Photograph by Macall Polay/HBO
This fourth and final season (sniff) opened with Logan Roy’s 83rd birthday party, at which the media czar acted like a prick, but an unusually wistful one.
On the outs with his kids, he cursed the suck-up guests who were there as “fucking Munsters.” So he blows that pop stand of a $63 million townhouse for a trip to the local coffee shop with his “best pal,” bodyguard Colin.
He’d never admit that he missed his kids, but enroute, the otherwise non-religious one did confess that he was “hoping for a churchman” at the party.
Well, in this penultimate episode, Logan not only gets his churchman, but an entire flock of cardinals and priests, presiding over his enormous, state-like funeral held in the gilded knave of St. Ignatius Loyola Church, on Park Avenue in New York City.
Grand and packed, the ceremony has the look and feel of a royal coronation.
As it happens, Logan’s funeral takes place just one day after the presidential election; outraged anti-Mencken mobs and demonstrators are piling into the streets with their placards, bringing out police with riot gear.
This inside/outside contrast reminded me of the first “Godfather” movie and that famous cross-cutting baptism scene: Michael Corleone stands in the altar of the church, renouncing sin, while his henchmen commit the murders he’s ordered.
Looking around him, Kendall does mention “throwing the moneylenders out of the temple.” Both Mencken and Matsson are there, and the air is ripe with opportunists ready to pounce.
Roman, still in fascist martinet form, starts the morning in his bedroom aerie, practicing his eulogy, touching up his goatee to look even more like his dead dad, bursting with the confidence of the “pre-grieved.”
Kendall loses it, screaming like a lunatic at his ex-wife Rava and his assistant Jess. He’s furious because Rava feels it’s unsafe to have her kids in the city, and Jess feels it’s time to leave her job. As a narcissist, he’s offended that he can’t control these women, and how dare they claim some high moral ground about Mencken? He takes it personally, although at bottom he knows that he sold out his own daughter.
“Everybody is fucking dumb!” he yells, just like Logan.
And Shiv, who finally announced her pregnancy to her brothers, is determined to become the American CEO for Matsson’s takeover of Waystar. That means also working her own conscience-free deal with Mencken, which would overthrow Kendall and Roman.
Meanwhile, three surprising eulogies, each delivered at the last minute, form the glorious living body of this funeral. They make for “great TV” as Roman previously put it.
Greg was supposed to guard his grandpa, Ewan, from taking the stage. But the old leftie overpowers him. Ewan delivers a fiery, poetic speech, offering some secrets about his and Logan’s childhood.
It turns out that after making a harrowing trip to America, the young Logan returned home from a school he hated and was a carrier for the polio that killed his baby sister, Rose.
Or at least he thought he was.
Perhaps Rose was Logan’s Rosebud -- and, thus traumatized, he went on to infect the media markets he built with another virus: his cold-heartedness.
Or as Ewan puts it, "He fed a certain kind of meagerness in men.”
Roman was the one who volunteered to speak, but seeing the casket in the church, he freaks out, sobbing “Is he in there?” His sibs come to rescue him from the stage, and Kendall takes over.
The former rapper acknowledges that his father was “a brute.”
“He had a vitality, a force, that could hurt, and it did. But my god… the lives and the livings and the things that he made. And the money. “ Kendall manages to salvage the moment, and his father’s reputation, somehow summoning the right tone.
Then Shiv steps up. And she‘s amazingly honest.. She ends with “But it was hard to be his daughter. He was hard on women. He couldn't fit a whole woman in his head. But he did OK….So goodbye, my dear, dear world of a father."
Shiv’s monster mother, Lady Caroline, is quite a provocateur. She manages to find Logan’s girlfriend Kerry, and insists that she sit in the front row, with the grieving widows, next to Marcia. I thought she did this to bury Marcia, but Marcia’s above it. She takes Kerry’s hand and welcomes her. “Logan would hate this,” she says to the group.
Then there’s Caroline’s cruelty to Shiv.
“I thought I could hear the sound of dalmatians howling,” Shiv says, spotting her mom across the room.
Still, her refrigerator mama seems to be the only one who notices that Shiv is pregnant, and comments on it.
Staring at her daughter’s belly, she asks, “Are you um, OK? Yes? Blimey! …Well, well.”
She can't bring herself to say “congratulations” -- but when Tom shows up to the after-funeral party, Lady Caroline immediately congratulates him, and adds “well-done.”
“You learn to disassociate pretty early,” Shiv tells Tom.
And sadly, she seems to be repeating the cycle of non-nurturance with her own child. At six months, she’s still calling the baby “it” and posturing about how absent she’ll be. When Matsson asks how she’ll do it, she jokes that she’ll be “emailing through her vanity Caesarean.”
Tom finally confronts her about why she didn’t tell him earlier. Her answer: “Because it seemed so sad. “
She’s learned to be a fortress, and that precludes intimacy with a human who might hurt her. At the after-party at the St. Regis, Roman comments on her “glow.” But her face is lit up with the possibility of the U.S. CEO job, not the prospect of a new life.
Sadder still, Ken tells Roman that he ”fucked it.” Mencken calls him “tiny tears.” A recording of his pitiful crying is already breaking the internet.
Roman has always played an anarchic character, and his deviances are self-punitive. He was put in a cage as a child, and he seems to like it there.
So he runs out of the hotel and starts protesting the protesters. He pushes against the tide (it’s a bit like a zombie invasion) and falls down, gets kicked, and staggers away.
Remember that he had started the day on top of the world.
The 90-minute finale awaits.
Kendall is out for blood. But I hope we won’t need another funeral.