “pre-grieved,” he cries again when the pallbearers take Logan’s coffin out of the church, and can’t bring himself to enter the mausoleum with his siblings.
But it’s this display of emotion that loses them the deal with Mencken—the reason he and Kendall gunned for him to begin with. Mencken is at the funeral, and he’s unimpressed with what he sees. Roman has never been a very likable or sympathetic character, but to see him be so severely punished for a very understandable display of emotion and then be bluntly told by Kendall that he “fucked the deal” feels too harsh. It’s what sends Roman wandering into an anti-Mencken protest and heckling the marchers until they smack him around—but of course he doesn’t care. After years of losing under Logan and getting nothing but disrespect, now he’s enduring it from his brother, and he would rather throw himself into a dangerous situation like the protest than sit with smug, plotting Kendall for one more minute.
This episode of Succession is an incredibly tight study of where the Roy siblings are after putting Logan to rest, and it seems fair to say they’re operating with various degrees of success. Kendall is almost as screwed as Roman—he can’t even stop his ex-wife from taking his kids out of the city, much less stop the president-elect from backing out on his promise—but Shiv seems to be doing her best to move on from Logan and their relationship. Only one episode of Succession is left, and with this highly emotional and superbly acted hour over, the siblings have all been perfectly set up for success—or total failure.
This episode of Succession is now available on Max.