This post contains spoilers for the series finale “Succession”.
The rapid reversals of fortune during the later episodes of Jesse Armstrong’s “Succession” were whiplash-whipping and, in the context of the narrative, darkly satisfying. Although the writers and cast had a phenomenal success in getting us emotionally invested in the conniving exploits of the Roy siblings, there was still a lingering sense that none of them should “win.” Part of this was due to their stunted nature; their father, media mogul, Logan Roy, essentially designed them to be, at most, half-functional people. They had all the advantages at birth, but as we’ve seen throughout the series, they lacked their father’s determination. And when the time came for them to regroup and take the reins, they sabotaged each other like crabs in a barrel.
Of the three, Jeremy Strong’s Kendall came closest to snatching the crown from Logan. But for a terribly inconvenient airspace lockdown over Manhattan, Kendall would have won a vote of no confidence from Waystar’s board of directors and succeeded her father who suffered a stroke. When Logan died unexpectedly in the final season, there were times when it appeared that each of the Roy children had the inner way. But as the final episode approached its climax, Kendall once again took the lead with support from Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kiernan Culkin). Then Shiv lived up to his name and plunged the blade into his back.
The decimation was complete. After trying to literally crush Roman’s skull, Kendall wandered the autumn desert of Battery Park a destroyed man. His gait was zombie-like, but not aimless, and that’s where a tantalizing storyline comes in. Was there a different fate envisioned for Kendall in that final scene?
A final worthy of an idiot
According to Strong, there were some in his mind. When the fiercely committed actor (who told The New Yorker in 2021 “I take [Kendall] as seriously as I take my own life”) read the script for the finale, he felt his character would have to dive fatally into the Hudson River. In an interview with Deadline, Strong said he informed Armstrong and the director Mark Mylod: “I can’t see any other way for Kendall. I see no other way out.”
He then explained why Kendall needed to end it:
“I think it’s different from all the other times we’ve seen him try and fail, all the times we’ve seen him lose again and again and again. Before, he was always able to pick himself up. This time it’s different, because the loss is total on all sides. He lost everything. He lost his children. He lost his marriage. He lost his love. He lost his father. He lost lost his siblings, and he lost the one thing he ever wanted. That thing, that job, that role was the only thing, that’s his reason for being. And personally, I thought that was was an extinction-level event and there was no going back, he lost his soul.
For Kendall, the long denouement begins
Strong was very serious about it, so much so that in one take he ran up the rail facing the Hudson, only to be pulled back by Scott Nicholson who portrayed Logan’s bodyguard Colin ( who, it seems, might be the only person left in Kendall’s Corner).
Judging by the immediate reactions to the finale, it seems like a lot of people were expecting Kendall to jump. I certainly considered the possibility. But that would have been too final and too orderly. You get more than one unresolved evil knowing that Kendall, who is still a billionaire, will see tomorrow, possibly many tomorrows. Obviously, it’s entirely plausible that Kendall would relapse and overdose on cocaine, but watching him cast a dead stare at cold Hudson after losing everything was the sorry terminus he deserved given the black and tragic sweep. -comedy of the series.
“Succession” is available for full streaming on Max.