As Succession‘s fourth and final season comes to an end this Sunday, the question remains: who will be the successor to Waystar Royco? Ever since Logan’s (Brian Cox) death, the Roy siblings (aside from Connor) have been in competition to see who can become most like their father, to varying degrees of success. When Kendall (Jeremy Strong) takes the reins after Roman’s (Kieran Culkin) breakdown during their father’s funeral, it seems like Logan’s number one boy truly has his heart set on stepping into his father’s shoes. This is further exacerbated by the departure of two important women in Kendall’s life: his ex-wife Rava (Natalie Gold) and his assistant Jess (Juliana Canfield).
Going into the penultimate episode, Kendall is already in an emotionally volatile place. Given that the episodes are dropped weekly, it’s easy to forget how little time has passed on Succession, particularly in Season 4. The contentious election that ATN called in favor of Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) happened the night before, where Kendall showed once again his proclivity for changing his mind at the drop of a hat. While Roman already had a close relationship with Mencken and was more than ready to call the election without taking absentee ballots into account, Kendall was still somewhat hesitant to do so after Rava told him their daughter Sophie (Swayam Bhatia) had been victim to a hate crime. But once Greg (Nicolas Braun) confides in him that Shiv (Sarah Snook) has been coordinating with Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) behind their backs all along, he promptly sides with Roman and insists ATN call the election in favor of Mencken.
Kendall’s Vicious Feud With Rava Descends to New Lows
Going from the dramatic election night to his father’s funeral in front of hundreds of people the following day, Kendall is clearly on edge. New York City is gridlocked due to protests over the election, but when Kendall finds out his ex-wife plans to take their kids out of the city for their own safety, he demands his driver disregard traffic laws to meet with her as quickly as possible. Rava is already fed up with him for not calling his children and blaming her for not being there when Sophie (Swayam Bhatia) was pushed by a man on the street, not to mention Kendall’s disregard for the wellbeing of their daughter in order to get the far-right Senator Mencken elected. It’s unclear what exactly their custody situation is, but it’s indicated that Rava is their children’s primary guardian and therefore makes most of the decisions on their behalf. Kendall hasn’t shown much of an interest in being an active father to his kids, but when Rava takes measures to remove them from a potentially dangerous situation, Kendall suddenly wants to get involved.
When Kendall meets Rava at the car, he yells at her, tells her he plans to go to court to get full custody of their kids, and even threatens to throw himself in front of the car to prevent them from leaving. These are typical post-separation abuse tactics, and it’s very telling that despite demanding to see them, his kids do not unlock the car door. Though Rava is upset with Kendall, an expression crosses her face that shows she still cares for him and knows he’s unwell, but has to do what’s best for her kids even if it means damaging their relationship beyond repair. Rava was there for him in Season 1 when Logan was hospitalized and again in Season 3 when he used her apartment as his headquarters while he launched attacks against his dad, but he’s shown he is beyond reasoning with and she makes the ultimate decision to distance herself from him.
Jess Reaches Her Professional Breaking Point
Shortly after the incident with Rava, Jess also tells Kendall she wants to seek other job opportunities. Though she had tried to schedule a later meeting with him to discuss the matter, Kendall demands that he tell her then and there, right before they walk into the church. She tells him as delicately as possible that she’s resigning, and he blows up at her, reminding her of the access he’s given her to some of the most powerful people in the world. She doesn’t respond when he asks if her resignation has to do with Mencken, but keeping in mind the brief interaction she had with Greg in the previous episode right before the race was called, it’s pretty clear that Kendall helping get a white supremacist into office crossed a line she couldn’t ignore. On the heels of saying that this is a stupid reason to quit, Kendall also proceeds to get angry with her for telling him this right before his father’s funeral — because of course he would.
Considering everything Jess has been through and witnessed in her time working for Kendall, there’s a real desire to see her absolutely tell him off for all the stress and mistreatment she’s dealt with from him and his family. But as much as Kendall claims he’s given her “access” to, she had no real power in Waystar, likely signed an abundance of NDAs, and therefore has to keep her emotions in check as she resigns lest Kendall tries to smear her name as she seeks other employment. Her very delicate phrasing is an intentional act of self-preservation, and the harshest words she manages to dole out are, “I’m sorry you feel that way, Kendall.” Kendall is incapable of seeing where Jess, a Black woman, is coming from in her refusal to work with Mencken, who uses white supremacist dog whistles in his presidential acceptance speech. What’s the point of having access to some of the most powerful people in the world if those people fundamentally deny your humanity?
What Does This Mean for Kendall Heading Into the Series Finale?
Though we see Roman at his evilest during election night, he crumbles during Logan’s funeral, and Kendall steps up, taking over the eulogy. Kendall knows he can’t trust Shiv, views Roman as too emotionally unpredictable, and has been (in his mind) abandoned by Rava and Jess, two women he thought he could trust. The Old Guard (Frank, Gerri, and Karl) are ready to get out entirely, and Matsson and Mencken are two slippery characters, so who is Kendall left with? Hugo (Fisher Stevens), for one, and Logan’s former bodyguard Colin (Scott Nicholson), who also knows about Kendall’s incident during Shiv’s wedding. He’s assembling his own team of yes-men as he plans to step into his father’s shoes.
With the series finale airing this Sunday, the fate of Waystar Royco still hangs in the balance. Kendall, Roman, and Shiv are all vying for the top job, but Kendall has always been poised as Logan’s successor. He has few people he can trust and even less left to lose, and given the way he treated Rava, Jess, and even Roman in “Church and State,” it seems like he’s ready to go full Logan. Kendall Roy is an antihero that will go down in TV history with the likes of Don Draper and Walter White, and we’ll soon find out whether he becomes the man he promised time and again he would never be.