In Praise Of Kendall Roy

15 October 2019
Culture, Film, Succession, Kendall Roy, HBO
Images: Home Box Office
The one-time heir to the throne has a 360 transformation in series two so dramatic that it even elicits a smile from Logan Roy. Spoilers ahead...

After Game of Thrones finished and Chernobyl ended, the GQ Middle East team found themselves bereft of quality television. Until we caught wind of Succession. As GQ UK's Anna Conrad explains, it's the incredible characterisation that makes this show so good. Witness Kendall Roy's epic anti hero arc.

Where do you go after accidentally killing a waiter? If you’re the lead in Succession you’ve got options, but “downtime” happens to be in Iceland where Kendall Roy, original heir to the Waystar Royco throne, attends, minimally, before being escorted out of a lagoon to issue a press release backing his father’s position in the proxy fight.

Series two looked set up to be Kendall’s Albatross – broken at the realisation of killing a man and subsequently becoming his father’s gilet-clad henchman.

Continuously repressing his instincts, after being let down as successor and attempting to overthrow his dad in series one, in series two the (battle) lines were clearly drawn and the white (Hermès) handkerchief was out from Kendall’s side (nothing shows how low Logan is willing to go to keep his son in line quite like making Kendall attend the family home of the boy he accidentally killed).

Kendall’s judgement has always been questionable: dick pics to Naomi Pearce, drugs in a helicopter he jokingly almost flies and the most questionable of all – a rap tribute to his father in the style of a young Louis Theroux (“L to the O, G / Dude be the OG / Ay, and he playin’ / Playin’ like a pro”).

The most questionable in Logan’s eyes is in DC when Kendall goes off piste, firing back accusatory Fox News-style lines to Bernie Sanders’ impersonator Senator Eavis, rattling the stakeholders who want someone, in Logan’s words, more “vegetarian”. Kendall is praised by all except for Logan, who kisses him on the cheek (an early sign that he’s a goner).

In the series finale, an equal parts Call Me By Your Name (luxurious pastel water scenes and crisp linen) to equal parts Red Wedding (blood sacrifices), Logan manipulates his family and colleagues into suggesting their lamb for the slaughter. The one who will claim total responsibility for the cruise scandal cover-ups.

The underlying choice always points to Kendall – who appears early on in the scene floating like a sacrificial Christ in the swimming pool on their mega yacht – but to the inside group, Tom is the obvious candidate to be “shit-canned” as Roman Roy puts it.

“Does Tom work?” asks Logan.

“Honestly, I don’t think Tom’s a big enough skull,” Kendall responds, in front of Tom.

“What about Tom with some Greg sprinkles?” asks Roman.

Greg, Geri, Carl, Shiv, Roman and the rest of the breakfast table are thrown under the bus, except for Kendall. Later when Shiv asks Logan to protect Tom, it’s clear there’s never been another option. Logan hangs Kendall out to dry in his palatial cabin – the only question Kendall has for his dad is whether he ever believed his son could be CEO.

“I don’t know, maybe,” says Logan. Although “good and smart”, he’s “not a killer. You have to be a killer.”

Kendall claims he deserves it, ending the conversation by kissing Logan on the cheek.

Mirroring the first episode where a ruined Kendall is led by an aide from Iceland to a press conference at the bidding of his father, this time Kendall strides ahead to the press conference on wrongdoing at Waystar Royco.

Logan, who watches on screen notes “it had to be done”. Kendall, briefed and ready to take the flack, goes rogue (finally and thankfully), calling his dad a bully and a liar, before finishing on the almighty “this is the day his reign ends”. Kendall calmly walks out to mass “fucks” from a panicked Waystar Royco team while, still watching on TV, a small sliver of a smiles breaks out on Logan’s face.

Kendall Roy isn’t a killer after all, he’s a stone-cold assassin.


Via British GQ