In the world of Succession, Logan Roy was a larger-than-life captain of industry that clawed his way to the top with no remorse and reveled in keeping an iron grip on that power until the very end. His preternatural ability to always win, to always come out ahead no matter the odds, made him feel almost more like a myth than a man. But in fact, the seed of Logan Roy was born here in our world, in the real-life media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But what can Logan really tell us about Rupert and vice versa? And, more importantly, how did Logan grow beyond this initial sprout of real-world connection and develop into one of the most iconic antiheroes of the modern era? Here’s our take.
CH 1 - Building Logan Roy
It’s no secret that Rupert Murdoch and his family were big inspirations for Succession – Jesse Armstrong’s initial script was a feature film called The Murdochs. Though Rupert claims that he’s “never watched it,” he’s clearly aware of the show, allegedly forbidding friends and family members from providing info for the show, even including a specific clause in his divorce with Jerry Hall barring her from doing so. The similarities are obvious: both are geriatric patriarchs of unfathomably large “family run” right-wing media empires, immigrants who seem to have succeeded at capturing the “American Dream,” and have spent their golden years stringing along a gaggle of children and hangers-on who hope to be named heir and while Logan never gave up control, it seems like Rupert might finally have - kind of. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
But more interesting that the ‘fun fact’ parallels of their lives is the larger idea that both represent. Each seems to exist almost as an embodiment of capitalism itself: the willingness to do whatever it takes and destroy anyone in your way in a bid to succeed, the placing of money above all else, the constant drive for more due to an underlying fear that your house of cards could come tumbling if you ever pause for even a moment, the fashioning of your entire life around this single-minded quest family, friends, anyone else be damned; but also the dark yet ever-present allure of unbridled power that almost makes it seem like all of the strife could be worth it in the end. Both Logan and Rupert exemplify the simultaneous hate of and lust for the seemingly endless power success can bring. They’re dragged in the press and booed in the streets, but there are also always a stream of people waiting to cheer them on, give them a made-up award just to get them to show up, go along with anything just for the chance to be in their vicinity.
Rupert, existing in real life, has built up a story around him over his near century on this earth, but everything we know is what we see is from an outsider’s perspective. We can guess at his motivations or deeper thoughts, but we can never truly know. Logan, on the other hand, was created explicitly to give us a peek behind the curtain, a more thorough exploration of the inner workings of the kind of man who would burn the world just to try to reignite a spark in the darkness in his own heart. So let’s take a deeper look at the two sides of Logan Roy.
CH 2 - Logan The Machine
Logan didn’t just become a part of the machine, but in fact the machine itself. His single-minded quest for glory, money, and power led him to building an empire that not only crossed the globe but controlled it. Repeatedly over the course of the show, we see how Logan’s ability to command control goes far beyond his own family – he uses his media empire to literally shape the world as people know it, and has a direct line to the President of the United States. He laments several times that he “didn’t make the world”, but the truth is that in many ways he did very much have a hand in shaping what the world has become, especially the worst parts of it. But no amount of collateral damage, in the world at large or even in his own family, is enough to give him pause as long as the machine continues lurching forward toward ever more domination.
Much of Logan’s success comes from his ability to see the big picture and the granular details that will actually make or break the outcome. He can assess what each person in a deal really wants when something is bullshit in nice packaging, where things are actually heading – and his seemingly supernatural ability to always ‘win’ really comes from following these instincts. This clear-eyed view of the world means that he does see realities that others don’t (or, rather, deliberately ignore). But this only serves to make his willingness to continue contributing to his darkness in such a major way all the more nefarious – he’s absolutely aware of all of the suffering in the world and is able to rationalize away adding to it because the only thing that matters to him is his own personal gain.
Logan has built up a mythology around himself predicated on his belief that you make the reality you want to exist. And taking his life at face value, it seems like he’s right – he’s created this idea of himself as a living legend, one who is never wrong, who always comes out on top in the end, and who strikes fear into the heart of anyone that dares to cross his path. He only believes in himself (and his instincts,) and seems to always be able to pull off the win, and so everyone else believes in him, too. His life story of starting from nothing and climbing to the top of the mountain and then building a ladder to go even higher perfectly exemplifies the dark side of the American Dream. He proves that, for a select few, it is possible to beat the odds, but he also shows how much you have to give up to get there. The corporate American Dream is immensely ruthless and isolating, and so anyone that truly aspires to achieve it must close themselves off from the world and emotions themselves, must leave their humanity behind, and give themselves over fully to the system.
CH 3 - Logan The Man
While we spend much of the show watching Logan in action as the behemoth that cannot be toppled, we do occasionally get peeks into his backstory and how he became Logan Roy. Born in Dundee, Scotland in 1938, Logan started out life incredibly poor. When he was only four, while the world was gripped with war, his mother sent him, his brother Ewan, and sister Rose were sent to Canada to live with an aunt and uncle, who were physically and mentally abusive. He was eventually sent away to boarding school but decided to return home – soon after his sister died, and his aunt and uncle blamed him for bringing polio home. Though it was never confirmed that he was the reason Rose contracted the disease, he lived with the guilt for the rest of his life. A backstory this rife with tragedy could have led to an empathetic, caring adult – as it did with Ewan – but Logan instead went in the other direction, turning away from the world and building up a bullish shell with which to plow through life.
Having to deal with the harshness of the world at such a young age is the reason that Logan is so much more aware of the realities of life than people like his children who have never really had to deal with the cruelty of the outside world. But it’s also what drives him to continue the cycle of abuse, which they and everyone around him very much do feel the brunt of. Logan knows the power of love and of the lack thereof and uses that to keep his children trapped in his wake. Even for all of the evil he does, even directly to them, there is still a part of them deep in their core that wants nothing more than his acknowledgement and love. He in turn uses this desire to treat them like pawns in his game to achieve his own aims. But, on some deep subconscious level, there might be a part of Logan that wants to hold on to the kids as a way to fill the void left by being orphaned as a child. He could have, after all, had his kids live with their mothers and only saw them occasionally for photoshoots and galas, but he kept them close in his orbit, right under his thumb. And so, in a very Logan way, he managed to be selfish on multiple levels – tying the kids to him to “prove” to himself that he’s a better parent than his were, while simultaneously doing everything he can to make those kids’ lives a beautiful, gilded hell.
A huge question hanging over the entire show is who Logan will end up naming as his true heir, who finally gets to be the new winner. But the reality we see over and over again is that he’s incapable of passing the torch. He claims that it’s because his kids aren’t ready for the job yet - which, fair enough - but the deeper truth is that he’s afraid to give up any power because he doesn’t know who he is without it. He fears that giving up all of this control that he’s worked so hard to wrestle from the rest of the world will mean backsliding into who he was before – a scared, weak child. He has no concept of himself as anything other than the most important man in the room and, in his mind, on Earth. Letting go, and putting one of the kids, or anyone else in charge, would mean having to figure that out – when you’ve only known fighting your way upstream for 80 years, it can be hard to imagine yourself just treading water. Whenever Logan does set things in motion to hand over the top spot, he always reneges at the last minute because deep down he can’t let go. Each of his kids go through the cycle of being told this is it, they’re the one, only to have that dream shattered. Even when he sells to Matsson, he makes sure to carve out ATN for himself, a place that he can still keep eyes on him and minds in the palm of his hand.
This combination of man and machine makes Logan into a compelling anti-hero – he’s terrible, but he’s so good at being bad that he draws you in. This happens to everyone in his orbit on the show and to us as viewers in real life. And, just like those in his life, as much as we might try to truly get to know Logan, the distance with which he approached life and the walls he built around himself mean we’ll never really get to understand him on the deepest level. And so he continues on in our minds just as he would have wanted, not as a man but as a larger-than-life myth.
CH 4 - A New King…?
Logan Roy held on to the crown until the very end. Though Armstrong has confirmed that he did underline Kendall’s name, so maybe he was finally making plans to pass the torch to his not-actually-eldest son? And recently Rupert Murdoch, after years of waffling himself, finally named his eldest son Lachlan as his successor at News Corp. Lachlan and Kendall share many parallels themselves: Lachlan was the heir apparent until he quit suddenly, only to return to the fold a few years later. When Rupert sold 21st Century Fox to Disney, the entertainment division of News Corp, it seemed very much like Kendall getting pushed out in the Gojo Deal, but in fact, now Lachlan has been slated to become the next chair of News Corp. It remains to be seen if this will actually go through, or if Lachlan will find himself yet again following in Kendall’s footsteps and getting the rug pulled out from under him. And even if he does manage to finally fully secure the throne, there are whispers that, just like Logan, Rupert has plans to keep running things from the shadows.
Beyond all of the money and power and influence, the most important lesson Logan Roy teaches us is the importance of holding on to compassion and connection. He built a grand empire, hoarded every resource he could get his hands on, had everyone in his life - and, it seemed, the world - under his thumb, and all he got was a life of paranoia, distrust, and loneliness and to die separated from everyone who cares about him, with his annoying son-in-law holding a phone to his ear as he finally leaves this mortal coil. There are many parts of the world that drive us towards ruthlessness, to cutting down others in a bid to build up ourselves, but Logan serves as a cautionary tale, showing us that all of the power in the world amounts to nothing in the end if it’s built on a hollow life deprived of humanity.