Succession star Brian Cox on season 2's shocking ending: 'I have a killer!'
“This is the day his reign ends.”
It turns out that the “blood sacrifice” Logan (Brian Cox) alluded to in the penultimate episode of Succession season 2 was himself — but not by choice. The HBO drama capped an incredible sophomore season on Sunday with a perfect finale, which ended with Kendall (Jeremy Strong), who was supposed to take the fall for Waystar’s cruises scandal, surprising everyone (or not?) by throwing his father under the bus. Watching from his yacht with Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv (Sarah Snook), Logan can’t help but perfectly smirk, seemingly proud of his son for becoming the killer that he told him he wasn’t.
To learn more about the finale, EW chatted with Brian Cox about the theory that Logan wanted Kendall to make him the scapegoat, Logan’s quickly meme’d reaction to the development, and what’s to come.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What an ending to a spectacular season of television. What was your initial reaction when you read or found out about Kendall’s big move against his father?
BRIAN COX: It made total sense to me. It seemed to be totally logical and right. [Creator] Jesse Armstrong is a genius, and I think that’s what comes across so brilliantly in the writing and the depth of the writing. The thing about this show is that it has depth and it has mystery, and that’s what sustains it. I love that it keeps the audience guessing.
I’ve discussed the ending with a few colleagues, and while I viewed Logan as being slightly proud of Kendall but not necessarily seeing it coming, others think that either Logan wanted Kendall to do that or was working with him on it. How did you read it?
I don’t think they were working together. There had to be a process of elimination. It seemed to be that Kendall was the most likely in the family, because of what he’s been through in the last series and the way that the death of the boy kind of obfuscated so much of Kendall’s journey — and also Kendall’s treachery. Logan is a bit of a control freak to say the least and he felt that they wanted him to be the fall guy, and he thinks, “I’m not going to bow to the shareholders in that way, I would rather have it come from my own family.” He sees these people as his family, not just the kids, but Karl, Frank, who he hires and rehires and fires and refires, and Gerri. That’s the conundrum in this whole thing is that it’s not as cut and dry as the audience would like to think it is; it’s much more complicated and has much greater depth here. And I think that’s what comes out of what happened last night. Clearly, a decision had to be made, and it’s finally going to be up to Kendall, because he has to be set free. And, of course, he does set him free in one way. So, in a way, he’s not proud of Kendall, it’s a terrible thing that’s happened, but he knows it’s the inevitable thing that has happened, and he understands the inevitable nature of it. But we’ve got another season to go and Logan’s not going to go down without a fight.
I think one of the key things in the episode is when Kendall says my father has got his hands on everything. Well, he didn’t quite have his handle on the cruise thing. That whole cruise thing, which is his own doing, is not necessarily something that he sanctioned, but it’s part of something that happened some years ago where things were taken for granted and not in the climate that we now live in with the #MeToo generation. We see all the time people being caught up for behaviors they did when they were young men, and, now, they’re older men and finally being punished for it. Logan doesn’t deal like that. It’s like this so-called affair that he supposed to have had with Rhea, which everyone thinks is true, but Holly [Hunter] and I both realize that they didn’t have an affair, they just had a kind of relationship, but it wasn’t an affair. It’s a very interesting debate that goes on, and it seemed to me absolutely right. But it comes out of the drama given the fact that the shareholders are saying they want a sacrificial beast, and he’s damned if he’s going to let them do it, he’d rather let his own family do it, and he realizes that the one thing that his son does not got is this killer quality, and he realizes that’s the germ of the idea he’s putting in, “You’ve got to kill. And, also, you’ve got to have the ambition.” And Kendall has got that, but it’s been thwarted and set off track, so he puts him back on track — to his own detriment. But that’s the risk that he’s going to have to take. We will see what happens next season with the old war horse. They’ll probably kill me off, but who knows [laughs].
Sticking with Logan’s reaction, his kind of smirk as he watches what his son has just done was my favorite moment of the episode. What was the direction on that? Did you shoot that a few different ways?
We all agreed on the one way. Before that, Roman comes in and Logan puts his finger over his mouth because he wants to see what his son does in this spotlight. This is s— or bust for Kendall. And he s—s, big time! [Laughs] In a way, he’s very pleased. It’s a whole new chapter, but at least we know where we stand now: I have a killer!
Kendall’s big press conferences comes as the result of an heartbreaking scene earlier, in which Logan tells his son he doesn’t have that “killer” instinct and includes a kiss that felt like a nod to the famous Michael and Fredo moment in Godfather II. What did you enjoy about playing that one?
Jeremy is so wonderful on this show and he’s so present as an actor, and we love working together. And the scene is complicated, because it’s a father and son, and the thing that people always forget about the show, and it’s a question I had to ask at the beginning when I started, does Logan love his children? And Jesse Armstrong very definitively says, “He absolutely loves his children.” He tests his children endlessly, he puts them through all kind of things, but he actually loves his children. So there’s an element of this that is painful, because he’s had to learn how to kill, he’s had to do that, so he knows it from his own experience and background and mysterious side of his life. To achieve what he’s achieved, he’s had to do certain things. And I understand that. As Brian Cox, I am completely unsympathetic of it, but I do understand it.
Before he tells Kendall that it will be him, Logan spends the episode soliciting opinions and allowing everyone to throw each other under the bus. He’s usually someone who knows what he wants to do, so what was his true purpose in doing that?
He does, but he does have the capability to listen, and that’s what he’s doing. It’s not that he’s made up his mind already, he hasn’t. He knows in his heart that it probably has to be Kendall, but he’s trying to put that off. In a way, he’s so heartbroken about it, because it’s a very difficult decision to make. He’s been so protective of Kendall for the whole season, but, in the end, he’s realizing that for his son to come of vicious age, he’s got to be able to do this.
You mentioned that Logan isn’t going to go down without a fight, so have you talked yet with Jesse about what this will mean for Logan moving into season 3?
No, that’s not my problem, that’s their decision to make. I mean, we had a talk about the season and what we did, a sort of postmortem, but Jesse is Jesse, and Jesse’s process is totally Jesse’s process, and I completely respect that. But, like in this particular episode, I had a scene with Naomi Pearce, which they shot, and I said, “This scene is unnecessary, because he would not spend the time with this girl, he just wouldn’t do that. I think it should be cut.” They said it was quite important and I said, “I think you’ll find it’s not.” I’ve been around the park too many times and just felt that it doesn’t work. So, what do I see last night? They cut the scene. I thought, “Well, there’s my contribution.” [Laughs].
Not to start some more Roy family drama, but my colleague interviewed Kieran ahead of the finale and they discussed the theory that each season will focus on a different Roy sibling, meaning season 3 will be Roman-heavy. He says you liked that theory so much that you immediately stole it and passed it off as your own. And he even hoped you’d see that he said that. So, the floor is yours to defend yourself.
Well, I think it’s clearly obvious. I mean, we could skip Roman and do Connor, but I don’t think that would be as interesting. In this last episode, we see Roman very much coming of age and being very responsible and not as flippant as he normally is. He’s incredible in his defense of Gerri, there’s a quite honorable streak in him and that he sees the falsity of this private money. And that will be a debate that will probably go on in the next season, because you’ve still got the proxy vote and Stewie and Sandy coming for us. Of course, everybody can see that, it’s so obvious, even for Kieran and me to see that season 1 was all about Kendall, season 2 has been about Shiv, and season 3 clearly has to have a strong element of Roman. It’s going to be interesting, and the idea that you can now really get into a huge, proper family squabble.
Succession will return to HBO for season 3 in 2020.