This article contains spoilers for Succession season 4 episode 2.
Logan Roy is not a good person.
Succession has made that increasingly clear through four seasons as the Scotland-born media oligarch has poisoned the American consciousness through his provocative American Television Network (ATN) while also making time to psychologically torture his four children.
Still, while Logan’s villainy is quite apparent, occasionally the series around him likes to take some time out from an episode to reiterate “no, for real. Like this dude is really bad.” The latest example comes in season 4 episode 2 “Rehearsal,” in which Logan (Brian Cox) once again interferes in his children’s lives to devastating results. Previously Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) have all presented a united front against their father. But all it takes is one meeting with Roman to get the formerly abused child back under his father’s insidious thumb.
As if breaking up the Roy sibling power trio weren’t enough, “Rehearsal” also provides some subtler real life references to hammer home just how historically evil Logan Roy is. The titan, who Greg helpfully describes this week as “if Santa Claus were a hitman,” makes mention of two authoritarian regimes and then does something that’s borrowed straight from the real history of his closest real world analogue.
From Soviet “Stakhanovites” to the Nazi “Night of the Long Knives” to a certain Australian media mogul, here are the real world references that Logan invokes this week.
What is a Stakhanovite?
Midway through “Rehearsal,” Logan makes an uncharacteristic visit to the ATN offices to “mosey terrifyingly,” as Greg describes it (kid’s a wordsmith). While there, he breathes down various employees’ necks to watch them work. When he sees the amount of time it takes one poor guy to send an email he sarcastically remarks “fucking Stakhanovites in here.”
“Stakhanovite” is a term referring to a mass cultural movement among workers in the Soviet Union that started in 1935. Inspired by eager beaver miner Alexei Stakhanov, the Stakhanovites were true believers in the Soviet cause and therefore worked as hard as they could to bolster their country’s grand socialist experiment and contribute to the collective good.
While initially popular, the Stakhanovite movement and the Soviet people at large eventually began to realize that increased productivity among workers only led to increased demands on them. It’s only natural then that Logan Roy would want a bunch of Stakhanovites working under him.
What is the Night of the Long Knives?
When Logan invites Roman into his den of evil fatherly seduction, he makes mention of a terrifying real life event, saying, “There’s a night of the long knives coming.”
Functionally, Logan is referring to massive layoffs that he is planning for ATN after the GoJo acquisition and the fact that he wants Roman to help lead his new vision for the network. While mass firings are certainly a devastating disruption in people’s lives, the metaphor that Logan uses to describe them is particularly extra and truly repugnant.
The “Night of the Long Knives” refers to a purge that took place in Nazi Germany over the span of three days in 1934, though “purge” is really a euphemism for “mass murder.” To consolidate power over the country, Nazi leaders Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler ordered a series of extrajudicial executions of many of their political rivals.
Ultimately, Himmler’s paramilitary force the Schutzstaffel (more commonly known as the SS) carried out the murder of at least 85 people, though some estimates put the number in the hundreds. Thousands more were arrested and the “Night of the Long Knives” is seen as the true turning point of Nazi Germany from democratically backsliding republic to authoritarian state.
It’s quite discomforting that Logan not only makes reference of the traumatic event but ultimately casts himself in the Hitler role.
Is Logan Roy Based on Rupert Murdoch?
While not directly referenced via Logan’s dialogue like the Stakhanovites or the Night of the Long Knives, one moment in “Rehearsal” is clearly taken from a real life event involving Logan’s closest real life analogue. Succession creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong has made no secret of the fact that Logan Roy and his family are at least partially based on business magnate Rupert Murdoch and his family.
The Australian-born Murdoch is the owner of hundreds of news organizations through his company News Corp. Many of these news publishers are, let’s say, biased, much like Succession‘s fictional ATN. One of those news organizations in particular is The Wall Street Journal. Murdoch acquired the respected finance-focused newspaper in 2007 for $5 billion. To celebrate his new acquisition, he decided to pay a visit to its newsroom and delivered an impassioned hype speech while standing upon a platform made of photocopier paper.
Logan doing the exact same thing in this episode is clearly inspired by this real life event and is something that’s acknowledged in the official Succession podcast. Host Kara Swisher was even present in the WSJ offices for Murdoch’s rally in 2007 and reports, “It wasn’t that good, I was there. I kept thinking, ‘He’s short. Oh, look how short he is.'”
New episodes of Succession season 4 premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.