‘Is He Safe?’: Trauma, Violence, and Fatherhood in Succession

Curator's Note

[Note: video NSFW]

The patriarch in Succession, Logan Roy, treats his children as pawns in his corporate machinations.  We learn in the first season that there’s underlying trauma influencing his actions: in the episode, Austerlitz, we see Logan coming out of the water, despite a statement made earlier in the episode that he never swims.  We see scar marks on his back and the actor Brian Cox has confirmed (in interviews) that the character was beaten as a child.

These childhood experiences play a role in Logan’s inability to function as a compassionate father.  He strikes two family members in the run of the show: in the first season episode, I Went to Market, he strikes his grandson, Iverson, during a frustrating moment during a family memory game.  Iverson, for anyone familiar with the characteristics, is clearly on the autism spectrum.   In the third season episode, Chiantishire, he strikes Roman after being mocked by him.  In both cases, Kendall quickly defuses the situation, briefly ignoring the allegiance his father demands and paralleling his multiple narrative arcs of betraying Logan, albeit unsuccessfully.

Logan’s inability to speak with his children in a truthful, emotional way is the story of much of Austerlitz where Logan hires a family therapist primarily for PR purposes.  Similarly, the episode Safe Room sees Kendall on the roof of the Waystar building, but he is very much not alone, as cameras capture his presence near the edge. At the end of the episode, an expensive glass shield has been placed around the perimeter—Logan addresses a potentially suicidal son in the most indirect way possible. Yet, in a moment during the same episode when a gunshot is heard in the office, Logan’s pleading question, “Where’s Kendall? Is he safe?” is fearful and heartfelt.  Logan’s moment of fatherly love is fleeting, but real.

In the final episode of season three, All the Bells Say, the viewers are set up to side with Logan’s children as he betrays them.  Yet, his disillusionment over his children’s immaturity and inability to lead Waystar leads him to demand they make their own way in the world and “make [their] own fucking pile.”  (They’re still very, very rich.) The patriarch, perhaps, finally becomes a father.

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