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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Succession's Misleading Season 4 Trailer Used Hereditary's Trick

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Spoilers follow for Season 4, Episode 3 of Succession, “Connor’s Wedding.”

In the end, Logan Roy (Brian Cox) died on a plane toilet. It happened largely off-screen (save for the one shot of the top of Logan’s head while he was receiving chest compressions), and his kids could only say goodbye through the phone. The episode recreated the stressful, uncontrollable experience of dealing with the sudden loss of a family member or loved one.

Obviously, “Connor’s Wedding” is going to clean house come Emmy season. But we’ve also got to acknowledge Succession for one of the cleverest trailers of the year. This isn’t the first show to do a surprise death, but it pulled a fast one on audiences by manipulating the teaser to extend the impression of Logan’s presence in this season. It’s a trick that reminds me of the trailer for Hereditary — a film that couldn’t be less related to Succession otherwise. In its trailers, Ari Aster’s psychological horror also misled audiences about the extent of certain characters’ roles in the movie. Since Logan’s shadow looms large, it was an easy task to make a trailer without him still be actively about him.

The Hereditary Blueprint

Of course, the Hereditary trailer isn’t the first time a preview of a movie or show plays with its audience by only telling part of the story. But in the case of Hereditary’s teaser, the papering over the death of a character is very reminiscent of what just happened on Succession.

The trailer makes it seem like Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother, who has passed away, is possessing Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Annie emphasizes her mother’s connection to her daughter Charlie, implying that Charlie will become an important, creepy vehicle for some type of evil. But audiences would be quickly thrown upon seeing the film, as Charlie dies in the first act in a gruesome accident.

However, the trailer hides Charlie’s first-act death by using the shot of her casket going into the ground with Annie sobbing and slotting it between shots of the grandmother’s funeral so that we think it’s part of the same service. The trailer and film still show the influence of the grandmother’s death and secrets on the family, but not the way audiences may have assumed at first.

Logan Looms Large

The same goes for Succession. The Season 4 trailer and “The Weeks Ahead” preview that debuted after the season’s premiere episode, “The Munsters,” pitch the idea that we’re in store for an all-out battle to the end between Logan and his kids, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv (Sarah Snook) after he sold all of them out at the end of Season 3. We assumed that both sides would be fighting it out in the market, with the siblings teaming up with former allies to go up against Logan, who is focused on making something “bigger, faster, wilder” at ATN.

However, the kids are always fighting for Daddy’s love and the trailer hints that Logan would be manipulating Roman back to his side (which we later learn he did) to negotiate with Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) together, while Kendall and Shiv are left to fight on their own. Now we have fresh context for the scenes, and the kids are still together in the closing moments of Episode 3, fighting for their right to rule their family company, possibly against the scorned Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), and definitely against Matsson.

The secret of the Season 4 trailer and the subsequent “Weeks Ahead” trailer is that everyone is always talking about Logan or doing things on Logan’s behalf anyway, so substituting him with one of his minions going forward satisfies that drama. The trailer was able to get away with showing shots from Logan in the first three episodes and throwing in scenes of Gerri and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) duking it out with Roman and Shiv, respectively.

You wouldn’t be able to tell from scenes in the trailer that in future episodes Logan is gone either, based on how characters talk about him. For instance, presidential hopeful Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) expresses to Kendall that he has “some concerns about [their] old man,” which grammatically just sounds like Logan is alive! But it also carries the connotation that Logan is still around pulling strings for Mencken’s campaign or personally requesting something from Mencken that causes friction.

It’s a prime example of how Succession has always been conscious of the global events happening around its key players. Because the situations that these very important, very busy people find themselves in have a strong bearing on the overall plot, it’s easy to use conversations around the upcoming election and the impending Waystar sale to distract from Logan’s absence in the trailers.

The Aftershocks

Structurally, it’s an interesting tactic for Succession to adopt Hereditary’s marketing ploy for its final season. The trailers for past seasons have been pretty straightforward and Succession usually reserves its jaw-dropping moments for the very last minutes of the season, exploring the fallout the following year. So having Logan die in Episode 3 rather than Episode 9 or 10 is shocking to fans purely on timing if anything.

It actually shouldn’t be a surprise that Logan dies – the promise of him leaving his position (by choice, force, or death) is in the title of the show after all! (It also happened during a wedding episode on HBO, of all times.) In the case of Hereditary, it is a shock that Charlie dies, but for both this movie and Succession, the effects of these deaths still lead the characters to the same events shown in their respective trailers. Both characters are symbolically important to the story and even when they’re gone, their deaths will send the rest of the characters down different emotional paths that will affect their decision-making abilities.

This isn’t to say that the trailers lied. All the messed up things in the Hereditary trailer still happen in the movie, and Succession will keep moving forward because that’s the world the characters live in. The difference is that some players are less involved than before. The trailers show you what happens in the story but not how it happens, and sometimes trailers can be a little extra clever for shock value. But the emotional arcs of the remaining characters are immediately impacted, and interesting new directions and dynamics are introduced for the story. Death is an event that affects us all, but the world continues beyond it and we have to figure out how to keep going.

Succession Season 4 Photos

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