[WARNING: Major spoilers regarding Succession season 3 episode 8 – ‘Chiantishire’] Once again, the best show on television has outdone itself. The deliciously Shakespearian affair created and written by Jesse Armstrong has been steadily delivering on its promise, providing an all-out civil war in its third season – a civil war that threatens to completely tear apart the Roy family, derail the Roy family media dynasty, as well as (potentially) levelling Waystar Royco to the very ground. And what’s a good war without the odd casualty? Last night, during the penultimate episode of Succession season 3, we may have finally witnessed an important one. Seconds before the credits rolled, audiences were served up the mother of all cliffhangers which has left us wondering: Is Kendall Roy dead?
As a refresher, after an episode of reeling from his latest implosion and eating a whole lot of emotional violence, the Roy family’s black sheep (portrayed by Jeremy Strong) found himself drunkenly floating in a pool. When his son Iverson and daughter Sophie opt to head back into their Tuscan villa, it’s clear he’s heavily sedated. And all alone. That’s when the poetic turn occurs.
Harking back to his role in the death of fired waiter Andrew “Doddy” Dodds (Tom Morely) during Siobhan (Sarah Snook) and Tom’s (Matthew Macfayden) wedding – as well as his most recent brutal confrontation with Logan Roy (Brian Cox) about the matter and its subsequent cover-up – Kendall Roy drops his beer bottle, slips from his pool bed, and lies face down in the water a la Sunset Boulevard. The camera lingers with the intention of drawing focus to the bubbles from his nose as he exhales. Before we can receive solid confirmation of whether said bubbles eventually stop, however, the screen cuts to black.
Here’s our take on the jaw-dropping events.
Is Kendall Roy Dead: The Argument For…
It would make perfect sense for Kendall Roy to be dead at this stage. Beyond the narrative symmetry of meeting his demise the same way he took the life of Andrew Dodds, the entirety of Succession season 3 thus far can be interpreted as fattening the pig – i.e Kenny Boy – for the literal kill. Think about it. Given how much the series owes to Shakespeare, this is a classic case of pride before the fall.
From the self-righteous crusade to “save” Waystar Royco after years of being complicit in its sins, the smug hypocrisy, the even smugger “self-awareness”, his frustratingly erratic behaviour, to the emotional breakdown witnessed towards the end of his 40th birthday (season 3 episode 7 – ‘Too Much Birthday’)… the only way his character could be redeemed at this stage is in death. The story of Kendall, after all, was always a tragic one. He was never the hero. Or in his own words, the knight riding in on a horse.
Another running theme that lends itself to the theory in support of Kendall Roy being dead is the desire he expressed to cash out, completely divest in exchange for $2 billion + assets, and become a “ghost” within the Waystar Royco operation; in addition to how just about everyone already seems to be treating him like a non-factor.
The board meeting depicted during an earlier scene in the episode sees Kendall dial in remotely, where vice-chairman Frank Vernon (Peter Friedman) excuses him for feeling “ill” – to which Ken refutes; he’s quite obviously being relegated to the sidelines. Kendall’s own mother Lady Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter) banishes him from parts of her wedding itinerary just to appease Logan. And, of course, younger brother Roman (Kieran Culkin) continues to be a gatekeeping dick… who’s more than happy to show the world, and his father, his own.
Outside of fiction and here in the real world, as pointed out by Inverse, a profile on the Emmy-winning Jeremy Strong himself published by The New Yorker “certainly read like an actor’s farewell” to the role he inhabited for years.
“To me, the stakes are life and death,” explains Jeremy Strong in regards to playing Kendall Roy.
“I take him as seriously as I take my own life.”
“He thinks he’s flying, but he’s about to fall any second.”
You can make up your own mind about this here.
Bonus: In the previous episode, Kendall’s 40th birthday features a prop that might have been foreshadowing this exact possibility – “Notorious Ken: Ready To Die.” Also this convenient bit of mise-en-scène.
Bonus II: After the bombshell press conference, Succession season 3 opens with Kendall – that’s right – fully clothed in a bathtub. I don’t know… there’s something there.
Is Kendall Roy Dead: The Argument Against…
Admittedly, there’s little evidence in the show itself that supports Kendall Roy’s survival. All the clues we’re relying on here can be found in HBO marketing materials.
Last month, the premium cable network released a trailer teasing “the weeks ahead” on Succession season 3. At approximately one minute and 40 seconds, Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) can be seen angrily confronting Kendall – the latter of whom is sporting the depressing Neo from The Matrix-style haircut debuted last night. Connor says, “Your spoon wasn’t shiny enough!” before said trailer cuts to a wide shot of Lady Caroline’s actual wedding ceremony in Tuscana.
As cold of a mother as Caroline is – and despite admitting “she was never meant to have kids” to Siobhan over a cigarette – it’s hard to imagine the festivities would continue immediately after her firstborn died. Furthermore, while our eyesight wasn’t sharp enough to discern the following detail, Decider notes if you zoom in on the frame, you can spot Kendall sitting with his siblings.
The publication also notes, however, there’s a chance these scenes included within earlier trailers were shot and then scrapped to serve as red herrings. It isn’t exactly unheard of for both shows and films to insert misleading footage, or modify the trailers to avoid spoiling what’s to come.
“However, Succession isn’t a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, nor is it fond of killing characters off like Game of Thrones,” adds Meghan O’Keefe of Decider.
“While it does seem somebody is going to die, we’re guessing it’ll be another Roy and that it will happen during the finale.”
Guess we’ll find out for certain by this time next week…