Late in Sunday night’s season finale, soulless lap dog Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) plants one on his father’s cheek after learning that the bullheaded Waystar Royco CEO, Logan (Brian Cox), has selected Kendall, his second son, to take the fall for a widespread sexual misconduct scandal in the media conglomerate’s cruise ship division. “You’re not a killer,” Logan tells Kendall after he asks whether he’d ever truly been in the running to become the company’s next CEO. “You have to be a killer.”
So Kendall becomes one. He begins a news conference by announcing that “it has been suggested I would be a suitable figure to absorb the anger and concern” over the scandal and then, instead of reading from a prepared statement, turns the sentence on its head with a resounding, “But …”
“The truth is that my father is a malignant presence, a bully and a liar, and he was fully personally aware of these events for many years and made efforts to hide and cover up,” Kendall continues, adding that the patriarch had a “twisted sense of loyalty to bad actors.” “I think this is the day his reign ends."
Logan, watching the presser on television, appears to smile slightly. Game recognizes game.
Much speculation followed Logan’s assertion in the penultimate episode that the situation was dire enough to require a “blood sacrifice,” with most predictions boiling down to either Kendall or Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), Logan’s son-in-law and the head of cruises, winding up the sacrificial lamb. Logan faces that exact choice in the finale and chooses Kendall after (and only maybe because) the sole Roy daughter, Shiv (Sarah Snook), uncharacteristically pleads with Logan not to pick her husband.
The twist was not the choice Logan made but the fact that Kendall, deemed his father’s “No. 1 boy,” still has it in him to stick up for himself. At the presser, he rips the prepared statement apart with the same ferocity that once led him to try to stage a hostile takeover at Waystar Royco, before he became a robot who repeatedly droned, “I saw their plan and my dad’s was better.” A nudge from his girlfriend, Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones, playing a member of the rival media family), pushes Kendall to revert to the rebel some of us root for — rather perversely, given how horrible the Roys can be.
Some might have seen this coming, given the notable loose end of Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) having saved a few papers proving that Logan had signed off on million-dollar settlements. And despite how immoral some of his past deeds have been, Kendall joins Greg in being one of the few “Succession” characters who actually seems to wrestle with his conscience over calamities of this scale.
But the more compelling argument comes down to Kendall’s relationship with Logan, and the screwed-up ways in which he both expresses and seeks his father’s love. (Need we remind you of the absolutely bonkers “L to the OG”?) A drug-addled Kendall got into a Chappaquiddick-like car accident with a young waiter at Shiv and Tom’s wedding and left him to drown, but being his father’s No. 1 boy meant Logan would shield him from the fallout. Kendall spends the entire second season a shell of his former self, seeking punishment for the waiter’s death while carrying out Logan’s wishes — even the ones he disagrees with, like shuttering the website Vaulter — out of tormenting loyalty.
A switch seems to flip after Logan declares that Kendall isn’t a killer. He is one, in the literal sense of the word, and Logan’s blatant disregard for the young waiter’s life — he refers to the kid as “N.R.P.I.,” or “no real person involved,” a term used for the migrants and sex workers involved in the cruises scandal — reverberates. He no longer seems to regard his troubled son’s well-being, either.
All this, after Naomi informs Kendall that Logan only loves “the broken you,” and how else could that presser have unfolded? Kendall kissing his father’s cheek before betraying him mirrors the hug Logan gave him in the first season finale, hours after the accident. Love is an expression of power in the Roy household, and for once, Kendall appears to have the upper hand.