This article contains spoilers for the Succession series finale.
After four seasons of family feuds, conniving CEOs, and media mergers, the final credits have rolled on Succession. As Jesse Armstrong’s corporate comedy ushers in the next era of Waystar Royco and a new king is crowned, it was always clear there were going to be winners and losers. However, spare a thought for the poor prince, Kendall Roy.
While each member of the Roy brood has their pros and cons, it’s arguably Jeremy Strong’s Kendall Roy that bore the brunt of the show’s ability to pull the rug from underneath you. From being the emotional punching bag of Logan Roy (Brian Cox) to the ultimate betrayal of his own sister, Kendall is the one who loses the most in Succession’s political puppetry.
Kendall Gets What He Wished For
In the Succession finale, Shiv (Sarah Snook) lived up to her name and stabbed Kendall by pushing through the long-gestated GoJo deal. Aside from ensuring estranged husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) will sit atop Waystar Royco, Shiv’s last-minute switch came after she said she couldn’t bring herself to vote for Kendall. It hits home that as well as naively thinking he’s the man for the job, Kendall genuinely believes he’s earned the CEO job because Logan promised it to him when he was just seven years old at the Candy Kitchen. There’s also Kendall’s declaration of “I’m the eldest boy,” harking back to an aged Game of Thrones-esque line of succession but comedically sidestepping Alan Ruck’s Connor as (technically) the rightful heir to the Waystar Royco throne.
Despite Logan being killed off in episode 3 and buried in episode 9, Logan’s specter still looms large as the one to blame for Ken, Roman, and Shiv all believing they should wear the crown. Similar to Logan’s sly smile when Kendall snitched on the cruises scandal in the season 2 finale, the deceased media mogul has helped mold Kendall into his protégé more than the others, but not necessarily to run the company – was it underlined or crossed out? The roaring Logan ultimately failed to shape Kendall into a Mini-Me version of himself, as the big man famously said himself, “You’re not a killer.”
Determined to prove his father wrong, Killer Kendall has emerged in the final season through the likes of blackmailing Hugo (Fisher Stevens), trying to shaft Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), and even backing Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). There’s also the other aspect of ‘killer’ Kendall.
Speaking to Vanity Fair about Kendall’s finale fate and the critical moment it all comes back to the waiter he killed, Strong explained, “His ability to lie, to say and do whatever it takes to achieve what he wants. …We see him become his father. [There’s] that moment when Logan says on the boat in Croatia about the waiter who died, ‘No real person involved.’ Jesse brought Kendall to that same moment, when I say: ‘I wasn’t even there. I never got in the car.’ It’s tantamount to me saying, ‘no real person involved.’”
Giving Kendall a modernized Monkey’s Paw curse means he inadvertently gets what he wants in terms of being his father. After Tom is crowned and Kendall skulks away from Waystar Royco, the final scene features Kendall as a mirror image of his father. He is betrayed by his family and strolls around with only Colin the bodyguard (Scott Nicholson) by his side. Even though Kendall is his father in terms of misery, he’s hardly the Roy patriarch in personality. As we saw with Kendall struggling to call the election for Mencken, he’s a far cry from Logan as he struggles to make decisions the family patriarch would’ve made in a heartbeat.
In the Vanity Fair interview, Strong drew further parallels between Kendall and Logan, adding, “While Logan had a kind of reptilian brutality and a primitive energy, Kendall is more of a boy-man. He has a sensitivity and a self-awareness that I think his father didn’t have, but he also has a potential for tyranny and moral bankruptcy or amorality.” Concluding that Kendall is a diluted Logan, Strong said, “I don’t know what’s more frightening, actually: a Logan Roy, or a Kendall Roy in power?”
The Future of Kendall Roy
Armstrong has assured fans there won’t be a Succession spinoff, meaning this is the end of the road for the Roys. In terms of what happens next, Strong suggested an alternate ending where Kendall throws himself into the freezing water to potentially end his life, bringing the show’s many themes of water to a poignant end. It would be a fitting end to Kendall, but speaking in the post-episode featurette, Armstrong knows the character will go on.
“For Kendall, this will never stop being the central event of his life,” says Armstrong. “Maybe he could go on and start a company or do a thing, but the chances of him achieving the sort of corporate status that his dad achieved are very low.” As for Kendall being trapped in the shadow of the immortal Logan Roy, Armstrong mused, “I think that will mark his whole life.” With Shiv trapped in (as Armstrong describes it) a “rather terrifying, frozen, emotionally barren place” and Roman back to being a “playboy jerk,” it’s unclear where the Roys go from here. Could Ken ever forgive them, and will there ever be another evening of licking Peter’s cheese in the Caribbean?
The finale suggests there’s a schism that the siblings will never come back from, and in her parting jab, Siobhan tells Ken that while she loves him, she “can’t fucking stomach him.” Despite all of Logan’s flaws, it’s something we can never imagine her saying to Daddy dearest. Cox has compared Kendall to the downtrodden Prince Hal, who was deemed unworthy to rule in Henry IV, Part I, while the final shot of a lone Ken sitting on a bench echoes the final shot of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) alone in The Godfather Part II. We could sit here all day and pull parallels on who Kendall is like, but ultimately, he’s just like his father. Matsson installed Tom as “Logan 2.0,” but in reality, Shiv saved the world from Kendall being the real Logan 2.0.
Logan might’ve died in a plane toilet surrounded by yes men instead of his loved ones, but for Kendall, he gets a more dismal end by heading into the next chapter without his father’s business legacy but inheriting his father’s misery. It’s an end Kendall was born into and a road Logan put him on from the age of seven. Kendall Roy was always doomed just to be a lesser version of Logan Roy, and there’s nothing more tragic than that. As executive producer Mark Mylod summed up about the finale, “Good tragedy should feel inevitable.” If only Kendall had sailed off on that boat with Naomi Pierce, he could’ve got his happy ending, then again, that’s not very Succession, is it?