Sad Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Sunday’s episode on HBO’s “Succession”.
Graeme Hunter/HBO

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday night’s episode of HBO’s “Succession,” “Chiantishire.”

Like the playlist at Kendall Roy’s train wreck of a 40th birthday party, this season of HBO’s “Succession” has produced “all bangers, all the time.” There was a tense showdown over an FBI raid. The meeting was comically chaotic. An episode was set in a fictional Conservative Political Action Conference. It was a strange reflection of the true-life relationship between right-wing candidates and right-wing media. There was “Too Much Birthday,” featuring the aforementioned disastrous birthday, which culminated in sad, pathetic Kendall (Jeremy Strong) sitting in a giant pile of gifts, having a meltdown.

Sunday night’s episode was perhaps the show’s most explosive yet, in terms of the sheer number of shocking moments and turning points. It was shocking that there was a scene in which a wrongly sent dick. wasn’t What was the most shocking event in the episode? That’s “Succession.” And the episode’s ominous cliffhanger — Kendall floating facedown in a pool — portends a grim season finale next week.

It’s also the furthest the show’s writers have gone in positioning the chess pieces toward some kind of endgame. Some fans wonder if the Emmy-winning series has been canceled. lost some of its luster this season, I could not disagree more (and this week’s momentous episode should quell those doubts). But as clever, delicious, and irresistible the show is, with a fourth season in the worksAs I got older, it became more and more apparent that I was hoping the writers would start to plot its end stages. It is inevitable that all good things will come to an abrupt end.

By now, we know the idea of anyone actually succeeding patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) at the helm of the family’s media conglomerate Waystar Royco — the initial premise of the show — is an illusion. Everyone keeps turning their wheels. unable to escape the abuse of this terrible familyYou can always try.

Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) in the penultimate episode of Season 3 of HBO's "Succession."
Logan Roy (Brian Cox), Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), in the penultimate Episode of Season 3 HBO’s series “Succession.”
Graeme Hunter/HBO

Sad Kendall’s latest season of Sad Kendall is only the latest version. Over the show’s three seasons, he has gone through variations and mirror images of the same devastating arcs. In the opening minutes of the pilot episode, he is pumping himself up in the car and telling his driver: “This is the day we make it happen.” He’s close to landing a deal with media startup Vaulter and seems poised to succeed Logan, who is nearing retirement. But surprise! Logan decides he’s staying on.

Later in Season 1, Kendall tries to oust his father, convening Waystar’s board for a vote of no confidence. The attempt fails spectacularly and Kendall kills a server during a car crash in Season 1. A shell-shocked Kendall accepts that Logan will not be fought and that he can cover up what happened.

Season 2: Sad Kendall. Sad Kendall, an unremarkable robot who just does the job. Sad Kendall will do whatever his father tells him, such as gutting Vaulter or unceremoniously firing its employees. He’s reduced to menial tasks, like administering Logan’s meds. The Roy siblings attempt to express their emotions in one of only a few scenes. he gets vulnerable with Shiv (Sarah Snook). Unable to tell his sister the whole truth, he simply says “Shiv, it’s not gonna be me,” and tearfully asks for a hug.

Throughout Season 2, as mounting scandals reveal decades of serial sexual abuse and cover-ups at the company, Logan decides Kendall must be the “blood sacrifice.” Still wracked with guilt about the car accident, Kendall has no choice but to take the fall, knowing that if he doesn’t, Logan won’t protect him anymore. He’ll be more like the “No Real People Involved”: a chilling euphemism for people like the server and the Waystar employees who were sexually abused, who don’t matter one bit to the Roys.

Sad Kendall (Jeremy Strong) in the Season 2 finale of HBO's "Succession."
Sad Kendall (Jeremy Strong), in Season 2 of HBO’s “Succession.”
Graeme Hunter/HBO

At a press conference, Kendall says Logan knew everything about the scandals. She authorized golden parachutes to be used by sexual abusers in the company as well as hush funds for survivors. Things are improving for the number one boy at the beginning of Season 3. Season 3 begins moments after the bombshell. Now, however, it is clear that Sad Kendall will not be returning. He will lose the game overwhelmingly.

Sure enough, by mid-season, Kendall’s attempted coup against Logan has gone nowhere, his siblings have turned against him, and he’s miserable and lonely at his own extravagant birthday party. Sunday’s episode completed another iteration of the Sad Kendall arc. The fact that there were so many references to Season 1 was fitting, considering Kendall’s current state of affairs.

Although they are less famous than Sad Kendall’s, the Roys experience similar ups and downs, but then find themselves back in the same spot. For instance, how many times has Shiv thought she’d become the top dog, when it’s really just Logan dangling the possibility for strategic reasons? How many times has she done something shockingly despicable — even for “Succession” — in order to get ahead? Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) looked like he was going to be a key player in Kendall’s coup, having saved some of the documents that revealed the cover-ups. However, he decided to jump ship and rejoin Team Waystar. He continues the toxic parasitic and harmful relationship with Tom Macfadyen. And Tom — poor, miserable Tom — can’t escape his marriage of convenience with Shiv, which never seems to lead anywhere for his career fortunes either.

Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) and Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) in Season 3 of HBO's "Succession."
In Season 3 of HBO’s series “Succession,” Tom Wambsgans is played by Matthew Macfadyen and Shiv Roy plays Sarah Snook.
Macall Polay/HBO

You can only introduce so many characters before the show’s time runs out. There will be family disputes, corporate scandals and failed deals. But just when it seemed like the show might be writing itself into a corner, this week’s episode put the wheels in motion for a potential endgame, at least for Kendall. The possibility of his death makes sense, given everything that’s happened to him over the past three seasons, but the other characters will almost certainly remain in their usual cycles. Any attempt to break these cycles must be balanced between shocking the audience and remaining true to the characters.

It is not unusual for characters to spin their wheels. The show’s core is about an abusive family that has been enslaved by traumatizing patterns. But given how meticulously plotted, sharp and self-aware the show is, I have faith that — unlike the Roys — the “Succession” writers will know when to fold them.


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