Inside “Succession” Episode 9: Looking for the New Lion at Logan’s Funeral
Even in death, Logan’s arrival on the scene sends the would-be kings, wannabe power players, and his own children (who fall into both camps, frankly) scrabbling to make their move. As Logan’s casket arrived at the funeral and the ritual of mourning and prayers was about to begin in earnest, it was officially Go Time for one of Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin), set to deliver the main eulogy and viewing the moment as his chance to stake his claim as his father’s rightful successor. Things didn’t go to plan.
“In episode nine, you start the episode with Kendall here and Roman here,” executive producer and director Mark Mylod explains in HBO’s latest “Inside the Episode.” He shows, by way of his hands, just how much higher Roman has risen since he helped steer ATN’s favorable coverage of the far-right presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), who is now President-elect (there’s a legal challenge to this claim looming). “Then by the end of the episode, it’s see-sawed completely.”
This is because at the moment Roman was set to make his eulogy, Logan’s brother, Ewan (James Cromwell), goes up to speak before him. Ewan has long been the only member of the Roy family willing to call Logan a brute and a bully to his face. Now, with his brother only a few feet away in a box, Ewan tells a haunting tale about their childhood (it was bleak), about his brother’s guilt over their sister’s death (polio that a young Logan blamed himself for transporting back to the family home from his boarding school), and his brother’s rise into becoming a man who made other men meager and mean. It was a scene-stealing performance from Cromwell, a perfectly calibrated final dose of truth-telling that looked to hurt him as much as it did the crowd, most of whom were not there to reflect on the true measure of the man but rather see who would pick up where Logan left off.
“Roman said he pre-grieved right after the death of his father,” says creator Jesse Armstrong in the video, “and some people do feel that way, like, they feel numb, and they don’t feel the wave of grief they’re expecting.” Yet Roman’s wave of grief comes, in the twisted calculus of the Roy family, at the worst possible time—at Logan’s funeral. When it was finally Roman’s turn to prove himself the man ready to carry Logan’s legacy forward, he falls apart right there in front of everyone, unable to continue. His siblings have to comfort him as Roman gapes at the casket, the weight of Logan’s death crushing him.
Kendall (Jeremy Strong) steps in, and he ends up delivering an off-the-cuff eulogy that feints at the truth and ends up valorizing a man who, it could not be denied, had lived his life to the fullest. There follows a thunderous applause, the very thing that Roman lusted after, the approval of the kingmakers, those with the power to squash the GoJo deal, be they the President-elect or the Waystar board. Kendall was back on top. Shiv [Sarah Snook] went last, explaining how hard it was for the totality of a woman to fit in her dad’s brain. It was the second most honest assessment of Logan after Ewan, but it was too little, too late.
Due to the vast amount of dialogue and crucial beats that needed to be captured during the funeral, Mylod eschewed Succession‘s usual two-camera approach and utilized skills he’d picked early in his career. He set up a four-film camera system that cover all that ground very quickly, including one camera that could cover whoever was eulogizing, another camera could be on the siblings, and another camera could capture reactions. This was a “roll and reload” system they’d used in episode 3 when news of Logan’s death begins to spread from the plane to the Roy children, so they could effectively run a continuous take multiple times. In episode nine, they rolled and reloaded from the moment the casket is brought into the church, through the procession, and on through all the eulogies in one big chunk to give the cast as much emotional flow as possible. The gambit worked. The emotions flowed. The cast was excellent.
“With the cast, we rarely talk about a really emotional moment beforehand,” Mylod says. “It doesn’t benefit them. They have a process where it’s built up and prepped in their heads, and I don’t want to interfere with that. Once a take starts, it becomes its own animal, and you’re responding to what you’re seeing. I’m completely led by the performance; it’s raw, and our whole modus operandi is to harness that raw as much as we can.”
The episode ends with what Armstrong calls Roman’s “ecstasy of nihilism,” as he jumps a police barrier to directly confront some people protesting President-elect Mencken. Roman screams at them, mocking them, and ends up getting clocked in the face and pushed onto the ground. This is where we leave him, literally being trampled by the people he prefers to look down upon from the penthouse his daddy’s money bought him or, more recently, from the boardroom in ATN’s tower. We’d be lying if we didn’t say it was the only moment of true catharsis in the episode.
Check out the “Inside the Episode” below. Succession‘s series finale airs on Sunday, May 28:
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Featured image: Justine Lupe, Alan Ruck, Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook. Photograph by Macall Polay/HBO