[Editor's Note: This post contains spoilers for Succession Season 4, Episode 9, "Church and State."]
The mystery of Logan Roy's (Brian Cox) sister Rose has finally been solved. In the penultimate episode of Succession, "Church and State," Ewan Roy (James Cromwell) attempted to shed light on Logan's true character in a surprise eulogy, revealing that their younger sister, Rose, died of polio as a baby. According to Ewan, Logan "always believed that he brought home the polio with him" from boarding school, and he lived with that regret until the day he died.
Rose, the youngest Roy sibling, was first mentioned back in Season 2, Episode 8, "Dundee," in which the Waystar C-suite traveled to Logan's hometown in Scotland for a celebration of his 50 years in the news business. As part of a scheme to screw over Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter), the former PGM exec who spent Season 2 gunning for the CEO job at Waystar, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) encouraged her to mention Logan's "sister Rose, who is no longer with us" in her toast. It was only when Logan put down his drink in irritation that Rhea realized she'd fallen into a trap.
Later — believe it or not, "Dundee" didn't end with Kendall's legacy-defining "L to the OG" rap — Ewan acknowledged that while Logan spent years "blaming" himself for Rose's death, it "really wasn't [his] fault." Ewan declined to offer additional details about their sister's death, though he did tell Logan it's "time to pay up" for the "empire of sh*t" he's created.
Rose is referenced again in Season 4, Episode 4, "Honeymoon States." The informal will Frank (Peter Friedman) discovers doesn't just include Logan's desire to have Kendall take over as CEO (though that depends on whether his name was underlined or struck through); it also includes information about what he should be buried with and his preferred epitaph. Logan's will can only be seen in flashes, but eagle-eyed viewers managed to identify a few important details: "I wish to be buried with the attached copy of my sister Rose's photograph placed in [unreadable] and one of my wife, Marcia, in my right hand chest pocket," it reads.
In "Church and State," the Roys make good on Logan's wishes, but his funeral doesn't go entirely according to plan. Before Roman (Kieran Culkin) gives the official eulogy on behalf of Logan's children, Ewan stands up and seizes control of the microphone. Before Ewan gives a startlingly honest analysis of his brother's career — he says Logan "darkened the skies a little, closed men's hearts, and fed that dark flame in men," among other memorable digs — he offers a few personal anecdotes about their childhood, recalling their difficult journey from Scotland to the United States and their "character" of an uncle who sent Logan away to school. "He hated it," Ewan says of his brother. "He wasn't well. He was sick. And he mewed, and he cried, and in the end, he got out and came home under his own steam."
When Logan returned home, their baby sister fell ill with polio, and Logan blamed himself for her eventual death. "I don't even know if that's true," reveals Ewan. "But our aunt and uncle certainly did nothing to disabuse him of that notion. They let it lie with him."
Ewan's reminiscences end there, but nothing more needs to be said. While Rose's story makes up just a fraction of Ewan's eulogy, it offers insight into how Logan became the man we met on that baseball field in the series premiere. As Succession creator Jesse Armstrong explains in the post-episode "Controlling the Narrative" segment, "It's not the key to him, but it's one of those things ... Not necessarily something that completely alters your sense of them, but just another angle."
On its face, the mystery of Rose Roy's death doesn't seem relevant to the power struggle between Kendall, Roman, and Shiv (Sarah Snook) that will play out in the finale, but finding new angles to these characters is exactly what Succession does so well. We see it with Shiv, who compromises her morality to make a deal with fascist president-elect(?) Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk); with Roman, who finally grieves the loss of his father, albeit at an inopportune time; and with Kendall, who kicks Roman while he's down and terrorizes his ex-wife, Rava (Natalie Gold). Going into the finale, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv have assumed their father's worst qualities — and if they destroy one another in their fight for the throne, they'll share his guilt over losing a sibling, too.
The series finale of Succession airs Sunday at 9:00 PM ET on HBO. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.
TOPICS: Succession, HBO, Brian Cox, James Cromwell, Jeremy Strong, Jesse Armstrong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook