‘Succession’ stages a funeral for the ages with ‘Church and State’
Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
(CNN) — For those keeping score, that’s one wedding (sort of), one funeral this season on “Succession,” with the latter joining the pantheon of memorable funeral-related entertainment – on a level with “The Godfather” or the “Chuckles the Clown” episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” take your pick.
The latest episode again found Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong, never better) reduced to a paranoid mess by events, while showcasing a number of smaller recurring characters who placed him in that agitated state.
Specifically, his ex-wife Rava (Natalie Gold) balked at taking their children to his father’s funeral, concerned about security issues and civil unrest, prompting a sputtering Kendall to insist that she was “too online.” That was followed by Kendall’s beleaguered assistant, Jess (Juliana Canfield), giving her notice after the previous week’s election-night shenanigans, which Kendall – still fuming about Rava – treated as an act of betrayal.
The main event, though, was the funeral itself, as the Roy children sought to eulogize the father who was cold, distant and abusive, certainly verbally and perhaps physically.
Things got off to an awkward start when Logan’s brother Ewan (James Cromwell, knocking it out of the park) spoke of the damage that his brother had done to society, while saying, “He was not a generous man. He was mean.”
After rehearsing his speech at the episode’s start, Roman (Kieran Culkin) fell apart entirely while trying to eulogize his dad in a painful-to-watch display of grief, forcing Kendall to step in.
As usual, the episode subtitled “Church and State” was also at times side-splittingly funny, such as Logan’s widows and mistresses sitting together in the front row, or Shiv (Sarah Snook) noting the arrival of her mother (Harriet Walter) by sneering, “I thought I could hear the sound of Dalmatians howling.”
Then there was the unseemly spectacle of each Roy kid taking turns schmoozing potential president-elect Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), who made clear he might not be the “guy we can do business with” about which Kendall opined when the network, ATN, threw its conservative clout behind him.
“Succession” still has a great deal of work to do in its 90-minute series finale, including, but not limited to, determining the fate of Waystar Royco; which of the Roys, if any, will emerge as their father’s successor; resolving the fractured relationship between Shiv (who finally shared news of her pregnancy with her brothers) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen); and as an added bonus, the future of the (fictional, but close enough to reality) republic.
“Church and State” closed with a glimpse of that tumult, as the protests that Rava feared filled the streets. And while Kendall sought to reassure Rava that “Everything is fine,” the one certainty, based on the show’s world as exemplified by this penultimate chapter, is that everything almost certainly won’t be.
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