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Kendall Roy Still Has a Path to Redemption on Succession
Through all the layers of bullshit and politics and sucking up and ladder climbing and deception, it’s still possible to parse out the general motives of most of Succession’s biggest power players. Logan Roy has no intention of stepping down any time soon, content as he is using his company for his own personal vindictiveness and the joy of watching his little minions fight for power. Roman Roy wants to make daddy proud, and in the process prove he’s capable of handling responsibility, despite not really wanting any sort of responsibility. Shiv, having had it dangled in front of her, wants to take over the family business—ultimate power is just within her grasp. Tom—poor Big Businessman Tom with an important title and a farm boy’s heart—he has delusions of grandeur things that will never come to fruition. Cousin Greg just doesn’t want to fuck up, or sacrifice all of his morals in the process. Connor wants to be president and not pay taxes. Jerri wants to play both sides and keep afloat as long as possible, like she always has.
But what about Kendall Roy? This season, after his father covered up the car crash that resulted in the death of a waiter, Kendall has impotently done his father’s bidding. Are we to believe that this is it for Kendall? That all his dreams of power are dead while Logan, as he would probably say, has his son’s balls in a vice grip?
It’s been fun to watch as Shiv gets more opportunities for power in the family. And though I think daddy is teasing her with the promise of taking over the company, I think she’d be a pretty damn good choice to run Waystar Royco. But there’s no way Kendall is going to shuffle through this season as a corporate zombie.
(Before I get into my theory, this would be a good time to note that journalists were sent the first five episodes of Succession Season Two, but I’m watching them in time with you, dear reader. So, I have no idea what’s going to happen next week.)
I think Kendall is planning something. He has nothing to lose. This constant fight for power, money, and daddy’s love has brought nothing but pain for him. He has blood on his hands and drugs in his nose. His children are distant, his wife is estranged. In Episode Two of this season, his father forced Kendall to dismantle Vaulter, his single greatest success during his time at the company. His public image is in the shitter—an asshole rich boy who tried to betray his father and failed. I want to see Kendall’s blank stare as a look of nihilism, as someone who has woken up to the sickness around him. Kendall should burn it all down.
You may have noticed in Episode Three that Kendall is playing the game almost perfectly. Siding with his father, he’s keeping himself out of the crosshairs while smoking out the motivations of everyone around him. He’s quietly gathering information and power. He’s waiting for his moment to strike. But this time, I don’t think he’s going to try to swipe the company from his dad. I don’t think he’s going to make a play for power like he did at the end of Season One. I think he’s going to destroy it all from the inside. What is going to happen when Kendall finds out Logan chose Shiv to take over the company? Kendall spent his entire life training to follow in his daddy’s footsteps. Will that final slight be enough to trigger Kendall into destroying Waystar Royco?
It’s the only path to redemption for Kendall. Sure, he’ll always be a piece of shit who literally killed a guy, but Kendall is in the position to dismantle an entire evil corporation. If you look at the power dynamics of the inner circle, Kendall is no longer perceived as being a threat. That puts him in the position for a devastating surprise attack—especially when he’s the one doing the company’s dirty work.
In Episode Three, we’re introduced to a biographer who has reached out to Logan Roy’s closest family members and associates for interviews. She wants to tell the real, honest story of who Logan Roy is—a side that Logan desperately doesn’t want public. Who knows how many skeletons Logan has in his closet? I’d imagine there are things much worse in there than manslaughter. I don’t think Kendall was lying when he suggested to Roman that he’d talk to the biographer. That writer will be only one weapon in his takedown to come. If you’ll remember, Kendall is one of few people who knows his father’s many years of bad business deals, he knows the fragility of Logan’s health. He also knows every single weakness of the company and each person holding it together.
Yes, Logan has some dirt on Kendall, but Kendall isn’t as helpless as he might seem right now. Kendall’s dream of taking over the company shattered when he instigated the bear hug then drove himself and a waiter into a lake. But, he’s not dead yet.
Maybe Kendall’s greatest accomplishment will be destroying everything.
Matt is the Culture Editor at Esquire where he covers music, movies, books, and TV—with an emphasis on all things Star Wars, Marvel, and Game of Thrones.