The following story contains light spoilers for Succession Season 3.
After what some considered a bit of a slow start, Succession has kicked things into a new gear over the last several weeks, taking its modern-day King Lear-for-the-Twitter-addicted drama to what I’d personally consider new heights. Season 3’s penultimate episode even ended with what has become maybe the most talked-about TV cliffhanger of the last…five years? Maybe? But we’re not going to talk about that right now. Instead, let’s talk about the part of Succession that provides the balance so moments like that can work, and so that the show isn’t just fully depressing, fully gut-wrenching, and fully painful all the time. Yup—let’s talk about Connor Roy.
Connor Roy, played masterfully by Alan Ruck, isn’t exactly a new sort of character archetype. Stories about powerful families, centered on members of those families playing for power, status, and affection, are not common, but there are enough to recognize when they’re happening. The part of the not-quite-there child is a staple of this structure; look to Buster Bluth in Arrested Development, or even Jared Leto’s Paolo Gucci in the new film House of Gucci.
Ruck’s character is—almost entirely—comic relief. From his first season highlights of “giving his billionaire father a sourdough starter” and “yelling at caterers about butter” to his third season highlights of “polling near 1% in the presidential race,” there’s one thing that defines Connor—he’s not a serious person.
Now, you could make the case—fairly easily—that outside of Logan Roy (a basically evil, psychologically manipulative media titan who has basically outwitted his way to the morally corrupt top) no one on Succession could be considered a serious person. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is a try-hard who almost always ends up imploding after the failure of his own schemes. Roman (Kieran Culkin) has now sent dick pics to not only his company’s female interim CEO, but also his own father. Shiv (Sarah Snook) thinks she knows how to play the game and everyone around her—but constantly proves to be not quite as smart as she thinks she is.
This is a flawed family of bad people. But the difference between Connor and his three siblings (aside from their mothers) is that everyone else on Succession seems to take Kendall, Roman, and Shiv seriously. There is no one on Succession who takes Connor seriously. Not his Dad, who seemed to briefly-entertain his presidential aspirations merely as a test to see if anyone else in the room was paying attention. Not his siblings, who tend to utter his name with an unbelieving half-serious tone. Not even Willa, his escort-turned-muse-turned-potential-First-Lady-who-won’t-even-say-yes-or-no-to-his-proposal. (One notable time that he did seem to have his wits about him? When he repeatedly told Logan’s biographer that “Connor Roy was interested in politics from a very young age.” Connor has proven to be capable of not playing into someone else’s trap, but often its in service of something delusional, like his political aspirations, or growing Napoleon collection)
Earlier in Season 3, Connor seemed to finally pick up on the lack of respect he was receiving from, uh, everyone. Who could forget his request for some “suck suck on his dickey dick” when Shiv tried to get signatures for a letter speaking out against Kendall? Or his request for a strong position within the firm as an anchor for his Presidential campaign (a request he wrapped with the kind of cunning we frequently see in his father and siblings, but rarely in him). For a few episodes, Connor was finally playing the game everyone else in the show was.
But as the characters around him, and Ruck himself in his portrayal have shown time and time again, Connor is an idiot. This new, improved, shrewd Connor isn’t who he is. When the sitting President (referred to in Succession only as “The Raisin”) was on the line and Logan was incapacitated, Connor was eager and vocal to be the one to step up; several other people were in the room, and no one dared to even acknowledge his desire, instead leading the phone to Roman. The next episode, Connor was one of Logan and company’s potential candidates to replace “The Raisin,” which, again, did not work.
We should note that at this point, Logan briefly entertained the idea that Connor could be a candidate. He wasn’t serious, of course, but it more seemed like a test to see if anyone in the room would stand up against an obviously terrible idea. And who answered the call but quiet, meager Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), who in previous episodes has said he doesn’t like the conservative ATN News and “I don’t know, like, I’m against racism.” Greg stood up and told Logan that he shouldn’t make (he started to say “crown”) his son President, displaying no resistance at all to the literal fascist the family would eventually get behind.
By Episode 8—with a ton more drama happening elsewhere—the shrewd, conniving Connor feels like a memory. He’s just focused on once again on his obviously-doomed run for president.
Ruck is absolutely hilarious in the role; it’s rare that he’ll go two lines without something that will probably have you laughing out loud or thinking about how you want to find a screenshot of that moment for later use. But his role serves a deeper purpose on the show; without Connor as the butt of jokes, and as someone to keep the show’s levity up, Succession would risk becoming a greatly different show. A dark comedy loses much of comedy if it’s solely about a psychologically abusive powerhouse of a father constantly beating down (in different ways) on all of his three kids.
But Connor being the butt of jokes also brings its own bit of inherent sadness; does he even realize that no one in his word takes him seriously? One of the best details that’s been threaded into the fabric of Season 3 are the running references that it was Connor—and not Logan—who at one point took his brothers, Roman and Kendall, on a camping trip when their father couldn’t be bothered. Connor is an idiot, but there are parts of him that are at least admirable in comparison to some other members of the Roy clan.
It also seemed like Willa was briefly drinking the Connor Kool Aid at Kendall’s birthday party, when she stood up for his right to wear a coat. Maybe she would be the future Mrs. Connor Roy First Lady? But it doesn’t last long.
She may have liked the power and the idea that came with being around someone polling at a mighty 1%, but when faced with the reality of it, she couldn’t say yes. Because Connor Roy isn’t a serious person. And that’s exactly how the show needs him to be—for now.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io