It is so comforting to have Kendall Roy back on our screens.
Kendall, played with incredible complexity by Emmy winner Jeremy Strong, is at the core of what makes Succession one of the best shows on television. He’s a web of psychological scars masquerading as a functional human being, and he’s delusional enough to believe he and his world are just fine (he’s the human equivalent of the “dog sitting in a burning room” meme). Even after his father Logan (Brian Cox) blackmailed him into a browbeaten ghost last season, Kendall operated with an unhinged assurance, peaking during his borderline psychotic “L to the OG” rap honoring Logan. Despite his fidelity to his family and Waystar Royco, Kendall is at his best as an emotionally crippled chaos agent, morphing the uber-rich world around him in his twisted image.
How wonderful, then, that Kendall is back and leaning into his most demented tendencies in Succession’s season 3 premiere. Kendall’s van ride with Greg (a hilariously flustered Nicholas Braun), picking up after exposing Logan’s complicity in Waystar Royco’s myriad of scandals in the season 2 finale, is a masterclass in anarchy. He basks in his moment of apparent triumph, never considering just how much destruction he just wrought and how it will inevitably fall back on him. Without even the slightest bit of self-awareness, Kendall lobs threats at his father through his assistant, instructs Greg to track his Twitter mentions (he trends above “tater tots,” God bless him), and seizes his ex-wife’s apartment to plan his next moves. It is sheer madness and absolutely delightful.
Opposing Kendall in his absurd campaign against Logan’s tyranny is the rest of the Roy family and Waystar Royco’s top brass. Everyone in the premiere is scrambling, trying to find a private jet to whisk them away to a country without a U.S. extradition treaty so they can hatch a plan of attack. Logan, furious that Kendall betrayed him but also slightly impressed, decides the best course of action is to step aside (not down) as CEO and install a puppet in his place. Flying to Bosnia and Herzegovina (because this is Succession, after all), Logan kicks off another round of jockeying for his coveted seat. You would think that after being burned multiple times by Logan’s refusal to yield control of Waystar Royco, his children Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) would know better than to trust him. However, Succession is about the emotional tragedies borne by children desperate to please their powerful, callous father. Inevitably, they fall into the trap. Roman openly and vulnerably campaigns for the position, even suggesting that his sort-of love interest Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) take the role if Logan feels he isn’t ready. Meanwhile, Shiv approaches high-powered lawyer and friend Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan) to get her on Waystar’s side, not realizing Kendall’s already signed her.
Disgusted by Roman’s feebleness and Shiv’s failure, Logan handily knocks them both out of contention, advancing Succession’s self-fulfilling prophecy that his children will never not disappoint him. The delicious irony is that Kendall, the child who just betrayed him on an incalculable scale, has earned enough of Logan’s respect for Logan to declare all-out war. The question is, where will the rest of the Roys maneuver themselves. After being rejected by Logan, Shiv appears to be considering an alliance with Kendall, which could build on last season’s heartbreaking moment when he broke down in her arms. There’s also the matter of Shiv’s put-upon husband Tom (Mathew Macfayden), who secretly broke ranks with her for the first time and tried to softly persuade Logan against her. Roman is squarely in Gerri’s camp now that she is interim CEO, but the two’s will-they-won’t-they dynamic is bound to complicate matters. And what the show’s brilliant wild card cousin Greg: will he stick with Kendall, or will he realize that Kendall is in way over his head and jump ship (with those critical cruise documents in hand)?
After a regrettable two years away, Succession has reclaimed its title as the most chaotically brilliant show on television. Any worries that it might experience a junior slump or that its brand of uber-rich insanity would fall flat in the pandemic era have proven to be unfounded. The Roys are back to wreak utter havoc on themselves and us, and we’re all the better for it.
Succession is currently streaming on HBO Max.