Can Connor win the ‘succession’? No more predictions for the future president
The easily dismissed son of Alan Ruck has the same chance of taking the top spot at Royco as the presidency, but that doesn’t mean he’s hopeless.
In the final season of “Succession,” IndieWire takes an extensive look at the HBO drama’s various power players to determine not only whether they could gain control of the Roy family business, but what they’d gain by doing so — and what they’d gain by simply playing they can lose. After Episode 2, “The Trial,” it’s time to examine Connor Roy.
Imagine it’s the day before your wedding. Your only sibling is hours late for the rehearsal dinner. Your dad doesn’t show up at all, and your fiancee, after spending 40 minutes in the bathroom wondering if she can make it through the wedding, bails on the rehearsal. (In his defense, he claims he’s “not vital” to the proceedings.) When his family shows up, they’re distracted by work, fights, just about anything but you and your wishes. They agree to take me to a bar, but their attention is elsewhere and they have to be persuaded to do what they really want to do.
So here she is: in New York, the night before the wedding, microphone in hand. The tracking device he used to track his runaway bride has lost its signal. Your mind is racing. Did your phone die? Fleeing the country? Is she already in the arms of another man? Your half-brothers and sister comfort you superficially, but they don’t matter. Not for you. You’re used to this. Being ignored, abandoned, unloved – you’ve been practicing for this moment all your life. So you can even live your dreams on the big screen. Select the song. Sing it out loud. Leonard Cohen, eat your heart out.
Right now, I’m not sure Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) realizes how overtly desperate his song choice seems. After all, once he, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) arrive at their private karaoke room, the first thing Con says is, “So what?” In the absence of any guidance, she follows her heart, and despite her later claims to the contrary, her heart cries out for love, even though her mind knows she’ll never get it—not from these people, anyway.
The essence of Therin Connor: lack. Episode 2, “The Trial,” emphasizes her exclusion without excluding her. He is out with Willa (Justine Lupe), his brothers and his father. He’s even outside of his own career as he struggles to keep a full percentage of the vote. Appearances can hurt, and during “The Trial” we feel Connor’s pain – as does Roman when he calls his brother’s Leonard Cohen cover “Guantanamo-level shit.” But being separated from the Roy and all their toxic crap can’t be bad either. As “Succession” draws to a close, a little distance from Connor might just pay off.
Connor, like the rest of the Roy family, is not a good person. Among three seasons worth of supporting evidence, we need look no further than last week, when he took Willa to a wedding filled with airplanes, rappers, confetti guns, and bum fights. Why? He wanted to save a few dollars on a presidential campaign – not because he might still win, not even because he might still help someone other to win, but only because he is afraid of falling below 1 percent would be embarrassing. Remember the embarrassment of a bride hosting a party where two penniless drifters beat each other unconscious. OK. NRPI
What “Succession” does so well with Connor is magnified by the build-up to Part 2. Connor is the routinely forgotten brother. He is the only son from Logan’s (Brian Cox) first marriage, which almost everyone pretends never happened. He’s typically not involved in Waystar-Royco, leaving his family to fight over who’s in charge, often putting him on the outside of the hottest “succession” drama. Connor can come in as comic relief, a wild card, or – as in “The Trial” – as an empathetic figure. In Episode 2, he recalls Roy’s abusive upbringing, leaving them all scarred and ultimately alone.
As I argued last week with Tom, the inevitable tragedy of “succession” is that everyone will lose. Most of them don’t get what they want (ie the money and power that Logan now controls), and even those who somehow “win” won’t be completely satisfied with what they get. Creator Jesse Armstrong has shown time and time again that each member of the Roy family is too flawed to find peace—not in succession, anyway. Whether it’s due to individual complications, social circumstances, abuse by family members, or all of the above, the Sisyphean task of scaling Mount Royco is destined to crush every climber’s ambition, spirit, or both.
Courtesy of Macall Polay / HBO
But the agony of Connor’s story isn’t that he’s crushed by his own ambition (or, more accurately, the ambition his father instilled in his other children). He is alone on a neighboring mountain, watching those who supposedly love him hurt each other. To use the language of Connor’s chosen song, he is freezing in New York while his family builds a house deep in the desert. Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” is written like a letter, and the detachment in point of view comes through as strongly as the longing of the melody.
“The good thing about having a family that doesn’t love you is learning to live without them,” Connor says as he puts on his coat and prepares for his fate. “If Willa doesn’t come back, that’s fine,” he says. “Because I don’t need love. It’s like a superpower. And if he comes back and doesn’t love me, that’s okay too. Because I don’t need it.”
Speaking on HBO’s “Succession” podcast, executive producer and writer Lucy Prebble called Connor the “archetypal” example of someone who has lost faith in loving relationships. “We talked a lot in the room at that time about the theory of attachment and who is a bad attachment and who is an avoidant attachment. Basically, we know that children who don’t get a certain amount of love and care give up hope that they will, so your relationships become more difficult as you get older and avoidant by nature because you just don’t. he doesn’t really believe it’s possible or that he deserves it.”
Familiar? While Kendall, Shiv, and Roman all hope to one day get a kiss from their daddy, Connor knows it will never happen. In itself, this lifestyle is devastating to imagine; that there are people who just don’t believe that they get the right level of love from those who claim to love them. Episode 2 was appropriately devastating from Connor’s perspective. Lacking most of the character traits that make him repulsive, he can be seen as the regularly overlooked Roy he has become.
But Connor calls his isolation a “superpower,” and while there’s a tragedy in acknowledging and accepting such a lonely fate, there’s also strength in it. Connor isn’t playing the same game Logan trapped his other kids in. You simply get ahead of them by refusing to cooperate. Sure, that probably means Connor can’t “win” the “succession”. I don’t see a Bran Stark-esque ascension to the throne in Connor’s future, nor do I see an unprecedented comeback in his race for the White House. The heart wants what it wants, and continues to pull Connor in multiple directions—to Willa and company, to his brothers and family, to Logan and his money. But Connor is the only child who long ago learned the cold truth about their father: he doesn’t need his love because Logan has no love to give.
New episodes of “Succession” Season 4 air Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.
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