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[This story contains spoilers from Succession season four episode five, “Kill List.”]
In his exit interview, Brian Cox revealed that each episode of Succession‘s final season is one day. And with the death of his character, Logan Roy, serving as a marker, the days appear to be playing out sequentially, with the latest stop in the HBO series’ final tour taking place in the deal-making scenic hilltops of Norway.
While Logan’s oldest son Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) is handling funeral arrangements for Logan back home, his siblings were strong-armed to leave the country, with many top Waystar Royco executives in tow, at the request of Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) in order to seal to GoJo deal.
Speaking to host Kara Swisher for HBO’s official Succession podcast, Kieran Culkin explains that his character, Roman Roy, didn’t appreciate Matsson using Logan’s death as a power move and forcing them to travel so soon after, which is what led to Roman’s epic confrontation with Matsson — a move that ends up, probably, sealing the deal, despite Roman and Kendall Roy’s (Jeremy Strong) intention to tank it.
“I didn’t like, in the first place, having to get on a plane and run to some guy, and he’s going to mock us when our dad isn’t even cold yet — it’s barely been two days,” says Culkin of directing all of his grief and anger at Mattson during the scene between Roman, Kendall and the GoJo boss, which is sparked, in part, after Roman receives a photo from Connor of Logan’s corpse. In HBO’s after-the-episode interview, creator Jesse Armstrong described the scene between the three men as a chance to “weaponize” humor, truth and obfuscation. “You wonder: Can these guys do it? Are they going to be anything near what their dad was? I don’t think it’s conclusive. They don’t seem to nail it. But they maybe have their own way of operating which, in the end, is not total failure,” said Armstrong.
Before arriving at the serene mountain setting, “CE-bros” Kendall and Roman decided they wanted to blow up the deal, despite Matsson’s higher-than expected bid to buy the company because his offer includes ATN, the news network arm that Logan Roy had explicitly carved out of the deal before his untimely death.
Speaking to Swisher, Culkin explains, “There’s a bit of trying to keep the deal structured as is or shitting on the deal, that feels like something Logan would do. And that we want to honor him. If we just let him take the whole thing and take ATN, we can hear dad saying, ‘You bent for him.’ And we’re not going to do that.”
Which is why, as Culkin puts it, Roman is “emotionally unhinged” when he confronts Matsson and (in the spirit of Logan) tells him to fuck off. “I fucking hate you,” Roman tells Matsson, after chastising him for forcing them to come to Norway so soon after Logan’s death and vowing to stretch out the Waystar-GoJo deal-making process so long that Matsson will eventually get bored and move on. Culkin explains that, under normal circumstances, Roman, much like Logan, would be able to navigate the game, but he’s currently “caught up in too many emotions” to negotiate.
“That’s the moment he loses it and decides he’s not going to play business anymore, I’ll let the feelings come out,” says Culkin. “It’s not a move. I think in that moment, it’s not. It’s just honesty and how he’s feeling and all of his anger about his dad comes out at one person who does, in my opinion, deserve that.”
Even though it wasn’t intended to be a power move, it works. Matsson’s response is to reach out with an even bigger offer — $5 more per share — which sends the Waystar team into victory mode. That is, until the “kill list” is announced in the final moment of the episode, revealing that Karl (David Rasche), Frank (Peter Friedman) and Hugo (Fisher Stevens) are among nine names on the chopping block after the acquisition.
At one point, Kendall expressed to Roman that he liked being in charge of their father’s company, which is why he didn’t want to sell it. Culkin, speaking on the podcast, agrees that Roman has found a purpose at Waystar: “Finding his way back in [to Waystar] and finding his voice and realizing there’s something he can do at the company and his life has felt really good, and that’s what draws him back in. Because otherwise, to his view, he’s kinda just a rich schmuck who sits at home. He’s just the son of somebody important, and that’s not a very nice feeling.”
Culkin also doesn’t think Roman is stewing over the infamous voicemail he left after Logan’s death, which his father may or may not have heard before he dropped dead on his private jet. “I actually think he pushed that aside. I think that’s the first time he did anything kind of close to standing up to dad,” he says of the voice message tantrum he left for Logan about firing Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), a move only known to Roman and Gerri now. “He wanted to confront his dad, but I like that he left it in dad’s hands, in a voicemail, which is sort of cowardly, but also that he said, ‘Call me. Call me back and tell me why you made me do this.’ Which was a pretty strong position. I think he pushed that down, pushed that deep deep down so it never bothers you ever again.”
Ultimately, Culkin says Roman will be fine if they do indeed sell but that Roman right now only cares about his dad’s approval, even in death, which is why, he says, Roman can’t even see how the Roy trio is splintering before his eyes.
“What’s driving him right now is dad and dad’s honor. Just act like dad is here right now because I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that he’s gone,” he says. “A lot of that anger about dad dying is directed at one person. So I think he’s a little blind to seeing anything like that [the sibling alliance crumbling]. The coming episodes, that gets maybe a little clearer.”
Succession releases new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max. Follow along with THR‘s Succession final season coverage.
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