This Succession review contains spoilers.
Succession Season 2, Episode 10
At the end of last week’s “DC,” two things happened that should have immediately clued audiences to what was going to happen in Succession’s season two finale, “This Is Not For Tears.” First, Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) delivered a fiery defense of his father Logan (Brian Cox) and the Waystar Royco brand during his congressional testimony regarding the company’s problematic cruise line and the sexual harassment allegations against its head.
And second? Moments before the closing credits began, Logan told his daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) that someone from their inner circle had to be sacrificed to the media, the government and their shareholders to finally fix the cruise mess. Not just anyone, though, but a “blood sacrifice.” In other words, one of the series’ preeminent Roy kids — Kendall, Shiv or Roman (Kieran Culkin) — was going to bite the proverbial bullet by the time this season came to a close.
Of course, it was going to be Kendall. It was always going to be Kendall.
Then again, for all the effort series creator Jesse Armstrong and the Succession writers put into laying the groundwork for Logan’s inevitable decision regarding his own son, they’ve also been planting an entirely different set of crops alongside these initial seeds. Much of the show’s first season was just as much about who Logan was going to pick to succeed him as it was about Kendall’s efforts to oust his father in a hostile takeover.
And though the vehicular manslaughter he caused at the end of season one, and Logan’s engineered coverup of it in the second season premiere ultimately tanked these efforts, Kendall never really could have forgotten what his original intentions were. Sure, much of this season has been about portraying Kendall’s transformation into a soulless shell of a human being who is more than willing to do anything his father tells him. But does this mindless devotion extend to self-flagellation on such a massive scale? Yes and no.
Logan and the aforementioned Roy kids, along with eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), Shiv’s cuckold husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and the rest of the Waystar Royco legal and public relations teams meet off-and-on aboard the family’s massive yacht in the Mediterranean to discuss options. Many, including the always-willing-to-speak Roman, think Greg and Tom — who actually did try to cover up the cruise scandal (under orders, of course) and totally botched their respective congressional testimonies — should take the hit. It’s “half an idea” per Logan’s estimation, but he and almost everyone else there know it’s not enough. Especially Shiv, who goes to her father amid a brewing personal crisis with Tom to make sure he knows this.
“Why not what he discussed?” she reminds him. “Ken hurts,” her father admits in turn. “He was across the whole thing. It hurts. It plays, obviously.”
So, when Logan finally tells Kendall — albeit in a roundabout way, at first — of his decision to lay the blame on him, it actually does seem to hurt the otherwise emotionally distant Roy patriarch. The camera even goes in and out of focus on occasion, becoming blurry and clear again, almost as if a tear or two are breaking the episode title’s explicit rule against mournful emotions.
“It’s okay dad,” Kendall tells his father once he realizes what’s happening. “It’s okay.”
“Thank you, son,” Logan responds. “The hearings, you did so well. But now you’re the face. You were across the cleanup. The optics make sense. And, what’s more, I trust you. I trust you in case it turns and gets nasty.”
Like with the dissolution of the digital media company Vaulter in this season’s second episode, along with plenty of other examples, Kendall immediately agrees with his father’s decision and goes along with it, though he does ask him if he ever thought he could do it. If he ever thought he was good enough to succeed him and lead Waystar Royco into the future. “You’re not a killer,” Logan tells him. And that’s the moment when those who have been paying complete attention to Kendall’s scheming, its implosion and his continuously downward spiral should have known what would happen in the episode’s final moments. Yes, he goes before the press to supposedly admit his wrongdoing regarding the cruise scandal. After all, is father is watching. Instead, Kendall plunges the dagger meant for himself into Logan, Waystar Royco and pretty much everyone else we could consider his flesh and blood.
“I have been asked to explain my own role in the managing of illegality at the firm and associated coverups, and it has been suggested I would be a suitable figure to absorb the anger and concern,” he begins before going off-script. “But the truth is, my father is a malignant presence, a bully and a liar. He was fully personally aware of these events for many years and made efforts to hide and cover-up. He had a twisted sense of loyalty to bad actors like Lester McClintock.”
“This is the day his reign ends,” Kendall concludes as the room erupts in a flurry of shouted questions from the gathered press.
Cue Succession’s Emmy Award-winning theme music and an amazingly calm Logan, watching the press conference aboard his yacht with a bewildered Shiv and Roman. They cannot believe what they’re watching, but according to the slow smile spreading across Logan’s face, it’s not all that fanciful. It turns out, he was completely wrong about Kendall. He is a killer.
Succession airs on HBO.