Succession Season 2 ended with a cosmically huge bang. After agreeing to become the family’s “blood sacrifice,” Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) stunned everyone by turning on his father in a hugely public press conference. Kendall, who had spent all of Season 2 coping with his failures, finally made the move of a killer. Patriarch Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) in that scene said it all: he was screwed, but — for the first time in his life — impressed by his son.
So how would Succession Season 3 find Logan and Kendall Roy in the aftermath of this wild turnover of power? When the HBO hit returns, Logan is seen hurling insults at everyone in his inner circle and essentially panicking. So surely Kendall would finally assume control as the smooth, confident killer of the show? Clearly the power dynamic had shifted enough where Kendall was self-assured in his power? Nope.
The first time we see Kendall Roy in Succession Season 3 Episode 1, he’s locked in a bathroom dealing with a panic attack. He’s shaking. His breath is so ragged it sounds like a growl. While Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) paces outside worried, Kendall actually slips into the bathroom’s enormous soaking tub. He’s still fully dressed in his dark charcoal grey suit and he slips down, as if wanting to drown. The problem is the only thing there to suffocate Kendall is pure air. Finally, Kendall emerges from the bathroom in full attack mode, happily directing everyone that it’s time to move. The disparity between Kendall’s behavior inside the bathroom and outside didn’t confuse me as much as it delighted me. Succession might have let Kendall finally make a major move on his family’s company, but the show didn’t forget Kendall is — and always has been — a man who performs confidence and panics in secret.
When we first met Kendall Roy all the way back in Succession Season 1 Episode 1, he was hyping himself up, rapping to himself while donning noise-cancelling headphones. Back then, the show let us in on his hype game. The song was part of the soundtrack, Kendall’s thoughts were uttered out loud. His meltdowns were loud and childlike. His expectations obvious: he — not Conner (Alan Ruck), Roman (Kieran) or Shiv (Sarah Snook) — should and would be his father’s heir.
As Succession Season 1 showed, Logan had other ideas about his messy would-be heir, and Succession Season 2 gave us a Kendall licking his wounds. At least that’s how Kendall looked to us and the rest of his clan. Some of Succession Season 2’s most memorable moments leading up to Kendall’s big turn included him sadly collecting his thoughts atop the RoyCo skyscraper and betraying people left and right. Even in the moments leading up to his final tete-a-tete with Logan, Kendall is alone, sitting in thought, wearing his noise-cancelling headphones. It would seem that Kendall’s found that rather than rap his way to confidence, quiet, panicked reflection is the name of the game.
By showing us that Kendall’s projection of strength is still performance-based, Succession doubled down on one of its longest-running pieces of character development. That Kendall wants to be, as his father demands “a killer,” but that he still wrestles with crippling self-doubt. Those few shots in the hotel bathroom might have felt superfluous, but they confirmed that for all Kendall has changed, he’s still the same panicked boy, uncertain he’s got what it takes to tackle his father. Every grandiose display of confidence Kendall puts on the rest of the episode is his performance. That moment sinking in the tub is who he is.
Where to stream Succession