No, I Don’t Think Kendall Roy Did This
From the start of season 1, I was afraid for Kendall Roy. Played beautifully by Jeremy Strong throughout Succession‘s four-season run, the character became a favorite of mine. He’s not without his faults, but I also believed that, at the end of the day, Kendall would be the cause of his own demise. I was right, given how the show ended. Kendall’s fate was the result of his own inability to see his faults. One thing I was convinced of, though, was that Kendall Roy was going to die.
Given his connection to water, I thought that Kendall Roy was going to die before the show’s end. He almost died time and time again. First in the car crash at the end of the first season. Then the addiction struggles leading to Kendall almost dying in the pool in season 3. All of this made me think that Kendall would not survive Succession.
Apparently, Strong felt similarly. On the Succession podcast for HBO, he told host Kara Swisher that there was a version of the final scene where Kendall was nearly over the edge, but was stopped by Colin.
“In one of the takes, I climbed over the barrier,” he said. “I sat on the bench, and it always to me felt like there’s no coming back from this. I looked at these waves, and it was so windy that day, so cold, and there was some piece of metal clanging, and it was this terrible sound, and I couldn’t bear it, and I stood up and walked slowly to the barrier that was set up there and climbed over it. And I didn’t really know what I planned to do, and the actor playing Colin saw me and ran and stopped me from doing it.”
Ultimately, that’s not what happened, but let’s dig in to Kendall’s journey and why I think what Jesse Armstrong said happened in the post-episode feature was the “happiest” ending.
What happened to Kendall Roy
Succession‘s finale episode, “With Open Eyes,” showed us what happens when the Roy family eats themselves. Shiv realized that out of the two men she was going to lift up over herself, she’d rather lift up Tom Wambsgans instead of her brother. Her choice meant that Kendall lost everything and we ended the series with him staring at the water. (I think he was looking at New Jersey, which—Kendall, please. Love yourself.)
At the end of each episode of Succession, there is a talk with the cast and creatives in which they break down the thought process behind it. For the finale, creator Jesse Armstrong gave a breakdown of each character and where they were after the series ended. And for Kendall, he had some sad ideas for his future, but it’s still the “happiest” version it could be:
“For Kendall, this will never stop being the central event of his life. Maybe he could go on and start a company and do a thing, but the chances of him achieving the corporate status his dad achieved are very low, and I think that’ll mark his whole life.”
Why I don’t think Kendall moved on
Armstrong said that Kendall would go on to have failed businesses, and that the finale was the moment when he could have had it all, but now it was gone. The thing is: I don’t think that Kendall would attempt to move on. Kendall Roy was, for lack of a better way of explaining it, seemingly suicidal throughout the entire series. He would rarely value his own life and was self-destructive over and over again.
With everything gone from his life, I don’t think he would attempt to do anything. At least not for a while. Because who would he be proving himself against? When Kendall’s siblings joined him and they attempted to start their own business, they did so because they were trying to show their father Logan (Brian Cox) they were better. With Logan dead and the Roy family away from Waystar Royco, Kendall doesn’t have anyone to prove himself to.
If anything, I think he’d want Tom to fail more than he’d want to try again. Personally, I don’t know that Kendall would make it out of the year without needing help of some kind from people in his life, and right now, he doesn’t have anyone. To me, what Armstrong said was the happiest of endings that Kendall Roy could possibly have.
(featured image: HBO)
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