This article contains spoilers for the Succession finale.
Succession’s harrowing four-season run came to an end with Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) inserted as CEO of the newly-acquired GoJo version of Waystar Royco. After at least a couple of years of in-fighting, betrayals, and fleeting moments of happiness, the Roys have been relieved of their only lasting legacy and their ties to family patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox). The climactic scene during the final boardroom vote in which Shiv (Sarah Snook) decides to go back on her word and vote for the sale of the company to Lukas Mattson (Alexander Skarsgård) rather than keep the conglomerate in the hands of her brother Kendall (Jeremy Strong) was a tragic, pitiful display of shoddy family dynamics crashing and falling apart in real time. It showed all three siblings at their most emotionally raw, petty, and childish, and it wasn’t a pleasant scene to live vicariously through.
There were a lot of things said that can’t be taken back. Shiv throws the first dagger by reminding Kendall of his biggest moral black hole in his life, the moment from the season one finale in which he was partially responsible for the death of a young waiter at Shiv’s wedding. Kendall disclosed this information to his siblings in confidence at the end of the third season in a crescendo of emotional weight toppling down on him, and Shiv throwing this in his grill as a bargaining chip was loveless and cold-hearted (but that’s what Shiv has shown herself to be.)
Kendall then demonstrates the abyss that his soul has descended into, claiming that the story about killing the waiter was a lie used in an attempt to bring the siblings closer together. We all know this isn’t true, and the way Jeremy Strong delivers the deceit with immature authority is another mesmerizing display of his acting ability. Kendall is losing his grasp on reality, because his only tangible purpose in life is about to be shattered before his eyes. He takes one last stab at the throne by saying he’s the eldest boy (Conheads would certainly disagree), to which Roman makes a quip that even the most astute viewer may have been confused by. Roman claims Shiv is the bloodline of the Roy family because Kendall’s kids “aren’t real”. Excuse me?
“Dad’s view was that yours aren’t real. That’s just what Dad said. They are a pair of randos. One is a buy-in, the other is half Rava (Kendall’s estranged wife), half some filing cabinet guy, right?”
We don’t blame you if Kendall’s paternity is a little vague in your mind since his children were barely in the show throughout the last four seasons, especially after season two. Sophie Roy (Swayam Bhatia) and Iverson Roy (Quentin Morales) are the young son and daughter of Kendall and Rava Roy (Natalie Gold). Sophie appears to be darker skinned than her parents, leading many to wonder whether she is adopted. Creator Jesse Armstrong actually confirmed Sophie isn’t a biological child of the Roy family in a recent episode of the “Succession Podcast” (at the 13:20 mark of the interview).
The other remark from Roman about Iverson being “half Rava, half some filing cabinet guy” insinuates that the child doesn’t belong to Kendall, with only Rava being biologically related to their son. The ambiguity and swiftness of the retort leaves audiences puzzled about the conception of Kendall’s son. Was he a love child of an affair Rava had with another man? Others have wondered whether infertility issues led to an IVF method of pregnancy for the couple, hence the genetic material came from a “filing cabinet” of sperm donors. No matter what the true meaning of the statement was, it’s crystal clear that Kendall was deeply offended because he physically assaults Roman right in the boardroom. This gives us some incredible context clues about what Kendall feels about his own legacy compared to his father’s.
Kendall has an obsession with his self-worth being tied to Waystar. Their media empire is a family business, one that was theoretically supposed to be passed down to future generations starting with himself. Roman reminding him that his children aren’t blood goes much further than to just sully his worthiness to be CEO; it symbolizes that Kendall’s one inherent reason for living isn’t a birthright. He’ll have to actually accomplish something on his own, step out of the shadow of his father, and his own children will have to do the same if they hope to ever be fulfilled.
Roman and Shiv differ from Kendall in that they had other motivations for running the company. Little brother Rome wanted the world to see he was capable. Shiv has an idea about being a strong, powerful business woman, and Waystar is her ticket to the top. But for Ken, Logan’s company is in his DNA. For it to be removed from the chromosomal equation after his death or resignation would mean that his purpose since the age of seven was nothing but smoke and mirrors. It would be quite sad, in a way, but then Kendall had to act like a toddler wrapped in a baby trapped inside of a middle-aged puppet. His reactions to the cold hard facts that his siblings presented to him are all the evidence we need to see that Kendall is as empty as it gets.