‘Succession’ Season 4 Episode 9 Recap: ‘Church and State’
Logan Roy is finally laid to rest in the penultimate episode of “Succession,” aptly titled “Church and State.” The right-wing media mogul’s funeral also unearths the best evidence yet as to which of his three youngest children – Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Siobhan (Sarah Snook) or Roman (Kieran Culkin) – has truly inherited the ruthless businessman’s poison. On the day after their family-owned ATN news network dubiously declared Republican fascist Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) president-elect, the siblings struggle to control their sense of loss while trying not to lose total control of their larger conglomerate, Waystar Royco, to Swedish internet mogul Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). As a result, they support and screw each other like never before.
The morning after election night. Shiv’s watching an ATN report about Democratic candidate Daniel Jimenez asking for certification to be prevented until all absentee ballots that were burned in the swing state of Wisconsin are counted. Meanwhile, there are demonstrations nationwide, including outside ATN’s Manhattan office.
At his high-rise pad, Roman smirks as he watches the same report. He’s dressed in long sleeves and tie for a change, rehearsing the eulogy he’s been chosen to deliver later that day. He recites boilerplate praise of his father mixed with ironic self-affirmations whenever he looks in a mirror, along with characteristic, vulgar crowing about selecting the next president. Ken calls from his limo. Looking out at protesters carrying gas cans, the older Roy worries that Mencken is heating up rhetoric that could be bad for their business.
“Don’t be a pussy, dude,” Roman tells him. “What? You don’t like these f—n’ ratings? It’s discord, Man! Discord makes my dick hoard.”
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Ken’s ex-wife Rava calls him as he drives past businesses boarding up windows. She’s worried about unrest in the city and is taking their kids upstate instead to Logan’s funeral. Ken hangs up and orders his driver to get to Rava’s building in three minutes.
Shiv’s flossing her teeth while Lukas Matsson’s on the phone. She tells him it’s a good day to release the news about his GoJo internet empire’s bad subscription numbers in South Asia, since it will be buried amid all the election brouhaha. He’s hesitant.
“Like, if you have a little dicky, maybe you don’t go to the nudist beach?” he says, continuing the episode’s fascination with male genitalia.
“Lukas, a tsunami just came and washed everything away, no one’s checking the dicks,” Shiv replies while putting on earrings. “Seriously, I know this. Do it! Get ‘em out!”
Matsson smiles at her forcefulness, and worries what to do about Mencken, whose campaign promised Shiv’s brothers he’d sabotage the deal to buy Waystar in return for ATN’s favorable election night coverage.
Kendall’s limo blocks the Mercedes SUV Rava’s putting their children into. He’s livid she’s taking them out of town instead of to their grandfather’s funeral and calls her fears hysterical.
“You’re too online!” he accuses. “You’ve lost context. Everything is fine. DO NOT F—K WITH ME TODAY!”
His daughter Sophie won’t unlock the car door at Ken’s request. He accuses Rava of using this as a pretext to hurt him, and threatens to get a court order to stop her from leaving the city. He tells her he’ll block her car with his body. Her driver goes around his half-hearted effort.
In his ATN office, Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) is complaining to his cousin-in-law Greg (Nicholas Braun) about a newspaper double truck that breaks down the previous night’s events at the network.
“Who gave them the timeline?” the network boss asks.
“Well, A lot of people know,” Greg explains. “A lot of people don’t want to go to The Hague for war crimes.”
Tom complains that he didn’t get enough play in the paper’s graphics.
“This diminishes my role,” he grouses. “I’m tarred with the Mencken brush so I may as well get my goodies, right? There’s no point in joining the party unless you get your little dacha.”
Greg’s impatient, feels the need to grieve, and wants to head out to the funeral. Tom says he does too; he’s the front right casket wheelman, after all. But he has too many post-election fires to put out. He tells Greg to go, save him a good seat, remind the Mencken team Tom swung the election for him.
Kendall and Roman join Shiv in a black stretch Cadillac. Awkward silence. Ken mutters “It’s a great f—n’ day.” Rava and their mother are discussed. Shiv hems and haws, finally tells her brothers she’s pregnant.
“Is it mine?” Roman asks with his trademark crassness and exquisite timing. Shiv has to confirm to Ken that the baby is Tom’s. Rome makes a crack about her weight. She thanks him for “good stuff.”
“You know I’m not gonna stop with the joke things,” he semi-apologizes, then gets really perverse. She calls him disgusting. He won’t stop. Ken requests peace among the siblings for today. A funeral truce is agreed upon. Masked protesters pound on the Caddy’s windows. It pulls up down the cordoned-off block from the church. Roman and Shiv walk away. Ken tells his waiting assistant Jess (Juliana Canfield) to make an appointment with family lawyers so he can take custody of the kids away from Rava.
Checking his phone calendar, he sees Jess has scheduled a meet with him. He badgers her into reluctantly telling him she wants to move on.
“Is this about Mencken?” Ken asks.
“Well, I’ve been thinking about it for awhile,” Jess, who had a come-to-Jesus moment with Greg about what ATN was doing to democracy the night before, lies.
Ken calls her, then everybody, f—g dumb, puts his protective sunglasses back on.
“Nice timing, Jess. Lovely day to tell me, really thoughtful,” he sneers after making her tell him.
I’m Your Wheelman
As they head into the church, P.R. guy Hugo (Fisher Stevens) tells Ken that GoJo’s bad South Asian numbers have slipped out. In the vestibule, Shiv is telling eldest brother Connor (Alan Ruck) that the eulogy he suddenly wants to deliver is long and hard to follow. Con’s playwright wife Willa (Justine Lupe) explains that it’s formally inventive. Shiv cautions that it will leave them open to legal action.
Roman tells Kendall, “I think it’s great that Mencken’s a racist and he won’t let a dirty foreigner buy the company, but we still need to get the board and brass rallying around the old orphans here, don’t you think?”
Roman then notes that their stepmother Marcia (Hiam Abbas) looks chic in her Navy pantsuit and big-bowed Robin Hood hat, suggests he’d like to have sex with her on Dad’s coffin.
Greg pedals a CitiBike through the clogged streets toward the church.
Rome approaches Waystar COO Frank (Peter Friedman), says this puts any previous conflicts they’ve had in perspective.
“Sure,” Frank stone-faces back. “Life is short. We should all love one another.”
Mencken enters the church with his Secret Service detail. Greg comes in panting behind him, asks Roman for an intro to the “president-elect.”
“I’m amongst the crowning committee, so . . .” Greg’s logic goes. Roman puts him on Ewan Watch instead; if his grandfather (James Cromwell) tries to speak at his despised brother’s funeral, Greg’s job is to stop him.
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The Waystar Eggs are huddling. Frank notes Logan is really gone. General counsel Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) asks “How much of you is glad?” CFO Karl (David Rasche) notes “We had our fights, OK? But I miss him.” “Stockholm syndrome,” Gerri says. “Crossed with a little bit of China syndrome.”
“Well, here she comes,” Shiv tells Ken as their mother, minor English aristocrat Caroline (Harriet Walter), enters with her latest husband, Peter (Pip Torrens). “Thought I could hear the sound of dalmatians howling. We freezing her out or . . ?”
“One down, maybe be nice,” Ken suggests. “In case she drops dead of a broken heart? Or not having a heart?”
Caroline approaches her children. She looks down at Shiv’s belly.
“Oh. Are you OK?” Mom asks.
More one-word exchanges ensue. Caroline suggests going into this later.
“I have to be careful with the information I give you because you might use it against me,” Shiv declares.
Roman joins, cheek-kisses Caroline. Peter hugs all the kids, says it’s so sad.
“Daddy’s here!” he creepily smiles. “Sorry for your loss.”
“Well, he spoke of you often,” Shiv ominously informs Peter. “One of his favorites.”
Matsson arrives with his Swedes. Shiv walks over to them.
“So, all the numbers pieces are starting to come out,” she acknowledges. “No significant blowback, right?”
Not so far. Gold star for the red devil, Matsson tells his advisor, then asks her if the handsome Nazi is going to win. “And would that be bad for a tall, blond, white guy?”
Shiv draws Matsson away from the other Swedes to broach the idea of offering Mecken an American CEO if he buys Waystar. She herself would be an excellent choice for the position. Matsson makes an arc out from his belly with his hand, asks her if she’s pregnant.
“Yeah, well y’know, she’s one of those hard bitches, right?” Shiv replies. “She’s gonna do what, 36 hours of maternity leave? Be emailing through her vanity Caesarean. The poor kid will never see her.”
Matsson laughs, is still concerned Mencken and Shiv are very “hatey-hatey” with each other. She’s confident she can get him to like her.
“Can you intro?” Matsson continues.
“I can do f—g anything,” she says. “My dad just died.”
Roman announces the arrival of Logan’s casket. Caroline asks Kerry (Zoe Winters) to come and sit with her. Kerry introduces her friend, a lawyer.
“I felt there might be some issue in terms of entry,” Logan’s last mistress explains.
“Sweet,” Caroline says as she walks Kerry down the aisle. She then pulls a woman named Sally Ann out of her pew, takes her to meet Marcia. “Sally Ann was my Kerry, so to speak,” spaketh Caroline. “It’s all water under the bridge now.” She then deposits Sally Ann, herself, Kerry and Marcia in the front pew. “God, Logan would hate this!” Caroline says with glee.
“At least he won’t be grinding his teeth tonight,” Marcia says. Seeing Kerry is about to burst into tears, Marcia places a reassuring hand on the younger woman’s.
Greg calls Tom to get his ass down there. “Greg, there are fires in Baltimore!” a frazzled Tom yells back from ATN. “Darwin might resign, online is peaking. I’ll get there as fast as I can. And tell them it was me!”
He hangs up while Greg is asking about front right. Greg informs Shiv and Matsson Tom’s not coming, insinuates he’d like to be the replacement wheel man. Peter offers his services. Shiv says no to stepdad, yes to cousin.
The casket is placed on a roller, covered with an embroidered shroud. Greg and his grandfather take positions at its front. Frank and Karl are the rear bearers. The four siblings walk behind the coffin. Roman looks the most troubled.
(In)Famous Last Words
The procession stops before the altar and everyone takes their seats. Following the cleric’s invocation, Ewan (James Cromwell) marches toward the altar. Greg and Shiv try to stop him. They can’t.
Wearing a turtleneck and a worn, blue-checkered sport coat, Ewan begins by asking out loud “What sort of people would stop a brother speaking for the sake of a share price?”
But then Logan’s leftist older brother speaks with sympathy of when they were lads evacuated from Scotland to Canada during World War II. Their Atlantic passage was harrowing, Logan was an ill child, their baby sister died, Logan felt unnecessarily guilty about it. It’s riveting, even warmly nostalgic in a dark way. Then Ewan chokes out:
“I loved him, I suppose. And I suppose some of you did too, in whatever way he would let us and we could manage. But I can’t help but say he has wrought the most terrible things. He was a man who has, here and there, drawn in the edges of the world, now and then darkened the skies a little, closed men’s hearts, fed that dark flame in men. The hard, mean, hard-relenting flame that keeps their hearths warm while another grows cold, their grain stashed while another goes hungry. And even has the temerity to tell that hard, funny – yes, funny, but hard – joke about the man in the cold. You can get a little high, a little mighty when you’re warm. Oh yes, he gave away a few million of his billions, but he was not a generous man. He was mean and he made but a mean estimation of the world. And he fed a certain kind of meagerness in men. Perhaps he had to because he had a meagerness about him. And maybe I do about me too, I don’t know. I try. I try. I don’t know when, but sometime he decided not to try anymore and it was a terrible shame. Godspeed, My Brother, And God bless.”
Cut to Roman, frozen in shock. “Yeah yeah yeah,” Ken whispers to him. “You OK? You’re gonna say the other side, yeah? That’s not everything, right?”
“Uh, yeah, I’m good,” Roman lies. “I might hit on Marcia on the way out.” He rises, walks to the aisle. Frank asks, “You OK, Son?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rome continues prevaricating. “I’m not your son.”
At the podium, Roman fiddles with note cards, squeaks out “My – my father, Logan Roy . . . He was a great man in the true, uh, true sense of the word . . .” With a sob, he glances at the coffin, signals for his siblings to come to the altar. He meets them at the stage edge and breaks down. “Is he in there?” Roman asks his siblings, pointing at the coffin. “Can we get him out?” Ken holds one of his arms, Shiv rubs the other, tell him it’s OK.
Cut to Gerri, concerned but exactly why we can’t tell.
Shiv tells Ken he’s got to say the other side. Connor hands him a pen. Matsson and Mencken look on with interest. The Eggs all look down. From the podium, Ken asks the audience for a second, scribbles a bit, wipes his nose. Then launches:
“I don’t know how much I know, but I knew my father. I’ve said it and it is true, what I’ve said and my uncle said. My father was a brute. He was, he was tough, but also he built and he acted. There are many people out there who will always tell you no and there always are a thousand reasons not to act, but he was never one of those. He had a vitality, a force that could hurt and it did, but my God the sheer – I mean, look at it, the lives and the livings and the things that he made. And the money! Yeah, the money. The lifeblood, the oxygen of this wonderful civilization we have built from the mud. The money, the corpuscles of life gushing around this nation, this world, filling men and women all around with desire, quickening the ambition to own and make and trade and profit and build and improve. I mean, great geysers of life, he willed; of buildings he made stand, of ships, steel hulls, amusements, newspapers, shows and films and life. Bloody, complicated life. He made life happen. He made me and my three siblings. And yes, he had a terrible force to him and a fierce ambition that could push you to the side. But he was only that human thing, the will to be and to be seen and to do. And now people might want to tend and prune the memory of him, to denigrate that force, that magnificent, awful force of him. But my God, I hope it’s in me, because if we can’t match his vim then God knows the future will be sluggish and gray. And there wasn’t a room – from the grandest state room where his advice was sought to the lowest house where his news played – where he couldn’t walk and wasn’t comfortable. He was comfortable with this world and he knew it. He knew it and he liked it. And I say amen to that.”
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The church bursts into applause, except for Ewan. Shiv walks up to the podium as Kendall sits next to an apologizing Roman, who adds “That was good.”
Shiv thanks Rome and Ken, promises the crowd they’ll be moving on soon. She talks about playing outside Logan’s office and how he’d be terrifying when he came out. Woozy handheld camerawork matches her stream-of-consciousness remarks.
“He kept us outside, but he kept everyone outside,” she notes. “But when he let you in, when the sun shone, it was warm, yeah, really it was warm in the light. But it was hard to be his daughter. Oh, he was hard on women. He couldn’t fit a whole woman in his head, but he did OK. You did OK, Dad. We’re all here and we’re doing OK, we’re doing OK. So goodbye, my dear, dear world of a father.”
The undertakers lift the casket off the cart, set it down in front of Shiv, Kendall and a weeping Roman, remove the shroud and carry it out of the church. Ken shakes hands, especially Mencken’s, as the kids follow them out.
“That was perfect, Ken,” the would-be president tells him as the crowd departs. Ken asks to talk later. Hugo whispers to Ken about Shiv being floated as GoJo Waystar’s CEO.
When Stalin Met Liberace
The cortege makes its way down a wide-open Fifth Avenue, arrives at a cemetery without incident. Ken is startled by the brutalist yet gaudy monumentality of the mausoleum the black vehicles pull up before.
“He got it on a deal,” Connor explains about Logan’s purchase. “He was really pleased. It was a dotcom pet supply guy who built it, I believe.”
“Was he in a bidding war with Stalin and Liberace?” Shiv asks. Later, she coins the term “Catfood Ozymandias.”
Connor notes it probably cost $5 mil altogether. “But that’s forever.” Ken and Shiv agree it was a good deal, her adding “It’s also a tax write-off because it’s technically a residence.”
Roman can’t bring himself to join his siblings inside, where they notice there are enough vaults for all of them.
“I’d have to talk to Willa,” Connor says. “I was crazy for cryogenics but yeah, I wouldn’t say no to a top bunk. You?”
“I dunno,” Ken answers. “I had trouble finishing a scotch with him.”
“He made me breathe funny,” Roman says from the doorway.
After a few words from the priest outside, the casket is taken into the edifice.
“I’m intrigued to see how he gets out of this one,” Shiv cracks.
“It’s too much!” a sniffling Roman declares as he runs to a car.
The camera swirls around Shiv’s concerned face as she walks over to Frank and Karl.
“Dad wasn’t really . . . . Um, how bad was Dad?” she asks them.
“He was a salty dog,” Frank says in a reassuring tone. “He was. But he was a good egg.”
“What you saw was what you got,” Karl adds.
Shiv smiles at them through her skepticism. At a car, Marcia tells her, “I loved him very much, I miss him very much. He broke my heart and he broke your hearts too.”
Ken tells Hugo to brief media on background that the Matsson acquisition doesn’t have support of key family members and the board is souring on the deal.
“You know, Hugo, life isn’t nice, it’s contingent. People who say they love you will also f—k you. So this is an explicit plan to f—k the deal, me rule the world. And you can come but it won’t be a collaboration, OK? You’ll be my dog. But the scraps from the table will be millions. Millions. Happy?”
Hugo: “Woof woof.”
What Isn’t F—ed Up?
Unloading outside the St. Regis for the reception, mourners are startled by firecrackers-or-gunshots.
Inside, Ken tries to recruit Logan’s former bodyguard Colin, then goes over to shake Mencken’s hand.
“Congratulations pending a grueling jurisdictional knife fight,” media whore tells fascist. Ken wants to share thoughts, now that ATN’s helped Mencken out.
“Oh,” the candidate responds. “I thought you were the sound system. Now you want to choose the track.”
Ken wants to know when Mencken will express regulatory concerns about GoJo. The pol says he’ll try to help. Not the answer Ken wanted. Greg interrupts. Roman butts in, tells Greg to f—k off. Mencken says “Hey hey hey, it’s the Grim Weeper. Tiny Tears! Just kidding. You good?” Connor wants to grab five, talk Slovenia travel budget.
“What if I said to you: Pan-Hapsburg, American-led, EU alternative,” Connor babbles. “What would you say to me?”
Shiv jumps in, telling Mencken she’s the presidential extraction team. He walks away with her. Ken whispers to Rome, “You know about Supermom’s plan?”
Shiv, Mencken and Matsson discuss political/economic philosophies with food and sex metaphors. Then Red and Blond ask Gray what would make him comfortable about a GoJo Waystar.
“Whatever our frictions, there was an ideological sympathy with your dad,” Mencken tells Shiv.
“My dad had deep ocean currents swirling in his gut,” Shiv responds. “But on specifics, I think he was about money, winning and gossip.”
Matsson tries to explain GoJo’s significance – even he can’t understand his b.s. – then slithers into suggesting an American CEO would actually run things. Mencken looks at Shiv.
“I thought you hated me.”
“My dad was flexible and I’m flexible. I know how things go.”
“And you would be very glad, right, to see him win,” Matsson tells Shiv.
“My feelings are irrelevant. Our audience loves Jeryd so – I respect our audience.”
“And I love your audience,” Mencken finishes.
Crowds roar in the streets as Tom enters the event. He tells Shiv it’s getting a bit “Tiananmeny out there.”
“You would never have dared not to come to his funeral when he was alive,” Shiv accuses her husband.
“The thing about your dad is he’s lost quite a lot of influence over the past few days,” Tom lobs back. He and Shiv both take champagne flutes from a passing waiter. The pregnant woman defiantly drinks. There’s tentative talk about whether she’ll keep the baby and why it took so long to tell him the news.
“Because it seemed so sad, Tom, and we were in a honeymoon phase . . . “
“Yeah. Taking the potential dad for a test drive.”
“Oh f—k you.”
Caroline swoops in to congratulate the happy couple. “Well, if it wasn’t such a total f—n’ disaster, it would be a dream come true,” Tom tells his mother-in-law.
“Oh, I’m sure it will be wonderful,” she says with chirpy English obliviousness. “Are you all right?” she asks Shiv. “I mean, it’s hard.”
“I’m not going to see it,” Shiv says, pointing back and forth between them. “I’m just going to do it the family way. I mean, they don’t grow up emotionally stunted, do they?”
“I shouldn’t think so. What do you think?”
Mother and daughter share a laugh.
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When Caroline leaves, Tom apologizes to Shiv for not attending the funeral ceremonies, blaming it yet again on not enough sleep. She says it’s fine. Then he tells her he was the first one with Logan in the plane when he died, so he did say goodbye to him. Shiv sends her sniffling, exhausted husband home to sleep and hide out for a while. She gets a call from Matsson, who’s in his car. It’s a yes.
“Great,” the potential American CEO tells him. “Let’s make it a meatball burger.”
Ken approaches Roman, claiming he needs his help against Lukas and Shiv. Roman’s too shot to plot at the moment.
“That’s because you f—d it,” Ken blurts. “It’s OK. It happens. You thought you were Dad, tried to Dad it, totally f—d it.”
“Jesus Christ, man. Take it easy. I didn’t f—k it.”
“Yeah. You f—d it with Gerri . . .”
Roman insists that if Mencken tries to welch on their deal to block the GoJo purchase, they can hurt him with ATN. Ken says Mencken has their penis in his hands and it should be vice versa. Then he says they have to get real and fight Shiv at the board. He has a plan but needs Rome’s help, unhelpfully adding, “OK Dude, You f—d it, but it’s all right.”
Roman marches out of the room, past the Eggs. Karl’s talking about a viral video, presumably of Rome breaking down at the funeral. On the street, Rome walks past his limo. There are sirens, swirling police lights, people with protest signs running. He stops at street barriers, yells “F—k you” to hundreds of retreating demonstrators. He jumps the barrier, curses people as they pass by and body him in the middle of the street. Roman gets knocked down and trampled as riot cops approach. He fights a protester who tries to help him up. Finally upright, he stumbles away with the rest of the crowd, his penile tumescence an unknown factor.
After the debacle of the uncertain election night ATN called for Mencken, the network’s likely future owner Matsson schooled Shiv in how the rest of the world views American politics:
“You’ve had a democracy for, like, 50 years. Not, unless you don’t count Black people, which is kind of a bad habit. I’m just saying, you are nearly as mature a democracy as Botswana.”
Sure, it’s old hat to cut to audience reactions whenever somebody’s making a significant speech. But director Mark Mylod and camera operators Gregor Tavenner, Ethan Borsuk, Beka Venezia and Sarah Natoli show exactly how to do it right throughout Ewan, Roman, Kendall and Shiv’s eulogies. They capture the character-conscious feelings of every listener they single out at each pertinent point of the wrought recitations.
So Roman, the guy we thought was most his father’s son, turns out to be the clan’s biggest softie. Though it’s been foreshadowed for most of the season, his grief caught up to him at the worst possible time for the “tough bastard’s” ambitions. Part of me still wants to think, though, that he was just as torn up by his uncle upstaging him with a better speech as by his father’s death finally hitting home.
While that all gives Kieran Culkin his biggest acting moments yet, it’s perhaps more impressive how Jeremy Strong ricochets from idiot to monster to God’s honest hero and back again multiple times in this episode, keeping every note consistent with Kendall’s weird personality and, thereby, eminently buyable.
Next week: The “Succession” series finale.
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