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'Succession' season 4, episode 9: 'Church and State'

Roman (Kieran Culkin) thought he was ready to take over after his triumph on election night. He was wrong.
Macall Polay
/
HBO
Roman (Kieran Culkin) thought he was ready to take over after his triumph on election night. He was wrong.

The gist of it

At Logan's funeral, Roman's plans for greatness go awry after Uncle Ewan unloads some heavy truths. Kendall steps into the breach, and for the second time this season, he puts on a good show. Shiv hasn't given up on getting the GoJo deal through, and she thinks she can make Mencken's possible victory work for her. And while the Roys maneuver in private, protests in the streets erupt over the contested election.

Funeral planning

The opening of this episode closely mirrors the opening of the one with Logan's wake, with both Shiv and Roman surrounded by enormous windows looking down on the city. Shiv is strategizing with Matsson while Roman paces and practices his eulogy, telling the mirror that he's the man.

Kendall is on his way to the church when Rava calls to tell him that the unrest in the city over the election has her nervous, and she's taking the kids out of town. I love the writing and performing of this sequence (once again: Natalie Gold!), since Rava obviously doesn't want her kids around the Roys for a whole host of reasons, and 90 percent of what you know about her in this moment is all the things she's not saying.

Jess (Juliana Canfield) has spent the last two seasons in particular making Kendall's (Jeremy Strong) life possible. She's had enough.
Macall Polay / HBO
/
HBO
Jess (Juliana Canfield) has spent the last two seasons in particular making Kendall's (Jeremy Strong) life possible. She's had enough.

Kendall freaks out and goes full scary-ex on Rava and the kids, threatening to lie down in front of her car so she can't leave. A bit later, after his threats have failed (he would never get his coat dirty by lying on the street), Kendall tells a visibly uncomfortable Jess that he wants to get a lawyer and go after custody. Remember: Logan also wanted full control of his kids after his divorce even though he was a terrible parent, so if you intend to be Logan, this is something you would do. While demanding that Jess get him a family lawyer, Kendall drags it out of her that in fact, she's quitting, and when he's dragged it out of her, he blames her for springing it on him. Jeremy Strong is so good in these moments where Kendall sincerely believes he's a victim, even when he's being straight-up abusive. Godspeed, Jess. Go as far away as possible.

The three sibs' car ride to the funeral is a nice bookend with last season's finale in Italy. Shiv, who looks miserable, tells her brothers she's pregnant, and Roman can only make gross jokes. Oh, and just for a moment, they cross paths with the angry people in the streets, who bang on their car.

As for Tom, he spends the first part of the day stuck at ATN, trying to get people to give him credit for the election call.

The milling around

Just about everybody is at Logan's funeral, including four of the women in Logan's life: Marcia, Caroline, Kerry and Sally Ann — whose past dalliance with Logan has been darkly alluded to occasionally. Caroline spots Kerry in the pews and brings her to sit with the rest of them, explaining that Sally Ann was to her as Kerry is to Marcia. And so, the four women sit in a row. "Logan would hate this," Caroline says. "At least he won't grind his teeth tonight," Marcia says. And the next shot, where you can literally watch the amused reactions to this joke travel down the row, one-two-three, before Kerry starts to cry? Impeccable. Marcia even goes so far as to put her hand on Kerry's.

There's a lot of murmuring when Mencken — who may or may not be the president-elect, depending on whom you ask — arrives. The same goes for Matsson, who's trying to figure out how it plays for him if Mencken is president. Shiv has an idea, and shockingly, it serves her own interests. If Shiv were the CEO of the U.S. operations of GoJo, that might ease the regulatory concerns about foreign ownership. Of course, as Lukas points out, this would require Shiv to make nice with Mencken. "I can do f*****g anything," Shiv says merrily. "My dad just died." So there's fodder for about eight therapy sessions right there.

Marcia (Hiam Abbass) makes a kind of peace with several other women who shared space with Logan.
Macall Polay / HBO
/
HBO
Marcia (Hiam Abbass) makes a kind of peace with several other women who shared space with Logan.

The speeches

It is Roman's intent to be the star eulogist at this event, and he tells a late-arriving Greg to control Uncle Ewan and make sure he doesn't get up and give any fiery progressive speeches. So of course, as soon as the whole thing gets underway, Ewan rises to speak. Greg and Shiv try to dissuade him, but if you've seen James Cromwell in this role, you know they are hopelessly outmatched. All Shiv and Greg accomplish is giving Ewan his opening line: "What sort of people would stop a brother from speaking for the sake of a share price?" Oops.

What Ewan says will be clipped and quoted and memed and no summary will do it justice, but the upshot is that Logan had a very difficult childhood, blamed himself for the polio death of their baby sister (at last, the story of Rose!), and became a dynamic but ruthless power broker who has "wrought the most terrible things." Ewan acknowledges his own flaws, too, but says that he tries. And at some point, Logan stopped trying.

Roman, who ended election night feeling like a king, is shaken by this, even as Kendall tells him, "You gotta say the other side." But how do you get up and give your glib, "let's hear it for power" speech after something like that? Roman's breakdown begins with stammering and rearranging note cards and ends with sobbing. His siblings gather and lay their hands on him to soothe his panic, and then Kendall takes the stage in his place.

Interestingly, Roman's panic attack has softened the ground for Kendall to follow Uncle Ewan more easily. And so Kendall celebrates his father for being "a brute" who nonetheless made things, especially money, which Kendall claims is the lifeblood of civilization. Fortunately, he's in a room full of people who probably agree with that, far from the people in the streets who do not, necessarily. Somewhere around the part where Kendall claims that Logan was comfortable around poor people, it becomes clear that this is a version of the same horsepucky that he served up about Living+ a couple of weeks ago. Kendall Roy is here to sell you the father who ruined him.

Shiv is the only one who even really tries to make her father sound like a good person, claiming that when he would allow you in, she says, "it was warm in the light." I suppose that's one way to say that he played his children against each other and it was always fun when you were winning. She points out that her dad was not kind to women, but says he "did OK." "We're all here, and we're doing OK," she says about Logan's monstrous, destructive, miserable children.

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) are forced to be civil, at least for a bit.
Macall Polay / HBO
/
HBO
Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) are forced to be civil, at least for a bit.

The thing that will get the most attention about the funeral, I suspect, is the speeches. But the best thing about it, I think, from a craft perspective, is the reactions. Some are unsurprising — Shiv's disbelief when Ewan starts criticizing Logan, for instance. But some are just so interesting, like Karl's mild amusement, or the head-shaking of Greg's mother. I can't even articulate how Dagmara Dominczyk fixed her face to communicate that Karolina is always, always thinking about comms strategy, but it's right there, you can see it. It's just one rich shot after another, gathering up everything they've laid out over almost four full seasons and having this event just ripple with character beats.

The mausoleum

The minute the casket is carried out of the church, Roman realizes that he is screwed. After taunting Kendall about Kendall trying to win the funeral, Roman has gone and lost the funeral. Even Mencken — "Roman's guy" — gives Kendall a handshake that suggests he now considers Kendall the boss.

When they get to the actual gravesite, the siblings come upon a mausoleum that only Connor had ever seen or, seemingly, known about. (This tracks. Remember his obsession with cryogenics from the first season?) Connor says Logan got a deal. "Was he in a bidding war with Stalin and Liberace?" Shiv asks. Everybody goes inside except Roman, who lingers at the door, and the siblings discover that there are additional spots in the mausoleum for them. Darkly honest, this bit. Want to be buried with Dad? Too late — you already are! After the casket goes in, Shiv approaches Frank and Karl. "How bad was Dad?" Frank, having no interest in telling Shiv a truth she does not actually want to hear, comes up with both "salty dog" and "good egg." I've read more credible sales pitches in spam emails, but it seems to make Shiv feel better. She even makes peace with Marcia, who says, "He broke my heart. And he broke your hearts, too."

The dinner

By the time we get to the memorial dinner, the grieving is over and the maneuvering has taken over. Kendall approaches the still-sad Colin with an offer to come work for Kendall. Kendall's weirdly aggressive reveal that he knows Colin has been seeing a shrink is hard to read, but I will say this: Colin is one of the only people, other than his siblings, who knows about the car crash. Remember, Colin even once ominously said to Kendall, "I know you." Kendall may want to know that everybody he needs to control is under control.

Kendall then tries to firm up the deal he thinks they have with Mencken by asking when the latter will get started on killing the deal. Mencken sort of shrugs. "Well, I've said I'll try to help." Who knew that guy couldn't be trusted? On top of that, when Roman approaches, Mencken insults him as "the grim weeper" and "tiny tears." Not exactly the relationship with the putative president that the fellas were hoping for. Soon, Connor is there, Greg is there ... and all this lays the foundation for Shiv to swoop in, calling herself Mencken's "extraction team." Shiv makes the introduction to Matsson, who floats the U.S. CEO idea.

Tom shows up in time for him to argue with Shiv about the pregnancy and for her to taunt him by drinking a glass of champagne in his face, which ... you do not have to believe she's going to hurt her baby with a sip of champagne to understand that using that as a form of gamesmanship is extraordinarily messed-up. Tom breaks down while reminding Shiv that he did get to say goodbye to her father on the plane. And then, more importantly to her (?), Shiv gets a call from Matsson in which he gives her big news: "it's a yes," and the U.S. CEO plan is going to work. ("Is this true?" and "What exactly does this mean?" are both fair questions.)

The episode closes with Kendall breaking it to Roman that there's no deal with Mencken after all and they're going to have to go to war with Shiv. "You f****d it," Kendall says, handling Roman very much as Logan would, berating him for screwing up while also telling him it's fine, it's fine. Roman storms out of the party right past the Gerri/Frank/Karl group, where Karl is showing them a viral video of Roman sobbing at the funeral. Gerri says, "Come on, guys," which is as far as the show takes her sympathy for Roman.

And then, as he always does when he feels powerless, Roman goes in search of the people he hates. He finds them in a large crowd of protestors, he swears at them and jumps over the fence to confront them, and for a minute, it seems like he might be physically injured. Fortunately for him, he persuades them to knock him around but doesn't get anybody to do any serious damage, and he just ends up wandering, unhappy.

One episode to go. I have guesses, and I'm sure you do, too.

Notes:

  • "I'm a casket wheel man, I'm front right!" Poor Tom.
  • Roman responding to the news of Shiv's pregnancy with "Is it mine?" tells you just how bold he thinks he's about to be. So transgressive! So fearless!
  • I am dying — dying! — to know what was in Connor's eulogy that Shiv thought might get them sued. 
  • Kerry's brother has the same hair as Kerry, which is hilarious. 
  • The shot of Greg flying down the street on his Citi Bike with his rich-guy coat flapping is one of my favorite visuals of the episode, because it shows how he's stuck between status markers. 
  • Roman trying to suck up to Frank with his "puts it all in perspective" and Frank answering, "Sure, life is short, we should all love one another" in an absolute "go to hell, twerp" tone is the kind of moment that I will miss so, so much when this show is over. 
  • "One down, maybe ... be nice? In case she drops dead of a broken heart?" Kendall is a miserable garbage person, but that doesn't mean he's not funny. 
  • Did I literally pump both fists — both! — and say "Crom-well! Crom-well!" when Ewan got up to speak? Possibly so. Crom-well! Crom-well!
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.
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