It’s almost fitting that the events of the Succession Season 3 finale took place amongst a backdrop of Italian villas because that hour and change of the HBO dramedy had all the makings of an Italian American mob story. Children attempted to destroy their father, only to be taken down by a trusted consigliere (named Tom no less!) Backroom deals were made and souls were up for grabs. There was even a wedding (“you come into my makeshift boardroom on the day my ex-wife gets married and you try to murder my legacy…”).
But now that the dust has settled and the birthrights have been reneged, it’s important to remember that there is still one Roy child who could take on their father’s legacy and be the face of media conglomerate Waystar Royco. And, if we’re going to continue the Godfather references, it’s the one we’ve always underestimated as the Fredo of the bunch. Passed over for power and treated like a joke by his family, Logan Roy’s eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck) is the last—and, technically, first—of the media mogul’s children still standing, now that Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) were double-crossed and cut out of the business.
It’s never been clear why Connor wasn’t groomed to be his dad’s heir apparent, and was instead pushed aside by his younger half-brother, Kendall. He’s Logan’s only child with his first wife, a person who remains more or less an enigma of Succession lore. All we really know is that she liked to host a gala and might have had some mental health issues. (Where is she? Is she still alive? Will she appear in Season 4 like she’s Alexis Carrington?) It’s possible that, without a parent who would always be firmly in his corner when he was growing up, Connor’s step-mom Caroline (Harriet Walter) poisoned Logan against his first born in order to manipulate things for her children. In the third season’s opening credits, which focus on home movies of the Roy siblings as kids, suggest that a young Connor never knew where his place was in the family. In the footage, he tries to inch closer to the other kids as they stand obediently in a row like he’s worried that he’ll be cut out of the frame. Then they all turn around shocked when it appears their father has lost interest in all of them.
This kind of upbringing obviously created a strained relationship for Connor and his family. He’s tried his best to bond with them, such as taking Roman fly fishing in Montana when they were kids. Now, as adults, he appears like the only one who doesn’t have some personal agenda in helping Kendall stay sober when the siblings stage an intervention with their addict brother.
But he will always be the punchline to the family. That he has to correct his brothers and sister that he—not Kendall—is their father’s eldest child, and that there was a reason why he distanced himself from the family until Logan had a health scare in the series premiere, all shows how they have never taken him seriously. Also, him explaining all of this while rhythmically slicing a butter knife across a table cloth was unnerving, but also suggested how long he’s been bottling up his frustration; tiny, methodical pokes from a dull sword last longer and are more torturous than one quick jab through the heart.
To his siblings, he’s just the guy who is so pathetic he had to hire a sex worker (Justine Lupe’s Willa) to be his girlfriend, and was duped out of part of his inheritance in the purchase of what was definitely not Napoleon’s penis.
He’s also, as Willa points out when she accepts his marriage proposal in the finale, a “nice man”—especially compared to his siblings, who love their phones more than other human beings. He’s the guy who can’t bear to put his dog down, so pays someone else to do it. He was the only one who thought of an original and meaningful gift for his dad’s birthday present (a sourdough starter; as an homage to Logan’s Scottish heritage. Meanwhile, Roman can’t even get his dad’s favorite football team right). He’s too innocent to notice why he’s been sent out to be the face of the family at known sexaul predator (Mo)Lester’s funeral. He bankrolled Willa’s play. He’s genuinely excited to see that people are interested in his (ill-advised) presidential campaign.
Before the start of the third season, the Succession cast and creator Jesse Armstrong took part in HBO’s all-virtual summer Television Critics Association press day. We asked him then if the third season would be the year for Connor to get ahead in this messed-up family hierarchy. Armstrong assured that “going in, we try not to have those thoughts of like, okay, last season was a season for Character X. Now we need to do a season for Character Y. It’s much better and more organic and probably more wholesome for us all to feel like, you know what, we’re just following the story of this family. And, obviously, that’s affected by what’s really working for different actors and characters.”
He also added that “for every character, they’re at the center of their story. And if all of their story isn’t shown, it should be a submerged story.”
It will be interesting to see how this impacts things for the fourth season. Will Connor end up with more power? With Willa by his side, it’s possible, because she’s shown before how protective she can be of him and how she can save him from putting his foot in his mouth (she did edit his eulogy at Mo’s funeral to keep it from appearing as though they were close associates). But she could also change her mind and realize that responding “fuck it” (let’s do it) is not the best answer to a marraige proposal.
Or is Connor secretly a genius? He’s the one who freaked out his siblings during their mom’s wedding reception by suggesting their dad was trying to have another kid with his assistant, after all, which led them to leave the party and hyperventilate in a back alley or minivan about the future (their futures) of the company.
This could be part of the “submerged story” that isn’t shown to which Armstrong was referring. We’ve all been focusing on the betrayal of Shiv’s husband, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen). But what did Connor do when he was left alone at the reception? Did he talk to his (now ex) step-mom? Did he talk to Tom? Is he really as good a man as he seems?
Whitney Friedlander is an entertainment journalist with, what some may argue, an unhealthy love affair with her TV. A former staff writer at both Los Angeles Times and Variety, her writing has also appeared in Cosmopolitan, Vulture, The Washington Post and others. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, daughter, and very photogenic cat.
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