The Many Kendalls [Succession]

Secure on the back of Jeremy Strong, Kendall, as a Succession character, goes through many transformations- becoming many separate and unique ‘Kendalls,’ if you will- in only these first two seasons. These evolutions are a mighty feat of acting, and the bedrock upon which the storyline of Succession, not only stands, but evolves and thrives. Every character has their time in the sun, but, as we saw at the end of season two, it all comes back to Kendall. So here are the four different Kendalls seen in the two seasons of Succession in order of worst to best.

Destroyed Kendall (S01 E10- S02 E02)

Something broke in Kendall when that car plunged into the pond and only one man floated to the top. The worst kind of baptism and renewal took place in those waters. Torment over the decisions he must make wash across Kendall’s face in the darkness of the night, on the banks of a watery grave. And as Kendall drowns in the wake of that accident, trying to rebalance his future and bury his recent past, he is barely functional. He is in a walking coma. He becomes skittish and unsure, emotionally damaged and volatile, in-eloquent and scared, susceptible to suggestion by his father with no autonomy or choice. He gives up on the takeover which leaves his best friend and business partners high and dry. He is called back from rehab after only two days and the best objection he can muster is that he has a mud bath scheduled for that afternoon. He sits skittish in front of a camera as he does an interview, reciting spoon fed lines that make him look foolish and subservient. Destroyed Kendall is painful to watch. The only redeeming quality of Destroyed Kendall is that we only had to watch him for two and a half episodes. That is not to say Destroyed Kendall is gone. He reappears in S02 E07, Return, when Logan takes him to the dead boy’s family’s house in a not so subtle reminder of who’s in charge, to a Kendall that too closely resembles the Kendall who tried to overthrow his dad (after five episodes of Logan supporting Kendall in odd ways, he turns on him in an instant when Kendall questions the wisdom of sleeping with Rhea. Never get too comfortable with Logan). The many Kendalls are a fragile ecosystem, and Logan likes to introduce new species in his free time. 

Overthrow Dad Kendall (S01 E02; S01 E08-S01 E10; S02 EP10)

Kendall is subconsciously always Overthrow Dad Kendall, so to pinpoint the exact timeline for when he becomes Overthrow Dad Kendall is difficult. But he actualizes his Overthrow Dad intentions in clear moments throughout the two seasons- the beginning, the middle, and the end. Overthrow Dad Kendall is over-emotional and perceives himself as something he is not. Take for example when Stewy asks Kendall if he is too scared to take the bear hug letter to Logan. Kendall tells him, “No. Fuck you. Are you?” To which Stewy replies, “Yeah man. I’m scared. So if I’m scared and you’re fucking pretending not to be scared, then fucking you should do it.” Of course, Kendall was scared. But he is faking it until he makes it. He needs to prove that he is not a ‘hot-house flower’ unable to make it if displaced from the greenhouse Logan created for him to grow and flourish. But in reality, as far as what we’ve seen, Kendall struggles in the real world. So every time he turns into Overthrow Dad Kendall, he isn’t as sharp as, let’s say, CEO Kendall. This could be seen right away in Sh*t Show at the F**k Factory. Kendall’s pleas to his siblings as to why he should be declared interim CEO in the wake of Logan’s stroke are weak and vain at best, and his attempts to arrest control, like when he leaked information on Logan to the newspaper and goaded Lawrence into writing an article about their very tenuous situation, are reckless and reactionary. So when Overthrow Dad Kendall appears at the end of season one, marching through the pre-wedding celebration carrying the bear hug letter like a gun, it is no surprise it ends poorly. And if you think the car accident did not have anything to do with poor business decisions by Kendall, just think about how his insecurities about maybe not being declared CEO after the takeover caused him to tell Frank about it… which pushed up the timeline for giving Logan the bear hug letter… which caused Kendall to go overboard on liquor and coke… which led him to get in the car with the kid in the first place. Hot house flower indeed.

CEO Kendall (S01 E01-S01 E08)

We are introduced to Kendall, rapping in the backseat of his town car, as CEO Kendall, fully realized in his world of billion-dollar business deals for breakfast and deli wraps with ketchup for lunch. This is his whole world, his whole life, and he wakes up before everyone else to put on a white shirt and suit coat, only to take it off later than everyone else because he loves it and feels like he is good at it. He was born, bred, and raised, to be a businessman and it is all he wants to do. This is what makes Logan’s railroading of Kendall in episode one so impactful. His life’s work is being measured, found wanting, and his succession to the throne- the reward for that work- delayed. This crisis of character puts the series in motion. But, because of his dad’s stroke he remains CEO Kendall until the middle of episode seven. Because even though he was fired from Waystar Royco, he was still (classic) CEO Kendall as he wore his dopy sneakers and offered seed money to Dust. He only stops being CEO Kendall when he gets told to ‘fuck off’ by Dust and is subsequently confronted by Stewy, who finally tells him that he and Sandy are an entity, like “a creature from mythology, you know, head of a horse, dick of a swan,” therefore transforming him into Overthrow Dad Kendall. Which means that we have wonderful book ends of CEO Kendall moments, the backseat rap and the dopy sneakers on the table. CEO Kendall is a great version of Kendall because the mental health of all other Kendalls is judged based on how closely he can operate as CEO Kendall. Even Seed-Money CEO Kendall gets a bit off center because of the drug use (you can see it in Frank’s eyes as Kendall puts on the sneakers), but he’s doing business, he is making deals so he is still okay. Kendall gets into a bad place when he no longer feels like he can do business or make deals (notice the four lines of coke that Greg has to take for Kendall- that greedy coke whore, sucking them big white dicks- after he is rejected by Dust- but they really liked him in the room). Thus, he transitions into different Kendalls.

Robot Business Terminator Kendall (S02 E03-S02 E10)

After the season one finale and the season two opening I was nervous that season two Kendall was going to be brittle and broken and not as engaging as season one Kendall (like he’d be Destroyed Kendall the whole time). But oh was I wrong. In a brilliant bit of writing, Kendall retreated into his hot house (which makes perfect sense) and turned into his dad’s personal Robot Business Terminator. After Kendall’s string of fuck-ups in season one, it was easy to forget that he was CEO of one of the largest corporations in America, and he may have gotten there because his dad owned the company, but only an idiot wouldn’t learn some business acumen along the way (or Roman, but the jury is still out on whether he is an idiot) and Kendall Roy is no idiot. After he destroyed his own creation, Vaulter, because his ‘dad told him to,’ and proved his loyalty to Logan, Kendall was reborn as a slightly suicidal but massively bloodthirsty Robot Business Terminator. Starting in S02 E03, Hunting, when he obliterated Roman on their business retreat, including a headlock in order to facial-scan into his phone (badass), we see that an aligned Logan and Kendall is going to be hard to stop (you should be thinking about Logan leaning over a seated Kendall with his arms resting on his shoulders and hands on his chest). The very next episode we see them in action together (please ignore the doddering Shiv in this scene, she’s just being annoying and insecure) as they read Rhea’s coded language and work her to find the right offer for an acquisition of Pierce (This is maybe my favorite scene of Kendall’s. He feels like the version of himself he imagines he is at the beginning of season one, but he had to lose all of his delusions of grandeur in order to truly become it). Later he works the room at Tern Haven, completely in sync with Logan, and maybe the only family member who actually ‘stayed in his lane’ (you could argue doing illegal drugs with one of the Pierces is quite adamantly exiting your line, but in that moment he closed the deal in Logan’s favor by pivoting an important member in their favor, and I have so much confidence in Business Robot Terminator Kendall I believe that he thought to himself, “I am going to do this line of coke, and drink this bottle of vodka for my dad”). He also covers for his dad before Congress, mounting the only real offense in the shellacking they took from Gil Eavis (“if it is to be said, so it is”). He even was going to lay down to be sacrificed on the altar before the business gods as a blood sacrifice, like Isaac before Abraham, but re-found his ever-present Overthrow Dad version of himself at the last moment. But all of these collective Business Robot Terminator Kendall moments surprisingly comprise the best collection of any one Kendall, which makes it the best version of Kendall (for the viewer at least). We will certainly get a healthy dose of Overthrow Dad Kendall next season, but I am hoping that he takes a bit of Robot Business Terminator Kendall with him, for his sake and mine.

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