Awards strategists managing this season’s Emmy campaigns may have issued a collective gasp on the night of April 9 — at least those who were watching the third episode of Succession live as it aired that evening. With little warning, and off-camera, Logan Roy (played by Emmy winner Brian Cox, twice nominated for his role in the HBO drama) collapsed while traveling on a plane — leaving his children Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin), trapped on a boat for their half-brother Connor’s wedding, struggling to come to terms with his sudden death and what it meant for the future of Waystar Royco.
Logan Roy, dead in episode three! A tragedy for some (and one that was inevitable given the entire premise of the series), but for those with stakes in the Emmy race, it raised questions of how Cox would be submitted for his role in the fourth season — and was the latest twist relating to one of the strongest frontrunners in the drama categories.
Creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong dropped the first bomb in a Feb. 23 New Yorker profile, a month ahead of the season four premiere. He admitted to struggling with the decision to announce that season four would be Succession‘s last — he toyed with the idea of not saying anything at all, instead letting the show come to a natural conclusion without giving its fans a heads up. “Hopefully, the show is against bullshit, and I wouldn’t like to be bullshitting anyone when I was talking about it,” said Armstrong, acknowledging that the cast and creatives would do press throughout the season and “it might be weird” to boldly avoid the truth. (The May 2 writers strike meant that Armstrong would not be able to promote the show in interviews throughout the remainder of the season, though he spoke to NPR.)
What did that mean for the show’s competition for best drama series? With House of the Dragon, The Last of Us and The White Lotus in the mix (the last, which won best limited/anthology series in 2022, is now considered a drama), HBO may be the best represented in the category with its four strong contenders.
Their leading competitors include Netflix’s The Crown (whose fourth season earned the streamer its first drama series win in 2021), AMC’s Better Call Saul (the always-a-bridesmaid show, which wrapped the second half of its final season last summer, has been nominated for 46 Emmys without winning a single trophy), Disney+’s The Mandalorian (twice nominated for best drama) and Showtime’s Yellowjackets (which earned a series nom last year for its debut season). While those shows are no doubt dramas, many of which have previously earned noms in the category, the behemoth that is Succession may have scared off other networks when it came to submitting their new shows for Emmy consideration.
Lyonne as a Columbo-style sleuth (albeit an amateur), is competing as a comedy. Another of the streamer’s new series, the Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof-created Mrs. Davis — starring Betty Gilpin as a nun battling artificial intelligence — was submitted as a limited series just before the May 9 deadline. (Is that a PR-friendly way of announcing a series cancellation while making the show a more competitive player outside of the drama categories? Mrs. Davis may be a worthy opponent to AI, but possibly not to Succession.)
Netflix, too, is reserving its campaign muscle for season six of The Crown, which hits the streamer later this year. With Succession out of the running next year, expect Netflix to go hard in its Emmy campaigning for the final season of the Peter Morgan-created show about the dramas within the British monarchy. Those dramas will prove particularly explosive as the upcoming episodes grapple with the death of Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki). After all, The Crown won its Emmy for best drama the year Succession was out of the running due to its pandemic-induced hiatus.
Now, back to Logan’s death: Some awards pundits wondered if Cox’s limited screentime in the season would mean he’d be placed in the supporting actor category — Cox himself told Vulture that he would appear in flashbacks later in the season, but director Mark Mylod told Variety that those scenes were shot as “a misdirect” and “didn’t actually exist.” (Those scenes were filmed for the funeral episode.) A supporting actor submission would clear the way for Cox’s co-stars Strong (who won best actor in 2020) and Culkin (who previously was nominated twice in the supporting category, but who — alongside Snook — was bumped up to lead this season), or possibly help a non-Succession actor take the prize.