But once everyone’s inside the church, the mood softens. The tone is set by the Roy siblings’ mother, Lady Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter), who takes it upon herself to ask Kerry — who brought an attorney, just in case anyone tried to bar her from the funeral — to sit with her, Marcia, and the fabled Sally Ann. (Caroline introduces Sally Ann as “my Kerry.”) These ladies share the bond of having loved a very difficult man; and when Marcia reaches out for Kerry’s hand, Kerry sobs.
Then the service begins, with a surprise. Logan’s fiery liberal brother, Ewan (James Cromwell), ignores his grandson Greg’s attempt to stop him from taking the pulpit. Ewan first shares some touching stories about Logan: about how they comforted each other as boys when they crossed the Atlantic during World War II; and about how Logan blamed himself for their sister dying of polio, which he was convinced he brought home from the boarding school he hated. With that out of the way, Ewan finishes by torching Logan’s legacy, saying his brother fed “a certain kind of meagerness in men.” (The ever-sycophantic Greg, after his grandfather sits back down: “That was a good hard take that you gave.”)
Here is where the reaction shots really start to become a factor. During Ewan’s takedown, we see Roman looking stricken. He came into this day feeling creepily upbeat, planning to follow his election night coup with a real grown-up eulogy for his father, in front of some of America’s most important people. But Ewan’s commanding, authoritative words shake him. Roman has never had this kind of spotlight; and now his siblings expect him to “say the other side” of the Logan Roy story.
He can’t. Roman starts to give his generic “great, great man” speech, but then freezes and asks his family to bail him out. He breaks down in front of everyone, gesturing at the coffin containing his father and whimpering, “Get him out.” It’s another shattering performance from Kieran Culkin. (The face to watch during Roman’s meltdown is Gerri’s. She looks genuinely pained for her former protégé.)
So Kendall fills in; and because he has lots of experience with throwing together sentences that his social peers can understand, he does a fine job. He acknowledges the pain his father could cause but he also celebrates how Logan made “bloody, complicated life” happen. “If we can’t match his vim, then God knows the future will be sluggish and gray,” he says, as both Mencken and Lukas Matsson look on with what appears to be grudging admiration. For all the gossip about how Jeremy Strong’s intensity on-set can frustrate his castmates, the results are on the screen in scenes like this one, so riveting and real.